The Lost Family Review

The Lost Family: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $14.66 USD In Stock

What a treasure this was.

Peter Rashkin survived Auschwitz but lost his wife and twin daughters.  Now he runs a successful restaurant dedicated to his wife’s memory.  When he meets the young and glamorous June, he quickly realizes she may be the woman he wants to start his life anew with.

I have a special place in my heart for a family saga, and this story definitely fit the bill.  I love how each section was told from a different character’s point of view.  But being told chronologically, the switch still propelled the story forward and gave us insight to each member of the Rashkin family.  They all struggled, yet for different reasons, and you’ll quickly learn not one was a good communicator.

I thought Blum did a tremendous job of writing these characters as three-dimensional.  The descriptions of people and places were top notch that is was so easy to picture them.  When this translates to film, the casting and costume department will have no trouble setting it up because of how well they were written.

‘This book is a page turner in the sense you want to see how everything plays out and what happens in the Rashkins’ lives, but it was so beautifully written that you want to savor every sentence.

I truly enjoyed The Stormchasers by this author and now need to go back and read Those Who Save Us since so many people said that was her best read.

My thanks to Wunderkind PR for the review copy.

About the author: JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS and the novella “The Lucky One” in the postwar collection GRAND CENTRAL. Jenna is also one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers.

Jenna’s debut novel THOSE WHO SAVE US was a New York Times bestseller; a Boston Globe bestseller; the winner of the 2005 Ribalow Prize, adjudged by Elie Wiesel; a BORDERS book club pick, a perennial book club favorite, and the # 1 bestselling novel in Holland. Jenna’s second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, is a Boston Globe bestseller, a Target Emerging Authors pick, and a bestseller in Holland and France. Jenna’s newest work, her novella “The Lucky One,” was published in anthology GRAND CENTRAL, published by Penguin in July 2014.

Jenna has been writing since she was 4 and professionally since she was 16, when she won Seventeen Magazine’s National Fiction Contest with her short story “The Legacy of Frank Finklestein.” Jenna is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A., English) and Boston University (M.A., Creative Writing); she taught creative writing and journalism for Boston University for five years, was editor of AGNI literary magazine, and has taught fiction for 20 years for Boston’s Grub Street Writers, where she currently teaches master novel workshops. Dividing her time between Boston and the Midwest, Jenna has written the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and is writing her fourth novel. Jenna loves to visit book clubs in person, by phone, and via Skype. Please contact her on Facebook (Jenna Blum), on Twitter (@jenna_blum) and on her website, www.jennablum.com.

Best Beach Reads of 2018

This summer’s list is a bit longer than normal as it’s been an amazing year of incredible reads.  Here are my most recommended for your 2018 summer!

The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

Taking place on the Jersey shore,  Brenner seamlessly tackles many tough subjects ranging from grief to CTE to deployment to guilt.  You will easily lose yourself in this story.

 

Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

A story of the 1940s entwined with one of today, Jaeger knows how to grip her audience from the very first page.  I loved the scenes from Hollywood and the sweet underlying love story.

 

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt

Just when you think you know how this one will play out, Hunt pulls the seat out from under you.  Read my full review here.

 

 

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky by Summer Heacock

I laughed out loud at the situations these friends found themselves in.  Between chaos at their bakery and their attempts at love, this relatable debut is one not to be missed.  Read my full review here.

 

Slider by Pete Hautman

Yes, this is a middle grade novel but adults will find the undertones of the importance of family endearing while the kids will think the antics of competitive eating are hilarious.  A great story for the whole family.

 

Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

A multigenerational book that alternates between past and present, this engrossing debut will have you hoping the author is at work on a new novel.  Read my full review here.

 

Say Nothing by Brad Parks

I am all for a breakneck thriller that has me turning the pages and this one delivers.  Full of surprises, Parks masters the tension to make this storyline plausible and fun.

 

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Now that school has ended for the summer, you will appreciate the snark in Gelman’s debut even more.  Read my full review here.

 

 

What have you packed in your beach bag this summer?  Please share your favorites.  This post contains affiliate links.

We Own the Sky Review

We Own the Sky: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $17.70 USD In Stock

I knew when I turned the first page of this novel and read the author’s note, it would be a heart-wrenching read.  And it was.  However, the end left me with hope and an uplifting message.

From back cover: Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness.

We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.

What I loved so much about this book is that Allnutt does an exquisite job of writing a man’s perspective.  It’s so rare to see this from a male writer outside of a thriller.  Of course Rob had flaws like any human, and they were shown, but I believed in his love for his son and for his family.

And, yes, the tears flowed.  But they were cleansing tears.  Hard to read but worth it for the outcome.  Definitely warning those who won’t want to read a book about the loss of a child.  I’m thankful I have never experienced this myself, but the story seemed so genuine.  All of the situations and relationships did.

My thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Luke Allnutt is the author of Unspoken, a Kindle Single about the death of his father. His debut novel, We Own The Sky, will be published by Orion (U.K.) and Harlequin/HarperCollins (U.S.) in 2018. He grew up in the U.K. and lives and works in Prague.

Connect with Luke

Website | Twitter

The Last Mrs. Parrish Review & Giveaway

The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $15.68 USD In Stock

At 400 pages, this was a longer read for a thriller, but I raced through it.  When I started this book, I didn’t read any synopsis because I wanted to see where the story took me.  And to be honest, even halfway through I wasn’t sure where the story was going, but it was an addicting page-turner and still took me by surprise.

The tag line for this book and written across the cover is “Some women get everything.  Some women get everything they deserve.”  And with two reliable narrators of this story, you don’t know who specifically this is referring to.  Is it Amber, a young woman with a hidden past whose main goal in life is stealing the husband of her new friend, Daphne?  Or is it Daphne, so used to wealth and privilege as a Connecticut socialite?

The second half of the book had elements reminiscent of Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, filled with tension.  There were also parts which reminded me of The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson.  So if you enjoyed either of those books, I recommend picking this one up.

I think the story will be more enjoyable if you go in without reading much about it first, which is why I didn’t regurgitate much of the plot here.  The night I finished, I still had a third of the book left but refused to sleep until I finished, eager to find out how it ended.  I can’t wait to see what this writing duo comes up with next.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:

Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller.

Thanks to the publisher, I have a copy to give away to a lucky winner.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mothers and Other Strangers Review & Giveaway

Mothers and Other Strangers (Paperback)


New From: $10.87 USD In Stock

This book grips you with its first sentence and never lets go: “My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

As the book continues, we are on Elspeth’s journey with her, as she comes to terms with her mother’s death and all the family secrets that are ready to bubble to the surface.  She most eagerly is trying to figure out her mother’s connection to the Seekers, a cult-like religion that is reminiscent of Scientology.

This novel does not let you off easy.  We are dealing with rape, murder, betrayal, and family dysfunction in such a way you will be extremely thankful for your own mother.  In fact, it’s easy to think this could be a memoir in the way the timeline is handled and how real these characters act.

Sorell writes beautifully, but it’s not a case where you will get bogged down in the language.  It’s a fast read, and you’ll want to race through to reach its conclusion.

Sign me up for any future books from Sorell.  I know the prose will be fluid and the story convincing, if it is anything like her debut.  My thanks to Goldberg McDuffie and Prospect Park Books for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Gina Sorell now resides in Toronto, and lives in a world of words. Some of those words are: writer, namer, creative director, artist, daughter, sister, wife and mother.
After two decades as a working actor of stage and screen in NYC, LA, and Toronto, Gina decided to return to her first love–writing, and graduated with distinction from UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Gina likes to balance out the long solitary hours of novel writing, with her work as a Creative Director of Eat My Words, a SF based branding firm, where she collaborates all day long with innovators and entrepreneurs whose identity she establishes with only one word, their name.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Something Like Happy Review

Something Like Happy: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $18.35 USD In Stock

Do you ever have a day where everything seems to be going wrong?  You overslept, can’t find matching socks, car won’t start, you spill your coffee on your lap?  The list goes on and on.  That is how Annie Hebden is when we first meet her.  Except her day is her life.  She can’t catch a break and she is just miserable.

Polly Leonard is the opposite.  She is full of so much personality that she can barely contain it in her body.  She swoops in to rescue Annie from herself and is determined to make her happy.  And she sets a goal of 100 days to do it.  Why?  Because Polly only has 100 days to live.

I went through every emotion while reading this book.  I laughed.  I cried.  (I did.)  I got angry.  The author really fills the book with a cast of vibrant characters that will have you giggling one second and aching the next.

And while their friendship lasted only a short bit of time, I completely bought in to it.  I’m sure we all have experiences of meeting someone new and heading full bore into a new relationship, whether it’s a friendship or something more.  It’s so easy to get attached quickly.

Fans of Sally Hepworth’s The Things We Keep will find a lot to love in this story.  And if you enjoyed Allie & Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde ($1.99 as of this post), I was reminded of a similar personality clash between the two friends as started off in that book.

This book is being published by new imprint Graydon House.  It is their first release, one of four for this year, that Harlequin is aiming to work as book club selections.  And it is full of discussion in each character’s choices, motivations, and how they interact with others.

My thanks to Little Bird Publicity for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: 

Eva Woods was born in Ireland but now resides in London and has published two women’s fiction novels with Mira UK and also writes crime fiction for Hodder UK as Claire McGowan. In addition to writing novels, she teaches creative writing and has written for Glamour, You magazine, the Guardian, the Dublin Herald, and more. Something like Happy marks her North American debut.

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky Review

What a delight this was!  Sure, it sounded funny but I didn’t expect much.  And I often use the term laugh out loud without actually laughing out loud.  More like a light chuckle or smiles while reading.  You guys, I actually laughed out loud.  Enough to cause my husband to ask what I was reading.

The characters come to life in Summer Heacock’s debut.  The main focus is on Kat, a baker who is going through a bit of a dry spell in the, ahem, sex department.  She’s been with her boyfriend for years but has fallen into a rut when her lady bits start causing her trouble.  She starts feeling guilty and tells her boyfriend he can go look for sex elsewhere while she tries therapy on her own.

As I was reading, I kept imagining what a great romantic comedy this would make on the big screen.  The dialogue is so witty that it wouldn’t take much to start the screenplay.  (Dear Hollywood, I’m interested in playing Shannon, okay?). When you add in Kat’s three coworkers to the mix of advice, gossip, and all things vaginas, hilarity ensues.

I raced through this book in a day.  The chapters are short and sweet and the story flies.  Definitely pick this up if you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up or beach read.  It was such a refreshing break from watching the news and those heavy, emotional books.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Be sure to follow the tour for more reviews and Q & As with the author.

About the author:

Summer Heacock is an author of contemporary women’s fiction, and prances through life like a Disney cartoon that says the “F” word a lot. She lives in a teeny Indiana town where she’s a stay-at-home-mom to two scampy tots, wife to an amazingly understanding husband, herder of a rescue critter menagerie, and collector of life-size celebrity cardboard cutouts. When not writing or hoarding jellybeans, she’s a member of the Midwest Writers planning committee, and a cohost of PubTalkTV. She can be found at www.Fizzygrrl.com, and on Twitter as @Fizzygrrl. Her follow-up novel, FINDER’S FEE, is due July 2018, from MIRA/Harlequin.

The Unexpected Daughter Review & Giveaway

The Unexpected Daughter (Paperback)


New From: $14.99 USD In Stock

The Unexpected Daughter tells the story of a dysfunctional family, although not for comedic purposes.  This family is at the center of a culture clash, one that threatens every character and drives their feelings.

Roshan is a golden boy in the eyes of his mother, Esha.  She raised him as a single mother and moved to the United States from India.  He is expected to have an arranged marriage and become a doctor, even though his true passion is in art.  He’s used to these expectations because he knows this is how it works in his Indian culture.  But as he develops feelings for his best friend, Jenny, an American girl, his mother tries to convince him that she won’t understand their culture.

The story is told from Roshan, Esha, and Jenny’s point of view in alternating chapters.  Each character has many flaws, which show how realistically they’re written.  Nobody is perfect and they all have skeletons in the closet which bubble up to the surface throughout the story.

Aside from differences in how they were raised, this is also a story of addiction and how it can break families.  I’m lucky that where I am in life I haven’t had to face this crisis, but I know several people who have.  I learned a lot about early warning signs and best practices for facing it head-on.

The author writes about the good and bad in families.  And I think we can all agree that every family is made up of both good and bad.  Nothing is picture perfect, especially when that’s all that’s shown on the outside.  So it’s an easy story to connect to, as most readers all have blemishes in their family background.

My thanks to the author for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:

Sheryl Parbhoo is an author, blogger, educator, and mother of five. A native southerner, her interest in the intricacies of human culture led to a BA in Anthropology from the University of Memphis. Her longing for the spice of life culminated when she married her high school sweetheart, a South African Indian immigrant, and became a stay-at-home mom to their five children for over 20 years.

Sheryl is known worldwide for her blog, Southern Life Indian Wife, where for years she shared stories from her spicy masala/southern cornbread way of life raising her large multicultural family and navigating the quirks of Southern and Indian in-law relationships. These, along with the responses received from readers, are the real-life inspirations for her novel, The Unexpected Daughter.

On sherylparbhoo.com, Sheryl shares her love of writing and personal experiences as a writer. She has been a featured contributor for Masalamommas.com, Twins Magazine, among others. She and her family’s blended cultural traditions have been highlighted on PBSNewshour.com, as well as on various online sites.

For more on Sheryl, including social media and contact information, visit her website.

Thanks to the author, I have 2 signed copies to give away.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lilli de Jong Review & Giveaway

Lilli de Jong: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $15.99 USD In Stock

I know I spotlighted this book a couple months back, but when I was offered the chance to review it after hearing everyone rave about it, I jumped at the chance.  The writing is exquisite.

***The story:

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”***

As a mother, I couldn’t help but relate to Lilli’s plight.  It’s amazing to me how women and their “bastards” were treated back then.  As if they were nothing without a husband.  But at the same time, I applaud Lilli.  She didn’t shrink back and let these things just happen to her.  She did everything in her power to make sure her baby didn’t suffer.  Most women would have given up.  Lilli was a fighter.  We could benefit a lot from her attitude and behavior today.

Yes, historical fiction fans will love this book.  It was incredibly researched.  And any topic in the book you have questions about is addressed in the Author’s Note.  But I urge you to pick up this novel to both get a taste of how far we’ve come with women’s rights but also how much more of a battle we still have to fight.  This novel brings that all to light.

Even though it was at times heartbreaking, I was confident in the author’s storytelling ability and amazed it was a debut.  I know her future writing endeavors will be well worth the read.  My thanks to HF Virtual Book Tours for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, July 12
Review at Luxury Reading

Thursday, July 13
Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Friday, July 14
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, July 17
Review at Trisha Jenn Reads

Tuesday, July 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, July 19
Review at Creating Herstory
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, July 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, July 24
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, July 25
Review at SJ2B House of Books

Wednesday, July 26
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, July 27
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Friday, July 28
Review at Just One More Chapter

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Lilli de Jong

Book Spotlight: The Roving Eye

Go. Be there. For the past six decades Richard Evans has followed that dictum – being where the action was, not just as a tennis writer and broadcaster – 196 Grand Slams and counting – but through his years as a foreign correspondent in America, France and Vietnam as well as a spell as a roving global reporter for the US television programme Entertainment Tonight.
Evans, whose English family fled France in June 1940, also became a National Service Captain in the British army, without having to dodge a bullet which was not the case in Cambodia nor in Miami where he was struck by a cop during an anti-Nixon demonstration.
Evans was in Memphis hours after Martin Luther King was shot; campaigned through Indiana and California with Bobby Kennedy – “a unique politician” – before he, too, was assassinated and witnessed the pre-Olympic demonstrations in 1968 against the Mexican Government which ended in massacre.
He accompanied the Wimbledon champion and activist Arthur Ashe on two trips to Africa, witnessing the dark days of apartheid and was back in South Africa in 1990 covering Mike Gatting’s rebel cricket tour during the historic weeks that saw Nelson Mandela released and apartheid abolished.
Evans paints an insider’s portrait of Margaret Thatcher and No 10 Downing Street during the time he was with the Prime Minister’s daughter, Carol; a romance with the actress Gayle Hunnicutt and two marriages; friendships with Richard Harris, Michael Crawford and more Wimbledon champions than you could fit into the players’ box. He was also the last person to interview Richard Burton.
A life lived to the full, covering the globe with a Roving Eye – being there.

About the author: Richard Evans has been a journalist since the 1960s where he began his career writing for the Evening Standard. He has covered tennis for outlets including the Sunday Times, Fox Sports USA and Tennis Magazine, reporting on more than 196 Grand Slams over the course of his career. Evans was the play-by-play commentator for BBC Radio at Wimbledon for twenty years and was a commentator for the Tennis Channel at the French Open and AO Radio at the Australian Open. He is the author of 18 books, including biographies of tennis legends, the official history of the Davis Cup, and most recently co-authoring Pain, Set & Match.  Follow him on Twitter.