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The Almost Sisters: Joshilyn Jackson Interview

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

We are delighted to have our very own Marybeth Whalen in conversation with New York Times bestselling author, Joshilyn Jackson today. Joshilyn’s new novel, THE ALMOST SISTERS, is one of our summer book club selections and, we believe, her best novel yet. So grab that second cup of coffee and get comfy.

Marybeth: What was the spark that ignited this book for you?

Joshilyn: History—my own, and the South’s. I’ve spent a lot of time writing about ideas and issues that came out of my mother’s side of the family. Those folks are straight out of a Flannery O’Connor short story: sharecroppers, A Baptist preacher who was flat in love with Hell, snake handlers, North Alabama mountain folk, Lampers…It was a rich trove.

This was the first book in which I spent time thinking about the other side of my family. On the Jackson side, my grandfather came from a large slave holding family out of Mississippi. That was never comfortable—it still isn’t. Meanwhile, my grandmother came from slaves. These two people loved each other beautifully for more than 60 years—this is the book that grew out of that love, becoming a family story that contains a murder mystery with roots that go all the way back to the Civil War; I do believe our past stays alive inside the present. History breathes.

If you want to read about my grandparents and their marriage, I just wrote a huge essay about it for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Marybeth: There is a story within the story in this novel. Which story was the easier one to tell– Leia’s or Violet’s?

Joshilyn: To me, they are the same story. I love story within a story structure, and I wanted the comic book to act as a fairy-tale—-for the images and themes to echo and light up Leia’s journey. As a female artist, it was also a way for me to explore my own process. The way Leia’s art influences her life choices—the way she finds her answers in the art—that’s very true for me. I write my way to a better understanding of how the world works and the space I want to occupy inside it very much in the way she draws her way to clarity.

Also, I am a HUGE nerd, so it was fun hiding little Buffy and Dr. Who references for fellow nerds! It’s a small piece of the book, but my fellow nerds and my more literary readers have been writing me letters about it—they enjoyed these small parts best for very different reasons, which I find SO interesting. A few of my more commercially-inclined, non-nerd readers felt impatient with those sections, but most said they just skimmed those bits and moved on to the larger story. You don’t have to like literary fiction or comic books to like this book. I write between genres—I love commercial fiction, and you see that in the kind of twisty plots I like, but I also love literary fiction, so I do a lot to support theme via imagery; I wish I had a vin diagram of overlapping kinds of readers for this book!

Marybeth: Are comic books an interest you already had, or one you developed as you wrote this novel? How much research about the world of comic books and illustrators did you have to do?

Joshilyn: Not a lot. I married the kind of guy who keeps his comic books in plastic sleeves, and my brother is an Ultra-Nerd, who, like Leia, is a rock star at the cons. He is a sculptor who makes his living off of gaming figurines, sculpting miniatures that nerds collect, game with, paint, and love. So it is a world I visit often. I maybe even own a small vacation house there…

(if you want to show one of my brother’s sculptures, here are some images – the GATE KEPPER and fairy hunter both are spectacular.)

Marybeth: A lot people are saying this book is your best yet. Why do you think this one is so special?

Joshilyn: I don’t know, but I love that I keep hearing this and seeing it in reviews. As a writer, that’s the hope—that you keep growing, getting better. Part of it is Leia—I just like her so much. She is flawed and peppery and funny, and I would love to be best friends with her. Many readers say they feel the same. Also, maybe the book connects with readers because, for me, writing it was very, very uncomfortable. I had to really look honestly at my own flaws and failings, and the flaws and failings of this land I love. I wanted to be realistic about the South, and yet not stop loving it. I think people respond to that kind of emotional honesty? I hope so. I know I do, as a reader. And this relates to your next question.

Marybeth: As an author, why was it important to talk about racial perceptions through this story?

Joshilyn: Because it does make me uncomfortable. As a middle class, educated, white person, I have to work to not get defensive in conversations about race. But if I get defensive, then I am making a large, systemic problem tiny and personal. I can’t respond by putting my hand on my heart and say, But I’m not racist! It’s not about me.

So… Instead I try to tell stories where people are allowed to be imperfect and still worth loving, always able to grow. I am SO tired of nihilism and despair. I am hungry for stories about good people with real struggles and challenges trying to do the right thing in a broken world. Maybe this will read as naïve to some, but I disagree. I am not saying that hugging a puppy will fix America—I am just saying it makes that one, single puppy have a better moment, and that this matters. I believe this broken world is still a place even the smallest kindnesses matter—and so I wrote a book where love ripples out in small, imperfect, hopeful ways.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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Summer Book Club Feature: The Almost Sisters

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

THE ALMOST SISTERS, by Joshilyn Jackson, is one of our summer book club selections. It releases tomorrow and if you were on the fence about picking up your copy, we think this book trailer and Joshilyn’s moving essay on privilege, second chances, and racial identity will convince you. It might be the best thing you read all day.

**email readers can see the video by clicking here.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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Summer Book Club Selections

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

The signs of summer are upon us. The weather is warm and the air is heavy with the scent of chlorine and sun screen. My (Ariel) house is filled with children again and there are piles of shoes by the front door. We haven’t used our alarm clocks in almost two weeks. The grocery stores are stocked with strawberries and watermelons and crates of cheap popsicles. And–most importantly–the neighborhood pool is finally open!

I’m not sure about you, but this particular winter and spring were rather grueling for Marybeth and me. We both had ferocious deadlines (good news, though, we both have new novels coming soon!). I had pneumonia. She traveled a lot. My boys had an intense baseball season (80+ games in two months). And then, of course, came the end of school activities. Tests. Award ceremonies. Band concerts. Choir concerts. Class parties. Parades. Teacher meetings. It’s enough to snap any woman in half. And while I’ve crossed the finish line, Marybeth still has a short way to go before her summer officially begins. One thing I can tell you for sure, however, we’re both ready to stop and relax. We are ready to spend our days reading once again.

Which is why we’re so excited to announce our summer book club selections today! We spent a lot of time reading this spring, looking for three captivating, unputdownable books to recommend this summer. And we were not disappointed! All three of our selections come from established, beloved authors. All three of them are perfect poolside reads. All three of them will take you somewhere new–literally and emotionally. So swing by your local Indie bookseller and add one of them (or even better, all three!) to your beach bag. And don’t forget to stop by here throughout the summer as well. We’ll be visiting with each of these authors between now and August.

Happy Reading!

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THE BOOK OF SUMMER by Michelle Gable

From the New York Times Bestselling Author of A Paris Apartment

The ocean, the wild roses on the dunes and the stunning Cliff House, perched atop a bluff in Sconset, Nantucket. Inside the faded pages of the Cliff House guest book live the spellbinding stories of its female inhabitants: from Ruby, a bright-eyed newlywed on the eve of World War II to her granddaughter Bess, who returns to the beautiful summer estate.

For the first time in four years, physician Bess Codman visits the compound her great-grandparents built almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Bess must now put aside her complicated memories in order to pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave. It’s not just memories of her family home Bess must face though, but also an old love that might hold new possibilities.

In the midst of packing Bess rediscovers the forgotten family guest book. Bess’s grandmother and primary keeper of the book, Ruby, always said Cliff House was a house of women, and by the very last day of the very last summer at Cliff House, Bess will understand the truth of her grandmother’s words in ways she never imagined.

**Read an excerpt of THE BOOK OF SUMMER here.

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BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

**Read an excerpt of BEFORE WE WERE YOURS here.
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THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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When We Were Worthy: Cover Reveal!

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

A cover must boil down an entire novel into one image– a picture that says “read me,” that communicates the tone of the story, and gives you an idea of what the story is about in a single glance. To say we’re crazy about the cover for Marybeth’s new novel, WHEN WE WERE WORTHY, would be a huge understatement. We adore this cover!

WHEN WE WERE WORTHY is out 9/12/17 so mark your calendars– or, better yet, preorder your copy today. About the book:

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

 

 

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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What We Were Into: April 2017 Edition

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

Marybeth Whalen

 

For me April was a month of travel— a week at lovely Sunset Beach NC with our kids for spring break and a quick four days in Cabo San Lucas for my husband’s company. So I can start off by saying I was into the ocean this month. How could you not be with views like this?

Aside from travel, I was also into reading. I did more reading in April than I’ve done in past months. I enjoyed the novels HOW WILL I KNOW YOU by Jessica Treadway,  BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman and THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson.

In April I was into Easter, of course. We had a relaxing and fun Easter Sunday as a family at church and at a local restaurant for lunch after. I didn’t have to cook which was the first year ever– and is something I plan to repeat! I also got a photo of all 6 of my kids in one place. Now that they’re older that is quite rare and very special.

Time with author friends— twice this month I got to hang out with fellow local authors, which is both fun and inspiring. Pictured are Kim Wright (author of Last Ride To Graceland), Erika Marks (author of The Last Treasure) and Sarah Creech (author of the forthcoming Whole Way Home).

I was into planners, which is nothing new. But this month I tried the B6 size of traveler’s notebook and I think it’s going to end up being my favorite size to plan in. It’s 5X7– just small enough to be portable, just large enough to be able to write in comfortably. I currently have five inserts in my traveler’s notebook: monthly, weekly, daily, lists, and on the go notes.

(Don’t know what traveler’s notebooks are? That’s ok. I didn’t either. I suggest going on You Tube and putting “traveler’s notebook” in the search bar. Warning: There’s a lot there to watch. My apologies for the lost days of your life.)

I’m also still using my bullet journal. I call it my “notes on life” book– the place where I take notes on things I find online, podcasts I listen to, quotes I come across, thoughts on writing projects– whatever’s on my mind that I don’t want to forget. Together, these two implements are helping me stay (somewhat) on top of things.

I was also into the cover of my new novel, which I can finally show you guys! We will be revealing the cover in the next day or so– so please come back if you’re curious!

Ariel Lawhon

Field Trips. I went with my nine-year-old to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing! I’ll be honest, I have, historically, been a total failure in the area of chaperoning field trips. They’re so exhausting and I’m always in the middle of a big project. But I made myself carve out time for this one and I’m so glad I did. My son was elated that I went with his class. And honestly, I loved every moment. We saw every conceivable type of fish in some of the most stunning exhibits you can imagine. We were ambushed by a sting ray. We saw Wild Africa in IMAX. We played with butterflies. Also, I am now completely obsessed with jellyfish. (as you can see from my instagram account)

Edits. What can I say, writing a novel wouldn’t be so hard if it wasn’t so daily. You have to show up, at your desk every day. And then the next day. And the next. Until it’s done. Only it’s not done because then you have edits. Then line edits. Then copy edits. Then first pass pages. And sometimes, second pass pages as well. This is what we sign up for when we decide to be novelists. And this particular novel–I WAS ANASTASIA–is forcing me to work harder than I’ve ever worked on anything in my life (I’ll share more about that in the near future). And this is a good thing. I have grown as a writer because of every long, hard day invested in this book.

Baseball. Have I mentioned that all four of my boys play baseball? Well, they do. Which means that twice a year we go into full baseball mode around here. Like, watch 80+ games in two months kind of baseball mode. On a practical level that means we eat a lot of sandwiches and crock pot meals and concession stand hot dogs. I’m not gonna lie, it’s bedlam. But my gosh, I love it. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on a warm spring night (and all day Saturday) than the bleachers cheering on my guys. That said, I won’t lie: “rainout” is my new favorite word.

Reading for pleasure (instead of for work). Now that I’m no longer in research mode for my Romanov novel, I’m enjoying reading for fun again. Earlier this year I read the first two books in Sarah J. Maas’ A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES series and enjoyed them immensely. I’m saving book three, which released this week, as my reward for finishing edits on my own novel in a couple weeks. My to-be-read piles are toppling over but that’s okay because a reading life is a happy life.

My Bullet Journal. I’m not what you’d call the organized type. But man, I really love my bullet journal. Marybeth harassed me for almost a year and I finally gave in and started one last summer. Life-changing sounds very cliche. But I don’t know how else to describe the way this has affected my day-to-day life. Between deadlines and baseball and end of year activities, my bullet journal has made sure that I don’t let anything fall through the cracks. Amen and amen.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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Author to Author– Marybeth Whalen and Karen White, Part Two

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Karen White | @MarybethWhalen and @KarenWhiteWrite

We’re back today with part two of our “Author To Author” conversation between Karen White and our own Marybeth Whalen. Since both of their novels were inspired by where they live, we thought you’d like to listen in on a conversation about how they turned familiar locations into tales of suspense. If you missed part one, just click here to read!

And if you’re looking for good books to share with your book club, with a reading friend, or just with yourself, look no further than The Night The Lights Went Out and The Things We Wish Were True.

Now, on with the conversation– this time Karen’s asking Marybeth the questions!

April Collage

Karen White: In The Things We Wish Were True, you’ve set the story in small town North Carolina. Since you live in a small NC town, I’m wondering if that was your inspiration for the setting?

Marybeth Whalen: Not only was my town (a suburb of Charlotte) the inspiration, my own neighborhood was! If you read the book and then visited where I live, the setting would seem very familiar. All my neighbors know that I used our neighborhood– but I’ve had to assure all of them that I didn’t use any of the people. Any similarities are purely coincidental.

Karen White: There seems to be a fresh crop of “suburbia” settings in contemporary fiction over the last year or so. Why do you think this setting is so appealing to readers and why did you chose to move your setting from the NC coast, where many of your previous books are set, to the suburbs?

Marybeth Whalen: Actually my second novel, She Makes It Look Easy, was also set in a suburb of Charlotte, and back then it was something I wanted to explore further, but alas the publisher wanted more romantic beach books. So I wrote a few more of those and then circled back to this setting that I love, because it’s where I live– physically and emotionally. The suburbs are such rich places to mine for material– mostly because we all work so hard to be happy, yet inevitable life stuff sneaks in and strives to mess that up. Exploring how human beings react to this tension between perfection and reality gives a writer so much to dig into. There’s definitely a dark side to suburbia. I like to expose the darkness, but also, ultimately, to offer hope in the midst of it.

Karen White: Your book is about secrets from the past. Was there a real secret that inspired this book?

Marybeth Whalen: Gosh I wish I could say yes– that would make this interview so much juicier! But no, I made it all up.

Karen White: Since you’re writing a book close to home, were you tempted to use real people? And are there any characters inspired by real people in the book?

Marybeth Whalen: There is one scene in the book that was taken straight from real life, but I added some changes because, fiction. (I won’t tell you which one though.) Many of my situations/characters are created when I look at a real life person/situation and think “Ok, I see this or that. But what if…” And then I just let my mind go.

Karen White: Please share your secret for the juggling you do with your writing and blogging while raising six children. If there’s a recipe for a power drink please post the recipe in the space below.

Marybeth Whalen: There are two power drinks, actually. Coffee and wine. 🙂 And as for my secret, you can’t do it all. So just handle whatever is screaming loudest and let the rest go. It all comes back around eventually.

Thanks Karen– we so appreciated you sharing with us this week!

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: Karen White and Marybeth Whalen, Part One

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Karen White | @MarybethWhalen and @KarenWhiteWrite

Today we’re featuring a conversation between our own Marybeth Whalen and bestselling and (beloved) author Karen White in which they discuss Karen’s new novel, THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, Marybeth’s recent novel THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, and what it’s like to draw from your own life and surroundings when writing. Be sure to come back on Wednesday to hear the other half of the conversation!

April Collage

Marybeth Whalen: With prior books you’ve dealt with secrets buried in the past. In your new novel you’re delving into secrets buried in suburbia. Though a bit of a shift for you, did you find any similarities in the writing process?

Karen White: I actually planned this book to take place strictly in the present. And then I met one of my main characters, 93-year-old Sugar Prescott, and I felt the pull to discover her past which meant that I needed to bring the reader with me. So, technically, this book does delve into secrets of the past…AND the present. Writing a contemporary mystery was challenging (so much to learn!) but a great experience for stretching my writing muscles. I really loved tying the two stories together and finding what the common elements were. In this case, it was ultimately about friendships, past and present.

Marybeth Whalen: Is Sweet Apple based on a real place? If so, where?

Karen White It is! It’s based on the Atlanta suburb of Milton, Georgia where I have lived for almost 25 years. Our historic downtown area is called “Crabapple” so I thought Sweet Apple was a good substitute.

Marybeth Whalen: What was enjoyable about writing a more contemporary/”closer to home” novel? What was harder?

Karen White Writing a story set where I live and in a contemporary time period sounds easy–but in many ways it made it harder. I needed to make sure that anyone living in a suburban setting could relate to the story and characters–not just Atlantans. And I also had to make sure that any of the characters that may or may not have been inspired by real people were fictionalized enough to make them unrecognizable.

What really was enjoyable was being able to sit out on my back porch and describe what the seasons looked and felt like–the best kind of research!

Marybeth Whalen: How did a near collision inspire this novel?

Karen White I was in the middle of fishing about in my head for my next book, looking everywhere for inspiration to add to what else had already been brewing in my head. Around this time my daughter was doing some work with the local historical society and was eagerly telling me about the rich history of the area going back since before the Cherokees. I’d never really thought my hometown had an interesting past and, as a lover of history, I was fascinated.

Then one day, while going through one of our new and numerous roundabouts, I nearly rear-ended a giant white SUV with a ton of stickers covering the rear window. Within a couple of seconds I knew everything about the family who owned the vehicle–including the driver as her license plate read YERSERV. Yes, tennis is a big thing in the Atlanta ‘burbs.

That’s when it occurred to me that if I ever wanted to write a book set where I live, I had the bookends for the story. All I needed to do was fill in the middle parts. And that’s how THE NIGHT THE LGHTS WENT OUT was born.

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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Spring Book Club Selections

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

Spring Books

The weather is growing warm again. The sun is beginning to make regular appearances. Flowers are budding. And we are back with two fabulous book club selections. Yes, it’s been a while but we like to think these two books are worth the wait. One of them is by an all-time favorite author and the other a debut. Both are beautifully written. Captivating. Memorable. Both explore the dynamics of love and family. Both will leave you with your heart in your throat. You will go for a voyage on the famed Queen Mary and then you will search for a missing husband. You will, we believe, be unable to look away as these stories unfold before you.

So, without further ado, we give you our spring book club selections:

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Bridge Across the OceanA BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN by Susan Meissner

Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.
 
February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

**Read an excerpt of A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN here.

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Almost Missed YouALMOST MISSED YOU by Jessica Strawser

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always.

They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

**Read an excerpt of ALMOST MISSED YOU here.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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Three Lies To Watch Out For

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

It’s no secret that any thriller worth its salt is built on lies and we’ve found three upcoming novels by three of our favorite authors that master the art of deceit. Make sure you add these three books to your reading list.

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lie to meLIE TO ME by J.T. Ellison

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

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one perfect lieONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin’s baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

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Every last lieEVERY LAST LIE by Mary Kubica

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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It Happens All The Time by Amy Hatvany: A Review

Today’s post by Chelsea Humphrey | @SuspenseThrill

Our guest reviewer today is Chelsea Humphrey, a member of our blog and social media network and a wonderful, smart, bookish friend. Please give her a warm welcome and then grab a box of tissues. We feel certain her review of Amy Hatvany’s new novel, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, will grab you by the throat.

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it happens all the time“I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.”

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

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If I’m being completely honest, this is the hardest review I’ve written. I’m going to stop right here and preface two things: 1) If you are wanting to go into this book completely blind (though I’m not sure how you would if you’ve seen any marketing for it yet) then stop right here. I’m not going to spoil the read, but I will be delving into the content matter a bit and wanted to give fair warning. 2) If you have a rape trigger, I normally advise against reading rape-related material, but if you’ve ever been a victim of sexual assault I’d highly encourage you to read this. Hopefully it’ll bring you some of the comfort you may never have received from your close ones at your lowest points.

“Violators cannot live with the truth; survivors cannot live without it.”
– Chrystine Oksana

I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face and snot pouring out my nose because I realized I’ve been searching for this book for the past decade; this coming October 20 will mark 10 years since the night I was raped. As difficult as it is to put those words to paper, it’s in the hope that I can reach someone who is silently suffering from a similar situation that needs an anchor. My intention is not to make this review about my experience or go into intricate detail; however, I want to establish the foundation of why this book is so necessary for women like myself. The media for years has pummeled our society with the notion that rape is a rare occurrence and only is acknowledged in the most brutal of circumstances. While film and literature tend to portray rape as only happening at the hands of serial killers, kidnappers, and psychopaths, most women are actually assaulted by someone they know, not a stranger. I spent many years questioning the validity of my own assault because my attacker was a “good guy”; he had always been kind to people and never once given the impression he was a monster of this sort. This book addresses that more realistic and messy type of situation and helped ease some of the confusion I had struggled with for years.

Consent– it is the entire foundation for Hatvany’s latest novel. I can already tell this book will ruffle some feathers and bring up all kinds of discussion and controversy amongst it’s readers. The plot revolves around Amber and Tyler; Amber is the only “miracle” child of her over protective parents (I could easily relate to this being an only child myself and the product of 10 years of trying to conceive after being told having children might not happen for my parents). She’s been shouldering the weight of feeling like she must succeed in everything to make up for the lack of other children her parents were unable have. Tyler moves in next door and becomes the older brother Amber never had; together they help each other through some extremely dark times, and although Tyler has always harbored feelings of more than friendship for Amber, she has never seen him as anything more than a brother. Enter here the controversy of consent. Without spoiling the read, we come to a point many years later that stops the reader in their tracks to consider their own belief on where consent lies.

Click here to watch a video of Amy Hatvany discussing the experience that led her to write this novel.

All in all, this is the type of story that crosses genre barriers and holds us accountable for our views and how we treat victims. While this is a story about the attack and it’s ripple effect of consequences, it’s also a story of hope and redemption. Is it possible for someone to commit an unthinkable act and change? Can healing take place between two parties when this level of violation has occurred? I love how this book didn’t make it easy for the reader; there are no clear cut answers or magical happy endings. The reality of the attack altering Amber’s life forever is something all victims can relate to; while it is possible to work through the side effects (anxiety, depression, fear, and self-loathing) with therapy and sometimes medication, there’s never a fix all cure that can take back that horrible event. This book did, however, present the right questions that we as a society need to consider as we continually see rape cases being paraded across the media in a trivial fashion. If you are looking for a book that will grab your heart and cause you to think about some really tough, but timely issues, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. Amy chose to limit the graphic violence and sexual scenes; the rape scene is really a very small portion but I believe this made the book all the more powerful and readable while being less showy for the shock value. This is a story that will stay with me for years to come; I’m so proud of the author for sharing via social media her own experience with being assaulted at a young age, her drive to help overcome the stigma surrounding rape, and encouraging the support of victims everywhere.

*Many thanks to the author and publisher for providing my copy and the platform so that I would have the ability to share my own experience.

**If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, please don’t suffer alone. Reach out for help; secrets and trauma can only control you if kept alone and in the dark. I’ve included some national hotlines with resources to help victims of all kinds of sexual assault:

National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-4673 [24/7 hotline]

Self Injury Hotline
1-800-DON’T-CUT (366-8288)

Suicide Hotline
1.800.SUICIDE (784-2433)

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Chelsea Humphrey is a happily married mother of two whose love of mysteries can be traced back to her first Nancy Drew experience. When not reading and writing book reviews, she likes to drink wine in her jammies and pretend that she exercises. Her blog is www.thesuspenseisthrillingme.com

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

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