Introducing Modern Mrs. Darcy

Today’s post by Anne Bogel | @AnneBogel

We’re thrilled to introduce you to our new friend and literary cohort, Anne Bogel. Or, as most people know her, Modern Mrs. Darcy. Anne Will be joining us at Triangle Reads where she will moderate our headline event with Elin Hilderbrand. If you’ve not bought your ticket now is the time to do so! We’d love to meet you. And we’d love to meet your book club as well. For the first time ever the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance is opening its yearly trade show to the public and we’ve been given the incredible honor or organizing this event for them. Inviting Anne to participate was the very first decision we made. And as you’ll see from her post below, it was the right one.

Modern Mrs. DarcyI sat down to coffee with a newish friend recently. Before I could take my first sip, she urged, “Tell me your favorite novel. Or a book that’s changed your life. I want to read more, and I need some ideas.”

I love talking books with friends, but as I opened my mouth to answer, I realized that she’d just asked me an extremely personal question.

Aside from the sheer impossibility of choosing just one favorite book, her question was daunting for another reason: I felt like I’d been asked to lay my soul on the table.

A. J. Fikry, a wise man despite his fictional status, says, “You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question,What is your favorite book?” I wasn’t sure if I was ready for her to know everything she needed to know about me.

I could tell her one of my favorites is Brideshead Revisited. I’ve read it a half dozen times; it’s the only one I’ve enjoyed by Waugh. I love it because it’s haunting and complex, filled with poetry and metaphor, and because it doesn’t end happily. What do those things say about me? Or perhaps, if my friend hasn’t read it, she’d think my choice meant I was the kind of person who was hung up on some stodgy old classic?

I could tell her I adore Crossing to Safety, for its wistful story and gorgeous prose, and Stegner’s ability to conjure a moving tale out of the mundane events of ordinary life. That might brand me as a hopeless romantic, an armchair philosopher, or maybe just a snob who only reads Serious Fiction.

Since my friend wanted book recommendations, I could tell her some of my favorites that were actually published in the last decade. I loved Outlander: maybe she’d think I was the kind of person who enjoyed a good story, well told. Or maybe she’d think I was one of those women hung up on the steamy scenes featuring 18th century Scottish warriors.

I could recommend a fun, lighthearted, easy-reading novel, like Love Walked In. It’s a practically perfect romantic comedy, even if it’s probably not a book that will change your life. Maybe my friend would think I was fun, lighthearted, and easy-going. Or maybe she’d think I only ever read chick lit.

Despite my reservations, I recommended all these titles to her, and more. (And I’m happy to report she purchased All the Light We Cannot See the same afternoon we met up.) Because I love good books, and I love reading. And while reading is often viewed as a solitary act, it’s also a social one.

Readers love to connect over good books. If I read a book that changes my life, or a book that becomes a new favorite, or even a breezy novel that’s tons of fun, I can’t wait to talk about it with other readers. So when my friend asked, I answered cautiously—but how could I help but answer?

“What’s your favorite book?” is a personal question. That makes it a little dangerous, but it also opens the door to fantastic conversations and meaningful relationships. Shakespeare said that the eyes are the window to the soul, but we readers know one’s bookshelves reveal just as much.

Question for you: So what IS your favorite book? Also, aren’t you just a little bit tempted to join us at Triangle Reads?

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Author to Author Interview: The Secrets Edition, Part Two

Today’s post by Karen Katchur and Stephanie Butland | @KarenKatchur and @Under_Blue_Sky

Welcome back for the second part of our interview with Karen Katchur and Stephanie Butland! If you missed part one you can read it here.

Also, if you haven’t yet heard, we are partnering with the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Alliance (SIBA) next month to host Triangle Reads, a first-of-it’s-kind readers event in Raleigh, North Carolina. We hope you’ll come, and that you’ll bring your book club as well, so we can finally have a chance to meet you in person. The ticket price (all proceeds benefit SIBA) includes lunch, a $22 voucher to buy books, and an afternoon spent with two dozen of the most amazing authors you’ll ever meet.

Secrets Collage

Karen: The book was originally released with the title SURROUNDED BY WATER. What was the reason for changing the title to THE SECRETS WE KEEP?

Stephanie: Ah, that’s only the half of it! ‘Surrounded by Water’ was the original UK hardback title in the UK. It was my title; I thought it was beautiful and poetic and would make elegant sense to readers when they’d finished the book. When my UK publishers were looking at the paperback publication they pointed out, very gently, that maybe a title that makes sense after you’ve read it might not make a lot of sense, marketing-wise! So they changed the paperback title to ‘Letters To My Husband’. Meanwhile the German title translates as ‘The Truth Of The Water’, and the US decided on ‘The Secrets We Keep’! My second novel, which is out in October in the UK, is called ‘The Other Half Of My Heart’ – but it had at least six titles before we fixed on that one. I’m going to stick to what’s inside the covers from now on and leave the outside to publishers!

Karen: What was the inspiration for writing this book?

Stephanie: After writing two memoirs about my dance with cancer, I really wanted to try my hand at fiction. I started on a comic novel about a committee but got stuck. The feedback I got on that was that the standout element was the letters Elizabeth wrote to her dead husband and so I started again from there. It took a few goes to find the story, but I enjoyed every stage.

Karen: The image of water is a significant theme throughout the book. What made you choose water as a theme or was it something that came out organically while you writing the story?

Stephanie: Water is such a powerful thing. It cleans us, it sustains us, it’s a danger to us, we think it can be controlled and then it bursts banks and wrecks our worlds. You could say the same things about love and grief; water felt like the perfect image for Elizabeth’s journey.

Karen: You previously described your writing as emotionally intelligent. It absolutely is. The grief experienced by each of your characters was as individualized as the characters themselves. What type of research helped you identify the way your characters grieved or did that come straight from the characters themselves?

Stephanie: I think it came from the characters. Elizabeth grieves the way she does partly from the directness of her loss, of course, but also because she is far from her native home and has lost the thing that anchored her to the world she’s living in. Kate is young and has only the coping strategy of the teenage girl: close your bedroom door, cry, take it out on your parents, ignore things and hope they will go away. Patricia has experienced deep grief before and so she recognizes it and allows it to walk alongside her, with a spirit of endurance, without fuss. Michael’s colleague Blake is stoic about loss but it has a quiet, transformative effect on him and his life – you’ll see more of that in the next book!

Karen: What do you want your readers to take away from THE SECRETS WE KEEP?

Stephanie: That’s a really good question! I didn’t write it with a moral in mind but I suppose it’s about remembering that everything we do, however thoughtless or insignificant at the time, can have repercussions later. Life is complicated. Books like mine and yours help us to explore and remember that.

Karen: Two of your characters meet over pumpkin jam. I’ve never heard of it before, but it sounds delicious. Do you have a favorite recipe for pumpkin jam that you could share with us?

Stephanie: In the UK we are terrible with pumpkins – we only really use them to make Halloween lanterns and, if we’re brave, we might make the innards into soup. I think the characters joke about it because it’s out of the ordinary! So no, I don’t have a recipe – but I do have one for the ginger cake mentioned at the same point in the story. It’s my mother’s recipe and it really is delicious. (So delicious that it turns up in the second book too, eaten for breakfast, spread with butter!)

Helen Breeze’s Gingerbread

You will need:

2 sticks of butter

1 1/4 (one and a quarter) cups of soft brown sugar

8 tablespoons of light corn syrup (we use Golden Syrup in the UK but I don’t think it crosses the Atlantic!)

4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 heaped tablespoon ground ginger

3 level teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 beaten eggs

10 fl oz warm milk

2 level teaspoons baking soda

Baking pan 7 inches square and 3 inches deep, base lined with baking parchment. (The mixture is very runny so you will need a solid pan, not a loose-bottomed one.)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit/ gas mark 3.

Melt the butter, sugar and light corn syrup together in a pan, gently, over a low heat.

In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, ginger and cinnamon.

Add the melted ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

Add the eggs, warm milk and baking soda and mix well.

The mixture will be very runny – that’s OK!

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour and a half.

Leave it to cool in the tin.

Store in an airtight tin.

(Also freezes well.)

* * *

The Secrets We KeepA tragic accident, a broken heart, and a marriage drowning in secrets…

Mike always walks the dog in the evening while Elizabeth relaxes in the bathtub―but one night he doesn’t come back. Mike has drowned while saving a teenage girl named Kate, his dog standing on the bank barking frantically as the police pull his body from the water.

But despite her husband being lauded as a hero, Elizabeth can’t wrap her mind around the fact that Mike is gone―and Kate won’t reveal the details of what really happened that night.

Elizabeth finds herself facing the unfathomable possibility that she may not have known her husband at all. Does she really want to know the truth? Or will the weight of Mike’s secrets pull her under?

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Author to Author Interview: The Secrets Edition, Part One

Today’s post by Karen Katchur and Stephanie Butland | @KarenKatchur and @Under_Blue_Sky

Secrets. Every good novel has them. (Also, it’s worth noting that “Secrets” is a hot new trend in book titles at the moment.) Karen Katchur and Stephanie Butland have each written novels that center around tragic drownings and the secrets involved. So of course it made perfect sense to have them sit down and discuss the similarities, differences, and challenges involved in writing such emotional books.

Also, if you haven’t yet heard, we are partnering with the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Alliance (SIBA) next month to host Triangle Reads, a first-of-it’s-kind readers event in Raleigh, North Carolina. We hope you’ll come, and that you’ll bring your book club as well, so we can finally have a chance to meet you in person. The ticket price (all proceeds benefit SIBA) includes lunch, a $22 voucher to buy books, and an afternoon spend with two dozen of the most amazing authors you’ll ever meet.

Secrets Collage

Stephanie: I raced through this, desperate to find out what happened next. I’m guessing the writing process was a little slower…. how did you approach writing the novel? What sparked the idea?

Karen: My process is slow and a bit messy. I go into a story knowing one or two characters, the event I’m building my fiction around, and a vague idea about the climax or black moment. Basically, I sit down and write the first draft without much plotting at all.

The idea for the novel started taking shape in the back of my mind one night when I was sitting around the table with my mother and sister reminiscing about the lake where my grandmother owned a cabin. We were talking about how when I was nine or ten years old, a young teenage boy had drowned there. I’ve never forgotten watching them drag the lake, searching for him, and how scared and helpless I had felt. The tragedy has never left me and although I have many happy memories of the lake, there will always be something dark and frightening about it as well. It really made for a perfect setting for a suspense novel.

Stephanie: The world of this book is full of rules, spoken and unspoken, and the only way for anyone to move on, it seemed to me, was to break a few of them. Do you think of your characters as rebels?

Karen: Interesting question! I didn’t think of my characters as rebels until you mentioned it, but yes, to some extent, each character breaks a rule in one form or another in order to grow. Without giving too much away, I’ll give an example of a small rule Gram, Jo’s mother and Caroline’s grandmother, breaks that sets the tone for later confrontations with the lake association. When Gram first buys the cabin, she sticks it to the association by naming her cabin, The Pop Inn, rather than conforming to the request that all cabins be named after birds. It was Gram’s way of saying she wouldn’t be controlled by Frank Heil, the president of the association. This minor detail sets up years of conflict that peaks at a time when the community needs to join together when a little girl goes missing from the beach.

I love writing about small towns because you can give them their own set of politics and quirks. When one of your characters doesn’t conform to the town’s rules there is automatic conflict.

Stephanie: Caroline, the heroine of the story (to me, anyway – I loved her!) goes through some pretty seismic changes. I thought you captured where she is – the time stuck between girl and woman and not really wanting to be either – brilliantly. Where did Caroline come from?

Karen: Caroline was the first character that “spoke” to me. When I set out to write her character I knew I wanted to capture that precarious time when a girl is not yet a teenager, but no longer a child, either. It’s such a vulnerable, confusing age. I very much wanted Caroline to go through the changes of being tossed from the security of childhood into a world she suddenly sees as unsafe. I often wonder how many of us can think back to an event, big or small, where we first realized the world wasn’t the place we thought it to be.

Stephanie: You write about some tough things in a pretty fearless way. (The snappers were terrifying!) How was researching this book? Did any of it scare you?

Karen: The snappers were a bit of fun research for me. They were such a big part of life on the lake when I was growing up. It was like one of those kids’ games you played that were one part scary and the other part fun. One minute you were swimming with your friends, the next minute someone was yelling, “Snapper!” And you were racing for the shore, frightened, but laughing at the same time. For the most part, snappers are not dangerous. However, they will defend themselves if trapped or scared, so watch out for their mouth and claws!

I also spent a considerable amount of time interviewing an Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team. The work they do is amazing. I was shocked to learn the amount of training they are required to go through and the risks involved. If anything scares me, it’s my concern for their safety every time they respond to a call.

Stephanie: So… what’s next for you? Are you working on something new? Can you tell us anything about it?

Karen: I’m busy working on my next novel. I’m not ready to share the details of it yet. I can say that it’s another story set in a small town in the Poconos, and there is a mystery surrounding an unfortunate event.

Stephanie: What’s your idea of a perfect summer?

Karen: I’m a summertime girl so they’re all perfect! Any time I get to sit down with a good book, whether it’s by the ocean, lake, or poolside, is a perfect summer day to me.

* * *

Secrets of Lake Road, TheA haunting story about the destructive power of secrets, The Secrets of Lake Road is an accomplished and gripping suspenseful women’s fiction debut.

Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away.

Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her–but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family. The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur is a riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.

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Summer Reading Series: Emily Leibert

Today’s post by Emily Leibert | @EmilyLeibert

It is with great sadness that we bring our summer reading series to a close. Though, to be honest, we couldn’t think of a better author or novel to send us on our way. Emily Leibert’s third novel, THOSE SECRETS WE KEEP, is rising to the top of to-be-read lists everywhere and if you haven’t read it yet, you should remedy that immediately. Also, we’d love t know what your favorite summer read has been!

Summer Reading Series

Summer is my favorite time of year. Hands down. The days are longer. The trees are lusher. The laughing is louder. Overall, the urgent pace of life slows down, if only a little. And there’s nothing more enticing than reclining in the great outdoors with a good book and an ice cold beer. These are some of the hot new titles I’ll be cozying up with on my brand new hammock (note to self: buy brand new hammock).

WHO DO YOU LOVE by Jennifer Weiner

I’ve long been a Jennifer Weiner fan. Her characters are perfectly flawed. And her wry sense of humor is right in line with my own. In her new novel—out August 11th—Weiner tells the story of Rachel Blum and Andy Landis, who met at eight years old in an ER waiting room. While their lives moved in separate directions, over the next three decades, they meet again and again serendipitously. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into what promises to be an epic love story.


If you’d told me a decade ago that I’d write a novel that would publish on the same day as Judy Blume’s, I probably would have named my first born after you. Not only did I read every one of her books growing up, but her novel SUMMER SISTERS is what made me want to become an author. And, wait, that’s not even the best part. Are you ready? My great-grandfather, Dr. Kalb, is in this book (page 113)! Mentioned by name! Wild, right? Still not the only reason I want to read her latest. It’s about generations of family, friends, and strangers whose lives were irreversibly altered when a succession of airplanes dropped from the sky (that part is true). Intriguing, right?


I’m a couple of months behind on this one (it’s hard to find time to read for pleasure!). But news on “the street” is that Jessica Knoll’s debut is scandalous. And, let me tell you, I love me some scandal. Throw in a leading lady with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and a handsome blue blood fiancé, who’s hiding a haunting secret, and I’m good to go. Not to mention that she had me at the cover.

HOW TO BE A GROWN-UP by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Who doesn’t love Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus? With eight novels under their belts, they’re at it again with their new book about a forty-plus wife and mother forced to return to the workforce in the wake of her husband losing his job and declaring that he feels like “taking a break” from being a husband and father. Sounds like a delicious and witty treat of a read to me!

* * *

ThoseSecrets_HighResThree women. Three lives. Three secrets.

On the surface, Sloane has the perfect life—an adoring husband, a precocious daughter, and enough financial security to be a stay-at-home mom. Still, she can’t help but feel as though something—or someone—is missing….

Hillary has a successful career and a solid marriage. The only problem is her inability to conceive. And there’s a very specific reason why….

As the wild-child daughter of old family money, Georgina has never had to accept responsibility for anything. So when she realizes an unexpected life change could tie her down forever, she does exactly what she’s always done: escape.

When these three women unite for a three-week-long summer vacation in beautiful Lake George, New York, even with the idyllic location as their backdrop, the tensions begin to mount. And they quickly discover that no secret can be kept forever….

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Summer Reading Series: Cecilia Galante

Today’s post by Cecilia Galante | @CeciliaGalante5

Cecilia Galante’s debut adult novel (she typically writes Middle Grade and Young Adult), THE INVISIBLES, released this month to much acclaim and we jumped at the opportunity to include her in this series. We think you’ll find that her taste is impeccable and that her novel sounds amazing!

Summer Reading Series

Amy and Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout

I would read three sentences in the sand if Elizabeth Strout wrote them, and that still doesn’t adequately express how much I love her writing. I know that this first novel of hers, while not nearly as acclaimed as the Pulitzer winning Olive Kitteredge, will be just as moving and luminous.

Leaving Before the Rains Come, by Alexandra Fuller

Fiercely intelligent and always independent, Fuller describes the year-long process of an unraveling marriage and her move to the United States from Africa (where she grew up) in gorgeous, unsentimental prose. A must for all women seeking their place in the world – and isn’t that all of us?

What Jamie Saw, by Carolyn Coman

I normally don’t recommend middle-grade literature for adult women, but after reading the first chapter of this book, I knew I’d stumbled across something nearly perfect. This is one of those books that will change me – for the better. The deeper.

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

My greatest fear is that while the publication of a second Harper Lee novel is something close to a miracle, it was not in fact what she wanted. I’m still debating whether or not to buy the book, but my gut tells me I will.

* * *

The InvisiblesIn the vein of Meg Donohue and Jennifer Close, comes Cecilia Galante’s adult debut about the complicated and powerful bonds of female friendship—a compelling, moving novel that is told in both the present and the past.

Thrown together by chance as teenagers at Turning Winds Home for Girls, Nora, Ozzie, Monica, and Grace quickly bond over their troubled pasts and form their own family which they dub The Invisibles. But when tragedy strikes after graduation, Nora is left to deal with the horrifying aftermath alone as the other three girls leave home and don’t look back.

Fourteen years later, Nora is living a quiet, single life working in the local library. She is content to focus on her collection of “first lines” (her favorite opening lines from novels) and her dog, Alice Walker, when out-of-the-blue Ozzie calls her on her thirty-second birthday. But after all these years, Ozzie hasn’t called her to wish a happy birthday. Instead, she tells Nora that Grace attempted suicide and is pleading for The Invisibles to convene again. Nora is torn: she is thrilled at the thought of being in touch with her friends, and yet she is hesitant at seeing these women after such a long and silent period of time. Bolstered by her friends at the library, Nora joins The Invisibles in Chicago for a reunion that sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will change each of their lives forever.

The Invisibles is an unforgettable novel that asks the questions: How much of our pasts define our present selves? And what does it take to let go of some of our most painful wounds and move on?

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A Major Announcement: Introducing Triangle Reads!

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon @ MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon


Imagine this: you gather your book club or your favorite group of friends and caravan to Raleigh, North Carolina for a long a weekend. While there you eat, drink, and make merry. Then on Sunday morning, after sleeping in, you participate in a moveable feast with two dozen of the brightest, most talented, acclaimed authors publishing has to offer. For the rest of the day you sit in on discussions about memoir, children’s books, southern fiction, and historical mysteries (among others). Then, once your head is positively swimming with Story, you cap off the day with Modern Mrs. Darcy in conversation with Elin Hilderbrand, followed by cocktails with the entire She Reads team and the amazing authors you’ve spent the day with.

If, like us, that sounds like an ideal way to spend a weekend in early fall, you don’t have to imagine it any longer. Because She Reads has partnered with the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance to create TRIANGLE READS, a first of its kind live readers event on September 20th.

You’ll be hearing much more about this event in the coming weeks but for today, we highly encourage you  to visit TRIANGLE READS, send the link to your book-loving friends, and grab your tickets. Because space is limited and they won’t last long.

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Summer Reading Series: Jan Ellison

Today’s post by author Jan Ellison | @JanEllison

Jan Ellison’s debut novel, A SMALL INDISCRETION, has received a number of accolades since it was published in January. For good reason we might add. And it was actually this post that inspired our entire summer reading series. We were so fascinated by the idea of an author choosing a handful of books on a specific theme and immersing herself in them over the summer that we decided to invite others to do the same. And now that our series is almost over (we only have two more contributions after today) we decided it was time for you to meet Jan and her novel.

Summer Reading Series

Imagine how much of life’s domestic disharmony would be silenced if every man could slip into a woman’s skin for a day, and every woman into a man’s. My summer reading list is intended to be the next best thing — novels written by male writers who expose the tender interior of their characters’ hearts as they struggle to live with those they love.

Bill Roorbach’s The Remedy for Love

The unlikely love story of two strangers stranded in a cabin in Maine in the middle of an epic snow storm.

I saw Bill speak at a conference this spring, and if his novels are anything like he is, I am in for a poignant, hilarious ride. What woman can resist a male protagonist who writes of the fiancee he fears he’s lost: “Something she didn’t understand about young men in love: her body that morning as she talked on the phone was easily the most beautiful vista he had ever encountered.”

Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road

A traditional 1950’s couple trade their love of each other for dreams of greatness.

This is one I’ve already read, and look forward to re-reading. I remember it as a searing, heartbreaking story that masterfully illuminates the way our loved ones can bring out our very worst selves.

Frank Wheeler intends to comfort his wife after she has performed in a disastrous play: “What he planned to do was bend down and kiss her and say ‘Listen: you were wonderful.’ But an almost imperceptible recoil of her shoulders told him that she didn’t want to be touched . . . and that was when it occurred to him that ‘You were wonderful’ might be exactly the wrong thing to say . . . ‘Well,’ he said instead. ‘I guess it wasn’t exactly a triumph or anything, was it?'”

Chartles Baxter’s The Feast of Love

This re-conceived Mid-Summer Night’s Dream is a series of rule-bending vignettes that take us on a sexy, literary romp through a land where ordinary people love in extraordinary ways.

I heard Charles Baxter read from this book years ago, and he later told me it was his favorite of his books (though he’s written quite a few since.) Baxter doesn’t back down from even the most precarious of human interactions: A newly married couple, honeymooning in Michigan, discovers that “you can have good sex on your honeymoon and still suspect that there’s something fishy going on.”

Bret Anthony Johnston’s Remember Me Like This

Named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, this is the harrowing story of a family trying to rebuild after a kidnapped child is returned.

After just a few pages, I was struck by this novel’s rare combination of fine sentences, fully realized characters, and a driving plot. “Laura paced across the room with her hands clasped in front of her . . . Were she a stranger, Eric would’ve been struck with longing as he watched her languid movements. His wife — it still shocked him — was beautiful.”

* * *

Jan EllisonJan Ellison is a mother of four and a novelist, essayist and short-story writer. Her first book, A Small Indiscretion (Random House 2015) is a literary suspense novel that was both an Oprah Editor’s Pick and a San Francisco Chronicle Book Club Pick. Jan’s essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere, and she received an O. Henry Prize for her first short story to appear in print.

Jan has degrees from Stanford and San Francisco State University, where she earned her MFA. She had a brief career in her twenties at a Silicon Valley startup, marketing risk management software to derivatives traders. The company went public, Jan became a mother, and instead of leaning in she leaned out, became a stay-at-home mom, and began to write. She was raised in Los Angeles and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband of twenty years and their children.

Follow Jan on Facebook and Twitter

* * *

A Small IndiscretionAt nineteen, Annie Black abandons California for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and looking for love in the wrong places. Twenty years later, she is a happily married mother of three living in San Francisco. Then one morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened.

After a return trip to London, Annie’s marriage falters, her store floods, and her son, Robbie, takes a night-time ride that nearly costs him his life. Now Annie must fight to save her family by untangling the mysteries of that reckless winter in Europe that drew an invisible map of her future.

With the brilliant pacing and emotional precision that won Jan Ellison an O. Henry Prize for her first published story, A Small Indiscretion announces a major new voice in suspense fiction as it unfolds a story of denial, obsession, love, forgiveness—and one woman’s reckoning with her own fateful mistakes.

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Summer Reading Series: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Today’s post by Taylor Jenkins Reid | @tjenkinsreid

I (Ariel) read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel, FOREVER INTERRUPTED, two years ago. And I can’t say this about a lot of books–I read so many after all–but I distinctly remember it and my heart still clenches when I do. Especially Ben going out for cereal (if you’ve read the novel you’ll understand why that small detail is cemented in my emotional memory). There’s just something about the way Taylor tells a story, it’s so…compelling. Needless to say, we were over-the-moon delighted when she agreed to be part of our summer reading series. So without further ado, here she is to tell you what she’s reading this summer. And while you’re out grabbing all of these amazing books, make sure to pick up a copy of her new novel, MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE (which I can’t wait to read myself).

Summer Reading Series

This summer feels like an embarrassment of riches for my Kindle. So many big names with new material – Jennifer Weiner, Jen Lancaster, Judy Blume, even Harper Lee! Here are some of the books that I will be reading by the pool:

YOU by Caroline Kepnes

An uncomfortable, brutal, brilliant, and absolutely un-putdownable insight into the brain of a stalker. I read You last fall and I will be re-reading it this summer as I anxiously await the sequel, Hidden Bodies, which will be out this September. If you like smart, raw thrillers, I highly recommend you get to know Caroline Kepnes.

TINY LITTLE THING by Beatriz Williams

I am in love with everything Beatriz Williams writes, so it’s no surprise that her newest is high on my To Be Read pile. A blue-blooded family with secrets in 1960’s Cape Cod? Sign me up. I’ll be devouring it as soon it comes out at the end of June.

THE STATUS OF ALL THINGS by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are great writers who know how to have fun with their characters and create magical-yet-believable situations. Their new book deals with a called-off wedding, time travel, and Facebook. I can’t wait!

THINGS YOU WON’T SAY by Sarah Pekkanen

Sarah Pekkanen’s new novel about a cop shooting and the lives of the women affected sounds utterly absorbing and timely. Her past work has shown that she knows how to craft memorable characters in complex, moving situations. The fact that this has been called her best yet just makes me that much more excited to dig in.


A mysterious disappearance, family secrets, and a lakeside community where not all is as it appears. I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of The Secrets of Lake Road last year, and this August, when it’s finally released, seems like the perfect time to revisit it.

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Maybe In Another LifeFrom the acclaimed author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do comes a breathtaking new novel about a young woman whose fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame; in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.


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The Best Of Summer Suspense

Today’s post by our very own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

If you love a good page-turner, then these new releases might be just the thing to read during the last days of summer. So grab a copy and find a nice spot beside the pool.

Those GirlsTHOSE GIRLS by Chevy Stevens

Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s temper. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. As events spiral out of control they find themselves in a horrifying situation and are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer. But when one of the sisters goes missing, followed closely by her niece, they are pulled back into the past. And this time there’s nowhere left to run.

With Those Girls Chevy Stevens presents her most visceral thriller yet: an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil. A story of survival…and revenge.

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The Wrong ManTHE WRONG MAN by Kate White

New York Times bestselling author of Eyes on You and The Sixes delivers a compelling thriller of mistaken identity and psychological suspense about an accomplished career woman who thinks she’s met the man of her dreams—but instead he turns out to be her worst nightmare.

Bold and adventurous in her work as one of Manhattan’s hottest interior decorators, Kit Finn couldn’t be tamer in her personal life. So, while on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. Flirting with Matt Healy—the rugged stranger she literally bumps into at her hotel—is one thing. Going back to his room after their date is another.

Instead, Matt offers to cook her dinner when they’re both back in the city. But when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready for the date of a lifetime, who is the man who opens the door?

Kit’s usually so good at reading people. How could she have been taken in by the deceptions of a con man? And why has he targeted her? Piece by piece, Kit realizes that this treachery goes a lot deeper, and gets a lot deadlier. Now the only way out is to expose the vicious puppet master who’s turned her life upside-down.

Adrenaline-charged and filled with harrowing twists at every turn, The Wrong Man will leave readers guessing until the final page.

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The UninvitedTHE UNINVITED by Cat Winters

From the award-winning author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds comes a stunning new novel—a masterfully crafted story of love, loss, and second chances. Set during the fear and panic of the Great Influenza of 1918, The Uninvited is part gothic ghost-story, part psychological thriller, perfect for those who loved The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield or The Vanishing by Wendy Webb.

Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains.  For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

The Uninvited is an atmospheric, haunting, and utterly compelling novel.

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The Night SisterTHE NIGHT SISTER by Jennifer McMahon

The latest novel from New York Times best-selling author Jennifer McMahon is an atmospheric, gripping, and suspenseful tale that probes the bond between sisters and the peril of keeping secrets.

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.
Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

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The BarterTHE BARTER by Siobhan Adcock

“Eerie and atmospheric, this psychological thriller will twist its way into readers’ psyches.” —Booklist 

In today’s “lean in” era, debut novelist Siobhan Adcock casts the issue of whether women can ever “have it all” into a superbly written novel that will have readers everywhere talking. Bridget has given up her career to raise her daughter, but now a terrifying presence has entered their Texas home—and only Bridget can feel it. In 1902, motherhood spurs Rebecca to turn her back on her husband, despite her own misgivings.

As Adcock crosscuts these two women’s stories with mounting tension, each arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making.

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What Has Become of You

WHAT HAS BECOME OF YOU by Jan Elizabeth Watson

What Has Become of You asks: What if a teacher’s most promising pupil is also her most dangerous?

Aspiring writer Vera Lundy hasn’t entirely overcome her own adolescence when she agrees to teach at a tiny private school. A recent murder has already put their small New England town on edge when Vera bonds with a student who’s eerily reminiscent of her younger self. Amid a growing sense of menace, Vera finds herself in the vortex of danger—and suspicion.

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Book Trailer Of The Day: In A Dark, Dark Wood

There has been much discussion about whether or not book trailers work. Do readers like them? Are they effective? Do they sell books? While I can’t answer those questions for anyone else, I can tell you what I think: YES. On all counts. And I found his one so compelling that I’ll be buying a copy of Ruth Ware’s novel, IN A DARK, DARK WOOD the moment I can get to my  local indie bookstore (Parnassus Books, which I love wholeheartedly).

*Email readers can click here to watch the video.

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In A Dark, Dark WoodWhat should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.

Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her “nest” of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites Nora (Lee?) to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead. Wondering not “what happened?” but “what have I done?”, Nora (Lee?) tries to piece together the events of the past weekend. Working to uncover secrets, reveal motives, and find answers, Nora (Lee?) must revisit parts of herself that she would much rather leave buried where they belong: in the past.

In the tradition of Paula Hawkins’s instant New York Times bestseller The Girl On the Train and S. J. Watson’s riveting national sensation Before I Go To Sleep, this gripping literary debut from UK novelist Ruth Ware will leave you on the edge of your seat through the very last page.

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