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Laura Johnson reviews Moonlight in Odessa for The Romance Reader

“Although Odessa might be the humor capital of the former Soviet Union, in Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles, it is also a city mired in unemployment, power outages, food shortages, and rampant corruption. Luckily for the reader it is also a city full of lively, quirky, and charismatic characters that fill the pages of this entertaining debut novel.

“Charles does a wonderful job of fully developing her many characters and she adds luscious details about life in Odessa, a city of great contrasts. The way Daria accesses her relationships, her options, and her attraction to her home city rings true. The book tells a great story while inviting the reader to consider the difficult choices a person will make when striving for change. Like the complex city of its title, Moonlight in Odessa is a stimulating blend of funny and serious writing.”

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Melissa Slachetka reviews Moonlight in Odessa for Minnesota Reads.

Love for Sale

“There’s something entrancing about a brainiac flirting with a mobster… especially when he flirts back. Moonlight in Odessa is a steamy and somber novel that gives the reader a love story caught in a world of beauty and corruption. It’s hard to believe this is the debut novel by Janet Skeslien Charles. Her characters are well defined and the plotline is a daring choice for a newcomer.

“This novel presents the reader with stark contrasts and contradictions; a mobster with a heart, a sleazy boss who turns out to be hero, and backstabbers who used to be best friends. Skeslien Charles has a knack for writing about relationships and everyday people. Her description of bored housewives, waitresses, and hustlers comes alive on each page. Moonlight in Odessa proves you don’t need a man to succeed in life, but a little bit of love always helps. Skeslien Charles crafts her first novel expertly.”

Read the entire review here:

From Heather Stimmler-Hall, the journalist who created the Secrets of Paris blog as well as The Joy of Naughty blog.

“The novel is a great introduction to the city of Odessa (Janet even has a guided photo tour of the city on her website so you can see the places that are mentioned in the book), and the way of life in post-communist Ukraine, including a look on the other side of the mail-order bride industry.

“I highly recommend Moonlight in Odessa, which you can find in paperback in Europe (UK launch in February) and in hardback in the US/Canada.”

Read the entire review here:

The Cincinnati City Library highlights Moonlight in Odessa

Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (October 2009)

Only a few books reach the top of the fiction bestseller charts, but there are many more terrific new titles available at the Library.
Moonlight in Odessa
Janet Skeslien Charles
“Daria, a bright, young Ukrainian woman with a new job, soon finds that her boss expects more from her than her secretarial talents. After setting the boss up with her friend Olga to deflect his attentions, Daria takes a second job at a mail-order bride service called Soviet Unions, and swoons over a Russian Mafia boss and an American schoolteacher. Will she find love at home or wealth abroad?”

Davenport Library in Ohio likes Moonlight in Odessa:

“Odessa is a study of contrasts – a beautiful city situated on the Black Sea whose residents are fiercely proud of its history and culture, it is also wracked by poverty, corruption and the lingering effects of Soviet rule. People are forced to “do what they have to do” to survive such as a doctor that works a second job as a taxi driver, a marine biologist who becomes a mobster, and multiple generations of families living together in tiny, rundown apartments.  Moonlight in Odessa is Daria’s story.”

Read the entire review here:

An evening at the Red Wheelbarrow in Paris.

Janet Skeslien Charles explains why it took ten years to write Moonlight in Odessa.

Raging Bibliomania reviews Moonlight in Odessa:

“I found that I really enjoyed this book. From the moment I started reading about Daria, I found that she was very different from your typical protagonist and that this was far from your average tale. First of all I found the main character to be very well defined and three dimensional, and I thought her personality had a lot of verve. She was both classy and intelligent and had a great independence and jocularity about her that I found appealing. I also found the supporting characters to be well fleshed out and I ended up feeling very strongly for all of them, albeit in different ways. I think that part of the reason this book worked so well for me was because it was impossible for me not to root for Daria and become invested in the situations she faced. Her plight was uncommon, which is another thing that drew me into the story, and I was constantly wondering how she was going to handle the next curve ball that life threw her.”

Read the entire review here:

Kelly reviews Moonlight in Odessa.

Finished Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles… It’s set in Odessa (in Ukraine, not Texas) and the narrator, Daria, is probably one of the top five coolest fictional characters I’ve met this year.

Read the entire review here:

Sara at the Book Nook Club comments on
Moonlight in Odessa:

Typically when I finish a book, I can’t help but feel somewhat proud as if I have accomplished something. It is more rare for me to come to the end of the book longing for more—just a few chapters, pages, anything! I definitely felt that I became so invested in the characters and story of Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles that I was bummed to finish it.

Read the review:

Paris Writers News: Interview

Laurel Zuckerman interviews Janet Skeslien Charles

LZ: Janet Skeslien Charles, you wrote Moonlight in Odessa, a novel inspired by the women you met when you were teaching English in the Ukraine. What made you want to write this story?
JSC: I couldn’t believe how women were advertised on International Marriage Broker sites. Many times, the photos look like they belong in Playboy. I’d always thought of mail-order brides as a fringe activity that very few men looked into. Yet when I started to research and asked friends about the subject, nearly everyone had at least one person in their family or a friend or neighbor who had found a woman through an IMB. The internet has facilitated the business and there are an estimated 4000 to 6000 women who enter the United States each year on a fiancée visa. Many of the women I interviewed were desperate to leave their country, and desperate in a completely different way once they moved to America. I wanted to capture both kinds of desperation.

In a test of handselling prowess, indie booksellers have begun a competition – the Fall Handselling Challenge. Booksellers are choosing their three favorite books for the fall and letting their customers know about them. The bookseller who sells the most will receive a donation to his or her favorite book-related charity.

Geoffrey Jennings of Rainy Day Books in Kansas City has chosen Moonlight in Odessa as one of his three books. Here he tells us a little about the novel:

Moonlight in Odessa is a love story. It’s about the yearning we all have for something meaningful in our lives. A bright and beautiful engineer named Daria narrates her tale of struggle in modern Ukraine. Unable to find a job in her field she works as a secretary, dodging the overt advances of her boss while she searches for a way out. In her off-hours, Daria assists at an international matchmaker, helping far more desperate women meet equally desperate Western men. Eventually, rivals appear for Daria and she must choose. Leave her country behind? Follow her heart? How do you know what the right thing is until you do it?”

Jennings also chose Homer’s Odessey by Gwen Cooper and The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell. When asked about his favorites, he responds:

“Now the bigger question: why THESE three books? What they all have in common is that they all need someone to champion them. Someone to give them a helping hand, to build an audience, to push them to a tipping point where an army of satisfied readers will start spreading the word on their own. Along the way, I’ll meet the people behind these books. Depending on how I do it, I might also meet other people who do what I do well: handsell books.”

Follow the progress of the Fall Handselling Challenge at, and on Twitter, using the hashtag #RDBFHC..