Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Cover Reveal: The To-Hell-and-Back Club!!!

I am absolutely delighted to present the cover for THE TO-HELL-AND-BACK-CLUB, the debut Women’s Fiction title by none other than my critique partner extraordinaire, Jill Hannah Anderson!

to hell and back club full wrapWho can you turn to when your life falls apart? The To-Hell-And-Back Club!

Can you tell I’m excited??

Seriously, folks, I’ve had the privilege of reading more than a few variations of this story (yes, novels go through dozens of drafts) and it’s good. You’re going to want to read this one. So keep your eyes peeled for its May 2017 release by PandaMoon Publishing! (I can’t help all the exclamation points. If I was the type to squee, my family would be deaf now.)

the to hell and back club jill hannah anderson
Isn’t it gorgeous?

kerry ann morgan and jill hannah anderson

Jill has been one of my critique partners for over three years thanks to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Let me tell you, an honest critique partner is worth her weight in gold…or maybe printer ink? (That stuff costs more than fine wine!) We share the highs and lows of our quests to get the words right and get published, and we’ve been at it so long I’d forget that we’d never met in real life. Fixed that Tuesday. Thanks for visiting Florida, Jill Hannah Anderson, and thanks for always being there to shred my work for me–in purely constructive ways, of course. Now if only our CP Lynne could join us for some sunshine and conversation!

Can you tell which one is from Minnesota and which is a native Floridian? Guess again.


The To-Hell-And-Back Club
by Jill Hannah Anderson
Pandamoon Publishing – coming May 2017
Presale links available soon!!!

Follow Jill Hannah Anderson on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at JillHannahAnderson.com

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#FridayReads: Results May Vary and The View from the Cheap Seats

bal·ancebalancing act
/ˈbaləns/
noun – a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

As I struggled to describe how challenging it can be to find balance in life between work, family, passions, and sanity, my gaze fell on this lithograph by James Christensen hanging in my front hall. It sums the conundrum up perfectly. (Even the cat is a doppelganger of my own big tomcat reflected in the glare at the bottom of the photo. Wait, no, the beautifully rendered feline would have to be allergic to people and trying to lick himself into becoming a hairless Sphynx. See, messy life.)

To find balance in my life, I chose to drop the ball on blogging.

I must allow myself reading time to maintain my sanity. I have stacks of books I want to recommend, to shout their praises from the virtual rooftops so readers everywhere can enjoy them as much as I have. Though I no longer do formal reviews, I still need to share the love, not only to my patrons at the library, but with my friends out there in Internet Land.

This month I’ve met my writing word count goals (holler!) AND my workout goals, so it’s time to step it up with shaing-the-love goals. Expect to see something bookish, be it here on the blog, or on Facebook or Instagram each Friday.

Because you never know where you’ll discover your next favorite book or author.


Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

From Bethany Chase—whom bestselling author Emily Giffin calls “a great new voice in fiction”—comes a wise and delightfully relatable novel about a woman’s journey to rebuild her life, and her heart, after a stunning betrayal.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, art curator Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

Compassionate and uplifting, Results May Vary is a bittersweet celebration of the heart’s ability to turn unexpected troubles into extraordinary strength.

I devoured this book in two nights. One might imagine a novel about a woman’s betrayal would be a drag, but not in Bethany Chase’s deft hands. The well-crafted story is both charming and sweet. I couldn’t help but root for the multi-faceted characters on their journeys to not just grow up, but grow into themselves. Beautifully written.

Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 9, 2016


The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

My husband first introduced me to Neil Gaiman and his Sandman comics not long after we met. (It’s entirely possible he may have every graphic novel, comic, and work of fiction Gaiman’s every produced squirreled away in his library/office. He still reverently hand washes his faded and well-loved Sandman coffee mug several times a week.) While I have read and enjoyed several of Gaiman’s works, I’m generally not a fantasy or graphic novel novel aficionado. There are always exceptions. Neil is shining one.

View from the Cheap Seats is magic, especially if you listen to the audio book narrated by Neil himself, of course. It’s a love letter to the the craft of writing, to artists and creators in a multitude of mediums, and to the pure joy of reading.

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • 1st edition (May 31, 2016)

 

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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?

#Friday Reads: Mary Kubica, Taylor Jenkins Reid, & Jane Graves

friday reads 2

I read too much. Wait, no, I retract that statement. You can NEVER read TOO MUCH. Though I work at a library fondling handling books all day, I never have an opportunity to crack open a cover while on the clock. And in my “spare time” at home I’m bouncing on my yoga ball while attempting to coax words onto the computer screen. So reading is saved for work breaks and nighttime relaxation. Usually.  I still manage to squeeze it in. Priorities.

My time to write glowing reviews is zilch, yet I’m still reading SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS! Friday Reads is my quick way to share a short snippet of the books that keep me reading well past my bedtime and urge me to continue on my own writing journey. If I include a book, I’m recommending it to friends. (And you, my dear readers.)

This Friday Reads highlights books I read in August. Though this post disappeared in my draft folder for a few months, these are books I thoroughly enjoyed, so I still want to share the love.  (See, I told you I’ve been short on time!)


Pretty Baby
by Mary Kubica

When a compassionate Chicago wife and mother sees a teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms, she is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

 

Genre: thriller
Print Length: 381 pages
Publication Date: July 28, 2015

 


Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aimless wanderer Hannah Martin’s fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame one night in L.A. Uniquely told in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results. As the two alternate realities run their course, we’re left to wonder if  anything is meant to be? How much in life is determined by chance? And is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Print Length: 353 pages
Pub Date: July 7, 2015

 

Baby, It’s You (Rainbow Valley #2) by Jane Graves

Runaway bride Kari escapes to the Texas Hill country and lands on a tall, dark, and gorgeous winery owner’s doorstep. All she needs is a job and a place to live until she can get back on her feet. Marc has devoted his life to managing the family wine business and being a single dad. Now with his daughter away at college and his brother taking over the winery, Marc is ready to enjoy his freedom, but when irresistible passion turns into something more, will Marc give up his future to take a chance on love?

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Pub Date: May 27, 2014

What’s your Friday Read?

 

Now Read This: The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

happy pub day 2 pch

I’m sorry, I’m late, for a very important book date!  ::drum roll please::  I’d like to introduce you to Patti Callahan Henry’s latest release THE IDEA OF LOVE.

The Book:

“As we like to say in the south, ‘Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.’”

Blake is a Nicholas Sparks-esque screenwriter lacking inspiration in the wake of his divorce. He’s desperately in search of a love story beautiful enough to translate into big screen success. Disguising himself as a travel writer, he treks down the east coast to sleepy southern Watersend in search of a love story he can borrow.  When he speaks with the young and beautiful Ella Flynn, he’s convinced he has his screenplay: Ella’s beloved husband died in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her life. It’s the perfect love story for his audiences…and it’s also a lie.

Reeling from the shock of her very much alive husband’s affair, Ella is lost. When she speaks to Blake and dismisses him as a stranger she’ll never see again, she creates the life she wants and paints herself as a successful wedding dress designer recovering from her saintly husband’s sacrificial death.

In Ella, Blake finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Blake, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides, what’s a little white lie between strangers? But one lie leads to another, and soon Blake and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?

Read an excerpt of  here.

pch

The Author:

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling storyteller of eleven books, including The Stories We TellBetween the Tides, and Driftwood Summer. Patti lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband and three children, where she is crafting her next story.

Follow Patti on social media— and be part of the
virtual celebration of THE IDEA OF LOVE:
Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest

The Good Stuff:

This is a short, sweet summer read that’s perfect to toss in your beach bag for a relaxing day of escapism. I read the whole book in a single afternoon while lazing on a pool float. Since both characters are lying to each other and themselves, it took a few pages to get to discover the “real” characters and bond with them, but don’t worry, you will. And Mimi, Ella’s neighbor, will leave you wishing you had a wise, old, ex-bookselling, poundcake-pushing neighbor yourself.

If you live in the southeast, check out Patti’s book tour dates here. If I wasn’t so busy at the library, I’d drive over to the coast for one of her Florida dates this week. Having met her before, I’ll tell you she’s an absolute delight, and if you live by one of the bookstores hosting her tour, don’t miss her!  (Plus who doesn’t love a freshly signed book?)

 

The Details:

The Idea of Love
by Patti Callahan Henry
St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover / 256 pages
Pub date: June 23, 2015

 

 

Love Between the Covers (& some contest love!)

First, a bit of braggy news: my women’s fiction (with elements of romance) manuscript, THE LAST RESORT, is a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America’s FAB FIVE contest! The Silver Quill Award winner will be announced in June.

Fab Five Finalist

::fingers crossed::

Speaking of romance, have you heard about LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS? This feature-length indie documentary film explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance. The film covers the story of five very different authors (whose day jobs include surgeon and Shakespeare professor) as they invite us inside the vast romance community that runs a powerhouse industry on the cusp of an irreversible power shift.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

I don’t know about you, but I need to figure out how to see this film.


I’m also going to check out PopularRomanceProject.org. The site showcases romance novels in a broad context across time and place—with a huge archive of Love Between the Covers interview excerpts, teaching resources, and blogs by romance authors, scholars and industry insiders.

And for those of you who still live under the delusion that romances are just trashy, cheap paperbacks written for those who “can’t read a real book”, a few stats:

Total Romance Novel Sales in 2013: $1.1 billion
That’s roughly one-fifth of all adult-fiction sales.

Voracious Readers
46% of romance consumers read at least one book per week.
In comparison, the typical American reads five books a year.
Romance Readers At A Glance
Age: 30-54
Education: College-educated
Average Income: $55K
Relationship Status: 59% are coupled, 84% are women, 16% are men
*Romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner

Top 10 Fiction Genres
1. $1.09 billion, Thrillers
2.$1.08 billion, Romance
3. $811 million, General
4.$548 million, Literary
5.$442 million, Mystery & Detective
6.$377 million, Fantasy
7.$185 million, Comics & Graphic Novels
8.$156 million, Historical
9.$143 million, Contemporary Women
10.$113 million,Action & Adventure

Reading Behavior
29% of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them.
Romance readers typically begin and finish a romance novel within 7 days.
On average romance readers read more than one book:
A Week—25.5%
Every Week—20.9%
Every 2-3 Weeks—17.8%
A Month—16.1%
Sources: Love Between the Sheets Publicity, Nielsen, Bookstats, PEW Research Center, RWA,Entertainment Weekly, Author Earnings’ July 2014 Author Earnings Report, Harlequin

 

Cover Reveal: MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid

**Summer read preview**  With inches (or feet!) of snow on the ground, we’re dreaming of summer—feet in the sand, soaking up the sun, taking a dip in the pool. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve already added Taylor Jenkins Reid’s third novel, MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE (on sale July 7, 2015) to your TBR Must Read list. I absolutely adored her previous books FOREVER, INTERRUPTED and AFTER I DO.  So, while we wait for the book to show up at our bookstore or in our mailbox, today I’m delighted to share this first look at the gorgeous cover!

maybe in another life

 

ABOUT MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE:

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college, but on the heels of a disastrous breakup, she has finally returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby, takes Hannah out to a bar—where she meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

It’s just past midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. Ethan quickly offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.

Hannah hesitates.

What happens if she leaves with Gabby?

What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into surprisingly different stories with far-reaching consequences for Hannah and the people around her, raising questions like: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

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

taylor jenkins reid

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

FIND TAYLOR ONLINE: http://www.taylorjenkinsreid.com/ | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

Atria Books/Washington Square Press Paperback | 352 pages | ISBN:  9781476776880 | July 7, 2015 | $16.00

 

eBook: Atria Books/Washington Square Press | 352 pages | ISBN: 9781476776897 | July 7, 2015 | $11.99

Now Read This: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

The life intendedThe Book:

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?

(From cover)

The Author:

(from Goodreads.com)

(from Goodreads.com)

I can’t help but adore Kristin Harmel—not only is she a fellow University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications grad, but she lives here in Orlando, too. No, but really, it’s all about her books. The former People magazine journalist has written several women’s fiction favs likeand as well YA novels. She switched things up with her last novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, a heartfelt drama that became an international bestseller and one of my (and my mom’s) favorite books of 2012.

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

 

The First Lines:

“It was 11:04 when Patrick walked through the door that final night almost a dozen years ago.

I remember the number glowing red and angry on the digital clock by our bed, the sound of his key turning in the lock. I remember his sheepish expression, the way his five o’clock shadow had bloomed into and almost-beard, the way his shirt looked rumpled as he stood in the doorway. I remember the way he said my name, Kate, like it was an apology and a greeting all in one.”

The Good Stuff:

Do you ever have dreams so real, so blindingly vivid yet absolutely normal that you wake up unsure if they really happened? Where you pause when you wake, rationalizing away what occurred and finding that one absurd link that proves it couldn’t have been real…
I do. All. The. Time. If I dare mention anything about my alternate slumberville universe to my dear husband, he’ll merely shake his head and wonder if someone’s slipping hallucinogens into my chardonnay before bed.

Luckily, my husband is alive and well and breathing loudly beside me when I wake. But in THE LIFE INTENDED, Kate’s not so fortunate. When her *perfect* husband Patrick, who was killed over a decade ago, starts sharing the sheets with her again, Kate’s life gets complicated.

Kate appears to finally be moving on: she has a successful career as a music therapist (very interesting) and a fiance who’s an absolute gem…on paper. But when Patrick—and their daughter—start joining Kate in her dreams, Kate loses track of that line between what’s real and what should be real.

When this amazingly real but imaginary daughter they never actually had begins talking to Kate in sign language, Kate takes lessons so she can fit into that alternate life she believes she should have led via her nightly dreams. Except… the sign language classes introduce Kate to the world of foster kids and the people who care for them, and certainly none of them lead the perfect lives they’d imagined. And these people make an impact on her she wasn’t prepared for.

One of my all-time favorite performers, Dave Matthews, usually switches around lyrics during live shows, and in my favorite version of Dancing Nancies he asks:
“Don’t you ever wonder…..
Maybe if you took a left turn, instead of taking that right
You’d be somebody quite different tonight…
Don’t you ever wonder, what could I have been? Anyone?”

This story is kind of like that. Kate realizes that the right turn she believes she was supposed to take has been washed away by a landslide, so she finally takes that left turn, and things go quite different. And different can be good. Something for us all to remember.

The Recommendation:

Read it. While this tale full of ghosts, grief, heartbreak, and disappointment could have been a sappy tearjerker, Harmel deftly allows us feel like we’re in Kate’s shoes and makes her plight believable.   You’ll probably get at least teary a few times—I did, but it felt right. And the coincidences—there are a zillion of them, but I totally found my self buying all of them due to the way they are woven into the tale.

THE LIFE INTENDED is a sweet yet moving story about making room in your heart without crowding out those who’ve filled it before, about making the life you want happen instead of waiting for it to happen.  It may leave you feeling as if we all somehow find our intended life, no matter how unconventional it may be.

The Details:

The Life Intended
by Kristin Harmel
368 pages, Gallery Books
Release date: December 30, 2014

And don’t forget to check out these other books by Kristin:

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.”

The Book:

Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

(From cover)

The Author:

Taylor Jenkins Reid

(from Goodreads)

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. Her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, was named one of the “11 Debuts We Love” by Kirkus Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Rabbit.

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

 

 

The First Lines:

“Have you decided if you’re going to change your name?” Ben asks me. He is sitting on the opposite end of the couch, rubbing my feet. He looks so cute. How did I end up with someone so goddam cute?

The Good Stuff:

I picked this up from my library shelving cart about a week ago. Something had niggled at me, maybe I’d heard I should read this from someone…? The back cover blurb seemed a little depressing, but I figured I’d give it a whirl when the mood struck me. I’d just read a stack of novels about the more serious side of marriage—infidelity, secrets, etc.—and a few more in the same tone are lined up in my queue. This had a cute cover in my favorite color. It seemed lighter…

I cracked it open Thursday night as the family spread out on the couch for reading time. Next thing I knew, I was on page 79 and it was a half-hour past my kiddo’s bedtime.  I was that sucked in. You know it’s good stuff.

Something about this story just hooked me at the start. Maybe it’s that Elsie is a book-loving, NPR-listening, only child librarian. Maybe it’s because she met her husband at New Year’s (like me), instantly felt that indescribable connection with her future hubby (like me), and he’d proposed by May (like me). Maybe it’s just because the cover was the exact same shade of aqua as the p.j. shorts I was wearing.

Elsie is instantly likable—once again, maybe because she seemed so familiar. Ben, the  love-of-her-life was charming and adorable and passionate about YA novels written for 13-year-old girls. Come on. They are both cute and slightly geeky and totally relatable. I believed that they could meet and know that the other was “The One” that fast. I felt as if  my dear hubby and I could be them 15-years, a kid,  and a mortgage payment later. But we know from the start Elsie and Ben don’t get that. He’s killed in the first chapter when he gallantly rides his bike to the drug store to fetch some Fruity Pebbles for her. We know they don’t get their happy ending together.

But the story is wonderful just the same.

It alternates between the six months Ben and Elsie had together and the six months after his death. It sounds miserable, but it’s not, I promise. Ben never told his mom he’d eloped. He’d never mentioned he was even dating Elsie, so needless to say, Mom’s not thrilled when she not only loses her only child but discovers he’d gotten married on the sly. Elsie has a rather detached relationship with her cool physician parents, so she’s terrified by this new woman who’s just brimming with emotion. Over the six months, they get to know not only each other, but their beloved Ben and themselves.

The Recommendation:

FOREVER, INTERRUPTED is a delightful debut novel that reminds me a little of Rainbow Rowell (one of my writer crushes). It has a similar easygoing familiarity, but the voice is more mature (as Elsie is a few years older than Rowell’s main characters in Eleanor & Park and Fangirl). It’s surprisingly brighter than you’d imagine for a book about a young widow, but don’t expect to make it all the way through without at least a few tears. My hubby politely ignored mine at the end—or perhaps he was just too sucked into the World Cup third place match to notice.

See, now I’m late getting started on dinner prep because I just had to get this out while the experience and the salty tear streaks are still fresh. Great book. Now you’ll have to excuse me—I’m off to add Taylor Jenkins Reid’s sophomore novel After I Do to my library queue.

The Details:

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Print Length: 353 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Release date: July 9, 2013

 

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 SHEREADS.org to read more about Chevy Stevens, discover fabulous new reads, and enter for a chance to WIN one of five copies of THAT NIGHT.