☕ Book Break ☕ | The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mahew Whalen

~The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mahew Whalen~

“So I actually saw,with my own eyes, the spider web that was woven across the gate…”

What a web of secrets, lies, and deceit the people of Sycamore Glen have entangled themselves in!

Sycamore Glen appears to be the perfect neighborhood, but everyone here has a secret. The story is told in multiple points of view: Jencey is newly returned to her hometown with her two girls in tow, young Cailey lives in the neighborhood “eyesore” with her mother and younger brother, Bryte seems to have it all but is terrified of losing it, and Zell has her own secrets. The darkest secret of all belongs to another in their midst.

This is a novel that makes you question how well you know the people who live around you, and wonder what you would be willing to do the keep secrets that would protect the ones you love.
This was a quick read with intricate story lines and a satisfying ending of redemption and lessons learned.

This is the second novel I have read by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, and I like it as much as I liked the first one. I will certainly look for more by the author.

“There were things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.”

“This was how people healed: they went and did something–anything they could–to redeem the situation.”

“How surprisingly easy it was to decide to change your life forever, and how surprisingly easy it was to keep that decision from the one you loved most.”

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☕ Book Break ☕ | All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

~All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda~ “There is nothing more dangerous, nothing more powerful, nothing more necessary and essential for survival than the lies we tell ourselves.” Nicole returns to her hometown of Cooley Ridge to care for her aging father. She hasn’t been home in a decade, not since her best friend,Corrine, disappeared. Shortly after Nic’s return another girl, Annaleise, goes missing. The current investigation uncovers old clues.

Nic’s father suffers from dementia, and he is saying things that make no sense. Does he know something about Corrine’s disappearance? Or is it just the ramblings of a confused old man?

This story is told in reverse, beginning at day fifteen and ending on day one. This one is full of twists, turns, and suspense that was addictive.
I did not read the description before I begin this book, so was thrown for a moment at the telling in reverse. Once I caught on, I was amazed at the storytelling. It was not confusing at all. I’m not usually a fan of the told-in-reverse type stories, but this one hit all the right storytelling notes.

Nic gets entangled with her former boyfriend, even though she is engaged. “But maybe there was nothing more intimate than someone knowing all your secrets, every one of them, and sitting beside you anyway, buying your favorite food, running his fingers absently through your hair so you can sleep.” Plenty of drama going on with the other characters as well. And the characters! The interaction between the girls and the unraveling of the mystery was mesmerizing. More adult themes than my usual fare. It does make you wonder what lengths you would go to in order to protect the ones you love.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

~The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck~ “Once you tell a lie, you have to keep tellin’ and tellin’ and tellin’ to make it stand.”

I passed this one by more than once, but as it gained popularity my curiosity was peaked. This book proves the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Ora Lee Beckworth hires the Pecan Man, pronounced Pee-can, a homeless black man, do do yard work for her. When a young man turns up stabbed to death, the murder is pinned on the Pecan Man, but Ora Lee knows the truth. The year is 1976 and the voice is authentic. I felt like I was listening to an actual person telling me about real life events. Ora Lee is finally coming clean and telling what she knows about the murder, who really committed the act, and the horrific events that led up to it.

I made the mistake of starting to listen to this book late one evening thinking it would put me to sleep. Instead it kept me up! I listened to the audio version read by Suzanne Toren, who performed the book wonderfully.

Click here for Book Club Questions for The Pecan Man.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

~When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen~

A tragic accident after a high school football game one night results in the death of three cheerleaders. Rumors fly and the folks in town blame the boy driving the other car.

When We Were Worthy is set in the small town of Worthy, Georgia, but it could be any small, football crazy, southern town. I felt as if I were reading about real people I might bump into on the street. Events happen that cause the characters lives to spin out of control. Lives are devastated and restored.

This is a story about guilt and innocence, tragedy and overcoming. Marybeth Whalen keeps several storylines going, fitting them together perfectly. I could not put this novel down until the last page was read. I think I have found a new favorite author.

“But is was rare that anyone got what he or she deserved in the life, for better or for worse.”

“Maybe that’s what everyone in the world was searching for–someone who, when they felt vulnerable and exposed and afraid, would meet them in the doorway with a look of love so pure it made all that other stuff fall away.”

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☕ Book Break ☕ | Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

~Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford~ “Parents always have a story that their children don’t really know.” “I wonder if the best thing any of us can hope for in life is a soft place to land.”

“Sometimes you need to feel the sadness, you need to feel everything to finally leave it behind, to have peace.”

I chose this book out a recommended list based on the title. In 1962 Seattle, Ernest Young is dealing with his wife’s memory loss and her troubled mental condition. This is historical fiction and love story combines, but is more than that. There is a lot of story packed into this novel that didn’t feel at all like a long read. Never once did it seem to drag.

The story moves back and forth from 1962 and the 1902 World’s Fair. Ernest, half-chinese and half American, came to America when he was five years old after his mother could no longer care for him, sending him away rather than see him starve. After he arrives, life is not easy. He is twelve years old when he gets to attend the 1902 World’s fair only to find that he is being raffled off “to a good home”. His benefactor, who up to this point has paid for his schooling and upkeep, is offering him as a prize. When the owner of a high class brothel comes to claim him, intent on making him a houseboy, Ernest’s guardian balks, but in the end Ernest goes home with the Madame.

There actually was a raffle held for a child at the 1902 World’s Fair, and his name was Ernest, but he was an infant and never claimed.

Full of historical tidbits. This story made me reflect on human nature and love. I will look for more books by Jamie Ford.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

~ The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner~

Warm, witty, and utterly charming, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, tells the story of Sarah’s conversion and subsequent falling for the pastor, Ben. And he reciprocates. A bunch. Problem: Sarah writes ultra steamy romance. Ultra. Steamy. Her new found faith is at direct odds with her former lifestyle and persona. Did I mention she has made a ton of money and is famous for those steamy romances?

I laughed out loud more than once. I love Bethany Turner’s writing style. I loved the characters. I love the story idea and the portrayal that, yes, christians do deal with sexual attraction. It’s refreshing to see a novel addressing that reality.

It is a bit heavy on the sexual attraction angle and does not explore the other aspects of Ben and Sarah’s relationship in the way I expected, but I enjoyed the read and will look for more by Bethany Turner. Cute read. Love the cover.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

~The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy~

Hanna Casey is the local librarian in the village of Finfarrin. After a bad end to a marriage, with teen daughter in tow, she is forced to stay with her mother, who is a bit of a grump. Hanna drives a book mobile to serve the community along the coast. Now that daughter Jazz is grown and on her own, Hanna wants to reassert her independence and move out, but that plan is threatened by the impending closure of the library.

This novel is a delightful read with relatable characters who remind me of people I know. It is an appealing picture of community village life in Ireland. As it states on the front cover, it did remind me of Maeve Binchy with its rich characters and descriptions of village life on the coast of Ireland. I hardly put it down from start to finish. Not action packed, but completely engaging and absorbing. Down to earth and charming.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

~All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven~

“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.”

Violet is struggling to come to terms with the tragic accident that took her sister’s life. Finch has his own set of problems. They meet on a ledge, both contemplating suicide. Finch, the boy labeled ‘freak’, talks Violet down. He saves Violet in other ways as well.

I was completely taken in by the character of Finch. I had previously read Velva Jean Learns to Drive and was already impressed by Jennifer Nevin’s ability to write with a strong voice, but this book, All the Bright Places, blew me away. I think Jennifer Niven is an amazing talent.

I love Finch’s push against labels, against the way people try to shove you into a compartment so they don’t have to look at you too closely and risk actually seeing the person. “It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.” I am not familiar with bipolar or manic depressive disorder, but I knew from the beginning of the book that Finch had this issue. The portrayal of the mental illness was eye opening and heart tugging.

If you liked The Fault in Our Stars you would probably like this book. Brilliant and beautiful, it made me cry. So many sweetly sad truths with a dash of hope. Not a story I will forget any time soon. “It’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.” There is a movie adaptation of this novel in the works.

There is quite a bit of language in this book, but not as much as is probably heard on most high school campuses. Topics include suicide, teen relationships, mental illness.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

~The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson~

Kitty/Katharyn has two lives. One of them is a dream. Lately, every time she falls to sleep, she wakes up in another world.
Kitty is a bookstore owner in 1960s Denver, Colorado. At first, Kitty believes that she is only having vivid dreams, but as the story unfolds she must decide which world is the real one.

Kitty/Katharyn learns that there is no perfect world and she must come to terms with the sadness in her life. I finished this book in a few days. I’ve always kind of liked the stories about switching places with someone or a character finding themselves in a different time. The storyline provokes one to think about the “what if’s” in our lives.

This novel brings up quite a few interesting topics and I think it would be a good book club selection. The Kindle version includes author’s notes and discussion questions, so the print one may as well.

A couple of times I stumbled over tense, because there are quite a few flashbacks. I don’t think you will have this problem if you are reading it rather than listening to it. The takeaway message of this book truly resonated with me. I would categorize this one as a satisfying read.

I liked this book. I will be watching to see what Cynthia Swanson comes out with next.

The Bookseller was slated to be made into a movie starring Julia Roberts, but I couldn’t find a release date for the movie. If you have any information on that, please post in the comments. I want to watch that movie!

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

~The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See~

Li-yan is from a remote village in China where her family makes a meager living by cultivating tea trees and picking the leaves to sell. When Li-yan has a baby out of wedlock, she takes her newborn to a nearby city and leaves the baby outside an orphanage. A cake of tea, wrapped in a paper with writing on it, is tucked in the baby’s blankets.

The infant girl is then adopted by an American couple and taken to America. This epic story spans from 1988-2016 is is told in alternating points of view, switching between mother and daughter. The history and customs of the Akha people, the cultural minority that Li-yan belongs to, is fascinating, and I was hooked from page one. In reading, I could tell that a great deal of research went into this novel and was impressed by how well See melded facts and story.

This is my first Lisa See novel and I was completely intrigued.

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