THE SUNSHINE SISTERS by Jane Green


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★


The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a warm, wise, and wonderfully vivid novel about a mother who asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.

Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother’s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London—and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine sisters are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy have never been close, their mother’s illness draws them together to confront the old jealousies and secret fears that have threatened to tear these sisters apart. As they face the loss of their mother, they will discover if blood might be thicker than water after all…


Ronni Sunshine was a famous B-list actress back in the day. For Ronni, being the center of attention came first, and the needs of her three daughters came last. As the years went by, the girls – Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy – became estranged from their narcissistic and often cruel mother, and unfortunately each other, too. Now Ronni is suffering from a terminal illness, and her last wishes are to reunite her daughters and make amends before it’s too late.

The bright beachy cover of this book is a bit misleading. The story of the dysfunctional Sunshine family is pretty sad. The girls’ lack of motherly affection in childhood shaped the troubled adults they became – one distant, one lacking self worth, and one spoiled and selfish. None of the characters where particularly likable, however, it’s certainly understandable why they turned out the way they did.

This is my first Jane Green book, and I’m left with mixed feelings about it. The characters felt genuine, however some of the situations weren’t realistic or were just too convenient. I did enjoy the author’s storytelling, and though the subject matter was sad, the book was a quick and easy read. I especially enjoyed the bucolic Connecticut setting of Nell’s farm.

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

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.)