ALL THE BEST PEOPLE by Sonja Yoerg


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken…

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.


ALL THE BEST PEOPLE is a family drama spanning three generations, from the 1920s to the 1970s. Does mental illness run in the family? When Carole starts hearing voices, she fears that she will meet the same fate as her mother, Solange: being locked away for decades in a mental institution. Carole shrinks from her family at the time when her daughter Alison needs her most: adolescence.

Overall, I thought this book was beautifully written, and the author handles the subject of mental illness realistically and with compassion. I was really drawn in by Part One of the story, focusing on Carole and Alison in 1972. With Carole’s point of view, the reader gets a strong sense of her fear and confusion as the disease takes hold of her mind.

I wasn’t as engaged in Part Two, which was Solange’s story of her marriage to Carole’s father. It’s a story of class, rich versus poor, and social injustice. The pacing was slower, and to me it felt a bit disjointed from the other part. Another POV came from Janine, Carole’s younger sister, who was an awful, unlikable character, and honestly her part didn’t do much to advance the story.

I wish there had been more magic or magical realism that the blurb alluded to, so the book was a bit different than what I was expecting. Still, it was a touching and heartbreaking story about how one family faced its history of mental illness.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT by Karen White


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women…


In THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, Karen White intertwines the lives of two strong Southern women while telling a story of secrets, survival, starting over, and friendship. The star of this book is most definitely Miss Sugar Prescott. She’s a lifelong resident of Sweet Apple, Georgia, a place that may seem perfect on the surface, but what lies beneath is a different story.

Now in her mid-90s, Sugar is still tough, headstrong, and sharp as a tack. Sugar rents a cottage on her property to Merilee Dunlap, a recently divorced mom with two children in tow. Merilee’s life in Sweet Apple won’t be what she expected, but luckily she’s got Sugar on her side.

This book alternates between Sugar in the past (early 1930s) and Merilee’s ordeal in present day Sweet Apple. All around I just enjoyed Sugar’s story and character the best. Other parts I found a bit predictable and hard to believe, but overall it was an enjoyable read – nice blend of mystery, historical fiction, Southern drama, and a dash of romance. The ending was very exciting!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ALWAYS by Sarah Jio


Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★


Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense—everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what—and whom—she wants.

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.


This was a nice change of pace from the dark suspense novels I’ve been reading. The story alternates between 1996 and 2008. Kailey in the “present” is engaged to Ryan and has a seemingly perfect life. Leaving a restaurant one evening, Kailey spots a homeless man who happens to be her long-lost love, Cade, missing for the past 12 years. She has to help him, can’t risk letting him slip away again, but doing so with Ryan around will be tricky. Jump back to 1996, and we get the story of how Kailey and Cade fell in love, as well as a nostalgic look at the Seattle music scene of the 1990s.

An intriguing mystery (what really happened to Cade?), a rainy Seattle setting, and second chances. ALWAYS was a feel-good read, though it seemed contrived at times. Things fell into place a bit too neatly, and there were unanswered questions and things that didn’t make sense, especially about Cade’s disappearance. Overall, I liked the book, though not as much as a couple of her previous novels. (I *loved* BLACKBERRY WINTER and GOODNIGHT JUNE.)