Author Archive | marybeth

Book, Meet Book

Today we’ve got two delightfully delicious books who just have to meet– so for all you foodie fiction lovers, read on.

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city-bakerThe City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.

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secret-ingredientThe Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown―and her past―behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina―also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love―and her chance at happiness―all over again.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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4 Novels I Read As A Child That Are Still Informing My Writing Today

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Many of these novels were read to me by my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Diebold. (Teachers, never discount the lasting impact you can have on a child.) And as I think about why I loved these novels—and how much I loved them—I see their impact on me even still, in my decision to become a writer, and in the writing itself.

In no particular order they are as follows (summary followed by my thoughts):

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mandyMandy by Julie Andrews Edwards

Mandy, a ten-year-old orphan, dreams of a place to call her own. Escaping over the orphanage wall to explore the outside world, Mandy discovers a tiny deserted cottage in the woods. All through the spring, summer, and fall, Mandy works to make it truly hers. Sometimes she “borrows” things she needs from the orphanage. Sometimes, to guard her secret, she even lies. Then, one stormy night at the cottage, Mandy gets sick, and no one knows how to find her—except a special friend she didn’t know she had.

I can’t help but think of my character Cailey from THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE as I read this short summary. She too is looking for a home, a place to belong. She too has gotten a bad deal in life, but has pluck and gumption, which helps her navigate life.

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harriet-the-spyHarriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?

Harriet made me realize I wasn’t the only one who was nosy curious. I wasn’t the only one who carried a notebook everywhere I went and recorded the life happening around me, from the significant to the mundane. Harriet made me feel normal.

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dannyDanny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Danny has a life any boy would love—his home is a gypsy caravan, he’s the youngest master car mechanic around, and his best friend is his dad, who never runs out of wonderful stories to tell. But one night Danny discovers a shocking secret that his father has kept hidden for years. Soon Danny finds himself the mastermind behind the most incredible plot ever attempted against nasty Victor Hazell, a wealthy landowner with a bad attitude. Can they pull it off? If so, Danny will truly be the champion of the world.

I like to write about quirky characters who live on the fringe, who don’t quite fit for whatever reason. Danny is such a character, and an unlikely hero to boot. In the original draft of THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, there was a character known only as “The Watcher,” who lived on the fringe and who became an unlikely hero. Though he ended up on the cutting room floor, I know he lives in Sycamore Glen, the fictional neighborhood I created. It is enough just for me to know.

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north-to-freedomNorth To Freedom by Anne Holm

David’s entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?

David’s extraordinary odyssey is dramatically chronicled in Anne Holm’s classic about the meaning of freedom and the power of hope.

This book features yet another child enduring hard things and emerging on the other end, changed, yet victorious. I like strong kids. Because I think we all have a strong child still inside of us, reminding us who we once were, urging us to always be working at being better.

 Do you have favorite books from your childhood that, in thinking about it, you see informing you today either in your family or your career—or both? Share them with us today!

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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AUTHOR TO AUTHOR: ELLA JOY OLSEN AND MARYBETH WHALEN, PART TWO

Today’s post by Ella Joy Olsen and Marybeth Whalen | @EllaJoyOlsen and @MarybethWhalen

We’re thrilled to be back with part two of our interview between Marybeth Whalen and Ella Joy Olsen today. If you missed part one you can read it here.

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Marybeth: Adam’s death is a crushing loss to Ivy. Is there an image or motif in the book that you would say symbolizes or especially communicates the impact of that loss? Did you intend that when you began the story or did it emerge?

Ella: This is a tricky question for me. While the enormity of Ivy’s sorrow at the sudden loss of her husband is justified, I consider Root, Petal, Thorn more a book about healing and moving beyond her overwhelming grief. So while she’s crushed, she doesn’t stay there for the whole of the novel.

Motif…let’s see…working on their fixer-upper bungalow together is a shared passion for Ivy and Adam. But after his death she can’t bear to continue remodeling without him by her side. However, she knows she must be strong for her two children, and that means finishing up and putting away the tools.

While getting her house in order, Ivy begins to uncover a variety clues from past occupants, from buried wine bottles to a half-finished embroidery sampler. It seems her home has a tale to tell. As she learns the stories of four other women who called her house a home, their stories of love and loss help Ivy accept she can go on without Adam. She’ll always remember him, but despite loss, she will survive. So I guess the motif of this sentiment is the home, itself. It’s a place with a deep past. One full of sorrow and joy.

Marybeth: Which came first for you– the house and all its history or the main character and all her pain?

Ella: This is an easy one. The house and history! I live in a hundred year old bungalow and throughout the years my husband and I have spent crazy time and money fixing it up, making it ours. While we worked we would find amazing things past owners had (purposefully or inadvertently) left behind. I won’t list them all here, but many of our discoveries made it into the novel.

Though I’ve researched, I’ll never know exactly who walked across my same wood floors or looked out the same windows, but I love to imagine. So, when my youngest started school full-time, I decided to put pen to paper and write about the characters who’d taken up residence in my mind. And Root, Petal, Thorn was born.

With that said, I started this novel shortly after my sister died in a boating accident (she was overcome by Carbon Monoxide while swimming). Ivy’s story absolutely reflects my personal grieving process.

Marybeth: You’ve said that you drew inspiration from your own neighborhood. My neighborhood was also a huge inspiration for my novel. Can you give us some specific ways your neighborhood inspired you?

Ella: Of course! Root, Petal, Thorn is set in Sugar House, a community originally founded by Brigham Young (the prophet of the LDS church) to grow sugar beets and process them into refined sugar. Though the sugar was a failed experiment, the business center and neighborhood endured, so my neighborhood is one of the oldest in the valley. I love the history of my town, so it was a treat to research facts from all different time periods. I studied old photos, fact-checked my narrative, and read a bunch of non-fiction books.

I also drew from the current day awesomeness of my neighborhood. There is a sense of community in Sugar House. People are out on their porches, they ride their bikes to the local grocery, the library is over-run with children, and enormous trees canopy every street. It’s a great place to live.

Marybeth: You present a balanced portrayal of Salt Lake City, acknowledging its Mormon roots but showing that there is more to the place than that. Was that your intent or did it just happen?

Ella: The novel is based in my hometown, and for better or worse, the LDS faith is a part of our state’s past and present. To write an accurate novel based in Salt Lake City, the story must be touched by the church. Not to mention, my own ancestry is tightly entwined with church history and Mormon migration west. With that said, I’m not Mormon. I consider the history of the state and the modern-day believers an asset to my community, so it was very easy to write a balanced portrayal. The tone of the novel was likely organic. I had no religious agenda when I began.

Marybeth: One of your characters has bipolar disorder. How much research did you have to do? How did you put yourself in her shoes and write her from a place of total empathy?

Ella: Oh, I’m glad you feel Lainey was written from a place of empathy! Lainey was the last historic character I wrote. I could see her in my mind, and I knew I wanted her challenges to be more internal rather than foist upon her by world events (like several of the other historic characters). Initially, she was in an abusive relationship, but I found I was spending too much time with her awful husband. I’ve had several bouts of depression, personally, and just those weeks when I felt I’d never be happy again, made me want to write an account of invisible internal struggle.

Also, I have a sister-in-law who’s dealt with bipolar for most of her adult life and I’ve witnessed the effects. She was incredibly kind to share some of her trials. Along with her first-person account, I read a couple of memoirs for a broader perspective. Lainey was the hardest character to write, but many have said she’s their favorite.

Marybeth: And most of all have you ever renovated a home? If so how is it similar to creating a novel??

Ella: As I mentioned above, I live in a historic home. Historic is a lovely word for: this place was lived in for one hundred long years. Any dwelling that stands for a century has felt some serious wear and tear, so I have without question, done my fair share of renovating.

Some changes were huge: plumbing, new kitchen. Some small: paint, new flooring. But each required removing layers of “improvements” made by past occupants, you see, our home isn’t your typical old-granny home where one person lived in it, collecting gorgeous patina year by year. It was a home loved across the decades, and a home that’s loved, is a home that’s continually changed. In our case, someone tore out all of our old woodwork (including the floor boards), dug out the basement, lowered the ceilings, ripped out the hearth and replaced it with Pepto-Bismol pink tile. To get to the lovely bones of the house, our renovation process was like stripping away layers of time and trend.

In this way, I’d say editing a novel is like remodeling. You start with a rough draft and peel back the layers of drivel you’ve just written to get to the core of the thing, the truth of the story. After you glimpse it, you realize there’s potential, but it’s pretty shabby. You take a hammer to it, some sandpaper, and fresh paint. It’s a long and difficult process. Some of the changes you make you’ll have to rip out again and not everyone will like the paint color you choose. But someday, maybe years later, you’ll be ready to invite friends over for dinner.

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root-petal-thornIn this beautifully written and powerful debut novel, Ella Joy Olsen traces the stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same  historic home over the course of a century—braided stories of love, heartbreak and courage connect the women, even across generations.

Ivy Baygren has two great loves in her life: her husband, Adam, and the bungalow they buy together in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the moment she and Adam lay eyes on the  home, Ivy is captivated by its quaint details—the old porch swing, ornate tiles, and especially  an heirloom rose bush bursting with snowy white blossoms.  Called the Emmeline Rose for the home’s original owner, it seems yet another sign that this place will be Ivy’s happily-ever-after…Until her dreams are shattered by Adam’s unexpected death.

Striving to be strong for her two children, Ivy decides to tackle the home-improvement projects she and Adam once planned. Day by day, as she attempts to rebuild her house and her resolve, she uncovers clues about previous inhabitants, from a half-embroidered sampler to buried wine bottles. And as Ivy learns about the women who came before her—the young Mormon torn between her heart and anti-polygamist beliefs, the Greek immigrant during World War II, a troubled single mother in the 1960s—she begins to uncover the lessons of her own journey. For every story has its sadness, but there is also the possibility of blooming again, even stronger and more resilient than before…

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Author to Author: Ella Joy Olsen and Marybeth Whalen

Today’s post by Ella Joy Olsen and Marybeth Whalen | @EllaJoyOlsen and @MarybethWhalen

We’re delighted to feature our own Marybeth Whalen, along with Ella Joy Olsen, as they discuss their new books on the blog today. We’ll be back with part two of this author-to-author interview on Monday. And if you’ve not yet had a chance to read Marybeth’s novel, THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, now would be the perfect time. Yes, we’re biased (*wink*) but yes, it’s also really that good.

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ELLA: As I was reading The Things We Wish Were True, I quickly became aware of deeper currents under a placid surface. Case in point, you seamlessly juxtaposed the festive atmosphere of a neighborhood swimming pool in the heat of a small-town summer with a near-drowning. Many seemingly idyllic scenes added to the ongoing tension. Was this sense of foreboding your intent? Did you know you were writing a thriller when you put pen to paper? Or did you have to turn-up the suspense in second or third drafts?

MARYBETH: It’s funny because I still don’t consider it a thriller! I would call it women’s fiction with an element of suspense. And yes, I liked creating this idyllic setting while weaving in these “all is not perfect” elements– just to put the reader on edge and point towards what is to come. I’ve taken some flak for the 4th of July scene being a little rough but that scene is in there for a purpose– to show that, while this neighborhood seems peaceful and sweet, there are some undesirable things going on.

ELLA: I loved the scenes at the pool: juice boxes warmed in the sun, the heat of concrete through a wet swimsuit. These details resonate with my own childhood and with the hours spent at swim lessons when my children were little. I’m always interested in a writer’s process. Did you grow up in a tight-knit town? And did you visit a local pool to collect some the most visceral details? Let’s talk inspiration.

MARYBETH: I actually live in a neighborhood I spent a lot of time in as a kid. We’ve lived here 16 years and we’re at the pool a lot so those details weren’t hard to come by! I grew up in a suburb of Charlotte NC and never left. So I understand the ins and outs of small town life and the pull that home has on you– whether you like it or not!

ELLA: This story is told through six voices: Cailey, Zell, Bryte, Jencey, Lance, and Everett. Cailey’s was the only voice written in first person. Would you consider her the main character or the character closest to your heart? What was the first voice that came to you? Which character was the hardest to write?

MARYBETH: I get the question about Cailey being the only one in first person a lot. And the only answer I have is I just wrote her the way I heard her in my head. She told me her story, and I wrote it down. (And yes, it freaks my husband and children out to know that I hear from people who aren’t really there. But they’re quite real to me!)  And yes, she was nearest and dearest to my heart and I think that is reflected (perhaps unfairly– sorry, other characters) in the story. As for hardest to write, I think just making sure Bryte and Jencey were distinct characters was my biggest challenge. They were from similar backgrounds, both moms, of similar ages, etc. and I didn’t want them to be interchangeable. I had to work at that.

ELLA: The novel is full of twists and turns. Some I saw coming (effective foreshadowing), but many I didn’t anticipate, at all. Did you plan these plot twists before you wrote, or did they come to you as you explored your characters? Are you a Pantser or Plotter? Can you speak again to process?

MARYBETH: I did plan the plot twists. The fun part about this book was I was able to take several story lines I’d been thinking about for a long time and sort of just throw them all into one story. So some of the things that happen were things I’d been wanting to do in a story for quite a while. I definitely plot my books– but also enjoy the fun of the little surprises that happen along the way too– the things the characters have up their sleeves that I do not know when I sit down to write.

ELLA: If I were to pull a theme from this book, in my perspective, it would be innocence lost, but also new beginnings. Maybe a comprehensive word for both concepts would be redemption. If you were to give this novel a big picture meaning, what would it be? And why?

MARYBETH: You hit the nail on the head when you said redemption– all of my stories have to have that or I can’t write them. I live in the real world and I write about real world stuff. The good, the bad and the ugly. But I also believe in hope above all. If you read the author’s note at the end of the book, I explain the hope in this particular story.

ELLA: I think the entire novel harkened me back to youthful relationships. I was intrigued by best friends Bryte and Jencey and the first love between Jencey/Bryte and Everett. I think childhood loves and friendships can crush a person more fully than those forged in adulthood. Why is this, do you think? And if this question doesn’t hit too close to home, did you draw these emotional details from personal experience?

MARYBETH: The old saying, “You never get over your first love” makes for a nice theme to explore in a story. With this one, a long time ago I heard about a girl I used to know who went on to marry a boy who was very popular in high school, but she wasn’t. And I always wondered about that– how she felt to be married to someone who was out of her league when they were young. And how that informed the marriage dynamic as adults. So I just wanted to play with that. Like I said, in this story I was able to dig into several things I’ve thought about for quite awhile. As my husband will attest to, I’m always thinking!

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TTWWWTIn an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations.

From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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On Grandparents’ Day

Today’s post by critically acclaimed author, Michael Morris | @MichaelMorrisBk

michael-morrisWhen I visit book clubs to talk about Slow Way Home the most commonly asked question is “are you the character Brandon?

It’s a reasonable question. The novel takes place in the early 1970s. Readers often look at me and begin calculating my age, realizing that like Brandon, I too, was a young boy in the early 70s. Their squinting eyes and lingering gaze always give them away.

Slow Way Home is Brandon Willard’s journey through a custody battle between the grandparents who are raising him and the addicted mother who shows up wanting him back. When the grandparents are ordered to return Brandon to their daughter, these God-fearing farm owners in North Carolina risk everything by fleeing with him. They assume different identifies and establish a new life in a fishing village in Florida.

While my mama is relieved to know I didn’t write an autobiography, there are elements of my life in Brandon. I think if novelists are honest, they will admit there are pieces of themselves in the characters they create. But for the record, my mama did not abandon me at a bus station the way Brandon’s does in Slow Way Home.

Instead, my mama fled my abusive father when I was five. We moved into a trailer located in my grandparent’s backyard. I now realize this was for protection as much as convenience. While mama went to vocational school to learn secretarial skills so she could support us, my grandmother went to work on me. Every day right after lunch, we’d lay on the bed for an afternoon nap. As my eyes became heavy, she’d have me list out all the people in my life who love me. If I forgot an aunt or cousin, she’d add them to the list. And with each passing day that list grew longer.

My grandmother, Mother we called her, had an eighth grade education. She remains the wisest person I’ve known. Coming out of a hurricane of abuse, I have no doubt she saved my sanity. Her unconditional love and ability to know just what I needed at that traumatic time gave me stability. Five decades later, I still carry my grandmother’s gift with me. Thanks to her I walk through life knowing who I am and where I come from.

Like Brandon says of his grandmother “she ironed out the nervous places the same way she ironed the collar of my church shirt.” In Slow Way Home, Brandon’s grandmother, Nana, has Brandon recite all the people who love him just as I did as a boy. His grandmother secures his sanity, just as Mother did mine.

When I receive emails or letters about the novel, the scene of Brandon listing out the people who love him is the one most often mentioned. People tell me reading the novel caused them to have their children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews create their own lists of those who love them. And every time I read one of these notes, I whisper, “thank you Mother.”

Grandparents Day is a little known holiday that is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day. Hallmark might not promote it the way they do Mother’s Day or Father’s Day but I’m an ambassador. I sing the praises of my grandparents and the 2.5 million grandparents in this country who are raising their grandchildren.

Every reader brings her or his personal perspective to fiction. It’s what makes book club discussions so interesting. But for me Slow Way Home will forever be a love letter to grandparents who are a lifeline for the children who need them.

Slow Way Home was named one of the best novels of the year by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the St. Louis Dispatch. It’s now available for the first time on Audible.

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slow-way-homeOn the surface, Brandon Willard seems like your average eight-year-old boy. He loves his mama, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and G. I. Joe. But Brandon’s life is anything but typical.

Wise beyond his years, Brandon understands he’s the only one in this world he can count on. It’s an outlook that serves him well the day his mama leaves him behind at the Raleigh bus station and sets off to Canada with “her destiny” — the latest man that she hopes will bring her happiness. The day his mother leaves, Brandon takes the first step toward shaping his own destiny. Soon he sends himself spending pleasant days playing with his cousins on his grandparents’ farm and trying to forget the past. In the safety of that place, Brandon finally is able to trust the love of an adult to help iron out the wiry places until his nerves are as steady as any other boy’s.

But when Sophie Willard shows up a year later with a determined look in her eye and a new man in tow, Brandon’s grandparents ignore a judge’s ruling and flee the state with Brandon. Creating a new life and identity in a small Florida town, Brandon meets the people who will fill him with self-worth and self-respect. He slowly becomes involved with “God’s Hospital,” a church run by the gregarious Sister Delores, a woman who is committed to a life of service for all members of the community, black and white, regardless of some townsfolk’s disapproval.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Book, Meet Book

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

An inherited house, a missing child, some spooky goings-on. These two books have all the makings of a good “under the covers with a flashlight” story. So we figured they’d like to meet each other… and you!

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ArrowoodArrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.

Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.

Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.

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The Lost GirlsThe Lost Girls by Heather Young

A stunning debut novel that examines the price of loyalty, the burden of regret, the meaning of salvation, and the sacrifices we make for those we love, told in the voices of two unforgettable women linked by a decades-old family mystery at a picturesque lake house.

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family—her father commits suicide, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability—a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. The house is cold and dilapidated. The dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

 

 

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Book, Meet Book

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Sometimes we find two books that need to meet both each other… and you. Today’s books needed to get together because they both center around someone from your past coming back into your life– which is usually a good thing. Only in these cases, that’s not necessarily so. Read on…

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Watching EdieWatching Edie by Camilla Way

Beautiful, creative, a little wild… Edie was the kind of girl who immediately caused a stir when she walked into your life. And she had dreams back then—but it didn’t take long for her to learn that things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.

Now, at thirty-three, Edie is working as a waitress, pregnant and alone. And when she becomes overwhelmed by the needs of her new baby and sinks into a bleak despair, she thinks that there’s no one to turn to…

But someone’s been watching Edie, waiting for the chance to prove once again what a perfect friend she can be. It’s no coincidence that Heather shows up on Edie’s doorstep, just when Edie needs her the most. So much has passed between them—so much envy, longing, and betrayal. And Edie’s about to learn a new lesson: those who have hurt us deeply—or who we have hurt—never let us go, not entirely…

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IntrusionIntrusion by Mary McCluskey

A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives.

Kat and Scott Hamilton are dealing with the hardest of losses: the death of their only child. While Scott throws himself back into his law practice in Los Angeles, Kat is hesitant to rejoin the workplace and instead spends her days shell-shocked and confused, unable to focus.

When an unwelcome face from Kat’s past in England emerges—the beautiful and imposing Sarah Cherrington—Kat’s marriage is thrown into a tailspin. Now wealthy beyond anything she could have imagined as a girl, Sarah appears to have everything she could need or want. But Sarah has an agenda and she wants one more thing. Soon Kat and Scott are caught up in her devious games and power plays.

Against the backdrops of Southern California and Sussex, in spare and haunting prose, Mary McCluskey propels this domestic drama to its chilling conclusion.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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These Girls Are Nothing But Trouble

We’ve noticed a trend in titles around here this summer– a lot of them include the word “girls.” And a lot of them feature girls who cause trouble, either accidentally or on purpose. Check out this roundup… and get to know these trouble-making girls!

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The GirlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong—this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction.

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girls on fireGirls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

On Halloween, 1991, a popular high school basketball star ventures into the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, and disappears. Three days later, he’s found with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of Satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshiping bad influence in lip gloss and Doc Martens. The charismatic, seductive Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image and unleashing a fierce defiance that neither girl expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Dex away from her safe life into a feverish spiral of obsession, rebellion, and ever greater risk, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon—and Lacey’s secret history collides with Dex’s worst nightmare.

By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, set against the unsettled backdrop of a town gripped by moral panic, Girls on Fire is an unflinching and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls strong and weak, girls who burn bright and brighter—and some who flicker away.

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all the missing girlsAll The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

Bonus– this one doesn’t have “girls” in the title– but it features plenty of troublemaking girls!

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You will know meYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits–until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers–about her daughter’s fears, her own marriage, and herself–forces Katie to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.

From a writer with “exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl” (Janet Maslin), You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition.

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The Girls in the GardenThe Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

“Jewell expertly builds suspense by piling up domestic misunderstandings and more plot twists than an SVU episode. It’s a page-turner for readers who like beach reads on the dark side.” —People

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

“Full of suspense yet emotionally grounded…Fans of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Carla Buckley will adore this peek inside a gated community that truly takes care of its own, no matter the consequences.” —Booklist (starred review)

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Book, Meet Book

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Sometimes we meet two books that just have to be introduced– to each other– and to you! Today we’re introducing two titles that focus on parents raising autistic children, and the unique blessings and challenges that come with their situations. If you are parenting a special needs child, or know someone who is, these books would make great additions to your reading list, or gifts for someone who might need a little encouragement in this important role they’re playing.

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Peculiar MiraclesThe Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness–she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose–the center of her daughter’s life–struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

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Practical NavigatorThe Practical Navigator by Stephen Metcalfe

Michael Hodge has been many things in life. A surfer. A husband. A father. A son. A business owner. A lover. Abandoned.

Ever since Michael’s wife, Anita, ran off leaving him to raise their child on his own, he has been struggling to pick up the pieces. And after seven years, he’s finally starting to put his life back together. He has given up his dream of surfing and now manages his own construction business, he works hard to be the best father possible to his autistic son, and he’s falling for a new woman. But when Anita returns to town unannounced wanting to be a part of their lives again, and his mother begins showing early signs of Alzheimer’s, Michael’s carefully reconstructed world begins to fall apart. Now, Michael must decide whether or not to give Anita a second chance or to protect his son, and himself, from being hurt yet again.

With pitch perfect emotion and a beautiful portrayal of the relationship between a father and son, Stephen Metcalfe has drawn a rich and layered portrait of what it means to be a family and what it means to be truly loved.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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The Lighter Side of Summer

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

You’ve told us in the past that from time to time you just really need a lighter book– one that brings hope, that makes you smile, that helps you forget your troubles for a while. We’ve tried to share a few new titles that will do just that today. Happy (literally!) reading!

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Mystic SummerMystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

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Now and then friendsNow and Then Friends by Kate Hewitt

Childhood best friends Rachel Campbell and Claire West have not only grown up, but after fifteen years, they’ve also grown apart…

After her father left, Rachel had to dedicate her life to managing her household: her two younger sisters, her disabled mother, and her three-year-old nephew. When Rachel’s not struggling to look after all of them, she makes her living cleaning the houses of wealthy families—inclulding the Wests, where a surprise now awaits her. . . .

A lifetime of drifting in other people’s currents has finally left Claire high and dry. First it was her parents, then the popular crowd in school, and finally her fiancé. Now she’s returned to Hartley-by-the-Sea to recover. But running into Rachel brings back memories of past mistakes, and Claire wonders if she now has the courage to make them right.

Soon Claire’s brother, Andrew, asks Rachel to keep an eye on Claire, which is the last thing either woman wants. But as their lives threaten to fall apart, both Claire and Rachel begin to realize what they need most is a friend. The kind of friend they once were to each other, and perhaps can be again. . . .

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One less problem without youOne Less Problem Without You by Beth Harbison

Meet Prinny, Chelsea and Diana. Prinny is the owner of Cosmos, a shop that sells crystals, potions, candles, and hope. It’s also a place where no one turns down a little extra-special cocktail that can work as a romance potion or heal a broken heart. But Prinny is in love with her married lawyer and she’ll need nothing short of magic to forget about him.

Chelsea works as a living statue at tourist sites around Washington, DC. It’s a thankless job, but it helps pay the rent. That, and her part-time job at Cosmos. As her dream of becoming a successful actress starts to seem more remote and the possibility of being a permanently struggling one seems more realistic, Chelsea begins to wonder: at one point do you give up on your dreams? And will love ever be in the cards for her?

Diana Tiesman is married to Leif, a charismatic man who isn’t faithful. But no matter how many times he lets her down, Diana just can’t let him go. She knows the only way she can truly breakaway is if she leaves and goes where he will never think to follow. So she ends up at Cosmos with Leif’s stepsister, where she makes her homemade teas and tinctures as she figures out whether she’d rather be lonely alone than lonely in love.

In Beth Harbison’s One Less Problem Without You, three women suddenly find themselves together at their own very different crossroads. It will take hope, love, strength and a little bit of magic for them to find their way together.

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Once Upon a WineOnce Upon A Wine by Beth Kendrick

Cammie Breyer needs a big glass of cabernet—her restaurant failed and her chef boyfriend left for a hotter kitchen. Just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She’s bought a vineyard—in Delaware. At Ginger’s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat.

The three women reunite, determined to succeed. There’s only one little problem: None of them knows the first thing about wine making. And it turns out, owning a vineyard isn’t all wine and roses. It’s dirt, sweat, and desperation. Every day brings financial pitfalls, unruly tourists, romantic dilemmas, and second thoughts. But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth waiting for…

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Santorini SunsetsSantorini Sunsets by Anita Hughes

Brigit Palmer is thrilled to be on the Greek Island of Santorini. She’s here for her wedding to Hollywood heart-throb Blake Crawford, one of America’s most eligible bachelors. Brigit’s parents have rented a villa, and soon guests will arrive from all over the world for the intimate ceremony. Brigit is a New York socialite, and she’s just given up her position at a Manhattan law firm to run her father’s philanthropic foundation. Things are finally falling into place. Love, career, family. Everything is going so well…until she steps into the garden and sees her ex-husband Nathaniel hiding in the rose bushes.

Nathaniel, a failed novelist, announces that Blake sold the rights to the wedding to HELLO! Magazine for two million dollars (donated to charity), and he is the reporter assigned to write the story. Everyone expects Brigit to have her happily ever after, her mother who taught her how to lead the perfect lifestyle, her younger sister Daisy who impatiently wishes for her own love story, and of course her fiancée. Things are supposed to work out for them. But when Brigit discovers an unsettling secret about Blake, she questions everything she’s ever believed about love, and wonders if she’s not better off alone.

Told in Anita Hughes’ spectacularly descriptive prose, Santorini Sunsets is a story about family bonds, first loves, and the question of when to let go and when to hang on as tight as you can.

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The Space Between SistersThe Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear

In THE SPACE BETWEEN SISTERS, sisters Win and Poppy could not be more different. Organized and responsible Win plans her life with care. Poppy is impulsive and undependable, leaving others to pick up the pieces of her life. Despite their differences, they share memories of the idyllic childhood summers they spent together on the shores of Butternut Lake. Now, thirteen years later, Win has taken refuge on Butternut Lake while recovering from a personal tragedy, settling into a predictable and quiet life.

Then one night, Poppy unexpectedly shows up on her sister’s doorstep with her suitcases, a cat, and a mysterious man in tow. Although Win loves her beautiful sister, she wasn’t expecting her to move in for the summer. They begin to relive the joys of Butternut Lake, but their blissful nostalgia soon gives way to conflict, and painful memories and buried secrets threaten to tear the sisters apart. As the waning days of summer get shorter, past secrets are revealed, new love is found, and the ties between the sisters are tested like never before… all on the serene shores of Butternut Lake.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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