Category Archives: She Reads

She Reads Books of Fall

she reads newThough the calendar page announced fall’s entrance well over a month ago, the upper-eighties temperatures here in the Sunshine State have left me thinking it’s still summer. But now that holiday decorations have started taunting me from every store, I’ll accede to the truth: fall has arrived. In all of its blazing hot glory. (Seriously, I’ll need beach towels, on Thanksgiving Day!)

That means it’s time for the She Reads Books of Fall. Drop by She Reads for posts from all of the Books of Fall authors to get a glimpse into their writing processes and their writing spaces and discover how these diverse stories came to life. And, as always, gain access to the dozens of reviews from other She Reads book bloggers. You can find your new favorite Fall read!

And now, with out further ado, the Books of Fall:

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Hawthorne family has it all. Supposedly. Great jobs, a fancy house, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth.

Only their lives take place inside a pressure cooker. (From an appropriately upscale store like Williams-Sonoma or such.) And untended pressure cookers have been known to explode.

It’s firstborn Angela’s senior year of high school. Her valedictorian status is under attack, her legs have started turning to led during track meets, and her extracurriculars and hours of AP class homework have left the perfect girl needing an extra edge to stay ahead. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, but her early admissions application is not going to write itself.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few rash choices crank up the heat on their pressure cooker lives, and the resulting mess is both achingly real and delightfully entertaining.

I zipped through this this almost satirical cautionary tale, both cringing and cheering as the Hawthorne family struggled with the thoroughly modern vices of over-scheduling, over-working, and under-appreciating each other while striving to achieve the perfect life. Recommended read.


The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

Most of us have a ghost from our past who still haunts us: a bully, a back-stabbing best friend, or some person who forever altered your place in the world. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of some ultimate confrontation when you finally stand up for yourself and made that person pay (I know I have!). So when meek mom Caroline Jacobs decides to take her childhood demon on—cashmere twin set and all—readers can’t help but root for her on her quirky and heartfelt comeback tour.

Caroline is a wife, mother (to a tattooed teenage daughter she avoids), Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and wimp. Asserting herself, taking the reins, or facing life head-on are not in her repertoire. So when Caroline suddenly cracks and screams (the F-bomb, no less!) at the PTA president, she is shocked. So is her husband. So is the PTA president. So is everyone. But Caroline soon realizes the true cause of her outburst can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, a scarring betrayal by her best friend Emily. This act changed Caroline’s life forever. So, with a little bit of bravery flowing through her veins, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and confront Emily. She busts her daughter Polly out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback, which is twenty-five years in the making. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface, and Caroline will have to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

A heartwarming story told with Matthew Dicks’ signature wit, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a deceptively simple novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives, and the bravery of one woman trying to change her life and finds true understanding of her daughter, and herself, along the way. Short but sweet recommended read.


::hanging head::  I haven’t squeezed in the last two She Reads Books of Fall, but they are on my TBR list. They’ve earned five-star reviews and accolades from many writers and reviewers I respect, so they are certainly worth a mention.  Both have elements of mystery and suspense, and both look like books to add to your TBR list.

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

The Last September by Nina de Gramont

Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie’s marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie’s unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over.

But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation.

So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?


Have any favorite fall reads yet?

Murder, Mean Girls, and an Innocent Woman Behind Bars: THAT NIGHT by Chevy Stevens

The Book:

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent
complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

(from Goodreads)

The Author:

chevy stevensChevy Stevens is the New York Times Bestselling author of STILL MISSING, NEVER KNOWING, and ALWAYS WATCHING. Chevy grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still lives on the island with her husband and daughter. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her family in the local mountains. Her debut novel, STILL MISSING, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. (via Goodreads)

Find Chevy at: Her Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads


The First Lines:

I followed the escorting officer over to Admissions and Discharge, carrying my belongings in a cardboard box—a couple pairs of jeans, some worn-out T-shirts, the few things I’d gathered over the years, some treasured books, my CD player.

The Good Stuff:

THAT NIGHT felt like Orange is the New Black (without the constant girl-on-girl action) meets Mean Girls (less the biting humor and nice clothes) with a touch of Twilight (plain girl obsessed with bad boy no one understands in small Pacific coast town) thrown in for good measure.

The story focuses around that night—the night Toni’s younger sister Nicole is murdered, the night Toni’s life speeds from a lazy downward spiral to being sucked down into a whirlpool (cue Urslua’s evil cackle) she’s powerless to escape.

The story is told from Toni’s perspective, flashing between the year before the murder, her years in prison, and her eventual release after serving her sentence. Though Toni’s age ranges between seventeen and thirty-four, the whole story seemed very YA to me in tone, with no distinction between the teen and the ex-con’s voices. *However, I mentioned this to a friend who happens to be a prison psychologist, and he said this would be correct—prisoners often freeze developmentally at their age of incarceration.* Young Toni skips school, smokes pot, and sneaks out regularly to have sex with her boyfriend, Ryan. They’re really in love. She’s also bullied by her ex-friend Shauna and her clique, who fall upon Toni like a pack of rabid dogs. Toni acts like prey. Fights ensue (actual fistfights—these girls are scrappers). But Toni’s lied so much about her other destructive behaviors that no one (including her frustrating mother) believes the bullies are anything but sweet girls. Toni’s lofty goal in life is to survive until graduation so she can move in with Ryan and get a job as a waitress.

But then her sister is murdered out by the lake where all the kids are partying, and Toni and Ryan find the body. They’re arrested. Shauna and her crew lie, saying the sisters fought that night, and for some reason Toni’s mother believes her. As does the judge, who convicts them despite an unbelievable lack of evidence, and the star-crossed lovers are shipped off to the pen. In prison, Toni is bullied even more, though she does learn to fight back. More violence. No sex. The bullying-violence cycle repeats itself in the halfway house she’s sent to. Once she makes it to the outside, Toni chooses to move back to the same small town where everyone believes she murdered her own sister, her father has given up on her, and her horrible mother totally hates her guts. Oh, and Shauna and her girls still live there, too, and they insist on getting back in Toni’s way.

We know from the beginning of the novel that Toni didn’t commit the crime. We have strong suspicions who did. I kept waiting for some crazy plot twist a-la-Gone-Girl, an untrustworthy narrator or something, but no great surprises were revealed.

The Recommendation:

Chicks in prison stories seem to be hot now, so if your into OITNB, you might give this a whirl. If you totally dig the teen angst, the love of a bad boy, the family who just doesn’t understand, and the whole YA style, you’ll probably love this. If you’re not a huge thriller reader, the wondering if Toni will find out who really did it will be enough to pull you through the novel quickly. I still consider thrillers to have more tense action, twisty plots, and devious villains who constantly raise the stakes (check out this list of top 100 Thrillers via NPR—I highly recommend most of these choices). This was a quick read, more light suspense than thriller for me though.

Chevy Steven’s first novel, Still Missing, has great reviews. I might give that one a try.

The Details:she reads new

That Night by Chevy Stevens
Print Length: 381 pages
Release date: June  17, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

THAT NIGHT is the She Reads Book Club July pick. Head over to to read more about Chevy Stevens, discover fabulous new reads, and enter for a chance to WIN one of five copies of THAT NIGHT.


Secrets, tragedy, betrayal and a lakeside cottage… The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

the shadow yearThe Book:

On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?

The Shadow Year is a story of secrets, tragedy, lies and betrayal. It’s a tale that explores the light and dark of human relationships and the potential the past has to not only touch our present, but also to alter our future

The Author:

Hannah Richell was born in Kent, England and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham in 1998 she worked in book publishing and film. Hannah began to write in early 2008 while she was on maternity leave, and the result was her first novel, Secrets of the Tides, which was shortlisted for the Australian Independent Bookseller Best Debut Fiction Award, ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year (2013) and ABIA Newcomer of the Year (2013). Her second novel The Shadow Year, published in 2013 .She now lives in Sydney with her husband, their two young children and a black-and-white cat called Lennie and returns to the UK as often as possible to spend time with family and savour the green grass of home.

The Good Stuff:

Told from the alternating perspectives of modern-day Lila and Kat thirty years ago, the story unfolds at a good clip. It took me a few chapters to really become vested in the story (I’ll totally blame that on real life, not the book though) but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. From the prologue, we know something bad is going to happen to someone, but who? Would Lila get back with her husband—and did I even want her to?  Would the peaceful 1980’s dropouts find the commune-like tranquility they longed for or would their de facto leader, Simon, turn it into some cultish situation?

The cottage, which sits beside a peaceful lake in the hills of the Peak District (England), seems the perfect escape when the 1980 group arrives during tha sultry summer, but the harshness of a damp winter soon set in, giving the setting depth and reflecting the characters emotions.

The Recommendation:

This isn’t one of those quaint novels about a woman redecorating a cozy lakeside cottage while she fixes up her life. (Although I do enjoy those stories, too!) This is fraught with unease–it opens with a possible drowning then flashes to a woman still grieving the death of her preterm infant. The flawed characters, moral ambiguity, and intriguing blend of drama and mystery will keep you guessing how all the stories fit together until the end.


she reads new

The Shadow Year is the May She Reads Book Club selection. And guess what? They’re giving away copies to FIVE lucky readers (ends May 30th). Drop by to find out more about Hannah Richell and The Shadow Year, check out other fabulous reviews, and enter to WIN.

Read an excerpt of THE SHADOW YEAR here.

The Details:

Connect with Hannah:

Website | Twitter | Facebook


I received this book free from Central Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Links above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

the storied life of a.j. fickryOn the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.


The greatest gifts often arrive before we realize we need them. I’d never heard of the The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or Gabrielle Zeven until I opened the padded envelope left on my doorstep. The book sat on my towering “To Be Read” pile for a few weeks (a short span in my world) until I sought out a paperback for a beach day.

I read half the book in one sitting, ignoring the sunshine and surf. Instead I imagined I was tucked in a cozy bookstore on a chilly New England island. I couldn’t put the book down.

It’s a simple story that carries the reader along for a quiet yet delightful journey—and I don’t mean “simple” in any disparaging way whatsoever. The prose is clean, the pacing easy, the characters engaging. Though Fikry starts off surely, depressed, and far from charming, his situation rapidly changes and we witness his total transformation.  Lambiase could be a stereotypical village detective, but his growing passion for new books makes the tough cop downright loveable.  Most bibliophiles will probably see pieces of themselves in the quirky Amelia, and everyone will be enchanted by the delightful Maya.

We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.

The novel is short: at a scant 272 pages, it felt more like a short story (like the many Fikry mentions) or perhaps a novella. It’s certainly more a character study than a complex plot-driven novel, but the easy prose makes it far more readable than the average “look at my fanciful use of words” literary novel.

It’s also an ode to books and the people who love them, who live through them, and who embrace characters as if they were their own friends and family. Cheesy as this may sound, this book made me want to be not only a better person, but a better library professional. Books can change lives, if you can only match a person with the right one. As I read the last lines of Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I yearned to waltz through the door of Island Books and spend more time with my new friends.

Stop in your local bookshop and pick up this gem. “There ain’t nobody in the world like book people.”

she reads new

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is the She Reads April book club selection. Head over to for a chance to WIN one of FIVE copies of this wonderful book.



Special Free Preview!


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication date: April 2014
Genre: Fiction



If you enjoyed The Rosie Project, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, you’ll love The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.


I received this book free from Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Links above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

lost lake by sarah addison allen

From the author of New York Times bestseller Garden Spells comes a beautiful, haunting story of old loves and new, and the power of the connections that bind us forever…

The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.

That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.

It’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing  Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.

Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve,  before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.

One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place:  love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended.  Can they find what they need before it’s too late?

At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.


 I was first introduced to Sarah Addison Allen’s work with Garden Spells, and I was immediately enchanted by her charming characters, serene Southern settings, and dashes of magical realism that draw you into to her world.  Each time she released a new novel, I devoured it within a few days, enjoying the stories too much to let one linger on my nightstand.

Lost Lake was no different.

The cover alone is enticing and dreamy, luring readers to visit the quaint Georgia retreat of Lost Lake—you can almost smell the earthy air, feel the moisture clinging to the Spanish moss draped below the canopy of trees.

Kate Pheris needs Lost Lake. She’d been just a shell of herself since her husband died a year ago. As the book begins, she’s sold the home she shared with him, packed up his things, and pushed her memories aside—at the urging of her domineering mother-in-law. But instead of moving in with the bossy woman as planned, she and her precocious eighth-year-old daughter make a sudden detour to Lost Lake, the resort Kate’s Great-Aunt Eby owned once upon a time—a haven she’s not sure still exists.

“You can’t change where you come from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you make up a new one.”

When they find what’s left of the once quaint resort, the antique-filled cabins are falling into states of neglect and the property is about to be sold to a developer. A few loyal guests return for one last summer, drawn to Lost Lake for their own reasons. These secondary characters are quirky and endearing, from the mute Lisette, a French woman who has been Eby’s best friend for decades, to the local handyman who’s loved Kate since the summer she spent there years ago. The small town cast’s fierce loyalty and open hearts make you want to pack your bags and join them for your own getaway by the lake.

Sarah Addison Allen has a way with words, an ability to mix reality with dreams; she creates a world where a little boy’s spirit can inhabit a talking alligator, where love potions work, and where ghosts of lost loves patiently wait in the corner chair. Somehow you believe it can be.

Overall, it’s a charming story about second chances, finding your unique place in the word, and the bonds of family and friendship — with a delightful dash of romance and magic. It’s a perfect light read for the temperate days of spring ahead, for relaxing with a good book, and for falling into your own daydreams.

Lost Lake is the She Reads March book club selection.  The wonderful people at and St. Martin’s Press are giving away FIVE copies of Lost LakeCLICK HERE for details!

Lost Lake
by Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin’s Press (January 21, 2014)
303 pages


Sarah’s website Facebook | Twitter | Pintrest


Waking Kate

If you enjoyed Lost Lake (or just want to get a taste of Sarah Addison Allen’s world), download Waking Kate, a free e-short story tie-in to Lost Lake,
available on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold.


I received this book free from Netgalley/ Martin’s Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Links above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

the wife, the maid, and the mistressFrom Goodreads:

A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.


I’m delighted to announce that this month’s She Reads Book Club Pick is by none other than She Reads co-founder and all-around awesome writer/blogger/mama Ariel Lawhon. And, of course, with such a big name to cheer on, it’s the one month I’m dreadfully late with my review.  It’s also the first month I’ve worked at my new library job and had the honor of shelving the She Reads pick in the New Release section and watching that enticing bright pink cover get checked out to its first lucky reader. Quickly.

Anything taking place during The Prohibition Era seems to be de rigueur now. T.V. series such as Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey and  Hollywood blockbusters like The Great Gatsby bring the seductive world of speakeasys and smooth jazz to life. It was the time of gangsters and molls, when the twenties went out with a roar just before the Great Depression slammed the nation. The lines between corruption and conscience were often blurred (by bathtub gin?) mixing judges, crime bosses, and police in a way hopefully unheard of now.

Usually depictions of this time focus on the gritty and glamorous mens’ perspective, but  in The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress, Lawton spins the tale of the women who are often in their shadows, allowing them to shine.

The real story behind Lawhon’s fictionalized tale adds to the intrigue. Judge Crater—husband to the story’s wife, lover of the mistress, and boss of the maid— was considered “The Missingest Man in New York” and held a top spot in 1930s pop culture.  “To pull a Crater” means to disappear, and for decades the judges disappearance was standard running joke with entertainers. Now Lawhon’s account introduces a new generation of readers to the mystery.

Part suspense, part women’s fiction, and seeped in period glamor,  this story is literally ripped from the 1930’s headlines. If you enjoy period pieces, light mysteries, or 20th century historical fiction, this book is for you.

If you’d like to WIN a copy of The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: A Novel, head over to She Reads. You can check out more reviews, find out more about the author, and enter to win your copy!

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READ an excerpt from The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress HERE

Connect with Ariel Lawhon:

Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Website


I received this book free from Doubleday and as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

love water memoryIf you could do it all over again, would you still choose him?

At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future—if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.

(from Goodreads)


Lucy Walker has no idea who she is—or who she was.  Her memory is wiped clean, though she feels anything but. Why did she forget everything? Why did she flee to San Francisco, and how did she end up standing in the Bay? And did she really love her handsome fiance, Grady?

Her closets are filled with designer clothes, many still with the price tags. Her home is cool and elegant. But her reception is chilly—no one seems to like her, well, the old her, except her faithful fiance. Why?

Love Water Memory is a quick read—in a good way. Readers are lured along as Lucy slowly uncovers clues to her past. Something traumatic MUST have happened when she was a teen—even her fiance knows nothing about her life before they met except that her parents died and she lived with an aunt. When that aunt sees Lucy’s story on the news, the chain of events to discover Lucy’s real past begins.

I’ll admit: I grew a little anxious wanting Lucy to hurry up and remember already and hoping she wouldn’t suddenly go back to the person she had been. I was afraid her fiance, Grady, would chicken out or that he’d snapped and done something bad to Lucy making her flee. I worried that Lucy’s secret was something she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself for, and that’s why she blacked out her past.

All in all, Love Water Memory was an entertaining read. The characters were likable. Though the plot circled around the mystery of why Lucy lost her memory and who she was, it’s not categorically a novel of mystery or suspense.  Both Lucy and Grady seemed to come of age on the cusp of 40, accepting their pasts and growing into their futures. It didn’t make me double over with laughter or draw tears, but was an enjoyable story. The end cut short just a bit (I wanted to find out more!) but left me satisfied.

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To celebrate its paperback release, Love Water Memory is the She Reads January book club selection. Visit She Reads for a chance to win one of FIVE copies of this fab read!



by Jennie Shortridge
Gallery Books; 352 pages
First Edition edition (April 2, 2013) Paperback (January 14, 2014)

Connect with Jennie Shortridge: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thank you to Gallery Books and She Reads for my review copy. All opinions are my own.

Review: Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K. It was on a Friday afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had been boiled red. We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32 that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could.

I fell in love with Someone Else’s Love Story the first time I read those opening lines in a teaser post a few months ago.

From Goobiger someone elses love storydreads:

At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.

Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.


Oh, Lord, have I ever mentioned how much I adore Joshilyn Jackson books? Almost to the point where I have a writer-crush on her. (I think actually stuttered when I met her a year or so ago. Writers are my rock stars. It was rather embarrassing.) My cheapskate-butt actually paid FULL PRICE for a hardcover of her last book, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty just so she could sign it. Needless to say, I had big expectations for Someone Else’s Love Story—the kind that can be scary for a writer if they know how much we anticipate from their shiny strings of words and disappointing to a reader if those words don’t flash like diamonds.

Someone Else’s Love Story did not disappoint.

The opening scene is like a bad joke: a meth head, an autistic genius, a too-young mom, and a brilliant toddler born from a virgin walk into a convince store . . .   What happens next is far from convenient. (Oops. I almost wrote covenant. Nuns play a role in this story, too.)

If you’re held up at gunpoint, your life MUST change in some earth-shattering ways, right? Since almost all the characters involved were already living beside the river DENIAL, things start flowing.

This book deals with a smorgasbord of heavy stuff: crime, trauma, grief, child-loss, rape, religion, autism, drugs, and more. But before your forehead gets all scrunched up—this book is also damn funny. In between, Jackson manages to wriggle in destiny vs. choice, science vs. religion, chemistry vs. friendship, miracles vs.explanations—and fireworks, birdhouses, and sweet poets named Walcott.

I couldn’t help being engaged by William and Shandi, flaws and all. The characters are just so colorfully drawn. Even little Natty is divine (I pictured him as that precociously adorable blond kid from Jerry Maguire). And although some of the secondary characters come off as a might-bit brash, a little off, or lacking morals, I came to see the motivations for their ways.

These characters, even the ones I held dear, fight against things they know to be true. They banish their golems to the closet even though they know the door locks are broken, and eventually the bad is going to bust out. They make choices the reader may not agree with, but hey, it’s the character’s choice.

So much of this tale is backstory. Technically, all the answers must be found there, and the reader is lured along as hunks of the characters pasts are unveiled, sometimes even to the characters themselves. This can be clunky in novels, but here it’s integrated so well, I hardly noticed the jaunts from past to present. Jackson also knows her way around imagery and metaphor [“walking into air so thick with cat-fight tension that to me it tasted just like estrogen”] saturating the prose with a style I can only think of as deliciously Southern.

The novel is short—a scant 300 or so pages—and while I was dying to know how certain storylines would play in the future (which I can’t mention due to spoilers), I admire her restraint in just letting the ending be. Good things must come to an end.

Oh, and did I mention that she released an e-original short story that gives a fierce and funny character from Someone Else’s Love Story a standalone adventure all her own? Check out My Own Miraculous: A Short Story currently on sale on Amazon for a steal at $1.99 $0.99!! Yeah–ninety-nine cents! (Thanks for the heads-up Mom.)


she readsSomeone Else’s Love Story is the She Reads Book Club November pick. If you head over there, you can WIN 1 of 5 beautiful copies they’re giving away before the book releases November 18th. Ms. Jackson will be dropping by She Reads all month sharing  exclusive content including pictures of her writing space, the inspiration behind the novel, and the short story prequel to the novel (among other things). Make sure you check it out. I certainly will.


Someone Else’s Love Story: A Novel
by Joshilyn Jackson
Print Length: 320 pages
Release date: November 19, 2013

*Joshilyn Jackson narrates the Audible Audio Edition herself. I’ve heard her audio books are absolutely amazing.



Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

the girl you left behind

From the cover:

France, 1916:  Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins over its troubled history. Was the painting looted during the war? Who is to pay retribution? And who is the true owner now? As the layers of the painting’s dark secrets are revealed, Liv’s life is turned upside down all over again. And her belief in what is right is put the the ultimate test . . .


First of all, have you read Jojo Moyes’s previous book ME BEFORE YOU? If not, go pick it up now. Or order it along with this one. Make it a bookish double feature. Done? Okay. Moving on.

THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND is nothing like ME BEFORE YOU. I would have never guessed that they were written by the same person. And that’s perfectly okay. I read an advance digital copy without any book jacket description—at one point, I double-checked that I downloaded the right book.

The opening tale of strong, young Sophie hiding a pig from the German Kommandant in 1916 occupied France drew me in even though it was nothing like I expected. Both Sophie’s husband, Edouard, an artist who studied under Matisse, and her sister’s spouse are off fighting the war. Their once grand family-owned hotel has been pillaged and fallen into disrepair, as has the rest of the small town, and residents scrape by with barely enough to fend off hunger pains. When the Kommandant declares that his men shall eat at the hotel’s bar, the townsfolk begin to titter. When he looks lustfully at Edouard’s painting of Sophie, we know major complications will arise.

Since I’m a sucker for light historical fiction, I was riveted by Sophie’s WWI tale. About a third of the way through the book, the plot flashes forward almost a century, and I once again checked that I was reading the same novel. (Proving I should have read the book jacket.)

Suddenly, we meet Liv Halston, a young widow living in a breathtaking London flat her late husband designed. She hasn’t recovered from his death and is up to the ceiling in debt. After Sophie’s WWI struggle to survive, Liv’s misery of enduring dinner parties seems slightly shallow.  But when she meets former NYPD cop Paul after a drunken purse-snatching episode, she opens up. At a rather unfortunate moment in their blooming relationship, Paul spies the painting The Girl You Left Behind on Liv’s bedroom wall. Paul is really an investigator, specializing in the restitution of lost art and the spoils of war. And he’s been looking for that painting.

The story shifts again, this time to a light courtroom drama. Will Liv be forced to give up the painting, which she clings to not for it’s worth, but for sentimental value? Who really owns the painting, and how did it end up as trash on a Spainsh street? And whatever happened to dear Sophie all those years ago?

You’ll have to read it and find out for yourself.

THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND is the She Reads October book club selection. Visit all month long to find out more about the story, read about bestselling author JoJo Moyes, and have a chance to win one of three copies of THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND.


The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes
Pamela Dorman Books (August 20, 2013)
384 pages


Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

the husbands secret


This month’s She Reads Book Club selection has spent weeks topping the bestsellers lists. (See—Women’s Fiction does sell!) It’s a smart, spellbinding read that has captured audiences around the globe. Australian author Liane Moriarty’s  previous novels The Hypnotist’s Love Story and What Alice Forgot drew rave reviews and are going on my to-read lists immediately.

From the inside cover:

From the author of the critically acclaimed What Alice Forgot comes a breakout new novel about the secrets husbands and wives keep from each other.

My Darling Cecilia
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died . . .

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret – something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all – she’s an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia – or each other – but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s devastating secret.


This is the story of three women and the secrets that hide within marriages. Cecilia is your typical Type-A suburban mom—a PTA queen bee and Tupperware diva whose life is perfect because she organizes it that way. Rachel is a grandmother mourning the possible loss of her beloved grandson after his parent announce a move across the globe. More importantly, she’s still grieving her daughter, murdered 28 years ago. Rounding out this trio is Tess, who hides the secret of her social anxiety disorder as she struggles with her own husband’s admission that he’s in love with her best friend/cousin.

But that’s not this story’s BIG secret.

When Cecilia finds a letter from her husband in an old box—a letter to be opened only upon his death—she stares at the temptations of Pandora’s box.  She wavers: should she open it? Throw it away like he insisted? Forget she ever saw it? What could he possibly have done? They’d been married for decades. She knew everything about her spouse, right? After a few strange circumstances and odd comments, she give in. She reads the letter. And everything  changes.

Most of this novel takes place inside these three womens’ heads—a running commentary of their fears, their hopes, their desperation. It’s almost a comedy of manners, tossing observant snippets of suburban melodramas across the page—until the issues grows too big for the page to contain.

I suppose I related to Tess the most, with her self-diagnosed social anxiety disorder and undying love for her son—not the husband/love triangle part. (This made me just go take one of those online tests, and what do you know, I have severe social anxiety. Back in my day we called it painfully shy.)  Or perhaps the parts of the other women I did relate to, were parts of me I don’t like. If the women had been perfect (as they tried to be on the surface) they would not have been as intriguing; instead we were drawn to their flaws.

Overall, The Husband’s Secret is an engrossing read that you’ll stay up late reading. And you’ll never want to dig through old boxes of paperwork again . . .

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, film rights have been snapped up by CBS Flims. Read it before it hits the screen. The book is ALWAYS better.

she reads
The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Released July 30, 2013
416 pages