Tag Archives: Julie Cantrell

Audiobook Mini-Review: Perennials

15 Jun

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

Eva Sutherland — known to all as Lovey — grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is quickly engrossed in a secret project — a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. But the landscaper who’s also working on it is none other than Fisher, the first boy she ever loved. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, the power of second chances, and how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Julie Cantrell is known for writing inspirational works that explore the hard truths people typically keep secret. While she delves into emotional issues, she does so with a compassionate and open heart, always bringing readers through to a hopeful path for peace, empathy, and healing. All four of her novels have reached the #1 spot on Amazon.

A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie was honored to receive the 2012 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship and to be named a finalist twice for the Mississippi Arts & Letters Fiction Award. She also received the 2016 Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writer’s Colony, which is awarded to a writer who encourages spiritual growth, healing, and care through his or her work.

Learn more:
Website: http://www.juliecantrell.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliecantrellauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieCantrell
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliecantrell/
TEDx: http://bit.ly/TEDxJulieCantrell

 

My Impressions:

I haven’t read women’s fiction in a while and was looking for a good one to listen to on my daily walks. Perennials by Julie Cantrell has been on my radar for a while. I read her first two novels, Into The Free and When Mountains Move, and found them to be excellent. Those are both historical novels, but obviously Cantrell’s writing talent transcends genres. Perennials tells the story of Lovey Sutherland in her own first person voice. The narrative switches from present day to flashbacks of pivotal childhood and adult events in her life. I wondered if Lovey could be trusted to tell the truth (you will understand that bit of irony if you read the book), but found her to be true to herself and others in the descriptions of her interactions with family, co-workers, ex-lovers, etc. Most of the book is set in Lovey’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. She left at 18, and never really looked back. Her memories haunt and hurt her. Complex relationships are explored — not a few of which I connected with. The book is one of endings, beginnings, and second-chances. I went to college in Mississippi and married a Mississippi boy with relatives in Oxford, so I am somewhat familiar with the small university town. Even for those readers who have never been there, you will feel right at home. The novel also has a wealth of references to two of Mississippi’s literary greats — William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. I loved how Cantrell incorporated their books, homes, and even gardens into the plot. You don’t have to be steeped in the lore of southern authors and their fiction to enjoy Perennials, but it did add a special something to my reading enjoyment.

I am glad to find that I can read any Julie Cantrell novel and enjoy it. She has a couple more I am ready to explore.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Reading Road Trip — Mississippi!

13 Mar

The next stop on my reading road trip is Mississippi! This state holds a special place in my heart. I attended 4 years of college and 2 years of graduate school there. I had my first real adult job there. I met my husband of 33 years there. My daughter-in-love hails from there. And I have many friends and family that live in this fine state. While Mississippi has been the site of heartache and heartbreak in the past, it has come a long way! It is a warm and welcoming place to come home to.

There are some great novels that feature Mississippi, past and present. My list includes several genres, settings, and time periods — hope you find one to enjoy!

A Rebel Heart by Beth White

Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family’s Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land.

Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he’ll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to “supervise” while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose.

Selah isn’t sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she’d do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

Into The Free by Julie Cantrell

Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

The Color of Justice by Ace Collins

1964

Justice, Mississippi, is a town divided. White and black. Rich and poor. Rule makers and rule breakers. Right or wrong, everyone assumes their place behind a fragile façade that is about to crumble. When attorney Coop Lindsay agrees to defend a black man accused of murdering a white teenager, the bribes and death threats don’t intimidate him. As he prepares for the case of a lifetime, the young lawyer knows it’s the verdict that poses the real threat—innocent or guilty, because of his stand Coop is no longer welcome in Justice. As he follows his conscience, he wonders just how far some people will go to make sure he doesn’t finish his job?

2014

To some, the result of the trial still feels like a fresh wound even fifty years later, when Coop’s grandson arrives in Justice seeking answers to the questions unresolved by the trial that changed his family’s legacy. When a new case is presented, again pitting white against black, this third generation Lindsay may have the opportunity he needs to right the wrongs of the past.

But hate destroys everything it touches, and the Lindsay family will not escape unscathed.

High Cotton by Debby Mayne

Some families are filled with so much love they can’t help but drive each other crazy.

Shay Henke has mixed feelings about going to her family’s next reunion. On the one hand, she’ll get to see everyone in her mama’s family – folks she loves unconditionally. On the other hand, she knows there’ll be more drama than you can shake a stick at.

The days leading up to the event bring one surprise after another. First Shay must deal with her sister-in-law’s deep, dark secret. Then she has to contend with the childish ways of her business-mogul twin cousins. And when her high school crush wants to be her date to the reunions . . . well, it may have been a dream come true for Shay’s teen self, but the woman she’s become doesn’t know what to make of this.

Shay’s contentment is challenged, and she’s determined to shake things up a bit. But will she find the excitement she’s looking for, or will Shay realize she prefers her quiet predictable life? One thing is certain: Life in the Bucklin family is never boring.

Shadows of The Past by Patricia Bradley

Psychology professor and criminal profiler Taylor Martin prides herself on being able to solve any crime, except the one she wants most desperately to solve – the disappearance of her father twenty years ago. When she finally has a lead on his whereabouts, Taylor returns home to Logan Point, Mississippi, to investigate. But as she is stalking the truth about the past, someone is stalking her.

Nick Sinclair pens mystery novels for a living, but the biggest mystery to him is how he can ever get over the death of his wife – a tragedy he believes he could have prevented. With his estranged brother the only family he has left, Nick sets out to find him. But when he crosses paths with Taylor, all he seems to find is trouble.

 

2018 Inspy Shortlists!

2 May

The Inspy Awards, the blogger-based awards program for inspirational books, has announced their 2018 shortlists. Whew! What a great bunch of books! Now it’s in the judges hands, and what a tough job they have. Congrats to all the authors! For more info, check out inspy.com.

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

A New Shade of Summer (Waterfall Press) by Nicole Deese

Then There Was You (Bellbird Press) by Kara Isaac

Jane of Austin (Waterbrook) by Hillary Manton Lodge

True to You (Bethany House) by Becky Wade

Just Look Up (Tyndale) by Courtney Walsh

 

Debut Fiction

 Still Waters (Firefly Southern Fiction) by Lindsey P. Brackett

Freedom’s Ring (Tyndale) by Heidi Chiavaroli

Count Me In (I21 Publishing House) by Mikal Dawn

Lady Jayne Disappears (Revell) by Joanna Davidson Politano

Stars in the Grass (Shiloh Run Press) by Ann Marie Stewart

 

General Fiction

Perennials (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell

A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (Kregel) by Susie Finkbeiner

Life After (Waterbrook) by Katie Ganshert

The Space Between Words (Thomas Nelson) by Michele Phoenix

The Austen Escape (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

 

Historical Romance

A Note Yet Unsung (Bethany House) by Tamera Alexander

The Road to Paradise (Waterbrook) by Karen Barnett

Many Sparrows (Waterbrook) by Lori Benton

A Lady in Disguise (Howard) by Sandra Byrd

A Moonbow Night (Revell) by Laura Frantz

 

Literature for Young Adults

The Returning (Tyndale) by Rachelle Dekker

Unraveling (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

For Love and Honor (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund

The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink) by Stephanie Morrill

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber

 

Mystery/Thriller

The Enoch Effect (Waterfall Press) by Rick Acker

Death at Thorburn Hall (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering

Crown of Souls (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig

A Portrait of Vengeance (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

Imperfect Justice (Thomas Nelson) by Cara Putman

 

Speculative Fiction

Raging Storm (Harvest House) by Vannetta Chapman

The Divide (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim

The Beast of Talesend (Indie) by Kyle Robert Schultz

The Girl Who Could See (Indie) by Kara Swanson

King’s Blood (Bethany House) by Jill Williamson

 

2017 Carol Award Winners

24 Sep

Congratulations to the 2017 Carol Award winners. Presented by The American Christian Fiction Writers, the Carol Awards are given in recognition of outstanding fiction in 10 genres.

 

Contemporary

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), editor Amanda Bostic

 

Historical

Like a River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart, Kregel Publications, editors Dawn Jackson and Janyre Tromp

 

Historical Romance

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, ACFW QIP (Qualified Independently Published), editors Denise Harmer and Kara Swanson

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), editors Amanda Bostic and Natalie Hanneman

 

Novella

The Doctor’s Woman (The Courageous Brides Collection) by Michelle Griep, Barbour Publishing, editor Becky Germany

 

Romance

A Season to Love by Nicole Deese, Waterfall Press, editors Amy Hosford and Kristin Mehus-Roe

 

Romantic Suspense

Always Watching (Elite Guardians) by Lynette Eason, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing, editor Andrea Doering

 

Short Novel

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti, Worthy Inspired, editors Pamela Clements and Jamie Chavez

 

Speculative

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), editors Amanda Bostic and Erin Healy

 

Debut

You’re the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, editor Kathryn Davis

 

Book Review: When Mountains Move

18 Jul

404250It is the spring of 1943. With a wedding and a cross-country move, Millie’s world is about to change forever.

If only her past could change with it.

Soon after the break of day, Bump will become Millie’s husband. And then, if all goes as planned, they will leave the rain-soaked fields of Mississippi and head for the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. As Millie tries to forget a dark secret, she hasn’t yet realized how drastically those past experiences will impact the coming days.

For most of Millie’s life, being free felt about as unlikely as the mountains moving. But she’s about to discover that sometimes in life, we are given second chances, and that the only thing bigger than her past … is her future.

 

julie-7-2_06_03_2013Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm.

 

My Impressions:

When Mountains Move is the sequel to Julie Cantrell’s debut novel, Into The Free. Into The Free won 2 Christy Awards in 2013 for Debut Novel and Book of The Year. I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone. (You can read my review HERE.) However, this novel, which takes place immediately following the end of Into The Free, never really captured me in the same way. I kept waiting for the magic that was present in the first novel to show up. But in the end When Mountains Move was just a predictable and unsatisfying read for me.

When Mountains Move begins with the marriage of Millie and Bump and their move to Colorado from Mississippi to start a horse breeding ranch for the rodeo they both work for. Due to the rape that takes place in book 1, Millie has trouble with intimacy with Bump. Add to that her pregnancy by the rapist, and you have a story in which deeply held secrets strive to destroy the future that Millie has hoped for.

As I stated earlier, When Mountains Move was a predictable novel. Bump and Millie’s marriage suffers from the secrets held by Millie. The neighboring rancher, Kat, is a temptation for Bump and a point of jealousy for Millie. The novel became very soap opera-ish for me. The character of Millie’s grandmother was a shining spot, though. And even though the ending resolved problems begun in book 1, it was predictable as well.

Although I didn’t enjoy When Mountains Move, many did. Please check out some reviews HERE to make your own decision. It got overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon.

(Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Into The Free

22 May

404242Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

 

 

julie-7-2_06_03_2013Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, When Mountains Move, hit shelves September 1, 2013.

 

My Impressions:

Julie Cantrell won 2 Christy Awards for her debut novel, Into The Free. It is easy to see why. Her novel is a moving study of a young girl with so many obstacles to overcome, so many people set against her, yet somehow she manages to hold on to the elusive hope that she can escape and somehow make it into freedom. Not a particularly easy read considering the abuse some of the characters undergo, it is nevertheless a book I would highly recommend to anyone.

Spanning the years of 1936-1943, Into The Free features Millie Reynolds the daughter of a rodeo star who also regularly beats his wife. Mama retreats from the abuse and despair of her life by taking the drugs that the farmhands bring. Millie has learned to disappear, to be quiet and not cause any trouble. Yet she yearns for an escape and watches and waits for the Travelers that appear in the Spring.

Cantrell has a wonderful writing style, creating memorable and well-developed characters and using effective imagery. Millie is a survivor and a character that endures hard situations and hard people while maintaining her sense of self. Cantrell balances the abusive with the redemptive in the characters she creates. And there is a tension between Millie’s desire for the magical freedom that the gypsy boy River represents with the steady, dependable faith of cowboy Bump. The small town of Iti Taloa, Mississippi becomes very real in Cantrell’s hands. Small town gossip and prejudices are present, but so are caring people who seek to shelter Millie. But in 1940s Mississippi there is a limit to what one can do to step into a family’s business.

I read a few negative reviews of Into The Free. Some thought it was too Christian, others not Christian enough. Cantrell is blunt in her portrayal of hypocritical church members. At their best they are unfeeling gossips. At their worst they are abusive and manipulative. But theirs is a Christianity that is in name only. Her portrayal of real faith is beautiful. When Millie visits Bump’s family in the Delta she finds she “can taste the existence of God in every bite of food, smell Him in every whiff of Delta air, feel Him as Bump brushes against my arm and children tug at my dress with question after question about the rodeo, about Bump”. The provision and protection of God takes the shape of Sloth, a character from Millie’s childhood, who shows up to guide and direct her and sometimes to save her.

Into The Free has been in my TBR pile a long while. I am glad I finally took the time to read it. Powerful, beautiful, poignant, it is definitely Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended.

Great For Book Clubs.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase Into The Free, click on the image below.