2021 Book 132: MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson

MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson cover, toy animal carousel laying on the grass

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

ISBN: 9780062855343 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9780062855367 (ebook)

ISBN: 9780063092068 (digital audiobook)

ASIN: B08QDSNDPT (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08FT7MQHH (Kindle edition)

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 6, 2021


Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

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Two women raised by single parents in poverty in rural Georgia had very different life experiences. One went to a state university, married well, and has three beautiful children along with a loving husband. The other lost her scholarship over a scandal, devolved into a spiraling cycle of drugs and crime. Both women are linked from an event that took place over thirty years ago even though they may not know it until the unimaginable happens.

Sabreena “Bree” Kroger Cabbat simply wanted to watch her eldest daughter’s play rehearsal. Her infant son is sleeping, so she leaves him in his car seat and watches. When she turns back around to check on her son, he’s gone and her nightmare begins. A fellow parent and old hometown friend, Marshall Chase, is on hand and takes her daughters to her mother’s for the weekend after claiming a bout with a stomach virus. When he sees her later that evening, he quickly realizes that there is much more going on than a “stomach virus.” A baby is missing. A man is murdered and Bree, her husband, and his deceased law partner – Spencer Shaw seem to be at the center of this problem. Bree, Marshall (a private detective at the law firm where Bree’s husband works), and another lawyer – Gabrielle Baxter, are working as quickly as possible to try and find the perpetrator as well as the possible motives for the kidnapping and murder. When they discover what Robert Cabbat the Third aka Trey — Bree’s husband and his partner Spence did in college it doesn’t justify the actions of the kidnapper/murderer but it does seem to explain it. What would or wouldn’t a mother do to try and protect her child or avenge the damage and injustice done?

Mother May I is more than a story of mothers protecting their children, it’s a story of bad behavior in college and those who ultimately pay for that behavior. When something bad happens, whether it involves star athletes or the wealthy versus a scholarship or student from a poor family, whose version of the story is believed. This is not just a story of “boys will be boys” but of boys doing something that will have repercussions for years. Mother May I deals with many harsh themes including campus sexual assault, drug abuse, workplace sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, and more. Everyone has a story to be revealed but which version is accurate? No, I won’t tell you! This is something you’ll need to discover for yourself by reading this book. I will say that Ms. Jackson has crafted a nuanced story that kept me wondering where it would lead until the final page. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and even felt some empathy for the reasons why the kidnapper/murdered felt compelled to do what was done (trust me, that makes a lot more sense when you read the story). If you enjoy reading taut mystery thrillers with believable characters, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Mother May I. This is one I’m putting on my to be re-read list.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


2019 Book 225: NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson 
ISBN: 9780062855312 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062855336 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062855336 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07DTC3MTW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 30, 2019 
Publisher: William Morrow

In this game, even winning can be deadly…

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love-filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

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Amy Whey is a happily married woman with a teenage stepdaughter and infant son. She loves her family and her life. It has taken Amy a long time to get to a point in her life where she feels happy with who and where she is in life. Amy was involved in a car accident as a teenager that took the life of a neighbor that she babysat for and destroyed a family. Her mother never forgave her for being the reason their family had to uproot their Florida roots and relocate to Massachusetts during her beloved older brother’s senior year of high school. Amy never forgave herself for not standing up for her best friend, Tig, immediately after the accident. It took years for Amy to forgive herself and get her life on an even keel and now she’s back in Florida and quite happy until Angelica Roux shows up and seems intent on destroying the calm and sisterhood in the neighborhood as well as Amy’s liberty. Blackmail isn’t pretty, but can Amy pay Roux the money she’s demanding and be assured that will be the end of it? The bigger question seems to be just who has more to lose and can you ever be free from your past? Who has more to protect and gain? How far is too far when it comes to protecting your freedom, your family, and your friends?

I think I’ve probably read everything that Joshilyn Jackson has written and I definitely have my favorites (The Almost Sisters ranks at the top at the moment although I may have a new favorite). Never Have I Ever is a bit different from most of the books written by Ms. Jackson as this is her first suspense thriller and let me tell you she’s not playing around with this one. This story has plenty of twists and turns in it that kept me guessing until the very end, especially when it came to Roux (no, I’m not going to reveal the secrets — read the book to find out for yourself!). Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, you guessed it, plot twist. I loved the fact that I couldn’t quite figure out where the story was going on. I knew Roux was a bad girl, but there were a few times when I felt sympathy for her (that didn’t last long). I really liked Amy, her husband Davis, her stepdaughter Madison aka Maddy or Mads, Amy’s friend Charlotte or Char, and Tighler “Tig” Simms, and baby Oliver. I loved the introduction of Amy’s backstory in bits and pieces because it felt as if I was putting together a puzzle along with the contemporary storylines. I enjoyed the friendship between Amy and Char, as well as the interactions between Amy and her family. There’s a lot going on in this story, but it all works and works quite well. There are surprises throughout the story as well as a surprise ending (again, no I’m not telling you what the surprise is, read the book!) and I don’t think it could have ended any other way. I’m hardpressed to find anything about this story that I didn’t like especially the themes of family, friendship, expiation for past mistakes, forgiveness, and guilt. If you’ve ever read anything by Ms. Jackson in the past, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Never Have I Ever to read. If you’re into suspense-thrillers and haven’t read anything by this author, then I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Never Have I Ever to read. I’ll be putting my copy of Never Have I Ever on the shelf for a few weeks before I re-read it (yes, it was just that good!). Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss+ and a free print review copy from the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ Program. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2017 Book 244: THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson 
ISBN: 9780062105714 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062670847 (HarperLuxe)
ISBN: 9780062105738 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062682138 (HarperAudio)
ASIN: B01M3QYT9U (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 11, 2017 
Publisher: William Morrow 

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

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Leia Birch Briggs is a professional graphic artist and novelist. Reasonably happy with her career and her life, Leia is thrown a slight curve when she realizes she’s pregnant after a one-night stand at a recent comic con. The only problem is she isn’t quite sure who the father is…okay, she knows who he is but doesn’t really know his name. Then she receives frantic text messages and calls about her 90-year-old grandmother’s unbecoming behavior. Leia is forced to confront her step-sister’s disintegrating marriage, the mystery surrounding her grandmother’s behavior, and the dilemma of what to do or not do about her pregnancy in Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel, The Almost Sisters.

Although Leia is well-known and respected in the graphic artist and fan community, to her family she is simply an “artist” and they’re waiting for her to get a real career. It doesn’t matter that Leia has supported herself for more than a decade as a graphic artist/novelist they simply don’t understand that genre or how anyone can make money out of “drawing pictures.” Leia has always perceived herself as somewhat of an outsider within her family, perhaps because her father died before she was born. She loves her mother, stepfather, and stepsister, but she’s always felt that she could never really be as good as Rachel in looks, behavior, or demeanor. It doesn’t really matter that no one wants her to be a Rachel duplicate, but that’s how Leia thinks. Now Rachel’s marriage is on shaky grounds and it doesn’t help that Rachel’s husband is Leia’s first almost, sort-of, maybe, not-quite boyfriend. Leia might have been somewhat disturbed over JJ’s marriage to Rachel, but she’s moved beyond that and is happy for her sister or was happy for sister while she was happy. Now she doesn’t know what to do to make her happy. The only thing she can think of is to take her 13-year-old niece, Lavender, with her to Alabama to check up on her 90-year-old-grandmother, Emily Birch Briggs or Birchie. Upon arriving in Alabama Leia finds out that Birchie is suffering from Lewy body dementia causing her to speak out inappropriately, hallucinate, and more. Until recently, this behavior was moderately well controlled by medication and Birchie’s lifelong friend, companion and roommate Wattie Price, as well as kept secret from Leia, Birchie’s only relative. Without asking Birchie or Wattie their opinions about matters, Leia decides that the estate must be evaluated and appraised and arrangements made for both Birchie and Wattie to move into assisted living. What follows is more like a scene from I Love Lucy and Murder, She Wrote. A steamer trunk is taken from the attic and skeletal remains are found that appear to be over 50 years old. Just who was in that trunk and why? How will the answers to those questions and more impact Birchie, Wattie and the residents of Birchville, Alabama?

Just in case you couldn’t tell, there’s a lot going on in The Almost Sisters, yet I found this to be a compelling story that had me turning page after page to find out what would happen to everyone next. There were parts of this story that had me laughing out loud, seriously I spewed hot tea all over my keyboard at one point (don’t drink or eat anything when reading pages 22-26). There were parts of the story that had me grabbing tissues. The Almost Sisters is a story about love, what we’re willing to do for love, family (the family we’re born into, the family we marry into, and the family we make from those we surround ourselves with), loyalty and community. There are several stories within stories happening here and no I’m not going to tell you all of them, but there’s Leia’s pregnancy story, her internal debate about writing her graphic novel origin story, Birchie and Wattie’s story, Leia and Rachel’s story, race in the South, and more. I loved the small town setting of Birchville, Alabama (there’s something about Southern small towns) and it plays just as much of a character in the story as the others. There are plenty of strong women in this story and I LOVED them all: Leia, Birchie, Wattie, Lavender, and even Rachel. I could go on and on about this story, but if I did then there’d be nothing left to your imagination. I can simply say that if you want to read a well-written story that incorporates humor, grace, a sweet sense of family with realistic and realistically-flawed characters, then you’ll want to grab a copy of The Almost Sisters to read ASAP. I do encourage you to wait until you have a few hours to sit down and read this book because you won’t want to put it down (yes, it is that good). The Almost Sisters is the third novel that I’ve read by Ms. Jackson and as impossible as it sounds, each one is just as good as the one before if not slightly better.  I enjoyed reading The Almost Sisters so much I’ve given a copy to my 82-year-old mother to read and will be recommending it to several of my book groups. This is one book that I’m hoping several of my book groups will want to read just so I will have an excuse to reread it a few more times.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Meet the author

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

This review and blog tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours

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2016 Book 40: THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson 
ISBN: 9780062105684 (hardback)
ISBN: 9780062105707 (ebook)
ASIN: B00RTL4HWA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 16, 2016 
Publisher: William Morrow

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with Southern Oral Tradition to re-invent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birthname Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. Separated, each holding her own secrets, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that Karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a cryptic letter. “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.

The Opposite of Everyone is a story about story itself, how the tales we tell connect us, break us, and define us, and how the endings and beginnings we choose can destroy us . . . and make us whole. Laced with sharp humor and poignant insight, it is beloved New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson at her very best.  

Paula Vauss was born in a juvenile detention center to her teenaged mother, Karen “Kai” Vauss. To say that Paula and Kai had a strange relationship is a major understatement. As an adult, Paula’s relationship with her mother consists of sending a monthly check to her mother’s postal box. Paula’s life is thrown upside down when her last check is returned with a somewhat twisted karmic message in The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson.

Paula Jane Vauss was named Kali Jai by her mother, but her maternal grandparents changed her name when completing her birth certificate. Paula knows her mother is a tad bit strange, but she has no idea about her paternity other than providing her skin color and somewhat distinctive eye-shape. Growing up with Kai was different, in that Paula never knew what their last names would be or what story her mother would create for their backstory. Paula doesn’t hate her mother, but she’s quite sure her mother is glad she’s no longer an active part of her life. In an effort to pay off the guilt she feels for one childish act of anger, Paula has spent most of her adult life sending her mother money. After receiving a note with her last check stating that her mother is dying and no longer requires her money, Paula is somewhat relieved. That relief quickly turns to worry and, in turn, causes months of anxiety and panic attacks. The panic attacks lessen somewhat when she is confronted with a half-sibling she never knew about, a brother born while her mother was in prison and given up for adoption. Just as she’s getting used to the idea of one half-sibling, she uncovers information that she may have another half-sibling. Where is this youngest sibling and where and when did Kai actually die? Can the lone wolf, diva lawyer become a loving and caring older sister? Does she even want to?

If you follow most of my reviews, you know that I generally read a book in one day and sometimes in one sitting. Well, I flew through The Opposite of Everyone in one sitting over a span of just a few hours (yes, it was just that good). Ms. Jackson has a unique way of storytelling that grabbed this reader after only a few pages into the book and I reluctantly put it down only after reading the last page. I enjoyed the way Paula’s story was told, with what can only be described as flashbacks to provide the backstory. Paula is a kick-ass diva lawyer and even that is spotlighted with a few cases throughout the story. She has a sort of, kind of, almost, maybe, not-quite love affair going on with her private investigator, Zachary Birdwine. All of the characters are distinctive, eccentric, and wholly believable, as well as relatable. Mixed into this tale of one woman’s family and a search for love and forgiveness are the Hindu myths of Kali, Ganesh, and Hanuman. You wouldn’t think a Southern fiction story mixed with Hindu myths would work, but Ms. Jackson doesn’t just make it work, she has it make perfect sense. If you enjoy stories with quirky, flawed characters or are simply looking to read a great story, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Opposite of Everyone. Did I enjoy The Opposite of Everyone? Yes, I did and I’ll have to wait a few weeks before I read it again (told you, it is that good).
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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 The Opposite of Everyone