our book club reads happy books!

Hello Velva Jean!

on November 11, 2012

I just finished the novel “Velva Jean Learns to Fly” by Jennifer Niven. This is the sequel to “Velva Jean Learns to Drive“, which I wrote about in this post.

The second novel picks up right where the first one stopped – Velva Jean is driving her beat up , but beloved,  yellow truck to Nashville, with high hopes of making it to the big time: singing at the Grand Ol’ Opry.

“Velva Jean Learns to Fly” takes Velva Jean on amazing adventures as World War II breaks out and Velva Jean joins what will later become the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and learns (you guessed it!) how to fly.

As with the first Velva Jean novel, what made this one such an enjoyable read were Velva Jean’s character and spirit.  Velva Jean’s family and friends from the previous novel make appearances and we are introduced to a lot of new characters. Niven has great talent for making all the characters come alive and you really feel like you know them.

Once again, Velva Jean faces heartache and hard times, but her resilient spirit pulls her through. The novel was set during WWII and depicted the struggles of the WASPS to gain respect and recognition as a military entity. This was something I knew little about and  found very interesting. And I found it very disheartening that women in the military face the same lack of respect and threats of violence today.

The end of the novel left me in a slight panic. I immediately did some research and found that there is indeed a third Velva Jean novel entitled “Becoming Clementine” or as one reviewer called it, “Velva Jean Learns to Spy”. See you soon Velva Jean!

Two things I discovered about Jennifer Niven that makes me want to want to be her BFF:

1. In the acknowledgements page she thanks Ryan Bingham: “I created Butch Dawkins before I knew who Ryan Bingham was, but it’s like he walked off the page –  right down to that face, that hair, the tattoos, those songs, and the whiskey-and cigarettes voice. Mercy.” I, too, am a fan. I discovered Ryan Bingham watching the movie “Crazy Heart“, or I should say, listening to  the closing credits to “Crazy Heart”. Bingham sings the title song he wrote for the movie, which for some crazy reason Colin Farrell sings in the movie. When I heard Bingham sing it, it was like hearing a completely different (and much better) song. As I listened, I pictured a man about the age of Jeff Bridges matching that incredible voice. Imagine my surprise when I found out this is what Ryan Bingham actually looks like:

It added to my enjoyment of the character of Butch Dawkins to picture him like this!

2. In one of her blog posts, “Traveling Light when you love books”, Jennifer talks about traveling to England and filling her suitcase full of great English authors. How ironic, since I found Jennifer Niven’s novels while searching for books set in Nashville to take with me to Nashville! (and it was fun to read about the city after recently visiting – the War Memorial, Church St, Printer’s Alley – I remembered them all.) In this case, looking for books to travel with led me to a great new author who I may never have discovered otherwise.


6 responses to “Hello Velva Jean!

  1. Stacy says:

    Thanks Pat – as always you make me want to try a new book.. even if there is some sadness… actually I don’t mind sadness, I just like happy endings! And so glad there is a 3rd book coming from your bff – a happy ending for you either way!

  2. jenniferniven says:

    First, thank you so, so much, Pat, for these marvelous, thoughtful, lovely reviews of Velva Jean Learns to Drive and Velva Jean Learns to Fly! They made my day! And second, I’m happy to be your BFF. 🙂 So glad to meet a fellow Ryan Bingham fan, and so happy to have found your site. I’m your newest follower! (By the way, I’m at work on the fourth Velva Jean right now…)

    • Jennifer, thanks for your comment and follow! “Becoming Clementine” is on the top of my “to be read” pile. I’m looking forward to reading it and excited to hear that more Velva Jean adventures are in the works. It was great hearing from you – your novels have brought me such pleasure!

      • Stacy says:

        PAT!!!!!!! I hear that if an author finds your blog.. and responds that it automatically makes you famous!!!!! Now I HAVE to put Velva Jean Learns to Drive next on my list… so that I get to know more about your new bff!

      • I don’t know about famous, but it is fun! And you should definitely read Velva Jean – I think it is your kind of book.

  3. […] Niven’s most recent novel, “Becoming Clementine”, about the further adventures of Velva Jean, girl adventurer. A very satisfying […]

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