A good book makes you want to live in the story. A great book gives you no choice.
Honeymoon safari goes wrong. This has the glamour of vintage Hollywood with lots of suspense and action. Wonderfully drawn characters with themes of strength and courage. Interesting history of the unrest and upheaval in Tanzania and neighboring countries.
A total escape story. I was immediately immersed in Joan's story, her search for missing artwork as well as how to be true to herself. There's a mysterious scavenger hunt in Paris, family drama, a bit of romance and immersion into all things fancy and French. Great vacation read.
Immortal King Rao is a thought provoking dystopian tech story. It's a genre-bending creative story with great writing. This is a reality where technology and capitalism stand in for humanity and democracy. That being said the characters are center in the story and make for a page-turner. Good if you like dark satire trailblazing type stories.
Feels like an adult choose your own ending story. This is a love letter to childhood, fathers, and 90's NYC. It's fun, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable. Emma is a favorite author of mine and this may be her best to date. I loved the time-travel lens-to-the-past theme and the symbolic throw-ins made me smile. This is an autobiographical type book and I want to be Emma/Alice's friend. Highly entertaining!
Simmonds writes of her friend, Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the fascinating life she lead. From Sweden to Russian and eventually to Canada we learn of Louise's loves, losses, nursing and eventually her work as a naturalist. Well researched this is an engaging portrait of a pioneer Ornithologist. Great read if you enjoy bird watching or to learn about a female pioneer who deserves her story told.
This debut contemporary romance is full of yearning and regrets and characters not easily forgotten. It is a coming-of-age second-chance story with dual timelines, equally wonderful. A bit steamy yet a serious romance. Loved it!
In the 1850’s, the height of English colonialism, anything African and parts unknown were all the rage. The Royal Geographical Society sends two army officers in search of the source of the great river Nile. Despite their adventurous souls and skills many obstacles hinder their journey especially typhoid, smallpox, infections and the African tribes whose homelands were being threatened. It became abundantly clear that the true heroes were the local guides and porters. I was particularly drawn to Bombay, whose story is extremely interesting. Millard skillfully constructs the political and power struggles in this story of exploration.
Historical Fiction within a Mystery. This story came to fruition after the author discovered that the cacao bean roaster was invented by a woman in 1847. Puri travels from Spain to Ecuador after learning she has inherited a cocoa plantation. Lots of intrigue, secrets and deception. Puri perseveres despite many obstacles. I found this a fun story set in a great location and time.
Acclaimed historian, Megan Kate Nelson, delivers an engaging and fascinating book. She examines Reconstruction through the viewfinder of the creation of Yellowstone National Park. A scientific explorer, a banking tycoon and a Native American Chief make up the majority of the threads in the book but there are plenty of other interesting characters whose names you’ll know. I appreciated her perspective comparing the treatment of Native Americans and African Americans. She covers a wide range of history of our Country recovering from the Civil War.
This is a cross between The Help and Henrietta Lacks; a compelling story that is inspired by appalling true events. I feel this shows injustices and over-reaching government agencies as well as brave individuals and how they can make a difference. I found this thought provoking and it will be great for discussion. A powerful message - don’t miss the author note.
A propulsive political thriller. Journalist Sofie gets drawn into the life and history of the First Lady; you’ll recognize characters drawn from public figures. The back-and-forth time frames and backstory make for quick-paced reading. There’s Cold War conflict, KGB and CIA operatives. A bit of satire, a bit of wavering loyalties to family and country but mostly a fun page-turner. Should be a movie!
I feel this is Kate Quinn’s best book to date. I was immediately immersed in the grim Russian front and the life of sniper Mila, who is strong and formidable. I love the interaction with Eleanor and it has just the right amount of passion. This is engrossing and unputdownable. Quinn, a writing sniper, has hit her mark.
Speculative fiction at its finest and my favorite Mandel story. This is a time travel story where a shared moment brings characters from various years together. As in Mandel’s previous work there is a Shakespeare tie-in and you’ll recognize names from her previous novels. In a relatively short book that spans different eras, every character is memorable and every word relevant. I loved the idea of being a broker with the future and “no star shines forever”. This asks the questions of what’s reality, and is everything an illusion? Highly recommended and good if you liked The Little Book and Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (oldies but goodies).
Layered characters from El Salvador and Cuba leave behind legacies of abusive politics and men. The situations these women endure create secrets, protective shells and ultimately shape them, creating either their survival or tragic downfall. Interesting Cuban history and tie-ins to classic literature add depth and interest. Highlights how motherhood is complex and evolving; the satisfying ending shows how best intentions can’t always save daughters, but even flawed mothers can save someone’s daughter.
I loved the alternating points of view of Emma and Leo the main characters. This is part domestic thriller part love story with a few hints thrown in of what's to come. There's twists, secrets, heartbreak and affection. Good if you liked The Last Thing He Told Me.
A great mix of mostly unknown history and a grand love story. Told through the voices of real-life Irish immigrant John Riley and Mexican field nurse Ximena, I learned much about the Mexican-American war, including the violence and corruption. Grande researched extensively to bring to life the battles and the politics of this war including vivid details of Mexican cities and environment. I found the comparison between Ireland and Mexico and their respective fights against the English and the Americans compelling. A bittersweet historical fiction story that I'm sure will inform you as well as entertain you. Don't miss the author's informative note and the illustrated maps.
The recipe for black cake is complicated just like the history of this Caribbean family. Secrets blended through differing perspectives in a tasty story. I enjoyed this on many levels – it’s a story of family history, sibling ties, and a wonderful love story. I found myself immersed in the characters and their journey. “We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?” A strong and enjoyable debut.
When you're in the mood for a touching love story with a bit of historical reference this is a great choice. Big hearted, hopeful, and engrossing; I loved the setting and characters. Rose was in a rut in England and WWII was ravaging everyone and everything she had known. A chance to start anew and do something meaningful for young Walter, Rose heads to the great unknown on a station in Australia. Part wartime fiction, part reconciliation of your past and being true to oneself - I found this a delightful read.
Part mystery, part coming-of-age of a young prodigy, with a bit of historical context and plenty of family drama. Young Ray has talent and love of music and surprise a Stadivarius! How he navigates his career after his violin has been stolen, and his dealing with greedy bystanders makes for great reading. Themes of fortitude, racial prejudices, and of sticking with what you love. A fun easy read - good if you like semi-thrillers.
I’ve liked many of Evison’s works and this may be my favorite. Small World has a varied cast of characters and two time frames - sometimes this writing technique is difficult to follow but not in this ambitious, hopeful work. I love how the storylines connect across race and culture and the difference of voice of each character is impressive. The title is perfect and has so many meanings. A cross between Homegoing and Lincoln Highway; a truly enjoyable read.
This fits perfectly into the genre of cozy mystery. Judith is a bit quirky, in a good way, and she pals up with two unlikely friends from her small English town to track down a serial killer. I liked the puzzle aspect of the story as well as the amusing characters. Like all good Agatha Christie-type mysteries the unlikely clue becomes important. Perfect who-dun-it for fun light reading.
A good historical fiction account of an unsung female heroine. Rosalind is a scientist and pioneer in x-ray crystallography and the discovery of DNA. Her life's work is misunderstood by her family and her discovery taken away by the men who end up winning a Nobel Prize. Like her previous works Benedict brings another interesting, trailblazing woman to life.
If you like adventure stories with great children characters this is a magnificent well-written novel. Fish and Bread are on the run from a possible crime. Hot on their heels are Fish’s loving grandfather, the naïve well-meaning sheriff, Fish’s mother whose faith will encircle them and a poet searching for her place in the world. There’s fast-paced action, an unrelenting river, wild animals and the strong moral compass of the boys who long to survive. This is for you if you liked This Tender Land or Secret Wisdom of the Earth. I LOVED it - “sail away from your troubles on a raft made of stars”.
Willie O'Ree broke racial barriers in hockey by becoming the first black player to play in the HNL. Shows his rise through junior clubs and life as a hockey player and especially highlights his good and decent soul and shows his perseverance in achieving his goals. Great for any sports fan as well as young athletes. Fun audio!
Fun! Hard to put down as Pavone perfectly places little teasers throughout. Ariel, a complex and interesting character, wakes up to the disappearance of her new husband. With the assistance(?) of the police, CIA, and American Embassy this takes on a very relevant story of power, money, politics and revenge. I never knew quite what was coming and kept guessing – it's clever and surprising. Chris Pavone has written another great international thriller.
Depicts the life of Marco - his loves and losses. The skipping around of the timeline and alternating third-person, letters and dialogue was effective. There was such a European feel to this and just when I was feeling sorry for Marco the author would remind us of what is really important in life. For fans of Elizabeth Strout and those interested in human studies and introspection of a life and purpose.
Pecan Hollow is gritty with themes of abandonment, resilience and forgiveness. Kit is a fierce yet flawed character who I cheered for and the story shows the toxic relationship that both saves and destroys her. I loved the twists in Kit’s life and how she finds her best self. The writing shines in this impressive debut. Good if you liked Valentine or We Begin at the End.
This is an exquisite, transportive debut tale that takes place during Korea’s independence movement. Beautifully drawn characters, whose lives intertwine over half a century. The folklore within the story added much understanding and depth to the story especially the human thread “inyeon”. Themes of friendship, sacrifice, love, patriotism and survival. A wonderful look into Korean and Japanese traditions, history and culture; this is historical fiction at its finest. In the feel of Panchinko, but I liked this more.
Timely and relevant. Erdrich's new book is a little zany, a bit magical with colorful characters and lots of wonderful literary references. Tookie is an ex-con with a charming tough facade. She is haunted by her past and a ghost in the bookstore where she works. This is a good take on the times we are living.
Three very different girls unite at Bletchley Park during WWII to work as code breakers. Their work binds them for life; through thick and thin, betrayals and tragedies. There is just the right amount of suspense, great characters and an interesting aspect to WWII off the battlefield. Hard to put down.
Has the feeling of a memoir yet is a sweeping historical novel that portrays a lifetime of loves and losses. Isabel Allende weaves personal and world history over the past 100 years. Violeta lives through war, political unrest, pandemics and times of uncertainty. I loved her feisty spirit and her passion for living life on her terms.
Perfectly depicting North Carolina's 1940's southern society, Tobacco Wives is a coming-of-age story of a young ambitious seamstress. Maddie gets caught-up in the powerful Tobacco families, deals with her rocky family history and finds her courage and voice. Easy reading and hard to put down. This will appeal to young adults as well as fans of Before We Were Yours.
A quiet simmering story that at first seems like another WWII story, but it is really a look at overcoming difficulties of love and grief. James and Yvette start life anew after their war experience in Africa and James' time as a POW. Years later James must look afresh at their life together and the losses they endured. This is as strong as her first novel, We Must Be Brave, and I was happy to see the return of Ellen. It is not necessary to have read We Must Be Brave, but you should pick that up too.
A cross between The Godfather and My Brilliant Friend; this debut is gripping and highly enjoyable - the first sentence hooked me. Two girls are growing up in an Italian Mafia family in Brooklyn. Themes of tested loyalties and friendship. The writing is lovely and ratchets up to a nail-biting ending. I was riveted!
I was skeptical, but Greenlights is entertaining, insightful and laugh-out-loud funny. It is wise, inspiring and a bit spiritual. McConaughey's voice is genuine and forthright; this is his love letter to life. I listened to the Libro.fm audio - McConaughey's delivery is perfect. Either reading or listening you'll be entertained.
A true period piece – nowhere is quite like Harlem in the 1960's. Ray is an upstanding business owner unless...he's not. He may need a little cash on the side, has to hand out envelopes to crooked police, keep his shady cousin on the up and up and deal with the social nuances of his neighborhood. The internal tug and pull of Ray is great as well as Whitehead's great characters, writing and plot.
Undercover FBI agent, John, goes into hiding (sort of) in Sweden. There he gets entangled in an unsolved murder case with some family involvement. Fast-paced and entertaining this is a crime story with good psychological depth. I'm glad to know this is the first of a series. Good if you like Jo Nesbo.
The joy and magic of books is so wonderfully depicted in Read Island. I love the sing-songy style and the message that stories can transport you. Beautiful artwork will capture a young imagination and works so well with the enchanting prose. This will be loved by young and old alike. Sure to be a favorite.
Faster paced and more entertaining, yet equally fantastic to Gentleman in Moscow. This is a 1950’s American dream story told through the distinctive voices of a myriad of unforgettable characters - I loved them. Towles use of myths adds much depth and you’ll recognize his unique literary style which is so effective. This is hopeful and heartbreaking, fun and tragic at the same time. Whereas Gentleman felt like the Great Russian Novel, Lincoln Highway feels like the Great American novel. Unforgettable!
Born from the authors’ popular podcast, Renegades is entertaining and honest. The Pres and The Boss share their conversations and experiences, their hopes and dreams. With great photography and the writings of speeches and songs I found this entertaining, insightful and hopeful. A great gift!
Doerr gifts us another masterpiece. Five characters from three time frames are connected by an ancient manuscript and their search for a “Utopia in the Sky”. The characters become stewards of the book and their actions reverberate through time. Doerr’s writing is awe-inspiring and the Odyssey he takes us on is brilliant. This is imaginative, epic in scope and shows the power of stories to connect us. Absolutely marvelous!
This is a delightful gem that proves that literary fiction can be simultaneously tender, quirky and totally astonishing. Reading Still Life is like a breath of fresh air with endearing characters and all the things I love about Italy. It’s a story of how friends accumulate and become family. It is an ode to Room with a View and a love story to Florence and the artists who have enriched it over the years and how it came back to life after WWII and the great flood of 1966. Sensational!
Braiding Sweetgrass is filled with contemplative essays that are informative as well as beautiful. With vivid descriptions of nature and told through Kimmerer’s scientific mind I learned more than I anticipated and enjoyed more than I expected. There is a sense of discovery, the chance to observe how we can be stewards of land as well as what we can learn from our Earth. This is the type of book I enjoyed reading wherever the page fell open. The personal take on history and science makes this accessible to all.
A delightful collection of essays for any animal lover. Interesting stories, facts and lots of giggles. I loved the human metaphors to describe show dogs. Entertaining.
This is a page turner, but you’ll want to take your time due to the poetic language and vivid descriptions. Alternating perspectives of good-hearted Caleb, drawn into a violent lawless world, and Randall a wealthy unexperienced rancher, with the Mexican Revolution as a backdrop. Excellent transformation of these complex characters and the secondary characters captured my heart. Shows how good and evil can inhabit a single body – who’s the villain and who’s the hero? There are gritty scenes, tender moments and lots of cowboy poet philosophy. A combination of Cormac McCarthy, Charles Portis and Larry McMurtry.
This is a great gift book for someone new to the mountains or new to cooking/baking. The easy basic recipes are perfect fare for enjoying after a day in the mountains. I love the beautiful photos and the fun sidebars of mountain-town lingo and the very helpful high altitude adjustments.
Naturist icon, Jane Goodall shares adventures, stories and people she has encountered over the years she has traveled the globe and the reasons she is ever an optimist. The resilience of nature and the human spirit has given Jane reason to believe in our future. “Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference”. I found this inspiring.
A candid and honest look at one of Americas sport icons – a trailblazer on and off the court. Billie Jean chronicles her life from a sports loving young girl to becoming one of our first and most success social activists. You don’t have to love tennis to appreciate this but coming from a tennis family I loved it. She battled on the court as well as for equality and rights for all people – which she continues to this day. Also, excellent audio book. Outstanding!
Murmur of Bees is a mesmerizing tale, with exquisite story-telling and a tad of magical realism. It’s a story of a special young boy and the family he protects set at the cusp of the Mexican Revolution. It shows the love of family and their ties to land and nature; it is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure and it stole my heart.
B.A. Cosby’s sophomoric book is as strong as his debut. His command of language is amazing and his story raw and powerful. I’m immediately drawn into his characters and found myself cheering for them even when guns are blazing. This has a very cinematic feel and excellent themes of fathers coming to terms with their sons’ choices.
Varied influential Americans talk about our countries past and future. Through engaging and informative interviews numerous icons share their meaning of democracy and the American dream. Great gift for yourself or someone who you don’t know what to get them.
A dark and searing romance that is impossible to put down. Two narratives, a single day and various times in the past, along with underlying doom make this suspenseful. The sense of place is strong and the slow reveals are well placed. There are multiple layers of love, lies and secrets between friends and family. This is a fast-paced steamy story that will keep you thinking long after you turn the last page. Great for discussion.
Two stories of different girls that connect over a murderess incident. 1920’s Mississippi swampland, that in itself is a character, is the backdrop for this excellent debut. Strong growth of the girls and setting make this a must read for lovers of Where the Crawdads Sing and Call Your Daughter Home. Loved it!
If you are a fan of Krueger's earlier works, including his mystery series, this is for you. If not, this is the perfect book to familiarize yourself with this great writer. Wonderful character-driven coming of age mystery. Young Cork and his friends discover a body hanging in a secluded mining camp. This is the catalyst for an eventful summer of awakening. Excellent alternating POV of father and son. Krueger continues to shine as a gifted storyteller.
A Wonderful read aloud. Fun and heartwarming. Wilson is an adventurous sheep who gets lost. Can Tippy convince their owner to save him?
Remember the 70's? Or wish you did? Mary Jane becomes a summer nanny for young Izzy. Their families couldn't be more different. Two celebrities come to stay and the crazy times really ramp up. The household is chaotic and wild yet fun and loving. I found this delightful and I smiled throughout. A fabulous coming-of-age character driven gem!
Plot: a secret plan to do something illegal; the main events of a story; a small piece of land in a cemetery. All of these definitions are in this clever, twisty psychological thriller. Jake is a one-time bestselling author but the next work is alluding him until years after hearing the idea for a story when the book just rolls off the pages. It’s been years, the originator is dead – what could possibly go wrong? Korelitz cleverly alternates the plot of the book within the story, and along with a complex character this is a face-paced suspenseful read.
Based on true events; Frankel’s socially conscious voice tells a story of a community vs. corrupt business. Told through incredible teen triplets we learn of a community’s poisoned history and the aftereffects. The 3 sisters, who are distinctively different yet connected turn this could be depressing tale into a charming, cleverly told story. Themes of fight, acceptance, perseverance and familial love.
A new modern voice of universal fiction. Serephin is bright, ambitious and ready to launch on this own and escape his overbearing refugee family. He heads to university in Cape Town and along with his new band of friends lives life to the fullest. Ngamiji’s voice is fresh, funny and new. I especially appreciated the “many” voices of Serephin – very clever. Will especially be enjoyed by millennials.
Feels like a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy with lots of Mythology tie-ins. The Briscoe’s youngest son returns to Olympus after an extended hiatus escaping a family scandal. His return kicks off a tornado of events that will change the family forever. I found the plot luscious with lots of small town secrets. The depth of character development is astounding. Wonderful themes of forgiveness and change. Outstanding!
I loved Salt Houses, Alyan’s first book and The Arsonists’ City is just as compelling and good. Tension and setting quickly drew me into the lives of this Syrian Lebanese family. Rich in history, family secrets and betrayals; shows the messy yet resilient bonds of family love. Good if you liked her first novel and stories that show recent Middle East history. Excellent!
I loved this sequel as well as Howarth’s first book. Billy and Tommy have been forced to make their own way in the wilds of Australia after the trauma that occurred when they were teenagers. Billy likes to pretend it never happened and Tommy has nightmares he can’t escape. The characters and writing are excellent and this is a look at brutal injustice. You can read it by itself, but I encourage you to read both. Good if you like Cormac McCarthy.
This is a touching, hopeful story. It has a unique, slightly quirky cast of characters. I loved the descriptions of beekeeping throughout and cheered for each of the wonderful characters. Shows the healing power of friendship. Good if you liked Eleanor Oliphant or Bernadette.
The Last Thing He Told Me starts with a bang and doesn’t let you go. Hannah has a loving new husband, a new home and a teenage step-daughter that is filled with resentment. The only tangible bind between them is their love for Owen, Hannah’s new husband. That bind gets tested when both receive a hasty note from Owen and his subsequent disappearance. Numerous questions arise – Owen is not who they thought. And what’s up with the duffle bag filled with cash? With little choice they band together in search of answers; Can Hannah’s actions alter their tenuous bind and forge a new path? There are themes of abandonment and loss and the overwhelming sense of parenting at all costs. Unputdownable!
With feelings of Alexander Fuller, J.R. Moehringer and Jeannette Walls (all favorites) Kirkland Hamill has written an honest, open look at his family. They are torn apart and thrown together over and over as alcoholism dictates their lives. Kirkland's dry wit and engaging writing is as addictive as the issues his family faced. There are laugh out loud scenes - wait til you get to Winnie and poignant moments. Each brother takes a different path and Kirkland learns to love himself and to become himself despite circumstances that could have drowned him.
Unputdownable! I’ve enjoyed lots of Beatriz Williams’s stories and this is my favorite! It’s the 20’s and 30’s and no one is more famous than those that captured the imagination by taking to the skies. Inspired by Amelia Earhart, Williams has written a story full of adventure. It has the right amount of history, mystery, steamy romance, unstoppable passion, and women who long to define themselves. The format of the book was very effective in creating suspense and even includes a couple of twists that made for a great ending. I stayed up way too late and loved every minute.
Pure feel good romp! Jane’s a newcomer in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, where friends become family, where Duncan, her handsome new interest has dated everyone. I adored the characters and smiled throughout. This is a bit quirky, subtly smart and has lots of heart. A modern day Jane Austen.
Wolves are reintroduced to Scotland and Inti, the scientist in charge has history of her own to deal with as well as uncertain locals who feel their livelihood threatened. As in McConaghy’s first book, Migrations, this is a strong story of nature and ecosystems as well as complex and often harsh human interactions. The way in which she ties together Inti’s unusual condition, the dynamics between Inti and her twin sister and Inti and the wolves is brilliant. I found the beautiful prose amazing and haunting at the same time.
Hold on and enjoy the ride! This is my recent favorite crime/action novel. Bug is an engaging multi-layered protagonist; he’s a loving husband and father, a crazy-good car driver and mechanic, but….. Despite his desperation to be better than his former self, fraught economic times return him to his dubious past. This is great fast-paced writing with non-stop action. You’ll call shotgun!
Paula McLain has diverged slightly from her wonderfully written historical fiction novels. This is a thoughtful and contemplative thriller with a troubled narrator, Anna, whose life is heavy with loss. The story is fast-paced and the writing excellent. I especially liked the way Anna’s backstory is revealed and the relationship with her foster father. Themes of abandonment and how it can shape a lifetime are expertly done. Be sure to read the author’s note as it is very revealing. You’ll have a hard time putting this down – just like me.
Destinies of two dynamic women intersect in a meaningful way. Great Circle is big in scope, lush in prose and is storytelling at its finest. Twins are rescued from a sinking ocean liner in 1908 and their lives circumvent the world. Years later, a fallen movie star becomes entwined with her onscreen character. I loved the toughness and uniqueness of the characters and was intimately drawn into their lives. This story has it all – bootleggers, bush pilots, artists, soldiers - it soars!
This is a character-driven novel that shows the messiness of life, the tender moments and the losses that alter every dream. Henkin expertly explores the ebbs and flows of the Robin family. I especially appreciated how each member wears many hats; parent, sibling, child and partner and how those relationships mold who they become. This is a contemplative, quiet novel with no perfect ending but rather the promise of what it means to live and love. Good if you like The Most Fun We Ever Had or Anne Lamott.
Not your ordinary thriller. Taunt suspense alternating with tender moments of family relations. Tessa is a new mother in Northern Ireland. She has a close relationship with her non-political sister – she can't believe she could be part of the IRA!?! Secret meetings, double agents, foiled plots make for edge-of-your-seat excitement, while showing the rationale for personal choices and their consequences during historic times. Good web of connection of how noble goals can lead to immoral actions and how the IRA made places of safety not safe. Good if you liked The Expats.
Thoughtful commentary on a personal journey to climb Everest which was thwarted by the devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015. Jim Davidson writes of this and his subsequent visit to reach his lifetime goal with thrilling detail. The story is enhanced by his personal efforts to support the Nepalese community. Great if you like humanitarian adventure quests.
A wonderful imaginative tale of the family of one of England’s most famous writers – who is never named, but of course you know immediately who it is. O’Farrell has a beautiful style of language, with astute observations and lovely vivid descriptions. At the core it is a story of shared grief and how each family member deals with loss but it is so much more – it captures Elizabethan times, all the sights, smells and nuances and the characters, especially Agnes and the twins are wonderful. Good if you liked Year of Wonders, Pope Joan or period pieces. Brilliant!
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read! It is an eloquent story, telling of broken people who tugged at my heartstrings, and their search for absolution and redemption. It’s a mystery, and a study of small town America. Duchess will be mentioned in the same sentence as Scout and Kya and I’d like Walk as a friend (he is pure goodness). It illustrates to what ends people will go for those they love. This is only the 3rd book I’ve immediately started again after finishing – the second time I listened to the extremely well done audio version. Everyone will love this!
Naive 22-year old American-raised Afghan goes on a quest to do good and to research a rural Afghan village. With echoes of the Three Cups of Tea scandal Waldman expertly depicts gaping holes in what Parveen was led to believe by an American doctor's memoir of his time and heroic(?) efforts in Afghanistan. This memoir also spurred the American Army to bring progress to this village. This is an excellent exploration into the grey areas of American influence and sheds light on misunderstanding, misguided intentions and differing cultures. Superb!
Another epic tale by Hannah. Set during the Great Depression Four Winds is atmospheric with great character development. There is a fierceness to the female characters that I loved and their growth throughout the story is uplifting despite their dire circumstances. This is a great tale of fighting for what is right, resilience and the power of a mothers love.
Keene has a lot to say in Say Nothing. It is an excellent history lesson on the conflicts in Northern Ireland over the last 100 years told thru intertwining events and personal stories of many involved. Keene has done years of research and his excellent writing makes reading Say Nothing seem like a novel. The disappearance of Jean McConville is at the center of the story as well as the lives of the Price sisters, Brendan Hughes, Gerry Adams and Bobby Sands. The Good Friday Agreement, The Troubles, and many of the armed struggles are explained but the personal damage these people endured was the most compelling part of the book. The book finishes with an interesting look at a possible future.
I loved this gritty, powerful debut novel! I felt the heat and dust of West Texas and the perils of the women trying to survive and even thrive. Odessa is full of racism and abuse and justice isn’t blind during the 1970’s and the despair of the economic downturn has intensified actions. The dire circumstances of the desperate oil-town is superbly shown through the eyes of its female inhabitants. They are so real and human and Wetmore is unafraid of showing a myriad of emotions about motherhood, abandonment and the cold-hard fears about abuse. The inter dialogue of the women is personal and gives the book an intimate feel that enveloped me. I loved the differing voices of Corrine, Debra Ann, Gloria and Mary Ann and the wisdom of Victor made a perfect counter-balance ending. Highly recommended.
Need a feel-good, laugh-out-loud, quirky fun story? If so, Good Eggs is for you. Three generations of the Irish Gogarty family will have you engaged. They all make mistakes, but can they make amends? I joyfully laughed at their antics and rooted for their success. Good if you liked: Harriet Change, 100 Year Old Man, or Bernadette.
Hart is a southern version of Cormac McCarthy. He is an excellent writer and storyteller. In Unwilling, I especially appreciated his complex relationships between brothers Jason and Gibby, and their father. Chance is a wonderful side kick. Unwilling has some of the worst bad guys…think Hannibal Lector. It’s a bit gory but the intensity pulses off each page. The timeframe of the Vietnam War and how the horrors of war change men adds much depth to the story. Hard to put down!
There is nothing like a good historical novel to escape the present and Code Name Helene is a great one. I had run across the “White Mouse” in other readings but was not familiar with details and her great leadership. I enjoy Ariel Lawhon’s writing especially her use of chronology to add suspense - she is one of the best I’ve come across at this writing technique. Nancy/Helene’s dry wit made me smile, her courage inspired me and her leadership awed me. I loved her life and love with Henri, her spunk and determination, her red lipstick and how I was totally lost in her story. Fabulous!
Fast-paced and easy to get into. Blake is a non-conformist LDS with three wives. Blake is dead – evidence points to the murderer being one of them - which one killed him? They all have motives, and murky backstories. The differing backgrounds of the women made for interesting reading. The dynamics between the sister-wives is well done and added much to the story. Good if you liked The Wife Between Us.
1941 - Belfast is already divided by Protestants and Catholics with tensions running high and then Germany starts bombing. Based on the real life of an elephant and her care-giver this is an easy to read story of Hettie, who is just finding her way in the world and Violet the elephant who gives her purpose. There’s a bit of romance, little-known history and shows resilience of a city and its people. Interesting and enjoyable.
This is not the normal type of book I pick up, but during 2020, a year full of loss and uncertainty, this was a delightful, meditative type book. I found it a beautiful mix of memoir and philosophy. I especially appreciated the explorations of nature, and lessons from literature. Katherine May eloquently describes how acceptance of sadness does not have to be permanent and how we can look for solace in unlikely places. Like seasons, change is a certainty and something to embrace.
Part true crime thriller, part wildlife/ornithology study and a bit of history and adventure. Like the author I was late to appreciating birds but now I’m interested in all sorts, and am amazed by their resilience, diversity and amazing feats. Hammer has a keen observation and writes in a fast-paced catchy way that will keep you enthralled even if you don’t think you will be. Good if you like unusual real stories.
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Barry has an outstanding command of language and is a master of time and place. His writing is lyrical and beautiful. I loved Days without End and A Thousand Moons is a satisfying sequel or a stand-alone coming-of –age story set in post-Civil War Tennessee. He captures the spirit of a young Lakota girl on her way to becoming a warrior. Set in a time of great prejudice and racism, Barry shows us two sides of complex characters – cruelty and goodness. Wonderful!
The Sweeney Sisters is delightful. Three very different sisters support each other, love each other and are annoyed by each other’s flaws. The death of their famous father is the catalyst for change: examination of priorities, dealing with grief, and coming to terms with a surprise sister. Despite these heavy issues Sweeney Sisters is lighthearted, made me happy and is a great vacation read. Woven stories of the four sisters kept me equally involved in each of them and I found myself cheering for all. Emotions, new and old loves and family messiness amongst a heartfelt reunion. Good if you liked The Most Fun We Ever Had.
This is an outstanding sophisticated novel of a conflicted nun that twice is coerced into investigating a scandal in Iceland. This covers the abuse of power in many forms. Sister Johanna is a wonderful character; she wrestles with her faith and has lots of personal reckoning to grapple with. Pall, George Harrison and Jesus add lighthearted moments that add much depth to this back and forth interweaving mystery. Excellent!
This is a great espionage tale with lots of twists and the bonus of a beautiful love story. Hannah is a brilliant German physicist working on splitting atoms in Berlin in the 30’s, but being a Jewish woman in Nazi territory is dangerous. Her brain gets her a job in Los Alamos, but is she sending secrets back to Germany? Up and coming CIA agent Jack, is hunting to find out. I loved the interaction between Hannah and Jack, the mix of suspense, science and passion in this fast-paced well done novel.
My favorite gift book! Inspiring, lovely, meaningful! A gem of kindness, friendship and love!
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If you liked Beneath a Scarlet Sky don’t miss Once We Were Here. Greece played a little known pivotal part of WWII with thwarting off the advances of the Italians and forcing the German army to concentrate resources on the Greek peninsula. Once We Were Here is a fast-pace, hard-to-put-down story of friends Alexei and Costa, who along with other fierce warriors fought as bravely as their ancestors. The story line makes up for minor writing inconsistences (I wasn’t bothered). There is a lovely family connection and likeable characters.
This is a powerful story of mental health and how two families deal with a myriad of issues after a tragedy. It is also a love story with strong characters that I was immediate drawn to. I loved the lifelong friendship and the generous gift of forgiveness. This is a wonderful propulsive story that is extremely well done. Great for book clubs.
Wilkerson is an excellent historian and a Pulitzer Prize journalist. In Caste she explores three hierarchies in world history: India, Nazi Germany and American. She explains the shared principles of these beliefs and how they become ingrained in our subconscious and how “caste is the bones, race the skin”. She introduces the theory that as both individuals and as a society we have the choice to be good or evil. It is an extensive and different look at racism, inequality and injustice and one of the important non-fiction books of our time.
LOVED this breathtaking masterpiece! This is a layered story about making your mark on the world, belonging, and what ends humans and gods will go to when desperate. While reading I was reminded of Atkinson’s Life after Life (a favorite) and bam…..V.E. Schwab mentions it in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. This is engaging, escapism reading and I guarantee you will love Addie and Henry - souls longing to be remembered, free and loved. Note - pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each chapter.
Ishiguro makes you think; his stories are plausible and shocking. He uses his trademark of unlikely points of view to ask important questions about humanity and what makes a life worthwhile. Klara is a robot with human characteristics who is made to be not only a companion but to bridge gaps. She has interesting traits and feelings that affect the family around her. Full of foreboding and good for discussion.
This is a non-stop dystopian debut with a bad-a** heroine. It’s also an exploration of motherhood and survival; an excellent portrayal of the joys and overwhelming responsibilities of parenting. Myra and daughter, Pearl will sail to the ends of the world in search of older daughter, Row. They team up with a great diverse cast of characters. After the Flood portrays a world of biblical proportions. This a suspenseful literary fiction at its finest. Good if you liked The Road, Gold Fame Citrus or Mad Max! I’ll remember this for a long time – loved it.
In times when we cook/bake for comfort, for company and for just plain yumminess pies fit the bill. Award-nominated Kate McDermott has written Pie Camp for novices to seasoned bakers. Full of techniques, vegan and gluten free options, traditional to unusual recipes, Pie Camp is mouth-watering. Loved the Apple Tart and Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie. As Kate says “if it comes from your heart, that pie will be full of love!”
Infinite Country is heartbreaking and hopeful in equal measure. A timely story of family, immigration and forgiveness. I found this a short but moving, impactful book that gives an intimate glimpse into an experience that reaches all of us. Very well done.
A love triangle, coming-of-age story set during WWII. This takes place in lovely Rome with characters I immediately fell for. This is an easy read that’s great to get lost in. A departure from her legal thrillers yet feels very personal. A tale of love, loyalty, war, family, loss enhanced with scrumptious food and setting. Good if you liked My Brilliant Friend or Beneath a Scarlet Sky.
Historian Jill Lapore tells us that “Fiction does what history should do, but doesn’t”. Christine Baker Kline has written a wonderful and absorbing book that does just that. Exiles takes us to England and the long journey to far away Tasmania in the 1840’s, where people are expected to forge a new beginning after paying their debt to society (often for the most petty of crimes and false accusations). These characters survived by their wits and fortitude. Kline has created memorable characters, mastered the language of the times and has somehow written beautifully of their hardships and friendships. My favorite of her books to date. I found Exiles WONDERFUL, an intimate yet epic story.
End of the Day is a character driven look at human nature and reckoning with past actions. The intertwining connection between characters is expertly revealed. Especially strong showing of how one’s actions have a rippling effect, not only on one’s self, but others as well. Good if you like Elizabeth Strout, Celeste Ng, or Mary Beth Keane. A strong 2nd novel by a talented author.
A bit spooky with some underlining themes of science and the power of racism. There’s a feel of modern Bronte sisters here which adds to the intrigue of this original gothic tale. I loved Noemi, the well-educated bright young protagonist who has a great sense of justice and can stare down evil all while being sophisticated and alluring.
Alex George is an amazing storyteller and writer. I've loved all his books, including The Paris Hours, his third. This is 1927 Paris, when the city was teeming with the likes of Hemingway, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Maurice Ravel - all who have cameos. Lindbergh just flew across the Atlantic; It's the Roaring twenties and a time of great social and creative awakening. But, it's also the time between wars and The Paris Hours follows 4 ordinary people, who are searching for something they'd lost. The characters are complex and interesting, their back stories are heart wrenching and beautiful. Past and present is seamlessly woven together. Their 4 lives seem unlinked but like Passacaille, the piano music of Ravel, come together in an amazing ending. Allow yourself to get caught-up in these extraordinary characters and the wonderful writing of Alex George. Outstanding!
Another transportive story by Kristen Hammel. If you like her earlier works or WWII stories you will enjoy this story based on actual events. Yona’s upbringing is unconventional – living in the Polish forest with little human interaction, yet her schooling in survival skills, nature and several languages bode well for her assisting Jewish citizens escaping the ghettos. This has a folklore feel with a brave heroine you’ll cheer for.
A unique, fresh fantasy - Black Sun is the beginning of a trilogy. Inspired by Aztec and Mayan culture with lots of political plotting, magic and good characters. Will a God will return with the eclipse or will Earth become unhinged? Good for GOT readers.
An excellent account of “the darkest hour” through the intimate details of the Churchill family, and accounts and diaries of staff and English, German and American leaders and soldiers. Larson expertly shows Churchill’s highs and lows and how his oration skills, charisma and spirit buoyed society at the exact right time. Excellent for WWII buffs or if you are new to reading about defining moments of history. Great reading or audiobook!
Unquestionably transcendent! I loved Yaas first book and Transcendent Kingdom is just as GREAT in a different way. An honest, almost biographic feel of a young woman surviving the grief of losing her brother and watching her mother struggle with the consequences. Gifty is a young girl when her life and family fall apart even God stopped listening to her. Later as a neuroscientist she hides in her lab working to unlock the mystery that plagued her family. This explores loss, science, faith, love and loyalty. Will be one of the best books of 2020!
An intimate, tender story despite bleak circumstances. The story talks place over three days in 1918 Dublin, mostly in a maternity ward for women with the flu. Julia is a nurse who witnesses death but also helps new life appear. Julia and her volunteer assistant Bridie are wonderful characters who in such a short time learn much from each other. The story is detailed regarding birth, but it also gives an insight into the status of women in Ireland one hundred years ago, and the institutions which were expected to look after orphans but which in fact profited from them. Donoghue began this story in 2018, and the timing is uncanny – it serves as a reminder that there is still love and compassion in the world. Don’t miss the author’s note at the end.
As much a story of a displaced family during WWII as it is a mystery. Aki and her family are first torn from their home in California to a harsh relocation camp and then sent to Chicago. Upon arrival they discover that Aki’s older sister has died. Aki goes on a mission to find the cause of this tragedy and ultimately confronts her own reaction to their displacement and the racism they face. Details the plight Japanese Americans were subjected to during a dark time in American history.
For all those animal lovers, a delightful tale based on a remarkable true story. Woody Nickel looks back on an extraordinary adventure of crossing the country with the first giraffes on American soil. The year is 1938 and orphan Woody is trying find his footing and his next meal. There are some interesting real people and giraffe facts amongst Woody and his travels. A period escape type read. Good if your liked Modoc.
I found this a tender story that shows the innocence of youth and the cattiness of adolescence through the eyes of a forthright teenage girl who I grew to love and admire. Eulabee is on the verge of finding her true self in an eccentric San Francisco neighborhood in a time when kids run free. I found the first-person plural perfect, loved the nuances of individual vs. group, and think Bee’s inner voice is spot on and adds much depth. Poignant and compelling.
The perfect location for an exclusive wedding or a murder! The Guest List is a modern day Murder on the Orient Express with the great set-up for suspense and late night reading. There are plenty of dubious characters, motives, lies, treachery, and deceit. Strong writing and plot and Foley skillfully reveals clues throughout. Entertaining!
Agatha would be proud! Maria Benedict again writes of interesting women and unknown parts or their lives. She chooses to blend in Christie’s puzzling skills to create a memorable easy-read about the 10-day disappearance of one of the world’s most famous mystery writers. Super enjoyable.
There’s a dead body in the library of a country estate and lots of suspects. Sounds a bit like the game Clue! Lonely, likeable detective Stafford endeavors to uncover the killer and in the process unearths alarming family, church and town secrets. I appreciated the social and political undercurrent of 1950 Ireland that Banville depicts. With distinctions of class, lots of motives, and dubious characters Banville has the Agatha Christie plot down. Dark and menacing!
Philosophical fantasy – maybe! Intelligent, quirky mythology – maybe! Dreamlike – definitely! This is a pleasant surprise if you like something different and I found it was enhanced by conversation. Good if you liked A Starless Sea. Step through the wardrobe and be enchanted. “May the House fill your eyes with Beauty”.
This is a story to get lost in. It’s a bygone era when everyone was fascinated by flight. Young Huck is building a plane, his cousin, Annelise a pilot, is sent to Montana to escape some rumors and a gangster is found dead in the river. Beautiful prose, wonderfully formulated characters, a bit of politics, Christian revival history and wonderful relationships – everything needed for a great read.
The third in the installment about the real life philanthropic Ferriday/Woolsey women, Sunflower Sisters is a page turner. As with her previous two novels Kelly engages the reader through three different narrators. This method leads to effective understanding of different sides of a conflict, in this case the Civil War. I enjoyed learning about nursing through Georgy especially her time near Gettysburg and on hospital boats; I loved Jemma, the tenacious, brave slave and Anne-May the cruel plantation owner is a colorful, conniving character. There’s a bit on espionage plots, the Underground Railroad, the Irish riots in NYC and deftly shows a country and families torn apart. It is not necessary to have read Lilac Girls or Lost Roses but this will appeal to those readers. Don’t skip the author’s informative note.
I find anything Simon Winchester writes fascinating. Here he weaves elements of geography, history, and science into a depiction of our world. He touches on climate change but mostly the ways man has impacted land since the beginning of civilization. I like Winchesters chapter divisions in Land and am amazed of the engagement he constructs.
Kieran and his new family come home to small-town Evelyn Bay, Tasmania. There are long covered-up secrets, an unanswered disappearance and enough rumors and guilt to go around. I love Harper’s atmospheric writing and her unfurrowing of revelations. A layered mystery that will keep you guessing.
The Trojan War told through the eyes of the women who were casualties, heroes and muses. The men are in the backdrop of this story, the women shine. Queens, Goddesses and mortals suffered, endured, lived and died. I especially liked the voice of wise Penelope, Trojan Queen Hecabe and the interactions of the Goddesses: Aphrodite, Artemis and Hera. Good if you like mythology and Madeline Miller’s books.
This is a tale of sisterhood and the fight for rights that is great to get lost in. I enjoyed the cross of folklore, witchcraft and rebellious suffragists. Harrow’s specialty is her world building settings and lyrical prose. It’s a bit magical inspiration with an old-fashioned yet modern feel. Good for those who like enchanting stories or borderline fantasy.
This is a great look at identity. Race, class, and gender are wrapped up in the story of twins, Stella and Desiree and their daughters. The writing is compassionate and full of history and feelings of the times. Bennett takes on these topics but so subtly that I was just wrapped up in the story. I especially appreciated how she explored the complicated and conflicting feelings of all the characters – excellent differing voices. At heart this is a great story of reinvention, love and sacrifice with some thought provoking issues expertly thrown in.
It’s early in the 20th century and vagabond brothers Rye and Gig are looking for their next meal, a safe place to sleep, a fair job and maybe a bit of romance. This is the time when union workers are speaking out against the corrupt industrial owners, who make their riches off the Cold Millions who are unfairly worked to the bone for little pay. The brothers are very different, but both dream of a better world and get drawn into the free speech riots in Spokane; Gig supports IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) and quiet Rye becomes a pawn of anarchists and hired goons. Walters is a genius of first person narrative and characterization. The individuals who come in and out of Rye and Gig’s life are bigger than life (some are real) and I’ll loved them all. There is suspense, ganger-style adventure and terrific writing portraying brotherhood, social injustice and pure humanity. SUPER!
The Prophets feels like a tribute to Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. I found it a beautiful, poetic literary debut, with some complex religious undertones. This is the Antebellum South and Jones writes of the beauty of the Halifax plantation and the horrors within at the same time. There are difficult subjects, but I was swept up in the lives and love of Samuel and Isaiah. It is heartbreaking, yet full of love, loyalty and resilience. The writing is amazing and will lead to great discussion. I’ll remember this for a long time - bound to be a classic.
This is a rich, propulsive story that I was immediately drawn into. The Preston family is living in Bangkok in the 70’s when tragedy befalls them. Both the beautiful and dark side of Southeast Asia and American involvement is expertly mixed in this family drama. What Could be Saved is a perceptive story that shows the bonds of family, how we are defined by our childhood and the emotional complexities of siblings and parents. This is full of vivid descriptions, lovey writing and expertly revealed secrets.
Nine Lives takes one of my favorite premises – “what if” and looks in-depth at, parenting, marriage and relationships. Rose in struggling with the idea of becoming a mother and how to pick the right choice for herself without compromising her relationships. She finds herself at different junctures in her life and each decision forges a new path.
An idyllic family vacation in the Hamptons goes haywire when the owners of their rental house show up stating NYC has a blackout. Are they really the owners? A blackout? But….cell and TV service is disrupted and things are getting weird. Has there been a terrorist attack? A nuclear disaster? What’s up with the animals? There is an escalating sense of dread and I especially liked the point of view of all the characters and the author's showing of their insecurities and shortcomings. Plus the thrown-in all knowing voice leads to great suspense.
This moving memoir is an honest portrayal of Suleika’s relationships with her family, friends and herself after a devastating cancer diagnosis and her challenging treatment. During her illness she writes a column for the NYTimes and gets support from strangers around the world. Later she and Oscar, her dog, road trip around the US visiting some of these individuals. Shows how she moved forward as well as co-exist with her past and how her discharge didn’t come with instructions of how to live. The analogy of between the kingdoms of illness and being well is very good. I appreciated her being brave enough to chare her story and strong enough to live not just survive. Good is you liked Educated.