When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

“This happens all the time. Anyone who has lost somebody they love has experienced it—the head in the crowd on a busy street, the person at the grocery store who moves just like her. The rush to catch up, so relieved that she is actually still alive . . . Only to be crushed when the imposter turns around and the face is wrong. The eyes. The lips.”
― Barbara O’Neal, When We Believed in Mermaids

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal is the story of a family ripped apart by tragedy and how the ones left behind try to pick up the shattered pieces.

The Bianci women are the only ones left. Josie, the older sister, was killed fifteen years ago during a terrorist attack while on a train overseas. Her younger sister Kit works as an ER doctor in Santa Cruz. She was left to help their mother as the two worked through their grief. Kit’s steady life comes to a crashing halt when she sees Josie on the TV news during a broadcast from New Zealand. Her mother saw Josie too. Doubt comes creeping in. In the background of television news coverage of a club fire in Auckland, the two saw a woman walking through smoke who bears an uncanny resemblance to Josie. It has to be her.

Kit is slammed by a flood of emotions: anger, grief, and loss. How could Josie lie to them for the past fifteen years? How could she abandon them? She let them believe she was dead. Kit has to find Josie and get answers. She has to go to Auckland.

After landing in New Zealand, Kit is unsure where to start. Once she is in the country where she thinks Josie is, she isn’t even sure if she really wants to search for her. As she begins the physical process of looking for Josie, Kit allows herself to fall into past memories. Josie and Kit’s childhood was far from idyllic, but there were some good parts: days (and nights) spent on the beach and a lost teenage boy who showed up one day and then never left. Among the good lie the bad: multiple tragedies and traumas that scarred the girls and left their family in ruins. Each family member carries their own baggage, their own secrets from long ago that they have carried for years.

Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti

Domestic fiction is one of my favorite subgenres, especially novels that are set in situations that are different than my normal life. Domestic fiction is usually written by, for, and about women. It is also usually told through multiple viewpoints. My latest read fits all the above criteria!

Dava Shastri’s Last Day tells the story of Dava Shastri and her family. Dava Shastri is one of the world’s wealthiest women. Devastated by a brain cancer diagnosis at the age of seventy, Dava is determined to approach her death like she approaches everything else in her life – with planning and determination.

Dava’s reputation has always been important to her. She wants her name to live on for generations. Both her public and private legacies are of utmost importance, but her family members don’t feel quite as strong about keeping the Shastri name alive.

Dava summons her four adult children, their spouses, and children to her private island where she tells them her news. In addition to having a terminal illness, Dava has also arranged for the news of her death to be released early, so that she can read the obituaries and articles written about her before she dies. Since she spent her life dedicated to the arts and to the empowerment of women, Dava expected that the articles written after her death would focus on those topics. Instead she finds the articles to be significantly more scandalous, focusing on two secrets that have the power to destroy her life, secrets she hoped would stay buried forever.

Now that her secrets are published, her children know and the fallout is not great. Dava must use what little time she has left to come to terms with the life she has lived and the various decisions that have led her to this point.  Most importantly she must use that time to talk it out with her family and make peace with their past, present, and future.

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Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

“Everyone loses their way at some point, and it’s not just because of their mistakes or the decisions they make. It’s because they’re horribly, wonderfully human. And the one thing I’ve learned about being human is that we can’t do this alone. When we’re lost, we need help to try to find our way again.” – T.J. Klune, Under the Whispering Door

Under the Whispering Door was an incredibly powerful read that had me feeling a wide variety of emotions. (If you haven’t read The House in the Cerulean Sea by Klune, you should do that too – check out Anna’s blog to learn more about it). Klune sprinkled so many profound nuggets of wisdoms throughout this book that I still find myself thinking about it days after finishing.

Wallace Price is troubled. He spends his entire life at the office trying to understand why people behave the way they do. As a lawyer, Wallace craves order. His life changes when he wakes up at his own funeral. When a woman approaches him and says that she is a reaper come to collect him, he is confused and outraged. First of all, he can’t be dead. Secondly, there is only a handful of people at his funeral. Utterly ridiculous.

The reaper takes him to Charon’s Crossing, a slightly irregular tea shop. It sits on the outskirts of a small village off the beaten path that runs through the mountainous woods. Hugo, the owner, is there to help Wallace in any way he can. He works as a ferryman who helps souls cross over.

The more time Wallace spends time at the tea shop talking with Hugo and the others, the more Wallace thinks he might actually be dead. He isn’t ready to abandon his life just yet though. He didn’t actually live his life to the fullest. Wallace spent his time alive at work, but he spends his time dead really living: joking with the others at the tea shop, manifesting new clothing, and noticing the stars with Hugo. Just as Wallace settles into a comfortable rhythm however, the all-powerful Manager descends upon Charon’s Crossing with a deadline that will change them all forever.

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Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

Coping with grief is hard and never-ending. As a librarian, I am constantly on the lookout for books that discuss the topic of grief in a new way. Enter author and illustrator Tyler Feder. She has written Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, what Feder describes as ‘sad but also silly and weird, just like loss’. Feder’s illustrations are soft, gentle, and simple which serve as the perfect accompaniment to her heartbreaking subject matter. This book is part cancer memoir telling the story of Feder’s mom’s death and part reflection on her motherless life. Feder gives readers a glimpse into a devastating time into her life, while also being humorous. She makes note several times throughout that this memoir is for the people who are struggling with loss who just want someone to understand and get what they are going through.

Tyler Feder loves her mom Rhonda. That has never been in doubt.  As the oldest daughter, Tyler made Rhonda a mom and shared a special bond with her. No one loved more in Tyler’s life than her mom, all be it a bit blunt but full of joy. It’s hard to distill such a large personality to a single memoir, but Tyler pays devoted homage to her by weaving poignant yet piercing details throughout.

When Tyler was 19 years old, her mom died of cancer. This memoir covers everything from her first oncology appointment to the different stages of cancer to the funeral. Feder then goes a step further to show her family sitting shiva and how they adjust to the new afterward without their mother and wife in the ten years after. The art in this book is gorgeous and seeing Tyler show her love and heartbreak through her work tore at my heart as I read this book. This graphic memoir also felt like a self-help book as reading Tyler’s journey somewhat mirrored my own travels through grief. You see Feder’s grief fresh after her mother’s death as well as how she is working through it ten years later. Highly recommend this graphic memoir to anyone who is looking for a new read.

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo has written a new young adult novel detailing the stories of two sisters grieving the loss of their father. Clap When You Land  weaves together their two separate stories into a tight tale of sorrow, loss, and finding a bright spot amidst immense grief.

Camino Rios only sees her father in the summer. Every June, he flies to visit her and her aunt in the Dominican Republic. Papi lights up her tiny community and his presence is everywhere she looks. Even when he’s not there, he protects her. This time when Camino goes to the airport to pick him up, she arrives to see groups of people crying and watching the news. Not her papi…

Yahaira Rios lives in New York City with her father and mother. Papi is her hero. He taught her to play chess and nurtured her talents. He has left every summer to go to the Dominican Republic on business for as long as she can remember. It’s almost the end of the school year and papi has just taken off. Yahaira is called to the principal’s office and notices teachers clustered in corners, crying, and stealing glances at her. A disheveled mami is in the office with devastating news. Her father has died in a plane crash. Her hero is gone.

Grieving their father’s death, Yahaira and Camino struggle to find a new way through life. Without money, Camino doesn’t know how she will keep going to high school and college seems to be now firmly out of the picture. Without her father, Yahaira and her mother are unmoored. Her mami and other relatives spend hours whispering and stop talking as soon as she walks in the room.

Separated by distance, both girls have to figure out a new reality without their father. He’s gone and nothing they do can bring him back. The deeper their grief, the more they struggle to find a new purpose. Just when it feels like they have reached their breaking point, they each learn the other exists. Papi had many secrets.

This book is available in the following formats:

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Mistakes you make in high school can have the ability to destroy your life. Lisa Scottoline talks about these mistakes and their life-long consequences in her newest novel, Someone Knows.

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline is a page-turning novel about how one decision can destroy family, friendships, and hope of a positive future in a split second. This domestic thriller dives into the choices of a group of high school friends who are forced to keep a secret and how it affects each of them.

Twenty years ago, four teenagers are spending the summer hanging around the suburb that they live in in Philadelphia. Fifteen-year-old Allie Garvey has had a rough childhood. Her older sister Jill has cystic fibrosis and that diagnosis has changed her entire life as well as that of her family. Hanging around with three other teenagers, Allie is finally able to experience a normal teenage life. When a new boy moves to town, the relationships the four have developed are put to a test.

One night, they end up drinking and partying in the woods. After deciding to play a dangerous prank, the night turns deadly. Running for their lives and in shock, the teenagers decide to keep what happened a secret. Each believes that being caught or telling someone in authority what happened would make the situation even worse for them.

Allie has lived with this secret for 20 years. It’s eating her up inside, especially since she had never told anyone. Allie distances herself from her family, friends, and her husband. Heading back home to Philadelphia for a funeral of one of her childhood friends, Allie struggles with grief, panic, and shame. Clearly the others have been facing the same struggles as her and one had reached the breaking point.

Coming to terms with this unexpected death, Allie realizes that she can’t keep living life the way she has been. She must make a change, but doing so means she would utterly destroy and lose everything. Allie wants to learn the truth about how the prank turned deadly. While she’s searching for answers, Allie learns things that shock her and change the events that she thought were true.

This novel is a fascinating examination of what it really means to want justice and to receive it. Family, marriage, love, and friendship are all tested throughout. I enjoyed the twists and turns this novel took with an ending that I did not expect. Check out the book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


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The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

From the outside, certain families may look like they have everything together. They all get along and everyone new is welcomed in with open and loving arms. The ultimate goal: the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is whole and loving. Sally Hepworth takes this idea of the perfect family and destroys it in her newest novel, The Mother-in-Law.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth tells the story of the complicated relationship between Lucy and her mother-in-law Diana. Told through flashbacks between the past and present, readers learn about how their relationship began. This story is also told from different point of views, which allows secrets to flourish between each character.

When Lucy first met Diana, she noticed something was off about her. Diana is always unfailingly polite to everyone and generous, but she never completely warms up to Lucy. Lucy knows she isn’t the wife that Diana envisioned for her son, but despite that she still tries to win her over. Diana has been happily married for years, works hard as a recognized figure in the community, and advocates for female refugees in order to help them succeed. All of these things form a bubble of likeability and lovability around Diana. Everyone loves her. Lucy doesn’t. Try as she might, she just can’t think of a nice thing about her.

Flash forward five years.

Diana’s dead.

A suicide note is found by her body.

The family is devastated. Thinking that the cancer that has run through her body finally killed her, the family tries to come to terms with it. Major problem: the autopsy finds no cancer. What it finds instead: Poison and evidence of suffocation.

Police begin an investigation into Diana’s death and start asking questions of the family members. Diana changed her will close to her death and disinherited both of her children and their spouses. There’s no way for them to access any of her money or possessions. Could that be motive for her murder? Lucy doesn’t seem too concerned or broken up over Diana’s death: something that quickly marks her as a suspect.

The Mother-In-Law is ripe with hidden secrets, disintegrating relationships, and complex motives for little actions. Check it out and let me know what you think!


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Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Reese Witherspoon has been knocking it out of the park lately (in my opinion) with her book club picks. Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine Book Pics are all listed on her website. I encourage you to pop over there to see both what she is reading and what she is encouraging others to read. Looking at her list at the beginning of August, I decided to give her July 2019 pick a try, knowing that the content would be controversial, triggering, and relatable in today’s times.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker is Reese’s July 2019 pick. Like mentioned before, this book may be triggering for some as it discusses sexual harassment. Whisper Network is described online and in press materials as a book that takes the #MeToo movement and turns it into an empowering, fierce, and funny legal thriller with elements of shocking soap opera revelations. While some reviewers loved this book, others thought it trivialized the movement. Since reviews of this book ranged the spectrum, I wanted to read it to gain my own perspective of a book that covers such a sensitive topic.

Whisper Network looks into the whispers that circle around companies on a daily basis. The facts, rumors, speculations that slip through office spaces form a network where people learn only the information that is passed through the grapevine. The whispers that swirl between staff are ignored, swept under the rug, and easily explained away by superiors. What’s the controversy? It all starts with Ames.

Truviv, Inc, an athletic apparel brand in Dallas, Texas, is undergoing a change. The CEO of the company has unexpectedly passed away, leaving an opening for a new CEO. This could be an issue.

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv for years. All working mothers who live in the shadow of their male boss, the women know how to navigate their working lives. Knowing what they do about the organizational structure and through talking with others, word quickly gets out that their boss, Ames, will likely become the new CEO. This is problematic for multiple reasons. While each woman has their own relationship with Ames, whispers surround Ames as someone the women in the office all need to look out for.

Whenever a new woman is hired, Sloane, Ardie, and Grace struggle with how to let her know since those in charge brush their concerns aside. Ames’s promotion will tumble the unsteady relationships each woman has developed with him. They are wary. When a new woman joins the office and begins getting close to Ames, the women decide that they need to take action. When word gets out that Ames has been making inappropriate moves on a colleague, the women are fed up. Watching from the sidelines isn’t changing anything. Enough is enough.

Sloane, Grace, and Ardie all decide to handle the situation in different ways, but ultimately work together to bring Ames’s behavior to light. They fight back. Tired of covering up for Ames’s conniving ways, the women become aware of a ‘BAD Men’ list circulating around Dallas. Someone has added Ames’s name to the list.  A shift happens in the office as a result bringing down a major and catastrophic change to their normal working lives.

Everyone has lies and secrets that they hope will remain hidden. In order to bring about change, these lies and secrets will be exposed, but that is not necessarily a good thing. Personal and professional lives will drastically change as a result of the women’s many actions, leaving some of them utterly destroyed and someone dead.


This book is also available in the following format:

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Some days (or weeks or months), all I want to read are romance novels. I’m deep in the midst of several romance reads right now. These books serve as a major deviation from my usual reads of twisty crime thrillers and are a necessary light read for me when I just need a break.

I noticed the cutesy cover of Helena Hunting’s latest romance novel peeking out from the new shelves a few weeks ago and was intrigued enough to start it.  I devoured this book in less than 3 days. Such a fun light read with charming characters! Meet Cute by Helena Hunting tells the story of a couple’s long road to a happily-ever-after with a pinch of Hollywood magic when a famous hunky heartthrob bumps into his ultimate fangirl again after years apart.

Kailyn Flowers knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she needs to do to get it. Described by friends and family as very controlled, rational, and calm under any circumstances, Kailyn has one glaring exception that leaves her breathless: Daxton Hughes. Daxton is the former teen actor that she had a complete and total crush on when she was younger. In law school, Kailyn believes herself to be in control until she literally runs into Daxton and the two are left sprawled on the ground. Kailyn reverts back to her fangirl self and may have mortified herself by professing (loudly) her undying love for Daxton. After that situation ended, Kailyn thought she’d never see him again, but oddly enough their meet cute leads to a friendship and a sort of friendly rivalry that helps them both survive law school. Their friendship takes a huge hit at the end of school however when Daxton betrays Kailyn in a way for which she will never forgive him.

Flash forward years and Kailyn has an established job at a reputable law firm that gives her joy. One day, a new client comes into the office and she is floored. Daxton Hughes has walked back into her life and he desperately needs her help. Dax is now guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister and is very overwhelmed. Kailyn finds herself drawn into his messy life. Once meeting Dax’s younger sister, Kailyn knows she would do anything to make sure this struggling girl and her older brother find a positive way to manage their new normal.

Dax and Kailyn meet frequently to discuss work matters. While these meetings are initially chilly, they quickly turn friendly. Once Dax’s sister starts meddling, these friendly and benign meetings turn into flirty charming dinner dates that leave the both of them yearning for more. Kailyn is hesitant to go further because despite the chemistry palpable in the air, how can she let Daxton back into her life when he has hurt her in the past? Their complicated past and even more complicated present may be enough to keep the two apart.


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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Starting a new relationship means that you are not just in a relationship with your new partner, but that you have to build relationships with their family and friends. Sometimes those relationships are positive, while others start rocky and only get worse. In Sandie Jones’ new novel, The Other WomanJones examines the relationships that exist between a woman and the intense bond she shares with the man she loves.

The Other Woman is a twisty thriller that centers around how far someone is willing to go to get what they want. After a bad breakup, Emily has finally met the man of her dreams. Adam is perfect and everything she has ever wanted in a man. Emily thinks that her life couldn’t be any more perfect until she meets Adam’s mom, Pammie. Right from the start, Emily notices the odd and slightly off relationship that Pammie and Adam share. Thinking that Pammie is just overprotective of her son, Emily tries to work things out. Quickly things spiral out of control. Pammie is overbearing, overprotective, and, worst of all, extremely critical of everything Emily wears, says, or does around her. Nothing Emily does could ever be right. No one else notices Pammie’s bizarre behavior though. Mentioning this to Adam only serves to anger him and tarnish his mother’s perfect reputation in his eyes. Emily decides to stay the course.

Adam and Emily’s relationship progresses and flourishes as they begin to make plans to spend the rest of their lives together. Emily and Pammie’s relationship? Still rocky. With each new milestone Emily and Adam reach, Pammie seems to lose control even more. When Emily finally secures a forever relationship with Adam, she quickly learns that Pammie will do anything to keep her and Adam apart. Pammie wants Emily gone forever. Emily wants Adam forever. Those wants are not compatible. These two formidable women face off against each other in a battle of wills that will leave their relationships and lives in tatters.


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