We’ve fallen a bit behind announcing our winners for September. So, we  thought we’d catch up before October rolled around.





Kelly R. wins WHO’S THAT GIRL?














Jennifer M.I. wins ALL THE GOOD PARTS


Mindy O. wins BE FRANK WITH ME

Congratulations to all winners and thank you for supporting our blog, THOUGHTS ON THIS ‘N THAT. Keep coming back for more chances to win. xxx







Thrillers aren’t usually my first choice when it comes to picking up a novel, but I was pleased I had the opportunity to check out ONLY DAUGHTER (Mira). The genre was fresh and Australian, Anna Snoekstra is a new author for me, who definitely knows hows to write a fast-paced story.

2003: Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter is celebrating summer break, working at a fast food restaurant, shoplifting with BFF, Lizzie and crushing on boys. But suddenly, Bec feels like she’s being watched and followed. She has no idea what’s ahead. She disappears.

Eleven-years later, she’s replaced by an imposter.

A woman hoping not to get arrested takes on Rebecca’s identity. Her looks are close enough, and it’s been over a decade, so she pulls it off. Soon she’s sleeping in Rebecca’s bed, wearing her clothes, hugging her mom, dad and creepy twin brothers.

Not everyone is completely at ease having “Rebecca” home. Maybe they’re not who she thinks they are. She stone walls the detective investigating the case. Soon the imposter begins looking into the real Rebecca Winter’s life and realizes whoever took her is still around and on to her game. Imposter Rebecca is now the one who has to watch her back.

I found ONLY DAUGHTER well written, but there were times, when I got lost in the narrative and thought it could have been edited down. It was clever how Anna took a story-telling concept that has been used before and made it her own with ONLY DAUGHTER. Anyone who enjoys mystery thrillers wants to pick up Anna Snoekstra’s, ONLY DAUGHTER.


Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of ONLY DAUGHTER for an honest review.


ALL THE GOOD PARTS by Loretta Nyhan & Giveaway


In ALL THE GOOD PARTS, Loretta Nyhan’s new novel, thirty-nine year-old, Leona is single, broke, going to college on-line to become a nurse and living in her sister Carly’s basement. She’s perfectly content being wacky Auntie Lee to Carly’s four children, but really, it’s getting kind of old. Leona goes to the OB/Gyn for a routine check-up and Dr. Bridget informs Leona that if she wants to have a baby, she better start think about doing it soon, like right away. She tells her in no uncertain terms, that her biological clock is ticking, loudly and the longer she waits, the harder it’ll be to get pregnant – if that’s what she wants.

Leona who hasn’t really thought about whether or not she wants to have a baby for most of her adult life, suddenly realizes, she does want a baby. In fact, she always has, but the circumstances have never been exactly right. Now she has a huge decision to make: face motherhood on her own or risk missing out on its rewards, unless she can come up with some sperm. Of course, there’s adoption and infertility treatments, but hello, that costs a lot of money and she is living in her sister’s basement.


BE FRANK WITH ME by Julia Claiborne & Giveaway


In her debut novel, BE FRANK WITH ME (William Morrow Paperbacks), Julia Claiborne Johnson introduces us to some of the most interesting, quirky characters I’ve ever met, and a privileged slice of Southern California lifestyle, few of us have ever experienced, nor will ever forget.

Legendary writer M.M. “Mimi” Banning hasn’t written a word for decades – since  winning the Pulitzer and National Book Award at age 20. She’s spent 9 years hiding in a mansion up in Bel Air protected by walls topped with barbed wire to keep away her fans, who have slowly dwindling over the years. The piece of work she has managed to produce since then is her son, Frank. He’s a genius fourth-grader who speaks using words most people have to look up in the dictionary and dresses in smart 1930’s garb straight out of 30’s and 40’s movies. But after losing her fortune, to a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, Mimi must write a new book ASAP.

Mimi’s New York editor sends Alice Whitley to L.A. to make sure she’s working on that book. He needs eyes on site and its Alice’s job to keep Mini focused and in front of her typewriter. But Mimi doesn’t want Alice’s help, and Alice finds herself tasked with being Frank’s companion. Alice is captivated and frustrated by Frank’s eccentricities and curious about the identity of the boy’s father—and how a handsome, flirty piano teacher fits into the cloistered family’s life. Meanwhile, Alice gently urges the frequently unpleasant Mimi to please, please finish her book.

BE FRANK WITH ME is about being an outsider and the ways our differences help us see the world in new ways. Like Frank, this quirky story has a really big, beautiful, heart. It’s a story you won’t soon forget

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Photo by Christa Parravani

About Julia Claiborne Johnson

Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.

Connect with Julia on Facebook and Twitter.


Thanks to TLC Book Tours  http://www.tlcbooktours.com and William Morrow Books we have a copy of BE FRANK WITH ME to giveaway. Tell us what was the last funny book you read. We’ll announce a winner Saturday.




One of the more interesting buildings and stories in New York City is the Barbizon Hotel for women located on Upper East 63rd Street. Now called Barbizon 63, I remember reading about the residence for young single women that was open from 1927 until 1981. Lauren Bacall, Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Cybill Shepherd and Candice Bergen were all Barbizon girls. Sylvia Plath lived there for a month during her Mademoiselle magazine internship, and shortly before her nervous breakdown, she chronicled her stay in THE BELL JAR.

Nicknamed “the dollhouse” for the women who lived in the building, author Fiona Davis has written a novel about the Barbizon, titled THE DOLLHOUSE (Dutton). It blends the stories of two women, one from the 50’s, the other present day. Between its urban lore and beautiful cover, expect to see THE DOLLHOUSE head straight up the bestseller list.

It’s 1952, when Darby McLaughlin leaves the midwest for New York City, takes residence in the Barbizon Hotel, and attends the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school. Alternating with her story is Rose Lewin, a journalist in 2016, who lived in the converted Barbizon condos, but had to move out, because her boyfriend went back to his wife and family. One of the doormen tells Rose about a scandal that took place at the Barbizon back in the 50’s, and immediately Rose is investigating fact from fiction.

Present day, several women have been grandfathered into the Barbizon condos and remain in rent-controlled-residences, including, Darby McLaughlin who is rumored to have been involved in the deadly scandal. Rose Lewin is determined to get the reclusive Darby to tell her everything, but in the process discovers some very unflattering things about herself.

Fiona Davis creates very complex characters in Rose and Darby. Darby’s mother sent her to New York City to become a secretary, so she could take care of herself financially, and perhaps win a husband, but she chose to stay single. Rose Lewin hoped to married a rich man, but with her meal ticket gone, she struggles to stay a float financially. Both are strong women that readers can admire for their determination and guile in any era.

Davis highlights past and present New York City, taking readers all over the city from Brooklyn to Harlem, eating at 50’s cafeterias and cafes, listening to jazz musician greats in nightclubs and cabarets and creating a mystery and love story all in one. Ms. Davis’ debut novel blends contemporary and mid-century narratives to create an entertaining read. Readers will be intrigued by the twists and turns of the mystery, but I was most captured by the history of the building and time frame. I recommend THE DOLLHOUSE to all readers. It’s a treat!

Thanks to Fiona’s wonderful publicist, Kathleen, we have one copy of THE DOLLHOUSE to giveaway. Just tell us what your favorite building is in New York City. If you haven’t been in the City certainly you’ve seen pictures. We’ll announce a winner, Saturday, Sept. 24th. Good luck and have a wonderful weekend.

VINTAGE PHOTOS Curated by Diksha B  @ItsDiksha




THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE by Marybeth Meyhew Whalen & Giveaway


In Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s new novel, THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE (Lake Union Publishing), tragedy strikes at the community pool, bringing together the entire neighborhood. The Sycamore Glen Neighborhood Pool opens on Memorial Day weekend, like it always does and it looks like it’s going to be a peaceful summer, until it isn’t.

Sycamore Glen in Matthews, North Carolina looks like most suburbs. It has lovely homes with families who go to work and school. The yards are nicely mowed, trees, bushes and flowers are well-landscaped with at least one car in the driveway. But behind the closed doors, each household has its own set of secrets.

At the center of THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, Jencey Cabot and her two young tween daughters Pilar and Zara, drive to Sycamore Glen thinking it’ll only be for a week or so. Once Jencey left for college years ago, she thought she left small town living behind for good. But after living the highlife, her hubby is caught in a money scam and hauled off to jail. With nowhere else to go, Jencey turns to mom and dad in Sycamore Glen, who can’t wait to see their granddaughters.

It’s not long before Jencey runs into her old flame and former best friend, Bryte and Everett, who are married with a nearly three-year old son named Christopher. Bryte is torn about going back to work, while Everett wants more kids.

Lance’s wife, Debra leaves town and her two young children, ten-year old, Lilah and her younger brother, Alec behind. He’s half out of his mind trying to be a single parent, working and now he has to turn to neighbors he doesn’t know for help.

Cailey and Cutter are two young kids, eleven and six, along with their drug-addicted mother living in the neighborhood eyesore. The neighbors are embarrassed by what the house looks like and want nothing to do with the family. Cailey and Cutter spend all their time at the neighborhood pool.

Zell is an older-woman living with her husband John. She’s a nosy-body keeping tabs on all her neighbors and the happenings of Sycamore Glen.

The big news story is a missing girl around Cailey’s age, and everyone is kind of on edge seeing her face on the television and billboards. Last but not least, there’s a strange older single guy named Mr. Doyle living in a dark house and all the kids have been told to stay away from him.

Whalen writes an ever-shifting narrative that keeps the pace moving, filled with numerous well-developed characters. Honestly, I applaud her for creating such diverse characters with unique characteristics. The family dynamics within each group and ease at which they came together with the community was written brilliantly.

THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE examines how appearances don’t always add up and the power of community. In many ways, family become strangers and strangers become family. Can and do we really know those closest to us.

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Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of five previous novels and she is the cofounder of the popular women’s fiction site She Reads. Marybeth and her husband, Curt, have been married for twenty-four years and are the parents of six children. The family lives in North Carolina.She is always at work on her next novel.

Website | She Reads | Facebook | Twitter

Thanks to Lake Union Press and TLC Book Tours  www.tlcbooktours.com   we have one copy of THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE to giveaway. Just tell us about something that happened in your community that had all the neighbors talking.

We’ll announce a winner Saturday. Good luck!

*NetGalley provided a copy for an honest review

A HAPPY HOUSE for HAPPY MOTHERS by Amulya Malladi & Giveaway


It’s time to hit the books … Our fabulous AUGUST @BookSparks #BestSummerEver book reads are flowing into #FallReadingChallenge2016 #FRC2016. We have the wonderful author, Amulya Malladi and her novel, A HOUSE FOR HAPPY MOTHERS and of course, we have a giveaway.

“Gangamma, like Asha, wondered if she housewas going against the wishes of God by giving a barren woman a baby. “If she can’t have a child, it’s because God doesn’t want her to have one,” Gangamma said. “Don’t you think we’re doing something wrong here?” “And if God gives us cbancer, we still get treated, don’t we? We don’t sit around and think this is God’s will,” Keertana said. “This is the same thing.””A HOUSE for HAPPY MOTHERS (Lake Union Publishing)

Amulya Malladi’s novel, A HOUSE FOR HAPPY MOTHERS takes us on an emotional journey of surrogacy, experiencing the heart-wrenching terrain encountered by mothers in first and third worlds. The culturally different roles women play in these societies are highlighted in what used to be warm, private family experiences, that some might argue now have become “rent-a-womb” business transactions.

Priya is the daughter of a Caucasian father and an Indian mother. She lives in Silicon Valley and has everything she could want, a wonderful husband, house, career, but she’s unable to have a baby. Asha lives in a small tin roof hut in an Indian Village, half-way around the world with her husband and two children. They struggle to eat and keep a roof over their heads, but Asha is desperate to afford an education for her gifted son.

Asha knows of the Happy Mothers House, essentially a “baby farm” for wealthy childless couples overseas. It’s not her first choice to make money, but after her family pressures her, she checks in. Priya’s friends and family are surprised she is willing to tap into India’s rising surrogacy industry, wondering if she’s exploiting Asha.

A HOUSE FOR HAPPY MOTHERS is a thought-provoking novel that will work well in book-clubs. The story alternates between Priya and Asha perspectives, from Silicon Valley back to the small Indian Village. Priya frequents late night internet surrogate message boards. Asha is part of a traditionally arranged marriage, and must obey her husband, also worrying if her husband will squander the money they make. “Womb-renting” is frowned upon in the Village, so many women hide, emerging nine-months later saying they “lost” the baby.

Amulya uses subtle nuances to bridge the two women’s stories over two continents and cultures without making any judgements and leaves readers are to decide for themselves.



It’s interesting to note that in October 2015, the Indian Government banned all surrogate services for foreigners and ordered all fertility clinics in India to stop hiring Indian women from bearing children for them. The government argues they are protecting poor Indian women from exploitation. But the women argue that they could never earn the money they make from being surrogates and want the government to “get out of their private lives.”

The Indian Government has also instructed Indian Embassies abroad, to stop granting “reproductive tourism” visas.  (yes, that’s what they are called.)

The surrogacy issue remains in the Indian Supreme Court.
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author-amulya-2About Amulya Malladi

Amulya Malladi is the author of six novels, including THE SOUND of Language and THE MANGO SEASON. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She’s adjusting to life in Los Angeles after recently moving from Copenhagen with her husband and two children.

Connect with Amulya

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and @BookSparks, we have several copies of A HOUSE FOR HAPPY MOTHERS to give away. Just leave a comment telling us what you think about this controversial issue. As I wrote above, I bet this novel will be the perfect choice for many book-clubs. We’ll announce winners Saturday.