Today, I am pleased to welcome a super sweet gal to the blog, author Bette Crosby. Bette is the author of a wonderful book called Spare Change. I am super excited to introduce her to you all today. Bette's book is a tale about love, loss and unexpected gifts. I loved all the Southern flair to it as well, even though I have never been to the South. In my heart I am a Southern girl, and I think Bette can relate as you will soon see.
First let me tell you about Bette:
Bette Lee Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006, when she won the National League of American Pen Women Award for unpublished fiction with What Matters Most. Her novel, Cracks in the Sidewalk, received the 2009 Royal Palm Literary Award and then went on to win the 2011 FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal. In 2011 Spare Change received the Reviewer's Choice Awards and it garnered a second Royal Palm Literary Award. Her books have earned numerous five-star ratings with readers acclaiming them as heartwarming and captivating. Most recently, Bette completed a memoir written for Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as The World’s Longest Living Quadriplegic. Bette Lee Crosby is originally from New Jersey, but now makes her home in Southern Florida where she lives with her husband Richard and a feisty Bichon Frise named Katie. A highly entertaining public speaker, Bette makes frequent appearances to support the various charities of women’s groups, and schedule permitting, she will join book talks and book club discussion groups. Find out more about Bette by visiting her site, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.
Here is Bette to tell you about all things Southern:
Let me start by explaining, I’m a Jersey girl. The minute I say coffee (cough-ee) everyone
knows I’m a Jersey girl. Trust me, New Jersey is nothing like it’s usually portrayed on television. Jersey folk have one tiny little quirk…we say cough-ee and mean coffee. That’s it. One quirk.
But Southerners, especially fictitious ones, are loaded with quirks. That’s what makes them such fun.
Now, back to this love affair…it started small, with a speak-easy owner named Itchy. He had an obvious habit of scratching where he shouldn’t have been scratching which was how he came by his name. Once I got to know Itchy, there was no stopping. Before I knew it, I was knee deep in Southern slang and wizened words. I discovered a world of quirky people living inside my head…well, I thought they were inside my head, but as it turned out, they were inside my heart.
That was it, I was a goner. I sought advice from women like Canasta Jones who told me certain things were the Devil’s way of doing business. Devil or no Devil, I kept at it. I then found myself attracted to Isaiah, a Bible salesman who was quick with a shoulder to cry on and some sage advice. It wasn’t just the men, it was women and children too. There was Olivia, full of opinions and superstitions, full of sorrow one moment and overflowing with love the next. But when I lost my heart to Ethan Allen, an eleven year old, pie-loving boy with ear- bending language, I knew I had come full circle. I was as Southern as if I had been born and bred in Alabama.
Long before Ethan Allen came into my life, I realized this was destined to happen—my mama and daddy were from the South. That in itself gives a clue. People from New Jersey don’t say mama and daddy. They say mom and pop. They don’t say y’all either; they say you guys. ‘You guys’ is both masculine and feminine, singular and plural. The same is true for y’all. It’s like ice cream—it’s always ice cream whether you say vanilla or chocolate.
When I lived in New Jersey, I spoke like all of my friends; but when I entered that secret place where it was only me, my computer and my characters, my thoughts veered off in a southern direction. Eventually I gave in and pursued my guilty pleasure. We moved as far south as we could go, I gave up drinking coffee, and started sipping sweet tea. I opened my heart to these quirky characters and let them move right in. In time they became me, just as I’d become them. Yep, there’s a little piece of me in almost every one of them—even the bad guys. Most days, I’m not much of the bad guy. Most days, I’m like Olivia—a little strange, always in need of a friend and trying to make my way through life. Only one thing stands between me and my destiny and it happened again last week.
I went to breakfast with a friend and the diner didn’t have sweet tea. Yes, I did—I ordered coffee. The waitress in a sweet southern drawl said, “Why Sugar, you sound like you’re from New Jersey.”
I can totally relate, Bette! I read Gone with the Wind at thirteen and have been in love with all things Southern ever since then, even though I have always been a Western girl. One of these days, I will get down to the South and enjoy all the Southern goodness! Thanks so much for stopping by! Bette comes with a gift! She is offering a signed copy of Spare Change to one lucky winner. To enter fill out the Rafflcopter. This is open to U.S. residents only. Good Luck!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here is my review:
A Woman who is Superstitious to the Core…A Boy who claims his Parents are Dead…A Murderer who wants to Silence the Truth of What Happened.Olivia Westerly knows what she knows — opals mean disaster, eleven is the unluckiest number on earth and children weigh a woman down like a pocketful of stones. That’s why she’s avoided marriage for almost forty years. But when Charlie Doyle happened along, he was simply too wonderful to resist. Now she’s a widow with an eleven-year-old boy claiming to be her grandson.Spare Change is a quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about the important things in life, the madcap adventures of a young boy and a late change of heart that makes all the difference in an unusually independent woman. With a foul mouth, dark secrets and heavily guarded emotions, Ethan Allen Doyle is not an easy child to like. He was counting on the grandpa he’d never met for a place to hide, but now that plan is shot to blazes because the grandpa’s dead too. He’s got seven dollars and twenty-six cents, his mama’s will for staying alive, and Dog. But none of those things are gonna help if Scooter Cobb finds him.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Bent Pine Publishing
Four stars: A book about loss and love.
Olivia is content with her life. She decided at a young age to never marry after she saw her friend tethered down with a pack of kids and no freedom. She opted for a career and avoided marriage, that is until the day Charlie Doyle entered her world and swept her away. Now at fifty eight, she is ready to marry and enjoy her golden years. Her dreams are shattered when an unlucky gift of an opal necklace precedes a dinner that ends in tragedy. Olivia is a widow after less than a month. She is is attempting to put back the pieces and wonders how her broken heart will heal. Then unexpectedly, a young boy, Ethan Allen, and his scroungy dog show up on her doorstep. He is now orphaned and alone looking for his grandpa, and he is harboring some dark secrets. Can the two of them somehow heal each other?
What I Liked:
- First and foremost, I enjoyed the characters in this one. Ms. Crosby creates such believable characters that you can't help but become invested in their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed Ethan, Olivia, Clara, Jack and even Dog. It is always a pleasure to come across a book with such tremendous characters! Even the secondary characters were wonderful such as Clara the next door neighbor, and the old lady, Canasta, who ran the hotel, she was one of my personal favorites. I wish she had a bigger role because she was great with her secret ochre soup.
- I truly admired Olivia. She was a young lady in the twenties and she wanted more than marriage and a family so she forged ahead and took a job at the phone company, even though it meant her father turning his back on her. She was willing to go against the popular ideas for women in that era and be something else. I liked how in her supposedly golden years, through unexpected circumstances she ends up opening her heart to an orphan and changing her mind about kids. I loved her spirit and her little quirks, and I liked watching her learn to live and love again.
- This book is told through various view points. I liked that I was able to get into each and every character's head and understand their motives and behavior. Granted, some of the characters are definitely flawed and some are just downright scoundrels, but in the end I liked getting a glimpse into each of their thoughts. For me, even though Ethan's mom, Susannah, was in a lot of ways a selfish and unkind person, I actually sympathized with her plight. I like when an author can convince me to find find something good with someone who perhaps doesn't deserve it.
- I loved the sense of community in this one. This book takes place in the fifties, and things were a bit different back then. I appreciated how the neighbors all looked after Olivia as she struggled with her heartbreak, and then they all in a sense adopted Ethan Allen. I also appreciated the kindness that two complete strangers showed to Ethan as they helped him find his way to his grandpa. It truly warmed my heart to see that people took the time to get involved and help the boy.
- This book definitely tugs at your heart strings as you follow poor Ethan Allen. He is a boy who has never been shown real affection from either of his parents. At an early age he learned to take care of himself, and then when disaster strikes he puts on his boots and sets out on his own with Dog. Got to hand it to him, he has gumption. He is certainly a little rough around the edges due to his upbringing, but he is certainly a lovable character. I was especially moved at the end to see how his life turned out. Definitely proof that love can do wonders for the soul, and that is indeed the case for Olivia and Ethan.
And The Not So Much:
- I was a bit startled to find that there was a great deal of dark subject matter in this one. I guess I was expecting a more warm, feel good type read. Don't get me wrong, this book after all the drama, does end up leaving you feeling uplifted, but before that there is a lot of negative. For instance, the verbal and physical abuse that goes on between Ethan's parents. This takes place during an era when men controlled their wives, and it was common for Benjamin to hit Susannah. I realize that this was the way things were, but I was not happy with the abusive relationship. Then there is adultery and double murders. I was a bit surprised by the violence with the murders as well. It is nothing too gruesome, but again I thought this would be a bit lighter read than it actually was. I guess bottom line I was expecting a sweet, touching read and and I was a bit shocked by the darker tone.
- I was left wondering why Ethan was estranged from his grandpa for all those years. Was it because his dad, Benjamin, didn't maintain relationship with Charlie? Whose fault was it that there was no contact?
"When you get to a certain age and realize how much time you've wasted on pure foolishness, you're bound to smack yourself in the head and ask, What in the world was I thinking? Everybody's got regrets--myself included."
"Some people got to their grave without every getting a chance to climb out of that ditch they've dug for themselves; others get lucky."
"Trying to hold onto the moment she took the beside clock, turned it face down, and buried it in the bottom of a drawer. But hiding time is not a thing that will slow it."
"Honey," she said, "people don't find a home, they gotta make one. Sometimes sad folks hurry off to some new place, and then when they get there they say, Why this ain't home at all. Things is, you got to give time. You got to set growing things on the windowsill, say howdy to your neighbors, and write little notes on the wall calendar. Then one day you get a whiff of your own stew simmering, and it hits like a brick dropped square onto your head: you're right where God intended you to be."
"The truth of a person's soul is in their eyes."
"A lifetime of sorrow is what comes of marrying a man with a smile that draws women like flies to a spill of syrup. Such a man comes wrapped in the love of himself. Here I am, he says. Isn't that enough?"
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.