The Shadow Year- She Reads May Book Club Selection



The Shadow Year

by Hannah Richell

published by Orion Publishing


I love when She Reads picks a book that I might not have reached for myself, and The Shadow Year is just such a book.  It is the story of two narrators in two separate times, drawn together by a beautiful lake and a charming cottage.  In 1980, five friends decide to take a year off and drop out of civilization together in a small cottage by a lake.  30 years later, Lila is recovering from a debating miscarriage when she receives a letter from a solicitor informing her that she has been left a key to a small cottage.  Lila tries to heal herself and the cottage, spending weeks away from her suffering husband while she renovates.

I am usually a fan of the dual narrative, and it works well here.  I thought this book was very well written and the story captivating.  These are the pro of the book.  Unfortunately, the downside was one I just couldn’t get past.  In the part of the book that takes place in the 1980’s, there are five characters.  Kat is the narrator, and she is sharing the cottage with her four friends.  Put simply, I despised Kat.  She was an awful person.  The only other character in this part of the book that we get to know at all is Simon, and he is pretty awful too.  The other characters are not fleshed out much, therefore there wasn’t someone to balance out these two. It reminded me a little of the end of The Dinner,  with all those awful people.  I did love the part with Lila.  I enjoyed rooting for her to get past her pain, and slowly fall in love with the beautiful cottage and lake as she slowly renovates it.  I wish I could go and relax by that beautiful lake!

Head over to She Reads and check out other reviews of this book!




On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry- She Reads April Selection



The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

published Algonquin Books

by April 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

My Review

A.J. Fikry is a major bookworm and a major grump.  He is the owner of the independ bookstore, Island Books, on the fictional Alice Island, and he is extremely unhappy.  He is grieving for his dead wife, Nic, and struggling to keep the floundering bookstore going.  One day, he discovers someone has left a baby in his store, with a note asking him to take care of her.  The change in A.J.’s life is truly amazing.

This is a wonderful novel from the author.  I love stories about books, book lovers, and bookstores, and this encompasses all three.  As snarky and obnoxious as A.J. is, the reader really comes to love him.  I want to go into Island Books, and shop around!

She Reads truly picked a winner in their April Book Club selection.  Head over there to read more reviews of this wonderful book.

Some great quotes:

“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?”

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agreed to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

“Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”


“I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be—basically gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and — I imagine this goes without saying — vampires.”

Bookish (& Not So Bookish) Thoughts



Bookish & Not So Bookish Thoughts

is a weekly meme hosted by Christine over at Bookishly Boisterous, where we post things that are on our minds.  Head over there and check it out!

1.  Spring is here!  I began running outside again (not pretty to see) and I made up a new playlist, which is pretty awesome.  It includes the oldie “Bat out of Hell” by Meatloaf.  As I was listening to it this morning, all I could think of was Stu Redman, from The Stand.  That would be the perfect song to play, as he is leaving Boulder and Frannie on his way out west.  And yes- I have too much time on my hands.

2.  She Reads announced that its April Book Club selection is The Storied Life of A.J Fikry, which excited me very much.  I requested it a while ago at my library, but had no luck so far, so I downloaded it from Amazon onto my iPad.  Within 5 hours, I got an email from the library that it was in.  Life’s a bitch.

3.  BookRiot ran a great article On The Perils of Feeling Dumb While Reading.  This has definitely happened to me- more than once.

4.  I grabbed the first Harry Potter while I waited for above mentioned book from library.  It was- so nice.  I missed the whole HP world so much, it was very difficult to not immediately pick up the next (then the next) book.


5.  I am SO excited to go see Cabaret at Studio 54- with Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams this SUnday afternoon.  He is one of my FAV actors and I am sure he will be an amazing MC!

Here is a link to him singing Wilkommen.  

I tried to put the little you tube screen, like I have seen so many savvy bloggers do- then I realized I don’t know how to do that.

6.  I have been watching Glee since it started (even though this year was pretty meh).  My daughter (14) was home sick, and asked if we could watch a few episodes from the beginning.  Wow- this show was pretty amazing in the beginning. If you have a chance, watch some of the early episodes-though it is so sad to see Finn.

7.  The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is not good for my health.  I am over 40-I can’t stay up so late.  But he is SO DAMN FUNNY.

8.  I finished The Green Mile last week and I loved it.  I am hoping to get the review posted within the week, but until then, know this- you should read it.

9.  This sucks.1924725_10152377522211757_398497141_n

10.  What’s going on with you??  Please leave a comment- I love hearing from you!

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress- She Reads Book Club Selection



The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress

by Ariel Lawhon

published by Doubleday


I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.


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.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

From the author Ariel Lawhon, a co-founder of She Reads, comes this wonderful tale based on the true story of the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in the 1930s.  Once called “the missingest man in NY”, Judge Crate disappeared into a cab one night and seemingly vanished into thin air.  The author takes us into a world of speakeasies and jazz clubs to imagine what really happened to the judge through the eyes of the women who knew hime best- his socialite wife Stella, his showgirl mistress Ritzi, and his maid Maria.  The story moves along nicely as we get to know these women and the kind of man the “honorable” judge was.  Then about 3/4 of the way through-BAM!  Awesome twist that makes you turn the pages even faster.  I love books set in this era, especially those set in NY.  What makes this even better is that it is based on a true story, which always makes me want to look up all the facts that I can on it.  The author does a terrific job of weaving in what might have happened to the judge, while creating very vivid female character to tell her story through.  Wonderfully written and evoking a spellbinding time in our history, I would definitely recommend this book.

Go over to She Reads to see more reviews of this book.

To learn more about the disappearance of Judge Crater-

About the Author

Ariel 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. Her next novel, THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, will release from Doubleday in February of 2014.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #4



Its Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly bookish meme held on Book Journey by Sheila. It’s a great place to discuss your week in reading and see what others are reading too.

Books I Finished~

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard-which I received as a free giveaway from the wonderful folks at Goodreads!













Reviews Posted~

The Family Mansion by Anthony C. Winkler –

Let It Be by Chad Gayle –




What I am Currently Reading~

16158607The Way Back to Happiness by Elizabeth Bass











What I am Hoping to Read Next~

Orphan-Train-CroppedOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline- the She Reads May book club selection

And Then I Found You


The April She Reads Book Club Selection


And Then I Found You

by Patti Callahan Henry

published by St. Martin Press


Summary: Kate Vaughan is no stranger to tough choices.

She’s made them before. Now it’s time to do it again.

Kate has a secret, something tucked away in her past. And she’s getting on with her life.  Her business is thriving. She has a strong relationship with her family, and a devoted boyfriend whom she wants to love with all her heart. If Kate had ever made a list, Rowan would fill the imagined boxes of a perfect mate. But she wants more than the perfect on paper relationship; she wants a real and imperfect love. That’s why, when Kate discovers the small velvet box hidden in Rowan’s drawer, she panics.

It always happens this way. Just when Kate thinks she can love, just when she believes she can conquer the fear, she’s filled with dread. And she wants more than anything to make this feeling go away. But how?

When the mistakes have been made and the running is over, it’s time to face the truth. Kate knows this. She understands that a woman can never undo what can never be undone. Yet, for the first time in her life she also knows that she won’t fully love until she confronts those from her past. It’s time to act. 

Can she do it? Can she travel to the place where it all began, to the one who shares her secret? Can the lost ever become found? 

And Then I Found You gives new life to the phrase “inspired by a true story.” By traveling back to a painful time in her own family’s history, the author explores the limits of courage, and the price of a selfless act. — St. Martin’s Press

My Review

For Kate, the first day of spring held more than blooming daffodils.  It was still a day of firsts.  Kate had a ritual, a sacred ritual.  She made sure that she did something she’d never done before, something that would count as new on the first day of spring.  Six years ago she’d opened her boutique.  The year before that she ran a marathon with her sister.  Of course there was that trip to California with Norah.  Then four years ago the midnight swim in the darkest water with Rowan, the first time he’d visited her in South Carolina.  It didn’t matter what she did or said or saw as long as it hadn’t been done, or said, or seen before.

I thought And Then I Found You was  very enjoyable read.  Katie and Jack are childhood friends and high school sweethearts.  After college, they grow apart when Jack goes to law school and then into practice in Alabama and Katie becomes a councilor for troubled girls in the southwest.  When Jack informs Katie he is getting married, she goes to see him one last time.  A few months later, she realizes she is pregnant-and Jack is already married.  Katie chooses to give the baby up for adoption, even though her family, especially her parents, urge her to keep the baby.  She believes this is the best solution, even though she knows it is the hardest fro her to live with.  Thirteen years later, Katie is living a good life, running a successful boutique and in a serious relationship with her boys friend Rowan.  Every year on the first day of spring, their baby’s birthday, she exchanges letters with Jack.  This year, she also finds an engagement ring in Rowans nigh stand.  She realizes she can not move forward with Rowan until she settles her past and she travels to Birmingham to see Jack.   This begins a whole new chapter, that will eventually reunite her with the daughter she gave up thirteen years earlier.

Henry explains in a letter to her readers that this book is loosely based on a true story that happened to her family.  Over twenty years ago, her middle sister placed her baby for adoption.  She states that this was the “most heartrending, courageous, and difficult decision she had ever made…”.  Over two years ago, Henry was received a friend request on Facebook from a young girl with the same birthday as the baby that was adopted.    Reading this book, one can feel the pain and conflict that goes into this amazingly difficult decision on each side of the equation.  Katie struggles with giving up her daughter, always wondering if it was the right decision, if her daughter is happy.  We also see how hard it is for the adoptive family to allow their daughter to reconnect with her birth parents.

While I enjoyed reading this book very much, there were a few issues I had. Jack seems very excited and happy to see Katie after thirteen years, but when she tries to see him after that, he continually pushes her away.  On the other hand, her boyfriend Rowan, who says he wants to be supportive of  Katie (and has a ring in his drawer), acts like he can’ stand to be near her much.  The two men need to realize how awesome Katie is.

I read this book as a part of the She Reads book club.-

Stop by there and read the reviews by other bloggers are saying about this novel.


Author Patti Callahan Henry