Book Reviews

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Two things were certain about Georgia Bottoms.  She was the undisputed belle of Six Points, Alabama, and the only thing she loved more than her appearance was her divine reputation. 

Georgia’s “chicken-fried” charm and “sweet-tea” hospitality also made her the natural choice as Six Points’ unofficial town hostess and goodwill ambassador, until one Sunday in church when the lid was blown off of her entire “gravy and grits” facade.

The seventh novel by Alabama native Mark Childress, Georgia Bottoms, focuses on a 30-something Southern belle who is trying to pretend, for herself and an entire town, that the old-fashioned ways of the aristocratic South still exist in god-fearing, gossip-spreading Six Points, Alabama. 

Just published in February of this year, Georgia Bottoms combines a group of stereotypical southern characters into a tale of crazy situations, sexual misconduct and deceit at its finest.  Georgia appears to be a well-off single woman from a family of old money. She faithfully occupies her pew at the Baptist church every Sunday, dotingly cares for her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s, and selflessly spends hours creating beautiful quilts which she sells at a local store for a bargain price. 

Sarah Vowell is obsessed with history. Also: death. Where does a person with these two intertwined fascinations go on vacation? The answer to that question turns out to be some pretty surprising places.

Vowell's sense of humor and wit keep her travelogue Assassination Vacation from reading like a college textbook on the subject of Presidential assassinations

Part travel memoir, part history, and with a keen eye for the ridiculous (including a self-awareness of her own almost religious zeal for the subject), Vowel's book manages to look into the history of the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley in such a way that keeps you on your toes.

Vowell is a native of Montana, but you’d never know it the way she clings to the East Coast. She doesn’t drive (phobia), so she considers one of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s greater faults to be “that he did not have the decency to die within walking distance of a metro stop.” In many ways, Vowell is herself a character as interesting to read about as the historical figures she portrays with such detail. 

'Til Morning Light is the third novel in the Gracelin O'Malley series by Ann Moore. This historical fiction series follows heroine Gracelin as she travels from Ireland to New York to San Francisco in the mid-1800s. 'Til Morning Light concludes Gracelin's journey as she struggles to balance her own personal happiness with the best life possible for her two young children.

Gracelin is planning to marry Captain Reinders as she waits in San Francisco, working as a cook in a house for a local doctor. But many surprises are waiting for Gracelin in San Francisco – a headstrong housekeeper, her own brother hidden in Chinatown, and her one true love.

Gracelin is an extremely strong female character who survived a great deal of turmoil in Ireland before escaping to America. I was surprised at her openness and her ability to adapt to her surroundings.

I also enjoyed the debates on morality and other issues between Gracelin and Dr. Wakefield. I felt that the author was able to delicately handle sensitive issues that did not interfere with the story. I also noticed an appreciation for faith throughout the book, but it was essential to the story and I did not feel as though the author was preaching to me.

“Lookin’ for a wedding?” he asked in a lazy drawl. When G.W. Vandermark first meets beautiful Lizzy Decker, his world is turned upside down. At the busy train station in Philadelphia, Lizzy, a stunning, blue-eyed petite blonde, is accompanied by G.W.’s level-headed sister, Deborah Vandermark.

Lizzy and Deborah have just finished college and are returning to Deborah’s hometown in Eastern Texas.

For G.W, the most unusual thing about his sister’s companion is a long bridal gown she chooses to wear for the arduous trip. Lizzy has barely escaped a wedding and an overbearing groom she does not love. She now depends on Deborah and Deborah’s “backwoods bumpkin” brother to provide a safe refuge for her.

Embers of Love is the first of the three novels by Tracie Peterson in her latest historical inspirational series, Striking a Match (Embers of Love, Hearts Aglow, Hope Rekindled). Set in a small logging community of Perkinsville in June 1885, this novel portrays lives of two intelligent, educated young women whose thinking are ahead of their time.

Two long-standing schools of thought have dominated discussion in grammar. The prescriptive school looks at the way the language ought to be used. Its adherents set out the rules of grammar as the standard to follow. The alternative, descriptive approach views language as living and evolving – language as it's used.

In The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Mystery and Magic of Practical English, Roy Peter Clark thoroughly explores the shift from the notions of how people ought to speak (prescriptive) versus how they do in fact speak (descriptive).

For instance, “Where you at?” is a common question in current, regional discourse.  The prescriptive approach would pronounce this a faulty use of grammar, arguing it violates both the rule of a complete sentence needing a verb, and the rule not to end a sentence with a preposition. Prescriptivists may go even so far as to suggest that the speaker is uneducated, using sub-standard English.

By contrast, the descriptive perspective would recognize this question as an expression commonly used. The only measure it must meet is: Does it, in fact, communicate? If the person hearing it understands what is being asked, it qualifies as acceptable, and may be considered even to be an advancement or evolution of the English language.

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