About the Book
Title: The Simple Soul of Susan
Author: Noel Branham
Genre: Romance, YA, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary
Release Date: October 11, 2017
Susan Combs had long ago found the love of her life. The only problem was the other party still didn’t know he had been found. Every day Susan saw Calder Hurtz, her next door neighbor and childhood best friend. They always enjoyed the short drive to school down the dusty streets of their small Texas town. She was happy in those perfect moments, for her life at home was most imperfect. The challenging homestead she inhabited was also the favorite subject of local gossip. But one autumn day she overhears Calder and another boy having a conversation. This occasion of accidental audience sets Susan’s life on an unforeseen path. In the seasons to come, her future will be changed by two hospitalizations, two confessions of love, and one betrayal. Compulsively readable, The Simple Soul of Susan is an engaging, soul-endearing romance and a mesmerizing debut.
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This is a delightful coming of age romance. Much of my enjoyment of this novel came from Branham's writing style. It is subtle but captivating. There were no flashy gimmicks in the plot, until the twist at the end. I appreciated the gentle yet compelling movement in relationships. Oh, there were problems in the relationship between Susan and Calder, as there might be as a childhood friendship transforms into a teenage romance.
I had a little trouble liking Susan. She's smart, second in her graduating class. Yet she is painfully shy and insecure. She is also a very giving person, taking care of the ailing uncle who treated her like his own daughter. I felt her character was developed pretty well but I just did not understand her and therefore could not appreciate her or identify with her.
There were just a couple of glitches, I felt, in the plot. One is a silly thing, changing a tire. Calder teaches Susan how to do it and says to use the jack first then loosen the lug nuts. Yikes. If you have changed a tire you know it is next to impossible to loosen the nuts on a tire that is off the ground and freely spinning. You loosen the nuts then use the jack to lift the car.
I didn't quite understand why Susan did not get a job after graduating from high school. And why didn't she take better care of the house? If she had enough money to not have to work, she should have been able to fix the rotting porch steps, etc. That part of her character was a mystery to me. Although I did understand it with the twist in the end, it did not feel satisfying.
Those issues with the plot were minor in this debut effort from Branham. In general, I found the novel delightful and recommend it to young adult readers.
About the Author
Born and raised in a small Texas town, Noel Branham started her career in digital communications after graduating with a degree in English. An award-winning communicator, she now writes from her residence in Florida about things closest to the heart: home, family, and love. You can find out more about her at http://www.noelbranham.com/ and on Instagram.
Guest Post from Noel Branham
Fictional Romance: A Real Relationship Killer? You’ve heard it before… All romance novels give readers unrealistic expectations of relationships. Yep. They totally do. But I think most of the time, with life in general, we have unrealistic expectations not only of others but of ourselves. We live in a world where there is always something else to try, buy or satisfy our ever-evolving aspirations of happiness and fulfillment. So here are three things to remember while reading romance novels that will lead to having deep, meaningful, romantic, relationships in real life:
- Happiness isn’t fulfilled expectations. When you expect your significant other (SO) to see you and romantically sweep you off your feet while pulling flowers from behind your back and force feeding you chocolates… you may have some unrealistic expectations. Would it be nice? Sure! But there is always something more they could do to make you happy, feeling loved, satisfied, etc. It’s a bottomless pit of desire and implied anticipated actions. We have to realize that no matter how many things we want out of a relationship, we can never receive them all… because realistically, we could never live up to the things expected of us either. Romance is a two-way street.
- Happiness is the unexpected, fulfilled. Wait… how can you fulfill something that isn’t expected? You can’t. And that’s what makes it so great. Your SO fills your car up with gas, takes you out for a date for no particular reason, watches that Victorian-era PBS drama with you even though they can’t understand the accents… When we get rid of expectations for ourselves and others we are able to really enjoy the things and people we already have and anything else is simply adding to lovely life that we already possess.
- Happiness in relationships is what you make of it. Just not feeling the love anymore after five years together? Was it that you chose the wrong person? Was it something they did? Something you did? Love can be a feeling and an action. Your relationship doesn’t have to be defined by feelings. Feelings fade. They aren’t realistic. They change with time as people change with time because all people change. But actions… actions are what you choose to do on a regular basis. They are a daily intentional choice (made by you) to care for another person. You can control your actions, but not so much your feelings. Funny thing is often times your actions create feelings you never thought you could have.
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margaret kazmierczak, (Interview)
Simple Harvest Reads, (Guest post, Mindy Houng)
Reading is my Super Power, (Interview)
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.