best books of 2015

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Things You Won't Say by Sarah Pekkanen

Things You Won't SayOur book club pick of the month is THINGS YOU WON'T SAY by Sarah Pekkanen, one of our favorite authors, who is also published by Atria. (In fact, we're lucky to be doing a joint book event with her in Chicago on June 4th! Come and see us!) Sarah's book publishes tomorrow, May 26th, just in time to throw in your carry-on or beach bag for your summer vacay! We have one copy of THINGS YOU WON'T say for giveaway. Either comment here or on the post on our Facebook page, and you'll be entered to win. Contest closes Wednesday, May 27th at 8pm PST.

The scoop:  How far would you go to save your family?

Every morning, as her husband Mike straps on his SIG Sauer and pulls on his heavy Magnum boots, Jamie Anderson tenses up. Then comes the call she has always dreaded: There’s been a shooting at police headquarters. Mike isn’t hurt, but his long-time partner is grievously injured. As weeks pass and her husband’s insomnia and disconnectedness mount, Jamie realizes he is an invisible casualty of the attack. Then the phone rings again. Another shooting—but this time Mike has pulled the trigger.

But the shooting does more than just alter Jamie’s world. It’s about to change everything for two other women. Christie Simmons, Mike’s flamboyant ex, sees the tragedy as an opportunity for a second chance with Mike. And Jamie’s younger sister, Lou, must face her own losses to help the big sister who raised her. As the press descends and public cries of police brutality swell, Jamie tries desperately to hold together her family, no matter what it takes.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Things You Won't Say by Sarah Pekkanen

Sarah_pekkanenTHINGS YOU WON'T SAY is a very timely novel. Was there a newsworthy event that sparked the idea? Or what was the catalyst?

Fifteen years ago, I was a new reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. One of my first assignments was to write an article about police officer Harold Carey Jr., who died in the line of duty. As I conducted interviews, the story that unfolded stunned me: Minutes before his death, Harold had been eating breakfast with a group that included Officer Lavon’De Alston, a close friend who’d encouraged him to join the force. Then a summons came in from their dispatcher: An officer was in trouble a short distance away. Few calls inspire such urgency among the brothers and sisters in blue, and the officers sprinted to their vehicles and sped, sirens blaring, to help.

At an intersection a couple of blocks away, the van being driven by Harold’s partner collided with the cruiser being driven by Lavon’De. Harold died at the scene. Lavon’De, who was badly injured in the crash, was devastated. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t stop thinking about Harold, the big, lovable man who’d nicknamed her “Shorty” and gobbled the rest of her pancakes when she couldn’t finish them.

Her anguish – as well as her sensitivity and strength – made a deep impression on me. It was wrenchingly unfair:  How could this happen to a police officer who was committed to helping people, to doing good, to saving lives? How could she endure the pain and guilt? Although the circumstances in my novel are different, my newspaper article “Officer Down!” was the inspiration for this book.

In it I wanted to explore what would happen to a good police officer who did the worst thing imaginable –shooting a teenager. In my novel, my police officer happened to be white, and the teenager happened to be Hispanic.

Now, my deadlines require me to turn in my manuscripts a full year before publication, so THINGS YOU WON’T SAY was already in the copy-editing stage when Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. In THINGS YOU WON’T SAY, Michael Anderson, a white police officer, shoots Jose Torres, who was a Hispanic teenager, and some of the questions that arose for characters in my book – Would Anderson have fired if Jose Torres had been white? – echoed some of the questions swirling around the Ferguson case.

You always have a lot of fun with your fans--specifically, you have involved them when you're planning your book tours.  Last year, you had a cardboard cut out of Ryan Gosling with you. Any fun ideas planned for this year?

I love book signings, and am hoping to play some games with the audience. Winners will get giveaways for things like chocolates and copies of upcoming books! And I'm really looking forward to the event in Chicago on June 4, because it'll be a joint appearance with Liz & Lisa!

You've written six novels! Which of your characters would you:

A) want to have a drink with - Savannah from THE BEST OF US, because she lacks a filter when she talks and she's hysterical

B) want to be best friends with - Jamie from THINGS YOU WON'T SAY. She's a frazzled, funny, real mom who deals with the same problems and issues I always discuss with my own girlfriends

C) want to set your girlfriend up with - Trey from THESE GIRLS (he's a total hunk, and sensitive to boot!)

You've talked about juggling motherhood and writing--even penning parts of a novel while at soccer practice. Do you have a secret to to how you'll get your writing accomplished this summer, when the kids are out of school?

No. Any suggestions???? I need help!

Your seventh will publish May 2016. Can you share any details about it?

It's the story of a group of women who live in a small, close-knit neighborhood… and each woman is holding close a secret.

Thanks, Sarah!

Best Books of the Month: May Edition!

Is it just us, or are there so many good books out there right now? It was hard to narrow down our list this month--we wish we could include everyone! And we have one copy of each for giveaway. Just leave a comment here or over on our FB page and you'll be entered to win! Contest closes Thursday, May 21 at 5pm PST. xoxo

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

MapmakerschildrenThe scoop: When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril. Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

Our thoughts: Sarah McCoy left us with our chin on the floor. Such a talent!

Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey

DearCarolinaThe scoop: One baby girl. Two strong Southern women. And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make. Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made…

Our thoughts: This moving debut has opened our eyes to the fabulousness that is Southern women's fiction!

Second Chance Friends by Jennifer Scott

SecondChanceFriendsThe scoop: Karen, Melinda, and Joanna have never met until the morning they witness an accident outside a local diner—and rush to help. As a single mom whose sweet-faced boy has become a misguided young man, Karen immediately sets aside her own concerns and moves into action. Emergency first responder Melinda also calmly steps up to the plate, as she does every day; no one would ever suspect the insecurity that threatens her marriage to the man she loves. And blond, beautiful, bohemian Joanna is hiding—from her friends, her family, and, most important, herself. Yet she’s first on the scene. The accident leaves another, mother to be, Maddie, crushed by grief. But rather than retreat, Karen, Melinda, and Joanna open their arms and hearts. During the next nine months they’ll return to the diner over and over. They’ll come to find Maddie. They’ll end up finding themselves—learning what it means to be a mother, lover, wife, and friend. By reaching out and holding on, these four women will unite to show us life can be transformed at the most surprising moments.

Our thoughts: We were completely entangled in this story!

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

SecretLifeofVioletGrantThe scoop: Fresh from college, irrepressible Vivian Schuyler defies her wealthy Fifth Avenue family to work at cutthroat Metropolitan magazine. But this is 1964, and the editor dismisses her…until a parcel lands on Vivian’s Greenwich Village doorstep that starts a journey into the life of an aunt she never knew, who might give her just the story she’s been waiting for. In 1912, Violet Schuyler Grant moved to Europe to study physics, and made a disastrous marriage to a philandering fellow scientist. As the continent edges closer to the brink of war, a charismatic British army captain enters her life, drawing her into an audacious gamble that could lead to happiness…or disaster. Fifty years later, Violet’s ultimate fate remains shrouded in mystery. But the more obsessively Vivian investigates her disappearing aunt, the more she realizes all they have in common—and that Violet’s secret life is about to collide with hers.

Our thoughts: Out in paperback now, if you inhale this mesmerizing novel last summer while sitting by the beach (or even if you did) do it this year, girl!

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

HappinessForBeginners by Katherine CenterThe scoop: A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It's supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother's even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can't imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen's well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.

Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen's own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

Our thoughts: If you loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed, you'll devour this novel. In the spirit of running from yourself to ultimately find yourself, Center draws you in with every page.

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

TheCakeTherapistThe scoop: Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss. Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told. Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.

Our thoughts: Such an original idea! We gobbled up this debut!

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

TheCanterburySisters by Kim WrightThe scoop: Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage. Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.

Our thoughts: Kim Wright took us on an adventure we never wanted to end!

The Balance Project by Susie Orman Schnall

THE-BALANCE-PROJECTgalleycover1The scoop: The Balance Project is a story of loyalty, choices, and balance that will resonate deeply with all women who struggle with this hot-button issue. Loyal assistant Lucy Cooper works for Katherine Whitney, who seems to have it all: a high-powered job at a multibillion-dollar health and wellness lifestyle company, a successful husband, and two adorable daughters. Now, with the release of her book on work-life balance, Katherine has become a media darling and a hero to working women everywhere. In reality, though, Katherine’s life is starting to fall apart, and Lucy is the one holding it all together, causing her own life―and relationship with her boyfriend Nick―to suffer. When Katherine does something unthinkable to Lucy, Lucy must decide whether to change Katherine’s life forever or continue being her main champion. Her choice will affect the trajectory of both of their lives and lead to opportunities neither one could have imagined.

Our thoughts: A must-read for any woman who's struggled to find balance! (Um, all of us!)

The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan by Whitney Dineen

TheReinventionofMimiFinneganThe scoop: Move over Bridget Jones… here comes Mimi Finnegan! Thirty-four year old, Mimi Finnegan is the third of four daughters and in her eyes, by far, the most unremarkable. She has no singular accomplishment that can stand up to any of her sisters. And if that isn’t enough, she is the only single sibling in her family. Mimi’s sisters decide that it’s time she gets serious about husband hunting, so they begin a campaign to find Mr. Right for her. Considering her most recent dating encounters include a night club owner who stuffs bratwurst in his pants and a WASPy trust fund baby, living happily under his mother’s thumb, Mimi is more than ready to meet THE ONE. Enter celebrated British novelist Elliot Fielding. Sexual tension and anger heat up between the duo and it isn’t until Mimi discovers that Elliot is almost engaged to another that she realizes she is head-over-heels in love with him. The journey will make you laugh, cry and want to pull your hair out from frustration! Mimi eventually learns that she is quite remarkable in her own right and never needed to worry that she lived in her sister’s shadows. The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan is the perfect laugh-out-loud, feel good book for any woman who has ever felt that she wasn’t good enough.

Our thoughts: Hilarious. Just the laughs we needed to kick off our summer!

If We Lived Here by Lindsey J. Palmer

IfWeLivedHereThe scoop: After three years of dating and trading nights at their respective New York City apartments, Emma Feit and Nick O'Hare are moving in together. Or they will be, as soon as they find the right place. For two happily-in-love professionals--Nick's a teacher, Emma tutors college-bound teens--with good credit and stellar references, how hard can it be? As it turns out, very--in ways that are completely unexpected. Suddenly Emma is filled with questions about cohabiting, about giving up her freedom--not to mention about who's going to clean the toilet. And while her best friend plans a dream wedding to her wealthy fiancé, and her older brother settles into suburban bliss, Emma must figure out what home means to her--and how on earth to get there.

Our thoughts: A witty and relatable read!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

FarEndFinalCoverOur latest book club pick is the riveting THE FAR END OF HAPPY by Kathryn Craft (Out May 5th) based on a real event that happened in Kathryn's life. And we have one copy for giveaway. Just leave a comment to be entered. Contest closes Thursday, April 23rd at 8pm PST. 

The scoop: Ronnie's husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned.

The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage-and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie's fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family's lives depend on the choices she will make-but is what's best for her best for everyone?

Our thoughts: A chilling, page-turner. One that will stay with you for a long time.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

Craft photo_Far End of Happy THE FAR END OF HAPPY is based on a true event from your life. What prompted you to want to fictionalize your personal story?

At first I just wanted to jot down the facts pertaining to my first husband’s 1997 suicide before memory scrambled them. After writing an unrelated first novel, I drafted what I thought would be a memoir about my first marriage, its horrific end, and how my sons and I moved on. It was a healing exercise to tame the chaos of that time into manageable arcs with beginnings, middles, and ends.

While moving on to a second novel I continued to work on the memoir but no matter what chapter I was working on my thoughts kept snapping back to the day of the standoff, and how my knowledge that it was coming colored my perceptions. The best way to convey this effect, I started to think, would be to constrain the novel to its twelve hours.

To suggest my main character’s story arc and explore the standoff’s effect on others, I’d have to use more than one point of view and compress the timeline of true events so that more could happen on that one day. The challenge of doing so refreshed my interest in revisiting this difficult material.

But now that I’ve worked on framing my experience both ways, I can see that both memoir and fiction rely on the power of story to reveal universal truths. They are simply alternate routes to the same destination.

The cover for THE FAR END OF HAPPY is gorgeous. What’s the story behind it?

Isn’t it? The Sourcebooks design team is amazing. I didn’t think they could top my cover for THE ART OF FALLING—and then I found this in my in-box. It was perfectly conceived, with that lovely old farmhouse on the shore and the creepy, broken-down one reflected in the water. There is no pond or lake in the book so that was simply a stroke of cover art genius, as many things aren’t as they seem to be in the story. The Interlude Group loved it so much they used it as the basis of my trailer.

You talk a lot about the importance of authors connecting with and supporting one another and you host writing retreats for women. How has this helped enhance your own writing process?

I discovered long ago that I am a socially motivated person, and that I will often do for others what I won’t do for myself (case in point: make nutritious dinner if my husband is home, eat popcorn on the fly if it’s just me). I’ve used that self-awareness to my advantage, and have found a way to live a pretty social life, for an endeavor that must be pursued alone. For several years I’ve met every Wednesday with a group of other writing women in the café of a local grocery store to write. It’s a kind of witnessing, I guess, tapping away on our computers all morning and then solving problems and sharing tips over lunch. If it weren’t for my winter Craftwriting workshops and summer writing retreats I would never force myself to write from prompts, which stretch me to think about craft anew.

As for my many years of leadership in the writing community, that was a carry over from my dance life: without volunteers, the arts world would quit turning and we’d all fall off. It’s always been that way and will continue to be that way—each of us stands in a lineage between our own mentors and those behind us to whom we offer a hand. When you volunteer to keep a writing community going, you bring quality teachers to yourself while creating paying gigs for authors. If you support those authors and buy their books you are ensuring the health of the industry you hope will support you.

And voila! You have a network. People who know someone who knows someone who can help you one way or another. A street team invested in your success. I’m even in a marketing cooperative of women’s fiction writers, the Tall Poppy Writers. To go it alone these days is like being a guppy in an ocean of killer whales. We become more powerful when we band together. A fun exercise to do is to list how many “communities” you are a part of. The longer the list, the farther your reach.

What is something your fans might be surprised to find out about you?

Um—that this is the first time I heard I had fans? Readers may be surprised to know that I studied Russian for seven years, simply because I was fascinated to learn another alphabet. I even majored in it for a year in college, but after reading the memoir by ballet dancer Valery Panov, that detailed all the grievous mayhem the KGB imposed on him for fear that he and his wife would defect, I was too afraid to ever think of traveling to the USSR. I loved college. I would declare five more majors before getting a bachelors in biology and a masters in health and phys ed, but never ended up working in fields that required either degree.

Thanks, Kathryn!

Best Books of the Month: April Edition

April is finally here! Hallelujah! And along with it, we have LOTS of amazing books! We have one copy of each to giveaway--leave a comment to be entered. Winner chosen randomly. Contest closes on April 19th at 8am PST.

1. Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

indexThe scoop: Rachel and Drew Snow may be sisters, but  their lives have followed completely different paths.

Married to a wonderful man and a mother to two strong-minded teens, Rachel hasn’t returned to her childhood home since being kicked out by her strict father after an act of careless teenage rebellion. Drew, her younger sister, followed her passion for music but takes side jobs to make ends meet and longs for the stability that has always eluded her. Both sisters recall how close they were, but the distance between them seems more than they can bridge. When their deferential Japanese mother, Hikari, is diagnosed with dementia and gives Rachel power of attorney, Rachel’s domineering father, Killian becomes enraged.

In a rare moment of lucidity, Hikari asks Rachel for a book in her sewing room, and Rachel enlists her sister’s help in the search. The book—which tells the tale of real-life female samurai Tomoe Gozen, an epic saga of love, loss, and conflict during twelfth-century Japan—reveals truths about Drew and Rachel’s relationship that resonate across the centuries, connecting them in ways that turn their differences into assets.

Our thoughts: Another thoughtful and engaging novel from Margaret! Pick it up! (And the giveaway copy is signed!)

2. French Coast by Anita Hughes

indexThe scoop: Serena has the job she's always dreamed of and Chase, the man her heart never dared to. As a new editor at Vogue, she bags the biggest interview of the year with Yvette Renault, the infamous former editor of French Vogue, in The Carlton-InterContinental Hotel during the Cannes Film Festival. She eagerly jets off to France while Chase stays home, working with her father, a former senator, on his upcoming mayoral campaign.

Everything feels unbelievably perfect...until it doesn't. The hotel loses her reservation hours before her big interview. Serena fears that she'll have to go home without her story, but then she meets Zoe, a quirky young woman staying in the suite below Yvette's who invites Serena to stay with her. Serena is grateful for her mysterious roommate's generosity, but it seems that there's more to her story than meets the eye. To make matters worse, soon after arriving in Cannes, Serena learns a shocking secret about her parents' marriage, and it isn't long before she begins to question her own relationship.With her deadline looming and pressure mounting, Serena will have to use her investigative journalism skills, new friendships, and a little luck to get her life and love back on track. Fast paced and impeccably written,

French Coast will draw readers in to the intoxicating world of the Cote D'Azur. Hughes' beautiful prose and sense imagery bring the food, fashion, and feel of the ocean to life in this audacious new novel.

The scoop: Our fave so far from Anita--the perfect beach read!

3. Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen

indexThe Scoop: Burned-out and completely broke, twenty-two-year-old single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural Wisconsin home for the summer—her four-year-old, David, in tow. Returning to Salsburg reminds Anna of simpler times—fireflies, picnics, Neapolitan ice cream—long before she met her unstable ex and everything changed. But the sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs awakens Anna from this small-town spell, and forces her to believe she has either lost her mind or can somehow see her son’s active imagination. Frightened, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, but what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and hidden secrets about her own childhood.

Our thoughts: Cleverly written with a perfect touch of magic, Imaginary Things will take you on a journey of the unexpected, and leave you contemplating the power of your own mind.


4. Inside The O'Briens by Lisa Genova

indexThe scoop: Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Our thoughts: Thought-provoking! A must read!

5. Don't Try to Find Me by Holly Brown

indexThe scoop: When a fourteen-year-old runs away, her parents turn to social media to find her—launching a public campaign that will expose their darkest secrets and change their family forever, in this suspenseful and gripping debut for fans of Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl.

Don’t try to find me. Though the message on the kitchen white board is written in Marley’s hand, her mother Rachel knows there has to be some other explanation. Marley would never run away.

As the days pass and it sinks in that the impossible has occurred, Rachel and her husband Paul are informed that the police have “limited resources.” If they want their fourteen-year-old daughter back, they will have to find her themselves. Desperation becomes determination when Paul turns to Facebook and Twitter, and launches

But Marley isn’t the only one with secrets.

With public exposure comes scrutiny, and when Rachel blows a television interview, the dirty speculation begins. Now, the blogosphere is convinced Rachel is hiding something. It’s not what they think; Rachel would never hurt Marley. Not intentionally, anyway. But when it’s discovered that she’s lied, even to the police, the devoted mother becomes a suspect in Marley’s disappearance.

Is Marley out there somewhere, watching it all happen, or is the truth something far worse?

Our thoughts: We LOVED this mystery. Fans of The Good Girl will eat this up!

6. One True Heart by Jodi Thomas

indexThe scoop: Millanie McAllen is always logical. But after returning to her childhood home, she learns that some things are beyond explanation—like her undeniable passion for Drew Cunningham…

After finding success as a singer on the road, Beau Yates returns to Harmony to make peace with his dying father—only to find the woman he’s been dreaming of for years. But the secrets they discover might be too much for him to bear…

When Johnny Wheeler is charged with his wife’s murder, he turns to the only person who believes he’s innocent. Fortune teller Kare Cunningham’s life has always danced around reality—but Johnny is able to ground her like no other…

As their paths cross in new, captivating directions, the townspeople of Harmony need to learn to love and let go in order to live together in their little slice of heaven.

Our thoughts: Relax at the pool with this intriguing novel!

7. The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase

indexThe scoop: Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer—and former flame—Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn. Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices—and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.


Our thoughts: In her charming debut novel, Bethany Chase reminds us about the one that got away, and makes us wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t.

8. The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

indexThe scoop: Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Our thoughts: A gorgeous novel! We loved it!

9. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

indexThe scoop: An idyllic suburban town. A devastating discovery. Shocking revelations that will change three lives forever.

At the end of a long winter in well-to-do Ridgedale, New Jersey, the body of a newborn is found in the woods fringing the campus of the town's prestigious university. No one knows the identity of the baby, what ended her very short life, or how she came to be found among the fallen leaves. But for the residents of Ridgedale, there is no shortage of opinions.

When freelance journalist and recent Ridgedale transplant Molly Sanderson is unexpectedly called upon to cover the disturbing news for the Ridgedale Reader—the town's local paper—she has good reason to hesitate. A severe depression followed the loss of her own baby, and this assignment could unearth memories she has tried hard to bury. But the disturbing history Molly uncovers is not her own. Her investigation reveals a decades-old trail of dark secrets hiding behind Ridgedale's white picket fences.

Told from the perspectives of three Ridgedale women, Kimberly McCreight's taut and profoundly moving novel unwinds the tangled truth behind the tragedy, revealing that these women have far more in common than they could ever have imagined: that the very worst crimes are committed against those we love. And that—sooner or later—the past catches up to all of us.

Our thoughts: We are SO into mysteries right now! LOVED it!

10. The Beekeeper's Daughter by Santa Montefiore

indexThe scoop: England, 1932: Grace Hamblin is growing up on the beautiful estate of the Marquess and Marchioness of Penselwood. The beekeeper’s daughter, she knows her place and what the future holds—that is until her father dies. Her childhood friend Freddie has recently become her lover, and she is thankful when they are able to marry and take over her father’s duties. But there is another man who she just can’t shake from her thoughts…

Massachusetts, 1973: Grace’s daughter Trixie Valentine is in love with an unsuitable young man. Jasper Duncliffe is wild and romantic, and in a band that might hit it big. But when his brother dies and he is called home to England, Jasper promises to come back for Trixie one day, if only she will wait for him. Grace thinks that Trixie is surely abandoned and tries to support her daughter, but Trixie brushes off her mother’s advice and comfort. She is confident that Jasper’s love for her was real…

Our thoughts: Don't miss out on this beautiful novel!

Jennifer Weiner Giveaway + Exciting News!

ALL FALL DOWN paperback cover (high)Y'all know we love on Jennifer Weiner. One of our favorite books of 2014 was her novel, ALL FALL DOWN. And tomorrow, April 7th, it will be available in paperback--just in time for spring! Would you like to win a copy? Just leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered. Contest closes Thursday, April 9th at 10am PST.

The scoop: Allison Weiss’s husband has been sleeping in the guest bedroom. Her five-year old daughter’s meltdowns can only be stopped with promises that she can watch The Bachelor. Her father’s early Alzheimer’s has him thinking that Allison is still in college, while her once-distant mother cannot stop calling for help. Her big suburban house sits unfurnished, and the stress from her dream job is unbearable. This is Allison’s happy ending. . . .

When she happens upon a magazine quiz about addiction, she wonders if her use of prescription drugs is becoming an issue. Is it such a bad thing to pop a Percocet at the end of a hard day or a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class?

With a sparkling comedic touch and tender, true-to-life characterizations, Jennifer Weiner turns one woman’s slide into addiction and her struggle to find her way back up into an unforgettable tale of empowerment and redemption.

Our thoughts: We will definitely be rereading this book! One of our favorites.

Photo credit: Andrea Cipriani  Mecchi

Exciting news: #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner to write for The New York Times Op-Ed and Sunday Review columns! On the eve of Jennifer Weiner's paperback publication of ALL FALL DOWN, we're delighted to pass along the New York Times' announcement of Weiner’s recent appointment as a Contributing Opinion Writer.

As Capital New York reports, Editorial Page editor Andrew Rosenthal and Op-ed/Sunday Review editor Trish Hall announced that the paper will be bring on "several prominent authors (Jennifer Weiner, Roxane Gay), journalists (Texas Monthly executive editor Mimi Swartz, Judith Shulevitz) and academics (Zeynep Tufekci, William Baude, Adam Grant)." As Andrew Rosenthal stated, "We were looking for a broad range of viewpoints and subjects and backgrounds and geographical locations and every kind of form of diversity that you can think of."

Weiner's recent contributions to The New York Times – “Mean Girls in the Retirement Home” and “Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves” – rose to the top of the "most emailed" lists and have been picked up by newspapers and media outlets across the world.

Jennifer Weiner's next work – a sweeping love story titled WHO DO YOU LOVE – will be published this summer on August 11, 2015.

We're thrilled for Jennifer!

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!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

Dog_Crazy Our latest book club pick is the cute and clever Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue. We both have soft spots for rescue dogs (although Lisa's chewed her favorite shoe as she was writing this post and she is NOT happy about it) and love the premise behind this must-read novel that's out just in time for spring break.

And we have a copy for giveaway! Lucky you! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. Contest closes March 19th at 6pm PST.

The scoop: The USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake and All the Summer Girls returns with an unforgettably poignant and funny tale of love and loss, confronting our fears, and moving on . . . with the help of a poodle, a mutt, and a Basset retriever named Seymour.

As a pet bereavement counselor, Maggie Brennan uses a combination of empathy, insight, and humor to help patients cope with the anguish of losing their beloved four-legged friends. Though she has a gift for guiding others through difficult situations, Maggie has major troubles of her own that threaten the success of her counseling practice and her volunteer work with a dog rescue organization.

Everything changes when a distraught woman shows up at Maggie’s office and claims that her dog has been stolen. Searching the streets of San Francisco for the missing pooch, Maggie finds herself entangled in a mystery that forces her to finally face her biggest fear-and to open her heart to new love.

Packed with deep emotion and charming surprises, Dog Crazy is a bighearted and entertaining story that skillfully captures the bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the power of our dogs to heal us.

Our thoughts: We're both huge dog lovers and Meg Donohue fans, so this was a win-win for us!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

Photo credit: Alex Wang

1. We love the premise of DOG CRAZY. How did you come up with the idea?

Thank you! I knew that I wanted to write about the human-canine bond. I also know from experience how difficult it is to lose a beloved dog—I lost my dog “soul mate,” a Portuguese water dog named Oe, about six years ago and I still think about him every day. So I was thinking about how to write about dogs, and how much I still miss Oe, and the idea came to me to write a story from the perspective of a pet bereavement therapist. I met with a pet bereavement therapist in San Francisco in order to pick her brain and get a glimpse of the profession; our conversation fascinated me and solidified my desire to write this story. In addition, my current dog is a rescue dog and a truly wonderful companion and family member. My husband and I often ask ourselves where he would be if not for us, and where we would be if not for him. I loved the idea of writing about that relationship between people and their rescue dogs … that whole question of “who is rescuing whom?”

2. It's obvious through your writing that you're a dog lover, tell us about yours! (Is he/she the one in your author pic?)

Yes, the dog in my author photograph is our dog, Cole, the afore-mentioned rescue. We adopted him through an organization in San Francisco that brings homeless dogs over from Taiwan. We picked up Cole at the San Francisco International Airport in the company of several other families that were picking up his littermates. It was a very sweet, very fun scene. When we first adopted Cole, my husband and I had only been married for one year and we didn’t have any children. Now we have three young girls and Cole has welcomed each in own tolerant, patient manner. He is cherished by each of us.

3. The puppies on the cover of your book are too cute. What's the story behind the cover?

My editor sent me a couple of cover images to weigh in on. They were both great, but I just couldn’t resist these puppies. Maggie, the protagonist of DOG CRAZY, believes that spotting a puppy is good luck (it’s her version of spotting a heads-up penny), so in addition to just being doggone cute (sorry), the puppies suitably reflect the story. The only thing I asked was if the designer could add in something in the background to make it clear that this is a San Francisco-set story … through cover-design magic, the Golden Gate Bridge appeared.

4. What is something your readers might be surprised to know about you?

Readers know (or at least they do now!) that I am a huge dog lover, but they might be surprised to learn that for a long stretch of my life, horses were equally important to me. I started riding at a young age and became a barn rat by high school, spending many of my non-school hours roaming a horse farm just outside of Philadelphia. I kept riding into my twenties and was the captain of my college’s equestrian team (yes, I’m still quite proud of that!). So perhaps it was only a matter of time before I began working on…

5. What are you working on next?  

… A horse novel! LOVE SONGS AFTER DARK is the story of a famous radio talk show host and her horse-obsessed teenage daughter. After a serious riding accident, the daughter undergoes a significant personality change, morphing from a shy wallflower to an outspoken risk taker. Since I can’t resist a love story or a mystery, there will be at least one of each in the story. It’s early days, but I’m enjoying getting to know these new c