☕ 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 ☕ | 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 ☕ | 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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2018 Book Goals and 2017 Favorites

This one wouldn’t be upset by a little thunder. She would probably scare any storm that dared to cross her path. Rain could picture her out in the middle of a tornado, commanding it to depart, her hair wild and swirling as the wind obediently blew its way right out of her path.


I haven’t quite finished the rough draft I’m working on, but I am getting near the end at a word count of 66K. I did stop and delete a bit when the story wasn’t unfolding to my liking. As I near the end of this draft, another story idea has popped into my head so I am sure there will be no lack of novels for me to write. I hope to get one or two of these polished up enough to pitch in 2018.

Have you made any goals for 2018?

My reading goal for the next year is to post a book review every Wednesday. My current TBR list leans towards contemporary, southern, and women’s fiction, with a few others thrown in but that’s not to say it won’t grow and change as the months roll by. There is always room for more books, and all bookworms know that the book list is never complete, right?

When I find a book I think people might like, I have to share. And on that note, if you have a book you absolutely love, tell me about it. I read several books a week, usually. Most of my favorite finds come from friends’ recommendations.

From the books I reviewed on my blog this year, I have listed a few notables. There were many more books that I never reviewed, but I restricted myself to only those I posted about in 2017.

Two books made the most impact on me, one was The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. This is a classic that I don’t recall reading before, and the simple language spoke to me in a profound way. I consider it worth rereading every year.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff was an eye opener. One of the first things I did while reading this book was to cut my goals in half. I did this and my productivity has vastly improved with higher word counts than I was able to reach before. This nonfiction book is chock full of good advice. If you haven’t read it yet, grab yourself a copy for the upcoming year’s goal setting.

If I have to pick one novel I reviewed that I liked the best, it would be  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This book made me laugh and cry. Beautifully written characters and a heart-squeezing story. Loved it.

A new to me author who consistently delivers is Lisa Scottoline. While legal thrillers are not usually my first pick when I look for new reads, I enjoyed all of hers that I read. Every one I read was satisfying. It’s a rare author that can keep me coming back book after book. As much as I enjoy reading, I can be fickle and have a low tolerance for books that don’t grab me right away. I reviewed Damaged.

The best young adult I read this year was Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. Loved the premise, the characters, and the literary and Biblical allusions.

Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can was wonderful. If you are a Gilmore Girls fan you will probably like this small book.

One of the main reasons I read is for the comfort that a good story brings. I like action and mystery, but some days I simply want a good story. Books that fit into that slot for me were Like A Watered Garden by Patti Hill, an old favorite, and Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg, which I had not read or listened to before. I love that Fannie reads her own books. She has such a story teller’s gift.

I posted about a few shows and Netflix series, and the one I would like to mention is 13 Reasons Why. All the teens were watching this and talking about it. I also wrote a follow up post Talking With Your Teens about the series. The book was on my list, but I couldn’t bring myself to read it. I will probably try to get to it sometime this year.

So that’s my list for 2017. What were your favorite or most notable reads? Do you have any books you would like for me to review?

Wishing you a year blessed with many, many good books.


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Book Review| A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I didn’t expect to be captured by this story, but I was. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and translated by Henning Koch opens with Ove in a computer store, trying unsuccessfully to communicate with one of the employees. Having often been stymied by things tech, I could so relate to the quandary Ove had in the store.

A recent retiree,  Ove is the typical outspoken, inflexible grump, but we suspect from the get go he just might have reason to be. His life is severely structured by routine and he lives his days out following his own strict ideas of what is right. Patrolling the neighborhood, he keeps watch, always ready to enforce The Rules. A young family moves in next door and immediately upset Ove by running into his mailbox.

This character driven tale spins out beautifully, feeding us bits that make up Ove’s story as we need them. It is a poignant story about the human condition, of learning to love and be loved, of looking past the oft not-so-lovely exterior and seeing a fellow human. I was moved. Ove isn’t a man you would care to deal with, but we can’t help but love him, warts and all.

The novel jumps around in time, but is easy to follow. The story is sweet, funny, and sad all at the same time. I think this one may end up on my favorites list. It’s not often a book can make me laugh, cry, and think.

I listened to the audio book narrated by George Newbern and was well done. On a side note, a good narrator can ruin an otherwise good book, but this is a good narrator. The audiobooks I select books are greatly influenced by who is reading, and whether or not past books by an author were narrated well.

I will be checking out other books by Fredrik Backman.

I did not realize this novel had been made into a movie, and I plan to watch it sometime. I am big on reading the book first, and this is a good one. I can’t imagine a movie being as good as the novel. If you watched the movie or read the book, let me know what you thought.

Recommended. Some language and the content is serious at times.

Click here for a reading guide from Simon and Schuster for A Man Called Ove.

Here’s another reading guide from LitLovers.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. This book is full of wonderful quotes. Here’s a few.



“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. memories, perhaps.” 


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Book Review| Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Book Review | Imaginary Girls

by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma is a bit of a departure for me.

Ruby is the town darling and everyone wants to be her friend. Chloe is her younger sister. One night the teenagers of the town are partying and at Ruby’s urging, Chloe attempts to swim across the reservoir. In the darkness Chloe comes across a boat and discovers the body of her classmate, London. Chloe leaves town to go stay with her father. After two years, Ruby wants her sister to come home. Chloe returns to find London alive and well. Somehow, Ruby, who always gets her way, is involved.

I chose this book based on a recommendation by my library without really knowing what it was. Imaginary Girls is a novel about two sisters caught up in a paranormal mystery. The story is a haunting one. At first, I was a bit leery of it because suspense is not usually my thing, but two pages in I was hooked.

In this novel, it’s difficult to tell what is real and what is not. The prose is magnificent. This twisted tale of tragedy unfolds in a series of surreal events. Imaginary Girls leaves you slightly unbalanced, guessing right up to the end.

I recently re-read I Am The Cheese and perhaps it primed me for this type of story. Perhaps it’s been a while since I heard a good ghost story. This novel reminded me of how much I loved to spin, and hear, a good campfire tale. In any case, this story caught  my interest and held it to the last page. 

The story is told from the younger sister’s point of view. The characterization of the sisters and their relationship is a fascinating exploration of obsession. This novel combines a complicated sisterly bond with the strange other-worldliness of a dark, fantastical world and lyrical prose.

Imaginary Girls is rich in its characters and prose. It is not a fast-paced book, but is absorbing and intense. I do believe at one point in the book I actually shivered picturing the water of the reservoir. There is an eerie twilight zone vibe to this story.

Be forewarned, the characters in this novel do not behave well. There is much language. Imaginary Girls is for mature teens. If your teen is reading this book, I suggest you read it as well and discuss the issues and themes in the book.

Sex, drugs, alcohol abuse, death, language.


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