TLC Book Review: Two Sisters by Mary Hogan

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: March 4/2014

Pages:  384

Source: TLC Book Tours & Publisher

Rating: An Excellent Cupcake


One family, two sisters, a lifetime of secrets . . .

The third child in a family that wanted only two, Muriel Sullivant has always been an outsider. Short, dark-haired, and round, she worships her beautiful blond sister, Pia, and envies the close bond she shares with their mother, Lidia. Growing up in their shadow, Muriel believes that if she keeps all their secrets—and she knows plenty, outsiders always do—they will love her, too.

But that was a long time ago. Now an adult, Muriel has accepted the disappointments in her life. With her fourth-floor walk-up apartment and entry-level New York City job, she never will measure up to Pia and her wealthy husband, their daughter, and their suburban Connecticut dream home. Muriel would like nothing better than to avoid her judgmental family altogether. One thing she does quite well.

Until the day Pia shows up to visit and share devastating news that Muriel knows she cannot tell—a secret that will force her to come to terms with the past and help her see her life and her family in unexpected new ways.

Two Sisters is a powerful and poignant debut novel about two sisters—opposites in every way—as well as their mother and the secrets and lies that define them all.

My Review:

This book, on the surface, can seem quite simple.  Two sisters, both treated differently by their parents, living separate lives, have different relationships with their parents (as adults), and how an illness can bring a family together or separate them further.  However, there were so many layers to this book, that it made it quite interesting all the way through.

What I believe the author, Mary Hogan, truly shows is how hurt people marry other hurt people, and how those hurts can turn to rejection experienced by their children.  It’s a cycle, it’s a family pattern, and it’s sadly one that happens all the time.

Through Muriel’s pain, readers are introduced to the relationship she has with her mother, father, and siblings.  Pia is the woman, every woman wants to be on the outside.  Perfect relationship with her mother, husband, and the mom of a beautiful child.  She has the perfect body, perfect home, finances for anything her heart desires, even a full-time maid.  However, as life always shows: no one is immune to illness.

Pia, in her own way, wants to make amends with Muriel.  However, Murial uses this time to uncover family secrets and face the family, she has worked hard at avoiding.  Muriel is the girl, most will relate to.  Why? Because she opens the most vulnerable part of herself, as she shares different experiences that caused her pain, rejection, humiliation, and sorrow.

It was also interesting to see that regardless of how unemotionally connected Muriel’s mother is, Muriel works in a profession that reminds her most of the times she shared with her mom (even if she was simply used).  It was also quite interesting to see how Lydia and Owen stay together, despite their lack of love, simply because it was expected of them with their respective families.  Lydia is in love with someone else, who is married to his job (so to speak), and had they married would have been shunned from their communities.  Owen, while he is the most quiet in this story, has the greatest heartache.  He doesn’t marry a woman that did love him, he loses his relationship with his children, and he never fully comes full circle in his life.

Two Sisters is a window into one family, where two adults married for different reasons: none of which was for true love.  Sadly, it is their children who may the price for that and it impacts the relationships they have as adults.  Even Muriel’s brother, who doesn’t appear until the very end of the book, has his own reasons for shunning the family.

This is a powerful read.  I imagine many readers will experience disgust, sadness, and anger as each character unfolds in each chapter.  However, Mary Hogan does a remarkable job of bringing her readers to the brink with Muriel, only to give a ray of hope and some happiness for Muriel’s future.

If you love women’s fiction, contemporary literature (although the time period is questionable), relationships about families, love books about the underdog finding his/her voice, then you will love this book!

Also, did I mention the cover?  The cover is gorgeous, although it doesn’t really go with the storyline.  Maybe if it had been the suit, Pia picks out for herself, it would have fit.  Regardless, it is still a great book!

excellent cupcake 5

*This book was provided by TLC & the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. No forms of compensation were given.

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About the Author:

Mary Hogan is the NAPPA Award-winning author of seven young-adult books. Two Sisters is her first novel for adults. She lives in New York City with her husband, Bob, and their dog, Lucy.

Follow the Author:

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Tour Stops

Tuesday, March 4th: BoundbyWords

Wednesday, March 5th: cupcake’s book cupboard

Thursday, March 6th: Chronicles …

Monday, March 10th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, March 10th: Sweet Southern Home

Tuesday, March 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, March 12th: BookNAround

Monday, March 17th: Drey’s Library

Tuesday, March 18th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books

Wednesday, March 19th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, March 20th: The Well-Read Redhead

Monday, March 24th: Books in the Burbs


Book Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

ISBN: 9780399166235
Pages: 432
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: NetGalley& Publisher


A beautiful princess lies in a sleep so deep it is close to death. Was Sleeping Beauty revived by a prince’s kiss? What really happened in that tower so long ago?

While Beauty Slept re-imagines the legend through the lens of historical fiction, telling the story as if it really happened. A Gothic tale of suspense and ambition, love and loss, it interweaves the story of a royal family and the servants who see behind the glamorous facade, following the journey of a young woman as she lives out a destiny that leads her to the brink of death.

My Review:

Out of all the Disney princess movies, Sleeping Beauty, was one of my least favorites.  So, I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but I am glad did read it!

I love the way Elizabeth Blackwell takes a treasured children’s story, and expands on it in such a creative and genius way!  Even if you have not read Sleeping Beauty or seen the movie, like me, you will understand this story and appreciate the direction that Elizabeth takes this book.

With Elise’s point of view, readers gain an insider’s view to the Queen, Maleficent, and even Princess Aurora.  The story truly reads as if it is based on an actual historical event, or at least a real place, which is what makes this book so special.  Regardless of a “fantasy” place, readers will genuinely love the relationship Elise develops with different palace workers, the Queen, and her own love story, that is weaved in.  Overall, a beautiful story and one that will delight readers!

*This book was provided by NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


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She Reads February Book Club Review: The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Publisher/Publication Date: Doubleday (1/14/2014)

Source:  She Reads Book Club

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

My Review:

One word: WOW!  This novel has so many twists and turns, debauchery, infidelity, infertility, mistresses, maids with a little too much information, and a corrupt system.  I love books that mix fact with fiction, weaved together by one creative mind: Ariel Lawhon’s!

This is not a quick read, by any means, as there are a lot of characters important to the storyline-that you will want to know.  I did find myself getting confused with the year/dates, as the story does jump back to before Crater’s disappearance, to after his disappearance, and then later in life.  Based on the real life mystery surrounding Joseph Crater’s disappearance, there are 3 women, who Ariel shines light on.  While there are creative liberties used to fill in the gap of information not know, Ariel’s writing is seamless and the story flows like a true crime novel should.

I absolutely loved the characters Ariel creates to help make the story well rounded (won’t reveal who…you have to read it!), and the characters she expounds on-who were quite interesting and fascinating to read about.  This is a fantastic story, with everyone being a suspect…even the police. Set in the 1930′s, Ariel captures the glamour, the seediness of the club-limited to showgirls, corrupt politicians, and mobsters, corrupt political systems and the impact it has on an affluent family, murder suspicion, three women who are connected in one way or another, which just kept me fully engaged the whole time.

I am blown away by this fantastic historical fiction novel, written by a first time author, who read a lot of conspiracy theories, novels, newspaper clippings, and somewhere in all of that research material-she brings forth this incredible novel!! An excellent novel for book club discussions, for anyone that loves political/true unsolved crime novels, and historical fiction.

*Thanks to She Reads Book Club for providing this book as our February Book Club Pick!


Ariel LawhonAriel Lawhon is the co-founder of the popular online book club She Reads ( A novelist, blogger, and life-long reader, she lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart. THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, just released this month from Doubleday.

Follow Ariel Lawhon!

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Quick Reads-Short Reviews!

Don’t you just love reading books that are so easy to read, quite engaging, and is the kind of book that you can get lost in?  These are those kind of books!  So good, that you are finished before you know it, and miss the characters once you’ve turned to the last page.

Release Date: January 21, 2014
Pages: 320
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: NetGalley

Synopsis: from Goodreads:

Molly is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business.  For the past four years Molly’s been on staff at Eye Spy, covering all the wacky assignments.  She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year-old chiropractor.  He’s comfortable, but safe.  When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance “in the style of Nora Ephron,” she flunks out big time.  Clearly she can’t recognize romance.  And in her own life, she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man whogets her.  Mainly because he’s a well-known player.

But, with help from Nora Ephron’s movies, Molly learns to open her heart, suppress her cynicism, and find her very own fairytale ending.  Linda Yellin’s “What Nora Knew” will captivate readers with its charm and humor.

My Review:

I must admit, I’ve not read any Nora Roberts’ books, but have seen her books-turned-movies:  When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.  While I don’t know Nora’s writing (other than in movies), I absolutely loved Linda’s book!  It has everything a great book should have:  romance, crazy job, great friends, and moments of self-reflection for the characters.

Molly has a great job (even though she has quite a bit of Bridget Jones’ Diary moments), and a boyfriend, who is a little too eager to hand out his business card.  Molly goes to the Hamptons for her yearly vacation getaway at her friend’s house.  While there, she meets Cameron, who is quite the player and has an eye for her.  While the book is predictable, it is entertaining, fun, a feel-good kind of book, that everyone needs from time to time!  Even if you aren’t a Nora Ephron fan or read her books, like me, you will love it!  If you are a Nora Ephron fan and have read her books- you will love all the references made to her books and characters!It’s a book that had me smiling as I read certain scenes and was a story that I am sure many readers will enjoy talking about!



Release Date:  February 4, 2014

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers

Pages: 384

Genre:  Christian Romance, Mystery fiction

Source:  NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Allie Kirkland has never been one to take wild risks. But when she’s offered a costuming assistant’s job on a docudrama in the hills near Moses Lake, she jumps at the chance. She’s always dreamed of following in her director-father’s footsteps, and the reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step. The family expectations will have to wait.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delevan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the folk songs of Chinquapin Peaks. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.
When strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, everyone in Wildwood, including Allie’s handsome neighbor on the film set, Blake Fulton, seems to be hiding secrets, and Allie doesn’t know who she can trust. If she can’t find the answers in time, history may repeat itself . . . with the most unthinkable results.
My Review:
This is a book that anyone could read, not just those who love Christian fiction, but mystery novels in general.  I was quite fascinated with Bonnie Rose and her sister, even though her big secret is never shared, it seems like it was some form of sexual abuse.  Told in alternating viewpoints: past/present, Allie/Bonnie Rose, the story goes pretty smoothly.  It was interesting to have a book set along the phase reality tv has in today’s world, and how much can be learned from living in the old days.  As Allie shared her stories of becoming acclimated to living in old Texas, where women had to cook, make their clothes, heat the stove, and learn to be independent in a male dominated world, she also begins to feel that she is being watched and starts to feel the same way Bonnie Rose did: unsafe.  The storyline moves slow in the beginning, as we read Allie preparing for moving to the makeshift old Texas site: Woodland Creek, and as Bonnie Rose tries to adjust to her life with her little sister.  It starts to move quite quickly and become rather interesting when Allie finds herself underground and time starts to tick away, as she realizes her life is really threatened!  The epilogue was interesting, a little too nicely wrapped, but overall was a great book!
*A HUGE thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers!

HFVBT Book Tour: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Book Information:

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Author:  Heather Webb

Publication Date: December 31, 2013

Publisher:  Plume Books/Penguin

Pages: Paperback; 320p

ISBN-10: 0142180653

Source:  HFVBT & Publisher




Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

My Review:

I cannot believe this is Heather Webb’s first published book! I loved the flow of the story, the way the story unfolded, and the trials Josephine encounters in her life.  I would liked to have read more about her youth, simply because she was so fascinating to read, however, it works for the book.  The storyline is many, however it ebbs and flows in a way that doesn’t make it seem too busy, bogged down, or overwhelming with historical facts.  Josephine was a multi-facted woman for sure, and this story reflects that.  In my opinion, this book will either have you love or hate Josephine…there is just no in-between.  Personally, I loved her, because she was a woman impacted and shaped by her circumstances in youth, her first marriage, and motherhood.  Regardless of how she took care of herself, she was a smart woman, playing in a man’s world.  It was a quick read for me, because of how it flowed so well, and is a book I highly recommend to those who want to tiptoe into the world of Historical Fiction, want to know who Josephine is and how she shaped Napoleon and France, and for those who simply want a great read.

*A thank you to HFVBT and the publisher for giving me an opportunity to participate in the book tour!

About the AuthorHeather Webb

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information please visit Heather’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, January 1 Review & Interview at HF Book Muse-News Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, January 2 Review at Let Them Read Books Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?

Friday, January 3 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Monday, January 6 Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, January 7 Review & Giveaway at Scandalous Women

Wednesday, January 8 Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, January 9 Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Friday, January 10 Review at Turning the Pages

Monday, January 13 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, January 14 Review at Unabridged Chick Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, January 15 Review at Book Lovers Paradise Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, January 16 Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 20 Review at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, January 21 Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, January 22 Review at A Book Geek Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, January 23 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Saturday, January 25 Review at Book-alicious Mama

Monday, January 27 Interview at Erika Mailman Blog Review & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, January 28 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, January 29 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, January 30 Interview at HF Connection

Friday, January 31 Review at Books in the Burbs

Monday, February 3 Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 4 Review at A Muse in the Fog

Wednesday, February 5 Review at A Bookish Libraria Interview at A Muse in the Fog

Friday, February 7 Review at Silver’s Reviews

Praise for Becoming Josephine

“Heather Webb’s epic novel captivates from its opening in a turbulent plantation society in the Caribbean, to the dramatic rise of one of France’s most fascinating women: Josephine Bonaparte. Perfectly balancing history and story, character and setting, detail and pathos, Becoming Josephine marks a debut as bewitching as its protagonist.” –Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“With vivid characters and rich historical detail, Heather Webb has portrayed in Josephine a true heroine of great heart, admirable strength, and inspiring courage whose quest is that of women everywhere: to find, and claim, oneself.” –Sherry Jones, bestselling author of The Jewel of the Medina

“A fast-paced, riveting journey, Becoming Josephine captures the volatile mood of one of the most intense periods of history—libertine France, Caribbean slave revolts, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—from the point of a view of one of its key witnesses, Josephine Bonaparte.” –Dana Gynther, author of Crossing on the Paris

“Vivid and passionate, Becoming Josephine captures the fiery spirit of the woman who stole Napoleon’s heart and enchanted an empire. –Susan Spann, author of The Shinobi Mysteries

“Spellbinding . . . Heather Webb’s novel takes us behind the mask of the Josephine we thought we knew.” –Christy English, author of How to Tame a Willful Wife and To Be Queen

“Enchanting prose takes the reader on an unforgettable journey . . . Captivating young Rose springs from the lush beauty of her family’s sugar plantation in Martinique to shine in the eighteenth century elegance of Parisian salon society. When France is torn by revolution, not even the blood-bathed terror of imprisonment can break her spirit.” –Marci Jefferson, author of Girl on the Gold Coin (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014)


TLC Book Review: What I Had Before You by Sarah Cornwell

Page Count: 288

Release Date: January 7th 2014

Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Source: TLC Book Tours

ISBN-10: 0062237845


Written in radiant prose and with stunning psychological acuity, award-winning author Sarah Cornwell’s What I Had Before I Had You is a deeply poignant story that captures the joys and sorrows of growing up and learning to let go.

Olivia Reed was fifteen when she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore. Two decades later, divorced and unstrung, she returns with her teenage daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia fails to notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Her frantic search for him sparks memories of the summer of 1987, when she exploded out of the cocoon of her mother’s fierce, smothering love and into a sudden, full-throttle adolescence, complete with dangerous new friends, first love, and a rebellion so intense that it utterly recharted the course of her life.

Olivia’s mother, Myla, was a practicing psychic whose powers waxed and waned along with her mercurial moods. Myla raised Olivia to be a guarded child, and also to believe in the ever-present infant ghosts of her twin sisters, whom Myla took care of as if they were alive—diapers, baby food, an empty nursery kept like a shrine. At fifteen, Olivia saw her sisters for the first time, not as ghostly infants but as teenagers on the beach. But when Myla denied her vision, Olivia set out to learn the truth—a journey that led to shattering discoveries about herself and her family.

Sarah Cornwell seamlessly weaves together the past and the present in this riveting debut novel, as she examines the relationships between mothers and daughters, and the powerful forces of loss, family history, and magical thinking.

My Review:

I read the first part of the book in one night. It was so gripping and haunting, that I just couldn’t put the book down.  The underlying tone is such sadness and despair, with little glimmers of hope.  Told in alternating time periods: teenage Olivia and the older Olivia, readers will get a glimpse into the crazy, unpredictable life of Olivia.

Olivia lives with her mother, who claims to be a psychic.  At times, her mother, Myla, disappears for long periods of time, and Olivia has to care for herself with the random stop-by’s from Myla’s male friends.  As a teenager, Olivia experiences many life choices and the summer of her 15th year will never be the same.

On the heels of a divorce, Olivia decides to take her two kids back to her childhood neighborhood.  Struggling with the impact of having her son diagnosed with early onset bipolar, she flashes back to the summer when her life changed.  While having flashbacks, she loses her son and as she tries to find him, she is confronted with the ghosts of her past.

This is a great read that will certainly raise lots of great questions between book club members, a group discussion, even as a required reading for college. The issues of how mental illness impacts everyone is something that most people will be able to identify.  More than anything, it shows how family secrets will eventually demand attention, that a secret is only strengthened in the dark, but in the light-it isn’t so scary, and that there is never a hopeless situation.

*This book was provided by TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.

About Sarah Cornwell

Sarah Cornwell grew up in Narberth, Pennsylvania. Her fiction has appeared in the 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Missouri ReviewMid-American ReviewGulf Coast, andHunger Mountain, among others, and her screenwriting has been honored with a Humanitas Prize. A former James Michener Fellow at UT-Austin, Sarah has worked as an investigator of police misconduct, an MCAT tutor, a psychological research interviewer, and a toy seller. She lives in Los Angeles.

Sarah Cornwell
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Sarah’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 7th: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, January 8th: Books à la Mode

Thursday, January 9th: bookchickdi

Monday, January 13th: missris

Wednesday, January 15th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Monday, January 20th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, January 22nd: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, January 23rd: Sweet Southern Home

Monday, January 27th: The Well-Read Redhead

Tuesday, January 28th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, January 29th: Conceptual Reception

Thursday, January 30th: Turn the Page

Monday, February 3rd: Book-alicious Mama

Tuesday, February 4th: BoundbyWords

TBD: …the bookworm…

click here for a book giveaway!

TLC Book Tour-The Kept by James Scott


In the winter of 1897, Elspeth Howell treks across miles of snow and  ice to the isolated farmstead in upstate New York where she and her  husband have raised their five children. Her midwife’s salary is tucked  into the toes of her boots, and her pack is full of gifts for her  family. But as she crests the final hill, and sees her darkened house  and a smokeless chimney, immediately she knows that an unthinkable crime has destroyed the life she so carefully built.

Her lone comfort is her twelve-year-old son, Caleb, who joins her in  mourning the tragedy and planning its reprisal. Their long journey leads them to a rough-hewn lake town, defined by the violence both of its  landscape and of its inhabitants. There Caleb is forced into a brutal  adulthood, as he slowly discovers truths about his family he never  suspected, and Elspeth must confront the terrible urges and unceasing  temptations that have haunted her for years. Throughout it all, the love between mother and son serves as the only shield against a merciless  world.

A scorching portrait of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and  retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal  adolescence, The Kept is told with deep compassion and startling originality, and introduces James Scott as a major new literary voice.

My Review:

Look at the book cover very closely.  See the house burning, slowly?? Almost smoldering?  With all that white snow around and barren trees? Well, there is a story inside with lots of secrets that won’t be revealed until you are ready to take steps toward that fire.

This story is absolutely fantastic, brilliantly written, and is not meant for the faint at heart or the rushed reader.  It’s a like a stew, the longer it simmers, the better it tastes.  Only, this book doesn’t taste good…the secrets are quite shocking, revealing, and show why these characters worked so hard at hiding in their home, away from everyone.

As you read this story, remind yourself: this is 1897.  Long before the Women’s Suffrage Movement, long before the civil movement, and long before there were telephones, internet, and social media.  So, it’s quite interesting to see how stories never die, scars never truly heal, and the lengths people will go to keep the harshest of secrets hidden.

Elspeth is a mid-wife, a mother and wife, who often leaves her family for long bouts of time, before returning with money (hidden in the tips her feet).  She comes home to find her family brutally murdered, and it is only when she slowly overcomes her shock, does she find herself staring at the end of a barrel.  Her only remaining child lives, Caleb, who is quite innocent, ignorant, and is unprepared for the dangers outside their home.

Told in alternating voices-Elspeth and Caleb, it is quite interesting to read as Elspeth reflects back on her life and the choices made.  Elspeth and Caleb, mother and child, must try to build a relationship with one another and redeem their family by hunting for the family’s killers.  Along the way, Caleb and Elspeth encounter new adventures, however James Scott never truly lets us (nor Elspeth) forget what led to that fateful day.

This is not an easy book to digest. It won’t be read in a night or two, nor will it be something you will truly appreciate and understand, until you become as invested in Elspeth and Caleb, as they do in their own relationship.  It’s a fantastic book, one that would bring vivid conversations in a book club or group setting, and will certainly have you looking at things differently, as you realize that nothing is ever as it seems.

* A huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me the book, in exchange for an honest review.

About James Scott

James Scott was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York. He holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and other publications. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and dog. The Kept is his first novel.

Find out more about James at his website.

James’ Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 7th: Drey’s Library

Wednesday, January 8th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, January 9th: Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, January 13th: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, January 16th: Broken Teepee

Monday, January 20th: Tina’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 21st: The Reader’s Hollow

Wednesday, January 22nd: Man of La Book

Thursday, January 23rd: Bibliophiliac

Tuesday, January 28th: she treads softly

Thursday, January 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, February 3rd: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, February 4th: Giraffe Days

Wednesday, February 5th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Thursday, February 6th: Ageless Pages Reviews

Wrapping It Up for 2013!

wrapped book

I can’t believe that 2013 has come to an end.  It’s been a hectic year, a year full of wonderful beginnings and endings, and some great books that have made this year even better!

My daughter started prek this year, my oldest son is in his last year of high school, my husband had sinus surgery-turned hospitalization from anesthesia, remodeled our home, younger son took drivers ed, we adopted 2 brother pups, and I started on a road to healthier living-down 25 pounds so far!

So, that’s a very quick, very simplistic narrowing down of my year for 2013.  Now, let’s talk books!

Please click on each book to read the synopsis!

This is a story that is riveting, as it will keep you engaged the whole time and you will not want to put the book down, until you turn the last page.  Even then, you will wonder about the characters in the book.  It’s a story that easily could have turned a bit paranormal, a bit scary, even a bit too predicatable.  However, Kristina McMorris takes you to the very edge of the cliff, only to bring you back in for more.

It’s told through the alternating voices and time periods.  One is a widowed mother of a young son, the other is a the grieving, heartsick young lover of a solider.  Both of their stories will intersect at one point in the story, but not until you’ve truly become immersed in their stories.  While both stories have a sense of urgency, the story doesn’t feel rushed, or drawn out.  Rather, it has a very beautiful balance of expectation and being in the present.

I loved this story and appreciated the way a story in history was recreated in a way that shows the vulnerability and endurance that true love has: one for a man, the other for a son.

*This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.


I absolutely loved this story!! It had me from page 1, literally.  First of all, I want to live on a house boat, or at least stay in one for a week.  Secondly, the mystery and love story is absolutely beautiful.  Sarah Jio does not disappoint her readers, new and established fans of her work.

Sarah has a gift of storytelling, and this is one of her best ones by far.  Told in alternating voices and timelines, the reader will be introduced to Ada ( a widow, who also loses her daughter), and Penny ( a lonely wife of an artist).  It is a story of love, loss, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  However, as the flower itself: morning glory, the spirit cannot be truly broken and new life always springs up.

It’s such a beautiful and tragic tale, that it left me truly missing the characters of the story at the end.  Sarah Jio is a talented writer, who can write a character that readers will recognize, sympathize with, and feel connected to.  This is a must read and should be on everyone’s TBR list for 2014!

 *This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


This is a sweet story, about love and new beginnings.  It is during a time when women had to do as they were told, with the exception of this one great heroine: Cora Kensington.  Because this is the 3rd book in the series, I had a very difficult time truly appreciating the characters and their stories.  It’s not a stand alone book, in my opinion, and should only be read after reading the first 2 books in the series.  It will be easier to understand Cora’s decision to return to the US and her decision to stray from what is expected of her with marriage and business.  It is a good story and I am sure readers following the series will absolutely love Cora’s journey to the States.

*This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


I’m always leery to read books that everyone has read and raved about.  I know….I’m weird that way.  It’s just that I don’t starting a book with high expectations, that I am just so disappointed and wished I had just not opened the book.  However, this is one that will not disappoint!! I loved every bit of this story, cried, laughed, and as a mom of 2 teenagers, I could completely relate with the parents and hear my kids saying some of the things Hazel, Gus, and Ozzie say.  The story is so realistic, the emotions are so raw and revealing, and it’s a story that needed to be told in a way that readers can resonate with the characters and perhaps, be a little kinder and befriend someone battling an illness.  Because, if anything can be learned from this story, it is that “cancer” doesn’t define the person.  I read this book in 2 evenings, and researched Esther Earl, too.  While the story isn’t about her, John Green was inspired by her outlook on life, as she fought cancer and lived her life as best as she could.  I don’t know how a movie will be able to recreate the magic in the story, so that is a huge feat the director is taking on.  Nonetheless, read this book!

*I purchased this book, because it was a really great deal for $2.99.  P.S. Don’t let the cover dissuade you from buying the book.  The cover doesn’t do the story justice!


Book Winner for Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson is:

Angela J.

End of Year Reflection:

It has been a very challenging, but blessed week for us. My husband was hospitalized from a severe reaction to anesthesia and it was very emotional, very difficult to watch him in pain, and a lot of balancing the home, helping keep our children at peace, and relying on family.  I write that it was a blessing, because out of the worst case scenario for an outpatient procedure my husband had, something beautiful happened.  His family came together and they all reconnected in a way that has been truly missed.  It was wonderful to see my children with their uncles and grandparents, and it was wonderful to know that we weren’t alone in this minute by minute, day by day, stand-by. 

We also met some fantastic people, who are just so inspirational and full of love for Christ.  Christmas was spent in the hospital, but we all learned that it isn’t where you are, or what you do, it is who you are with that matters most.  Our children spent Christmas with me and their daddy at the hospital, and we were so thankful for the precious nurses and hospital staff, who worked that day with a cheerfulness that helps patients feel calmer.  Carolers came by the unit, a mom with her children handed out stuffed animals, and my husband was surrounded by his brothers and parents, too. 

Family.  It’s important that we make time for another.  Friends.  It is so important to not be afraid to reach out and ask for help.  Health.  Wow.  Never take anything for granted.  In the end, God granted our Christmas wish.  My husband was sent home without further surgery a couple of days ago and we get to spend the New Years together, at home. 

I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve and that you are surrounded by family, friends, and much love.  Most importantly, that you are surrounded by a great book, or two!

P.S. My top books for 2013 will be posted soon.  Stay tuned, as there will a book giveaway, too!

 Wishing you a wonderful new year,


TLC Book Tours Review: The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle


Kristina Riggle, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars, returns with a thought-provoking novel inspired by real-life events.

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti shocks her parents and her community with one simple act: She chooses to stand by the man everyone else believes has exploited her—popular high school teacher TJ Hill. Quietly walking across a crowded courtroom to sit behind TJ, and not beside her parents, she announces herself as the adult she believes herself to be.

But her mother, Dinah, wants justice. Dinah is a fighter, and she believes with all her heart and soul that TJ is a man who took advantage of her daughter. He is a criminal who should be brought to justice, no matter what the cost to his family.

Rain, TJ’s wife, is shocked that her handsome, loving, respected husband has been accused of a terrible crime. But has her desperation to start a family closed her eyes to the fault lines in her marriage? And can she face the painful truths about herself and her husband?

Told from the perspectives of these three remarkable women, The Whole Golden World navigates the precarious territory between childhood and adulthood, raising questions about love and manipulation, marriage and motherhood, consent and responsibility. It’s a novel both shocking and unforgettable in its power.

My Review:

We’ve all read the headlines of teacher and student having sex, adult male having sex with a minor…we probably even know a few people in our communities that have December/May relationships.  So, what was this book so uncomfortable to read?  It was because Kristina Riggle doesn’t give the reader a person to root for, an unsung hero that emerges, or even a happy ending.  It’s a story with multiple layers, multiple stories from each character.  The reader gets an inside perspective to the three main women in the story: Morgan (student), Rain (TJ’s wife), and Dinah (Morgan’s mother).  The reader does get some glimpses into the psychological make-up of TJ, who feels unappreciated by his wife, less than by his brother and sister in law, and is a hero to one student: Morgan.

The story is a slow read, sometimes I really resented Morgan’s father (the principal at the school), who was aloof and disconnected from his family and only cared about job promotion.  This story really showed how much the family issues, struggles, parenting, keeping up with the home and being a family rests solely on the shoulders of the women.  It is no wonder that Dinah looks to Morgan as a co-parent and Morgan sees herself as a peer/adult and doesn’t see the issue having a relationship with a 12 year older man, who also happens to be her teacher.  She sees the lack of relationship and love between her parents and wants more.

Each woman, including Morgan-who is a teen-but if you treat her as a an adult, then she’s an adult- have self esteem issues, issues of self worth/value, issues of feeling that they are in charge of their own fate and the men are simply accessories in their life.  Aside from the bigger issue: teacher has sex with student, there are serious issues that a group could discuss:  parenting responsibilities, gender roles, secrets, invalidation, respect, work issues, family/personal responsibilities, and culture/society norms & expectations.

It’s a great book to read, certainly brought up a lot of issues that are worth discussing, and leaves the reader with lots of “food for thought” to chew on.  Kristina Riggle is a brilliant writer, because she writes with layers and shows the flaws of each person, how they come together, and how they can grow from it. In shining a light to this fictional family, it certainly is a great segway into evaluating your own life.  Most importantly, to always remember: nothing is ever as it appears.

*Thank you to the publisher and to TLC Tours for providing me a copy, in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Kristina Riggle is a former newspaper reporter now pursuing her first love, writing fiction. Her character-driven novels have been honored by independent booksellers in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions, and her debut, Real Life & Liars, was a Target “Breakout” pick. She finds people of all walks of life fascinating, as in the old A&E “Biography” slogan, “Every life has a story.” She’s the co-editor for fiction for the e-zine Literary Mama, and has published short stories at Literary Mama, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. When not writing, she can be found taking care of her two kids and dog, and squeezing in time to read whenever she can.

Find out more about Kristina at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

Kristina’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 5th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, November 7th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, November 11th: she treads softly

Tuesday, November 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, November 13th: A Novel Review - review

Thursday, November 14th: Lectus

Friday, Noveber 15th: A Novel Review – author interview

Monday, November 18th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Tuesday, November 19th: Girls Just Reading

Wednesday, November 20th: The Well-Read Redhead

Monday, November 25th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, November 27th: Book-alicious Mama

Thursday, November 28th: Time 2 Read

Monday, December 2nd: Read Lately

Thursday, December 5th: The Little Reader Library

Monday, December 9th: Sweet Southern Home

Friday, December 13th: Tina’s Book Reviews

Monday, December 16th: Books in the Burbs

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Click here to enter the giveaway!

TLC Book Review: The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

About Tara Conklin

Tara Conklin has worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes her time to writing fiction. She received a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Born in St. Croix, she grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington. The House Girl is her first novel.

Find out more about Tara at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

My Review:

Having read The Help by Kathryn Stockett or The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, this book almost seemed like a mash-up of the two.  However, after reading past a few chapters, this book begins to take a unique twist.  Told in alternating voices, Josephine (a slave from the past) and Lina (a lawyer in present day), they each have their struggles as they somehow find their voice and strength within.

I absolutely loved the thought provoking lines Tara Conklin shares with the reader.  I had never thought of whose hands built the Washington Monument or even the White House.  It immediately draws the reader in, because it’s not just about finding out what happens to Josephine and if Lina finds her relatives, but also about showing the rich history many left behind.  The story shines a light on the struggles slaves had, the bravery of those working in the Underground Railroad, and the secrets that many died with.

It is such a thought provoking story, that I know many will enjoy this book.  It is an excellent story for book clubs, group discussions, class discussion, and anyone who loves historical fiction.  More than anything, it is a story that really sheds light on how Americans, as a society, need to never forget what a tragedy slavery is to our history, and the talent and artistry lost….although, in this story, it was found!

*A huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me a copy, in exchange for an honest review.

Tara’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 5th: Read Lately

Thursday, November 7th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, November 11th: Books in the Burbs

Tuesday, November 12th: Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, November 13th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, November 14th: Lavish Bookshelf

Monday, November 18th: Olduvai Reads

Tuesday, November 19th: BoundbyWords

Wednesday, November 20th: Book-alicious Mama

Tuesday, November 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Current Giveaway: