☕ 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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Waskom Reads Before We Were Yours and An Interview with Lisa Wingate

Last month I had a wonderful time meeting friends both old and new at the Waskom library for a book discussion. I love to talk about books! It was a good turnout for a great novel. The book selected for this meeting was Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.


For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale—an engrossing new novel, inspired by a true story, about two families, generations apart, that are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice. Before We Were Yours brilliantly fictionalizes and brings to life one of America’s most notorious adoption scandals. 

 From the 1920s through 1950, thousands of children of single mothers and poverty-stricken parents were taken away — sometimes even quietly whisked off front porches or from hospital maternity wards — by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and its Memphis branch director, Georgia Tann. While heartbroken birth mothers searched for their stolen sons and daughters, the children were often kept in unlicensed boarding facilities and given new names and histories before being transported around the country to adoptive parents who could afford to pay.


I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. Before We Were Yours was one of the best historical novels I read in 2017. You can read my Book Break post about it here.

I don’t get to visit the Waskom library often, but the draw of a good book discussion and the bonus of the library’s recent face lift piqued my interest. I wanted to come out and see what it was all about. You can learn what’s new at the library by checking out this video on a local news site here. 

If you live nearby or are just passing through, you should stop by and enjoy the library. The staff is wonderful, some of the friendliest people around. The Waskom public library serves the surrounding area, so you don’t have to live in town to be a patron, and a library card is free.

For more information on the Waskom library you can visit them at  waskompubliclibrary.org or hop over to the Waskom Public Library facebook page.


Lisa, along with fellow author Kellie Coates Gilbert, came to the Waskom library a while back and gave us a presentation, and they did an amazing workshop that was well attended. When I asked Lisa if she remembered us she said she sure did! She graciously provided answers to these interview questions.

What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?

Because Before We Were Yours is fiction, I was able to thread in what I felt were the most interesting pieces of the true-life history of Georgia Tann and her Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. One interesting aspect of the true story that isn’t in the novel is the special investigation that was conducted as Georgia Tann’s operation was finally shut down in 1950. The original Report to Governor Browning was filled with information about Tann’s nefarious methods, the deaths of children in her system of unregulated boarding homes, and the sheer panic of adoptive families who were terrified that the children they’d raised for years would be taken away. There were also some wonderful newspaper stories written years later, telling the reunion stories of birth families finally reunited.

How much research did you have to do for this book?

The book was research-intensive. I took in nearly everything I could find about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis and Georgia Tann. In large part, I found bits of the story here and bits there. The Discovery Channel’s Deadly Women feature and a 60 Minutes segment provided helpful information and visuals. Several books, including, Babies For Sale by Linda Austin and The Baby Thief by Barbara Raymond were particularly helpful in researching the adoption scandal. Harlan Hubbard’s Shantyboat Journal was a beautiful account of shantyboat life on the river. I also spent time in Memphis, researching locations, combing through the river museum, visiting the library and the university’s photo archives, and talking to people who remembered the scandal.

What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?

I hope readers take away the message that we need not be defined by our pasts. I hope Rill’s experience resonates with readers who have in some way surrendered to the wounds of painful past experiences. Rill faces that battle as she matures. As an old woman, she advises thirty-year-old Avery, “A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear it, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.” Living in a defensive posture is another form of allowing other people to dictate who we are and what we believe about ourselves. Letting go, dancing to our own music is a risk, but on the other side of that process lays light, freedom and fulfillment. That’s what I hope that’s what people take away from Before We Were Yours. Our lives have purpose, but to fulfill that purpose we must first claim ourselves.

I also hope that, in a broader sense, the story of Rill and the Foss children serves to document the lives of all the children who disappeared into Georgia Tann’s unregulated system. Only by remembering history are we reminded not to let it repeat itself. It’s important that we, ordinary people busy with the rush of every day life, remember that children are vulnerable, that on any given day, thousands of children live the uncertainty of Rill’s journey. We have to be aware. We must be kind neighbors, determined protectors, willing encouragers, wise teachers, and strong advocates, not just for the children who are ours by birth, but for all children.

Additional Links

Lisa Wingate’s Website

The Untold Story Guru: Because good stories should be found, not lost

Book Club Kit for Before We Were Yours


Thank you, Lisa!

If you are looking for a good book to read, you can’t beat this novel. Have you read it yet? What did you think?

Leave a comment, share, and all that.

Don’t forget to go visit a library this week!






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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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Recalculating and Moving On Toward the Goal

It wasn’t the first time Rain had kissed a boy, but it felt like a first kiss, warm and tender with just enough spark, the hint of electricity letting her know she should be careful. She pulled back. The wonder on his face, the naked adoration, goose-pimpled her flesh. If he had told her in that exact moment she was beautiful, she would’ve believed him.


I hoped to have this first draft finished by the end of January, but guess what? I was so near the end I could practically taste it. It was right there. Then, in a flash of sudden insight, I discovered a fatal plot flaw. My main character’s inner goal was not quite enough.



This is frustrating. Back tracking is the pits, but I console myself with the idea that it will be a better story in the end. I know how to fix it. The solution came to me as soon as I recognized the problem. It will take time, though.

Another funny thing about this book is that the closer I think the end is, the further away it gets, like one of those telescoping scenes in a movie where the end of the hall stretches far into the distance. I am committing to get this draft done by the end of February. When the dust finally settles, I suspect the story will need massive cuts but I’m trying not to think about that. I lost two weeks to migraines, but still managed to crank out the words on the other days, albeit slowly compared to previous months.

The amazing Diana Sharples has been advising me, and I appreciate her so much! I was a bit scared to approach her when she posted looking for a reader for one of her current works in progress. I read her book, Running Lean while researching eating disorders for one of my previous young adult novels and liked it. Diana has five, yes five, books coming out this year. She is a busy woman. And she is fabulous. Check out her site here.

My To Be Read pile is growing to prodigious proportions, but that’s fine with me. So many good books and zero calories! Slated for this month’s Book Breaks, posted Wednesdays on Instagram and the blog, is When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, The Secret Life Of Sara Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner, and Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford. I’m undecided about my fourth selection. If you have a suggestion, please post in the comments.

How are you doing with your goals for the year?

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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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