What We’ve Been Reading Lately

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

Today we’re linking up with our lovely friend, Anne Bogel, for her What I’ve Been Reading Lately series. You can check out what’s on Anne’s bookshelf (and many other bookshelves as well) by clicking that link.

On Deck For Marybeth Whalen


I don’t read Joshilyn Jackson’s books– I experience them via the audio versions that she herself narrates– with all the sass, emotion and inflection she had in mind when she wrote them. This newest offering is no exception and I have to say listening to this one has made my errand running and carpool line time all the more pleasant. Please do yourself a favor and get this book on Audible!

The Opposite of EveryoneSummary:

A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from the nationally bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama—an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives.

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to re-invent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birth name Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. Separated, each holding secrets of her own, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that Karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mysterious note: “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.

The Opposite of Everyone is a story about story itself, how the tales we tell connect us, break us, and define us, and how the endings and beginnings we choose can destroy us . . . and make us whole. Laced with sharp humor and poignant insight, it is beloved New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson at her very best.

MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout

I listened to this on my phone over a recent airplane trip that involved multiple flights and several layovers. I found the narrator’s voice to be soothing– so soothing that at one point I fell fast asleep and had to go back (and back– and back!) before I found where I’d left off. This is not a fast-paced thriller by any stretch. It’s an introspective, deep look into a mother/daughter relationship, the hold the past has on us, and what it means to break free from your family of origin– or at least make a valiant attempt to do so. The writing and characterization makes the book compelling. The audio version is only a little over 4 hours long– so it’s quick to get through, which I appreciated on my trip.

SummaMy Name is Lucy Bartonry:

A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.


Photo on 3-15-16 at 12.07 PM #2

On Deck For Ariel Lawhon


I am, apparently, one of the only people on planet earth who has not read MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND. This is something I plan to rectify soon since beginning her new novel, THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR. I had the great privilege of meeting Helen in San Francisco last month and she is every bit as warm and charming and lovely as you would expect. I am happy to declare myself her newest fan!

The Summer Before the WarSummary:

The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love on the eve of World War I that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set.
East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

One again I find myself in the minority. I have been meaning to read Lyndsay Faye’s Timothy Wilde series for years. But my good intentions keep getting interrupted by deadlines and distractions. So when JANE STEELE appeared on my doorstep like magic one day I moved it to the top of my reading pile. It is perfectly written and heaps of fun to read. A fabulous satire of Jane Eyre, but filled with it’s own quirks and magic. I’m almost halfway through and enjoying every page!

Jane SteeleSummary:

A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.”
“Reader, I murdered him.”

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement.  Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

2 Responses to What We’ve Been Reading Lately

  1. Heather March 15, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    I absolutely loved Jane Steele! I just finished today and can’t wait to write my review!

  2. Jessica March 17, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    Ooh I like the sound of “The Summer Before The War” I really like books with world war themes.

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