A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery

Source: Tandem Literary
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery came unexpectedly in the mail, but my mom decided to pick it up when she was here on vacation.  She read this one in just a couple of days, and I could hear her giggling on the couch in the evenings.

About the Book:

Zoe Saldivar is more than just single—she’s ALONE. She recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend, she works from home and her best friend Jen is so obsessed with her baby that she has practically abandoned their friendship. The day Zoe accidentally traps herself in her attic with her hungry-looking cat, she realizes that it’s up to her to stop living in isolation.

Her seemingly empty life takes a sudden turn for the complicated—her first new friend is Jen’s widowed mom, Pam. The only guy to give her butterflies in a very long time is Jen’s brother. And meanwhile, Pam is being very deliberately seduced by Zoe’s own smooth-as-tequila father. Pam’s flustered, Jen’s annoyed and Zoe is beginning to think “alone” doesn’t sound so bad, after all.

Mom’s Review:

Kirk, a cop, is Jen’s husband, and they have an 18-month-old baby who refuses to talk to his own mother once he starts talking.  Stephen, Jen’s brother, likes to play the field, and Pam decides to fix him up with Zoe, who has had an off-again on-again relationship with Chad, a married man.  Add to the mix errors at a clinic where shots are given to women who want to avoid pregnancy.  You can imagine what kind of mess occurs.

Very dramatic, very serious, and a bit suspenseful as you didn’t know what was going to happen.  4 stars.

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women. Publishers Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Susan lives in Seattle with her husband and her tiny but intrepid toy poodle. Visit her at www.SusanMallery.com



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Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 368 pgs
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Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson takes Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and creates a modern version that will have readers laughing and shaking their heads in frustration as Elizabeth Scott enters the prestigious world of dog shows, where Donovan Darcy reigns as judge.  Unlike the young ladies of the classic novel, women are able to carve their own futures and hold jobs; they no longer need to rely on finding a husband to be happy.  Elizabeth Scott, however, is even less interested in marriage given that her mother owns a bridal shop and insists on fixing her up with eligible men.  She’s made her way as a teacher at a private high school until one day a student in her class is suspended from the lacrosse team because of his failing mid-term grade.  While suspended from her job, she enters her new pup in a dog show where she meets the drop-dead gorgeous and brooding Donovan Darcy, as well as the Barrows, a couple from England that shows terriers.

Like Austen’s novel, Darcy is prideful and Lizzy is prejudiced, though given her treatment by her employer, readers will understand where her prejudice against the wealthy comes from.  Wilson’s modern Darcy and Lizzy are at odds for much of the novel, and while their miscommunications could be addressed more quickly, there would be far less enjoyable banter between the two.  Moreover, Darcy does focus a great deal on Lizzy’s appearance as a reason for his attraction, which can be disheartening for those who view Darcy as more attracted to Lizzy’s personality, intelligence, and loyalty to family and friends.  Given that this Darcy is known for his professionalism and restraint, it’s fascinating to see how Lizzy’s presence makes him lose control in a number of ways.

Wilson breaks open the fascinating world of dog shows, and its wonderful to see how the arena is governed and how rules are sometimes circumvented by participants.  One of the best scenes of the novel is when Darcy quotes from the breed standard in the ring, and Lizzy takes it the wrong way entirely.  Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson is a fun read and is much better than the Hallmark movie version (though Darcy in that film is very easy on the eyes).

About the Author:

Teri Wilson is a romance novelist for Harlequin Books and contributing writer at HelloGiggles.com. Her most recent book is ALASKAN SANCTUARY, set on a wolf habitat in Alaska. She’s also the author of UNLEASHING MR. DARCY, now a Hallmark Channel Original Movie premiering January 23, 2016. Teri loves books, travel, animals and dancing every day.  Visit her Website.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff & Giveaway

tlc tour host

Source: Pam Jenoff
Paperback, 384 pgs
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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is a sweeping tale set during World War II, as a sixteen year old Adelia Monteforte comes to America to live with her aunt and uncle in Philadelphia without her Jewish parents, who stayed behind in Trieste, Italy.  She feels like an outsider with the relatives she’s never met before, and she realizes that her limited English and mostly secular upbringing is not what they expected.  While she speaks English, she still feels as though she’s an outsider, until she becomes like a sister to the Connally brothers.  Despite their perceived differences in religion and upbringing, Adelia becomes Addie, molding herself in the cracks of the local family she meets at Chelsea Beach.

“Robbie turned to his mother.  ‘Can we keep her?’
‘Robbie, she isn’t a puppy. But I do hope you’ll join us often,’ she added.
‘Because we really need more kids, ‘ Liam said wryly.” (pg. 38)

Jenoff’s World War II novels are always captivating, full of missed chances and second chances, moments of horror and tragedy, but also moments of hope and happiness. These snippets of time are those that her characters treasure, and they provide that kernel of hope that readers hold onto until they reach the end. Addie is a young displaced woman looking for a home, and she thinks that she’s found it with the Connallys until tragedy strikes close to home and she’s left in the breeze. She has to decide what to do for herself for the first time since coming to America, and while she chooses to go to Washington, D.C., with a half buried hope of finding her childhood crush, she also wants to do something more.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is an addicting read with its twists and turns and the realities of rationing and the closeness of war.  Jenoff is a master at characterization and romance in a way that is both fanciful, but realistic.  Her characters often have to struggle with more than the things that keep them apart, and for that, readers will be grateful.  Her books are not to be missed, and this summer read should be at the top of your lists.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

U.S. residents, leave a comment below about your favorite beach activity by Aug. 26, 2015, at 11:59 PM EST.  Win a bag and book!









The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff

Source: NetGalley/Kindle
ebook, 21 pages
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The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff is a complementary story to her new novel, The Winter Guest (my review), in which Maria finds herself married and estranged from her father in rural Biekowice, Poland, during WWII.  Maria, who is married to Piotr, finds that she is an outsider at her in-laws home, and is unable to share even her sense of loss with them after he was conscripted by the Germans.  She fills her days avoiding the scrutiny of her mother-in-law, and dreaming about what life will be like when her husband returns.  She feels alone now that she’s severed herself from her father, whom she caught selling information to the Nazis.  However, her father’s betrayal is the least of the secrets she will uncover.

“War had nipped at the edges of their tiny village, Biekowice, changing little things first, like the requirement of registration cards.  Later had come the food requisitioning that left the market so bare.  Piotr’s family had not been affected as badly as most — the farm produced enough simple fare to keep their stomachs full.”

While she lives in relative comfort, Maria must remain strong for herself and a young Jewish girls she discovers hiding in the family barn.  Maria is a young wife who is still finding her place in her new family, while at the same time trying to make sense of the families around her who turn in their neighbors or make other deals with the Nazis to survive.  When she is faced with the dilemma of a little Jewish girl, it is clear that her father’s betrayal propels her to take a different action.  The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff expounds upon a minor character in her novel, The Winter Guest, giving readers a glimpse into how much the paranoia and fear had begun to permeate even the smallest villages as Nazis traipsed through the city squares and fought through the countryside.  It’s too bad that this story is so short; it would make a good novel.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.  Visit her Website and Facebook page.

22nd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland)




32nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





27th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

Source: Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 352 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff explores the bonds between sisters, particularly twins, and how those bonds can be tested and crack beneath the pressures of war and persecution.  The Nowak twins live in a small fictitious town in Poland, Biekowice, and are charged with raising their two younger sisters and brother after the death of their father.  Ruth is considered the more feminine and nurturing of the sisters, while Helena was adventurous, gathering wood and setting animal traps with their father from a young age.  Ruth was the first to fall in love and have her heart broken, and this heartbreak helped to define her views on family and loyalty, while Helena has yet to fall in love and does the best she can to provide for the family as the Nazis move across Poland and take over not only Krakow, but smaller villages along the way.

“As I stroll beneath the timeless canopy of clouds, the noises of the highway and the planes overhead fade.  I am no longer shuffling and bent, but a young woman striding upward through the woods, surrounded by those who once walked with me.”  (page 8 ARC)

Jenoff is a talented story-teller and her ability to transport readers into the harsh conditions of a rural town in Poland during WWII is nothing short of miraculous.  Readers will feel the biting cold, the harsh stares of neighbors looking for information to sell to the Nazis to get ahead, and feel the warmth of the Nowak family even as it struggles to stay together.  Ruth weighs loyalty above everything, while Helena places her family’s happiness above her own for so long that when she sees happiness for herself within her grasp, she wants to hold it close and not have to share it.  Like all sisters, Ruth and Helena share the burdens of bringing up their siblings alone, keeping food on the table and checking on their mother who is in a Krakow hospital.

Helena stumbles upon an American paratrooper in the woods and the Nowak family’s trajectory becomes skewed.  Jenoff has created twin sisters who are connected but seeking their own individuality while keeping their family together.  These dynamic women must face their own fears, as well as the reality of the WWII knocks on their door, literally.  The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff demonstrates how the unexpected can be a blessing and a curse, how families can pull together even when they don’t really like one another at that moment, and how guilt can compel us forward to make things right.

This book was phenomenal, well told, and would be a great pick for book clubs — also it is likely to make the 2014 Best of list.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.  Visit her Website and Facebook page.

21st book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland)





31st book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.






26th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield

Source: Kaye Publicity
Paperback; 304 pages
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House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield is a heartbreaking tale of family secrets and how a family pulls together even when their bonds are frayed and challenged.  Jen Glass has the perfect life — a husband and two kids in a big house and a good career — but that life is shattered one evening when her house is invaded by strangers with guns.  Jen has a niggling suspicion that her husband has been keeping things from her, and her relationship with her daughter Livvy has been rocky — as most relationships between teens and parents are, but her son has been progressing in therapy for his selective mutism.  When she and her sister, Tanya, take off to make funeral arrangements for their estranged and low-life father, Sid, events are set in motion that cannot be undone.

“Tanya always made fun of Jen’s list making, so she had kept this one hidden away.  But what Tanya didn’t understand was that when you wrote a list, it forced you to organize your thoughts, so when the time came to act, you didn’t waste time on false starts and dead ends.  A list could make an unpleasant task go more quickly.  And this day, attending to the details of the passing of a man Jen hadn’t seen or talked to in almost three decades, couldn’t go quickly enough.”  (page 10 ARC)

The tension in the relationship between Jen and Tanya is pushed aside to deal with the unpleasantness of their father’s passing, but once the moment is over, they part ways, though Jen wishes they could erase the past and begin again.  The tension is similar in her relationship with her husband, Ted, who has been out of work for some time and taken to home improvement projects while he looks for work.  Unfortunately, Jen can’t control the progress or outcome, and it seems like Ted is barely trying and disappearing for long stretches with little to show for his time away.  Her suspicions increase when she finds messages from his former assistant and the fact that the clothes he wore to the gym are missing.  But Jen is barely scratching the surface, preferring to instead live in a happy bubble and ignore the truth.

Littlefield has created a family dynamic with a lot of moving parts, but she handles each character with a deft hand, ensuring that none of the lines blur and that readers can clearly discern their motivations, feelings, and secrets.  When the robbers enter the house even more of Jen’s controlled life is tested, and she must determine just how far she will go to protect her family from harm.  Woven into this thriller is the mystery of these men and where they come from and how they chose the Glass family as their targets.  House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield is fast-paced, thrilling, and psychological as Jen Glass is forced to examine the protections she thought she built high enough around her family and how her controlling methods have left them vulnerable to the unpredictable.

About the Author:

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie’s novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women’s fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic AFTERTIME series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield vacillates between 1978 and 1941.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which is when the United States began interning Japanese-Americans, Lucy Takeda and her mother, Miyako, are told to store their belongings, but end up selling them for pennies before they are shipped to the desert and the internment camp, Manzanar.  Lucy has felt the sting of bias in her Los Angeles high school, like when she was passed over for lunch monitor in favor of another girl and when the boys corner her at recess, but nothing prepares her for the hatred and oppression she experiences at the internment camp.  Her mother is a manic depressive, who barely got out of bed when their lives were simple, but in the camp, things change and her mother has to feign strength to protect her daughter.

“Aiko caught the hem of her coat and dragged her back.  The coat’s buttons popped off and went rolling down the sidewalk.  One went over the curb, through the grate, and disappeared into the blackness below the street.”  (Page 31 ARC)

Littlefield weaves in and out of 1941-43 and 1978 with ease and without relying on one character telling another about the past.  Rather, the stories run concurrently as Patty struggles to uncover her mother’s secrets and Lucy remembers her own past and her own mother’s secrets.  Readers are taken on a journey into the past and are emotionally tethered to Lucy and her struggles as a young Japanese-American in a less-than-forgiving society and who finds herself and her mother at the mercy of the men in power.  With two murder mysteries, Littlefield has her hands full, but her cast of characters are so human that readers will forget about the mysteries for a while as they come to know Lucy and her family, learn a bit about American history, and see how determination and perseverance can push someone to make unbelievable sacrifices and never regret them.

“In Manzanar, words took on new meanings.  Lucy learned to use the word doorway when what she was describing was the curtain that separated each family’s room from the hallway that ran the length of the drafty barrack building.  In short order they developed the habit of stamping on the floor to announce a visit, since there was no door to knock on, but they still called it knocking.”  (page 75 ARC)

Fourteen-year-old Lucy has a lot to learn about being a woman and what earning her way really means for a Japanese-American during WWII.  Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield is about lessons in love and family loyalty, but also about seeing the beauty in the darkness.  A surprising gem of a novel about a black time in American history when fear took over and spread to those Americans most vulnerable — forcing them to navigate an uncertain world and look over their shoulders at every turn, hoping to remain safe from harm.

About the Author:

Sophie’s first novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2009) has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards, and won the Anthony Award and the RTBookReviews Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery. Her novel AFTERTIME was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Horror award.


This is my 9th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff set in 1919 Paris just after WWI, the war to end all wars.  Margot Rosenthal and her father straddle the line between German and Jew, and the atmosphere after the war has greatly changed how German and Jew alike are seen by the rest of Europe and even at home.  Jenoff carefully crafts a set of characters who are genuine in emotion and struggle, but also who remain a bit mysterious even to one another until the end of the novel.

Margot has lived her life in relative protection by her father after the death of her mother, but as she and her father experience Paris for the first time after the war, she must face the truth of events that once seemed so far away.  Her impending marriage to Stefan, a childhood boy from the neighborhood wounded during the war, and her father’s precarious role as a precursor to the German delegation to the peace conference that will decide the fate of Germany and so many others.

“We are the defeated, a vanquished people, and in the French capital we loved before the war, we are now regarded as the enemy.  In England, it had been bad enough — though Papa’s academic status prevented him from being interned like so many German men, we were outsiders, eyes suspiciously at the university.  I could not wear the war ribbon as the smug British girls did when their fiances were off fighting because mine was for the wrong side.”  (page 16 ARC)

Boredom pushes Margot to seek out things to occupy her time, and when she does, her life takes on a new direction and excitement.  Her new friend, Krysia Smok, introduces her to the artistic side of Paris outside the stuffy parties of academics and politicians that she’s accustomed to, and Margot relishes the freedom.  With this freedom, she finds that her life back in Oxford and even at home in Berlin was stifled and cloistered, with her father ensuring she learned enough to be free, without actually allowing her to free herself from the confines of societal expectations and gender roles.  Without a mother to guide her, Margot is beholden to the tight, protective bubble her father has crafted, until Krysia pricks it with a pin, enabling her to find her freedom.

“She begins to walk up the hill.  At the top of the ridge, the terrain that had appeared endless breaks suddenly.  The trenches.  The long tube of hollowed out earth, much deeper and wider than I’d imagined, a kind of subterranean city where the men had lived and died, rats in a maze.  The smell of peat and earth and human waste wafts upward.  About fifty meters to our right, the trench is bisected abruptly by a great crater, maybe ninety feet in diameter.  Like the spot where Stefan had nearly died, only so much worse in reality.”  (Page 174 ARC)

However, even though the war has changed certain expectations and enabled women to express their views and be more free, the realities of war always hover in the background, threatening this new perspective.  Jenoff infuses her novel with a great many layers from the characters who grow into new people to those who struggle to remain who they are even after the world has changed around them.  There are spies and espionage and there are plans to save Germany from the heavy hand of “justice,” but more importantly, there are everyday people struggling for their ideals and their hopes.

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff is an emotional look at life after the war for both the victors and the enemy, but it also is a historical look at how German culture changed amidst the political machinations of various ideologies.  Margot is a strong young woman, but like many after the war struggles to find her true path as she’s pulled by the familiarity of the past and the adventure the future could hold.

***If you’re interested in The Ambassador’s Daughter, come back tomorrow for an interview and giveaway.***

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.