THE GOOD AT HEART by Ursula Werner (Audiobook)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★


Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this stunning debut novel takes place over three days when World War II comes to the doorstep of an ordinary German family living in an idyllic rural village near the Swiss border.

When World War II breaks out, Edith and Oskar Eberhardt move their family – their daughter, Marina; son-in-law, Franz; and granddaughters – out of Berlin and into a small house in the quiet town of Blumental, near Switzerland. A member of Hitler’s cabinet, Oskar is gone most of the time, and Franz begins fighting in the war, so the women of the house are left to their quiet lives in the picturesque village.

But life in Blumental isn’t as idyllic as it appears. An egotistical Nazi captain terrorizes the citizens he’s assigned to protect. Neighbors spy on each other. Some mysteriously disappear. Marina has a lover who also has close ties to her family and the government. Thinking none of them share her hatred of the Reich, she joins a Protestant priest smuggling Jewish refugees over the nearby Swiss border. The latest “package” is two Polish girls who’ve lost the rest of their family, and against her better judgment, Marina finds she must hide them in the Eberhardts’ cellar. Everything is set to go smoothly until Oskar comes home with the news that the Führer will be visiting the area for a concert, and he will be making a house call on the Eberhardts.

Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this extraordinary debut, full of love, tragedy, and suspense, is a sensitive portrait of a family torn between doing their duty for their country and doing what’s right for their country, and especially for those they love.


I love historical fiction set during World War II, and this one was a bit different since it focused on a German family whose patriarch is a member of Hitler’s cabinet. Oskar Eberhardt has moved his family – wife, daughter, and granddaughters – to a small village close to the Swiss border called Blumental. Here they’ll be protected from most of the horrors of the war, or so it seems. Within the town, there are people who support the Führer or seem apathetic, and those who oppose the Nazis and will fight back however they’re able, which of course puts their lives in danger. Oskar’s daughter Marina is part of the secret resistance.

While I liked the story involving the rescue of two Jewish girls, overall I just wasn’t riveted. The plot moved along slowly, and I was expecting more suspense or drama considering the subject matter. I was pleased and surprised at the bittersweet ending though. “Good at Heart” was a fitting title, taken from an entry in Anne Frank’s diary.


Audiobook • 9 hrs, 44 mins • Gibson Frazier, Narrator

I like Gibson Frazier’s voice. He performed the narration for GOOD AT HEART in a straightforward way without a lot of emotion, which I suppose fit with the book. A little more inflection might have made the story more exciting.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

ALWAYS by Sarah Jio


Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★


Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense—everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what—and whom—she wants.

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.


This was a nice change of pace from the dark suspense novels I’ve been reading. The story alternates between 1996 and 2008. Kailey in the “present” is engaged to Ryan and has a seemingly perfect life. Leaving a restaurant one evening, Kailey spots a homeless man who happens to be her long-lost love, Cade, missing for the past 12 years. She has to help him, can’t risk letting him slip away again, but doing so with Ryan around will be tricky. Jump back to 1996, and we get the story of how Kailey and Cade fell in love, as well as a nostalgic look at the Seattle music scene of the 1990s.

An intriguing mystery (what really happened to Cade?), a rainy Seattle setting, and second chances. ALWAYS was a feel-good read, though it seemed contrived at times. Things fell into place a bit too neatly, and there were unanswered questions and things that didn’t make sense, especially about Cade’s disappearance. Overall, I liked the book, though not as much as a couple of her previous novels. (I *loved* BLACKBERRY WINTER and GOODNIGHT JUNE.)

THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel


Publisher: Crown
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Source: ARC from Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★★


After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.


I was excited to see a suspense novel set in Kansas! Unfortunately, though, I don’t think THE ROANOKE GIRLS will endear anyone to my state. Oh boy.

Considering that the big dark secret is revealed in the beginning, I wouldn’t classify this book as suspense; it’s more of a major dysfunctional family drama. The subject matter is disturbing, but what really bugged me was that everyone was so matter-of-fact about it. That’s just how it was, and the characters weren’t particularly offended by it, at least not to the level you’d think they’d be. Weird.

The story held my interest, and I was very curious to learn why cousin Allegra disappeared, and to see if Lane would be able to escape Roanoke again. In the end, I guess I was hoping for a little something more. I’ve seen many positive reviews for this book, and some negative. I’m somewhere in the middle, just like Kansas. ;-)

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.