Marisa de los Santos

Best Books of the Month: March Edition

March is here--and it's a month we're quite fond of. It's Lisa's birthday is on the 30th. It's March Madness. (Go Arizona!) And it's also one month closer to summer! Woo hoo. And to celebrate, we have a fabuloso list of books for you to start reading asap! And, of course, you can enter to win a copy of each. Just leave a comment to be entered. Contest closes Friday, March 20th at 8pm PST. Good luck, y'all!

1. The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

The_Pocket_WifeThe scoop: A stylish psychological thriller with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep—in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend.

Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death.

Her husband’s odd behavior and the probing of Detective Jack Moss create further complications as she searches for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?

A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.

Our thoughts: A thrilling thriller!

2. The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos

The_Precious_OneThe scoop: From the New York Times bestselling author of Belong to Me, Love Walked In, and Falling Togethercomes a captivating novel about friendship, family, second chances, and the redemptive power of love.

In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary—professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter, Willow, only once.

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister—a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?

Told in alternating voices—Taisy’s strong, unsparing observations and Willow’s naive, heartbreakingly earnest yearnings—The Precious One is an unforgettable novel of family secrets, lost love, and dangerous obsession, a captivating tale with the deep characterization, piercing emotional resonance, and heartfelt insight that are the hallmarks of Marisa de los Santos’s beloved works.

Our thoughts: A book we can't stop thinking about! This is her best yet!

3. The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton

The_Perfect_MotherThe scoop: When an American exchange student is accused of murder, her mother will stop at nothing to save her.

A midnight phone call shatters Jennifer Lewis’s carefully orchestrated life. Her daughter, Emma, who’s studying abroad in Spain, has been arrested after the brutal murder of another student. Jennifer rushes to her side, certain the arrest is a terrible mistake and determined to do whatever is necessary to bring Emma home. But as she begins to investigate the crime, she starts to wonder whether she ever really knew her daughter. The police charge Emma, and the press leaps on the story, exaggerating every sordid detail. One by one, Emma’s defense team, her father, and finally even Jennifer begin to have doubts. A novel of harrowing emotional suspense, The Perfect Mother probes the dark side of parenthood and the complicated bond between mothers and daughters.

Our thoughts: A mystery that left us guessing until the very end. Love that!

4.  Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette

Take_Me_HomeThe scoop: When Josie Wolcott finds herself with an empty nest and another failed romantic relationship, she sets off in search of herself on a uniquely American adventure that takes the reader across the country. Leaving her New England home in her rearview mirror, Josie's journey of self-discovery begins in South Florida where every day feels like a vacation. While enjoying the waterfront bars with their countless happy hours, she begins to question her relationship with alcohol and what it is she truly wants out of life. Determined to find her way, she decides to take on a new challenge at a fishing lodge along the Snake River in southeastern Idaho where she meets Dr. Andrew Radcliffe, a kindred spirit navigating his own way to happiness. From the Northeast to Florida and the great American West, Josie meets a cast of characters as varied and different as the landscape she travels through. With an adventurous spirit and a willing heart, she confronts her demons and past mistakes and dares to find happiness in the most unexpected of places. Will Josie, a lifelong wanderer, find the road that finally takes her home?

Our thoughts: Loved this sweet story of (re) finding yourself one road at a time!

5. The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson 

The_BooksellerThe scoop: A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams.

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

Our thoughts: We were instantly sucked into this tale of two lives!

6. The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

The_daughterThe scoop: In the tradition of Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, this compelling and clever psychological thriller spins the harrowing tale of a mother’s obsessive search for her missing daughter.

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

Our thoughts: A gripping story of a mother's love put to the ultimate test!

7. Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn

Leaving_AmarilloThe scoop: Nashville meets New Adult in Neon Dreams, a dramatic, sexy series from bestselling author Caisey Quinn, about a country band’s rocky road to fame—and the ambition, dreams, and love of the people who make the music.

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother Dallas are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.

Our thoughts: She had us at Nashville!

8. Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Little_Beach_Street_BakeryThe scoop: In the bestselling tradition of Jojo Moyes and Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Colgan's moving, funny, and unforgettable novel tells the story of a heartbroken young woman who turns a new page in her life . . . by becoming a baker in the town of Cornwall

A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship.

To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey—courtesy of a handsome beekeeper. Packed with laughter and emotion, Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected—a heartwarming, mouthwatering modern-day Chocolat that has already become a massive international bestseller.

Includes 7 Recipes!

Our thoughts: Delicious. Sweet. Satisfying. We couldn't get enough!

Marisa de los Santos' 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Our guest today: Marisa de los Santos Why we love her: Very simple: her writing is beautiful!

Her latest: the paperback of Falling Together

The Scoop: It's been six years since Pen Calloway watched Cat and Will, her best friends from college, walk out of her life. Through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—urgently requests that the three meet at their college reunion, Pen can't refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will on a journey around the world, with Pen's five-year-old daughter and Cat's hostile husband in tow. And as Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now.

Our thoughts: We couldn't put this one down-LOVE it!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Leave a comment and we'll choose the winners on Sunday October 7th after 6pm PST.

Fun Fact: Marisa has a Ph.D in English and creative writing.

Where you can read more about Marisa: Check her out on Facebook!


1. That thing where you dumb yourself down to be more popular? Forget it.  If it ever worked at all, and high school is just a goofy enough place that it might have, it never works anywhere else.  Ever.  And whether it works or not, every time you keep your burning opinions to yourself or laugh at the cute boy’s really dumb joke or pretend, eyelashes fluttering, that you just don’t get it, a tiny part of your soul goes into hibernation and you’ll have to work way too hard later to wake it up. Don’t get me wrong:  you’re not a genius.  But you are quick, articulate, passionate, full of ideas, some of them good, and you really do know that George Eliot is a woman (a smart one).  The world needs girls like you.  Let your brainy girl flag fly.

2. Enjoy your mother as much as you possibly can. I’m not talking about love.  As a mother myself, I can tell you that even when you are at your most sarcastic, snarliest, eye-rolling worst, she will know that you love her almost more than you can bear.  What I mean is when you’re with her, singing at the top your lungs to records in the basement, talking about a book you’ve both read, dancing, listening to her ringing, ravishing laugh, really be there.  When you are in your twenties, she will be diagnosed with MS and over the years, will lose so much.  The singing voice, the dancing, the ability to stay up with you late into the night.  Drink her up.  Cherish her.

3. Believe this: you are pretty enough.  I’m not just saying that.  Despite the terrible ‘80s hair and the eye shadow, you are lovely.  One day, you’ll have a ten year old daughter who will dance all over the house, so luminous, so at home inside her skin, and you will ache with wanting her to hold onto it, the easy knowledge of her own fabulousness.  So you do it:  stop the dieting; wipe off at least half the makeup; love your legs because they’re strong; lose the dark streaks on the side of your nose that are meant to make it look like Brooke Shields’s. They don’t and your nose is fine.  Trust me.

4. And while we’re on the subject, stop wanting to be blond.  Yes, your friend Allison is beautiful, but your dark hair, brown skin, and black eyes are their own brand of awesome.  Not because of the men who will call you “exotic” (and there will be plenty, most of them creepy), but because they’re yours and they come from someplace.  Right after you stop being a teenager (and I promise it will end), you’ll go to the Philippines where your dad was born, and you’ll fall in love with the place and with his family—your family.  And you’ll realize that to want to be blond is to deny those beautiful people and to want to look like you is to embrace them.  Plus, blond means a lifetime of maintenance, and when it comes to crap like that, you will be forever and hopelessly lazy.

5. Learn how to do stuff.  Seriously.  Wit and a way with words will get you pretty far, but at some point, you’ll need to cook something or fix something or put a coat of paint on something or read an instruction manual and make something run, and the older you get, the harder it will be to learn.  So start now:  program your VCR, fry an egg.  I know you can do it.

Thanks Marisa!  xoxo, L&L

Marisa de los Santos' 5 Loves and a Dud

We have mad love for New York Times bestselling author, Marisa de los Santos. And are still pinching ourselves that she accepted our invitation to share her 5 Loves and a Dud. (And when we saw that french fries was on her list of loves, we knew she was definitely our girl!) Her latest novel, FALLING TOGETHER has been called one of the hottest books for fall and we couldn't agree more. Here's the skinny on FALLING TOGETHER: It’s been six years since Pen Calloway watched her best friends walk out of her life. And through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them.

Pen, Cat, and Will met on their first day of college and formed what seemed like a magical and lifelong bond, only to see their friendship break apart amid the realities of adulthood. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—e-mails Pen and Will with an urgent request to meet at their college reunion, they can’t refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will, with Pen’s five-year-old daughter and Cat’s hostile husband in tow, on a journey across the world.

As Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now. They must confront the reasons their friendship fell apart and discover how—and if—it can ever fall back together.

Sounds fabulous, right? Want to win a copy? There's 5 to be won! Just leave a comment and be entered. We'll randomly select the winners after 6:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 6th.



There’s something almost mystically beautiful about a food that, apart from the way it tastes, has not a single redeeming quality.  They are so pure in their badness, like those irresistible boys in high school who were dumb and unfunny and entirely self-absorbed but just so stinkin’ gorgeous.   In order to eat fries, you have to check every bit of wisdom you have ever acquired at the door.  Having said that, I won’t just eat any fry.  I don’t need organic blue potatoes, a French chef, and sea salt (although I never say no to that!), but I do need crispness and just the right amount of greasiness (I’m pretty sure that they serve flabby fries in hell), and then I leave my self-respect in shreds in the dust and just go for it.


As a kid, I abandoned ballet early on for gymnastics, a monumentally bad decision since I am tallish, have zero upper body strength, and way too much fear, but as an adult, I am a ballet addict.  I take adult classes as often as I can, usually three times a week, and every time, I leave class a better, happier person than when I got there.  When I tell people I do ballet, usually they say something like, “Wow, I bet that’s a great workout.”  And I suppose it is, but for me (for once!), the way it makes my body look is not the point.  I love the discipline, mental and physical, the way you start every single class with tendus and plies, the most fundamental movements.  I love the sense that I am participating in the beautiful, even when I am not beautiful (which is often).  And I love (for once!) not having any goal beyond joy and getting better at a hard thing.  I will not be tested.  I will not be taking the world stage by storm.  I will never audition for anything.  Which is just the way I like it.


And when I say Anne of Green Gables, I’m talking about the whole series, people.  Eight books, but especially the first five.  Intellectually, I know they might be sugary and old-fashioned and overwritten and mostly plotless, but the truth is that I don’t experience them this way, ever.  I love them.  I love how almost everyone in them (except Josie Pye) is trying so hard to be good.  I love the endless nature descriptions and how Anne and her friends can go on long rambles through fields and woods and never get bitten by one mosquito.  I love the rampant optimism and romance.  I open one book and, boom, I am right there, inside of my childhood.  When I think of my favorite childhood place, I don’t think of any of the houses I lived in; I think of Anne’s east gable room with the flowering cherry tree outside the window.  A chronic bad sleeper, I read these books before I turn out the light.  I am almost never not reading one of them.  I read them to pieces, literally.  Do I know that this is weird?  Yes.  Do I care?  Nope.


Give me a well-written, character-driven mystery and I am happy as a clam.  Kate Atkinson, Tana French, Alexander McCall Smith, Dorothy Sayers, Jacqueline Winspear, Raymond Chandler, Alan Bradley, Cornelia Read, Agatha Christie.  I try hard not to be envious of other writers, and mostly I succeed, but I am dead jealous of mystery writers.  I want to learn to plot like that, to end every chapter with a cliffhanger.  I want to write people into dark, dark places and to ruthlessly examine the ugly side of humanity.  I want to create detectives that are complicated, vulnerable, and wicked smart.  So far, no dice, but I am not giving up hope!


I don’t just mean the actual driving, although I do love that.  There is a certain kind of closeness and a certain kind of conversation that only happens in minivans (and I do have one) on the way to swim practice or ballet class.  But I mean the whole shebang.  It’s one of the chief complaints of the modern parent:  the time-suck of their kids’ sports and activities schedules.  But mostly, I don’t buy it.  Mostly, I think we all secretly love to not only drive there but to be there.  My kids swim year-round, and, yes, indoor pool facilities (or natatoria, cool word) are kind of miserable:  hot, humid, loud.  But I am never miserable in them.  I look forward to swim meets, to getting up and getting the kids up while it’s still dark outside, driving through the cool dawn with the sun coming up and my travel mug of coffee in the cup holder and the kids eating breakfast in the back.  We listen to inspiring kid music:  Katie Perry’s “Firework”, The Black-Eyed Peas’s “I Gotta Feeling” and we get inspired.  Then, my husband and I sit (or time or officiate) with the other swim parents and watch our children spend their hearts on the thing they love.  I could be writing books.  I could be doing a lot of things.  But here’s what I know:  it is the great privilege of my life to be there, and at the end of my life, I’ll be glad I was.



I know that as soon as I say “I hate reality shows,” my fun factor takes a nosedive, but oh my gosh, I detest them.  Actually, in saying that, I’m breaking my rule about not panning anything that I don’t finish because I can’t get through more than seven minutes of any reality show, but, rule be damned, I loathe them.  They bring out my inner cranky grandma (“That girl has no business wearing that skirt!”), my inner snob (“I have been studiously avoiding these people my entire life; why would I want to watch them now?”), and my inner high-horse-sitter (“Making fun of the mentally ill is just cruel.”).  Those housewives with their terrible lips!  The abusive dance moms!  Those wretchedly unhappy hoarders!  Those rich, famous, insufferable no-talent families!  And what about the writers?  What about the actors?  They’re talented!  They have gifts they’ve spent years and energy cultivating!  Employ them!  Give your time to something that’s worth it!  (See?  High horse!).

Thanks, Marisa!


Liz & Lisa

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