The Tuscan Child

I mostly read advance reader copies of recent novels, but sometimes I like to pick up something a little older. The Tuscan Child was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Historical Fiction in 2018, so I thought it was worth a try. Rhys Bowen’s novel weaves together the lives of two characters: Hugo Langley, a British bomber pilot in 1944, and his daughter, Joanna Langley, in 1973. During World War II, Hugo’s plane is shot down over German-occupied Tuscany. Badly injured, Hugo is found and hidden in a ruined monastery by a local woman named Sofia Bartoli. As they work together to ensure Hugo’s safety, a deep connection forms […]

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Nostalgia Meets Suspense in Jess Lourey’s The Quarry Girls

The Quarry Girls transports readers to St. Cloud, Minnesota, in 1977, where the summer holds more than just fun and games for teens Heather and Brenda. This seemingly idyllic town is known for late-night swimming parties at the quarry, the county fair, and adventures in the mysterious tunnels beneath the city. However, the summer turns dark when the friends witness something unforgettable in the tunnels and make a pact to keep it secret. Their vow is tested when their friend becomes the second girl to vanish in a week, and the authorities show a disturbing reluctance to investigate. As Heather and Brenda dig into the town’s hidden past, they uncover […]

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A Captivating Tale of Identity and Resilience in the Antebellum South

The Kitchen House is a gripping historical novel set in the late 1700s on a Virginia plantation. Lavinia, a young Irish girl who becomes orphaned during her voyage to America, is at the center of the story. The plantation owner takes her in and assigns her care to Belle, a black slave working in the kitchen house, for her care. Lavinia grows up among the slaves, forming deep bonds with her new family, yet she also struggles with her identity and place in the world as she is neither fully accepted by the slaves nor the white family. The narrative unfolds through the perspectives of Lavinia and Belle, revealing the […]

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A Bitter Pill

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, known for his novel The Sympathizer, brings forth his personal narrative in A Man of Two Faces. His memoir delves into his journey as a Vietnamese refugee, exploring the intricacies of identity, memory, and belonging. Nguyen’s story starts at age four, when he and his family fled Vietnam and sought refuge in the United States. This book isn’t your typical coming-of-age memoir. Instead, it reads more like a diatribe or a history lesson, packed with intense political commentary that some may find offensive. Nguyen doesn’t hold back in his scathing criticism of the United States and its people. Nguyen wrote portions of the book […]

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A Journey Through the 12th Century

  The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou is the first book in the Crusades trilogy, set in the 12th century. The story follows Arn Magnusson, a young nobleman in Sweden destined for greatness. Born into the powerful Folkung clan, Arn receives an exceptional education at the Varnhem Abbey, where he learns both religious doctrine and the art of warfare. His path takes an unexpected turn when he falls in love with Cecilia, a noblewoman, and their forbidden relationship leads to Arn being sentenced to serve 20 years as a Knight Templar. This richly detailed historical novel brings the 12th-century world vividly to life. Guillou masterfully blends historical accuracy with […]

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Hauntingly Beautiful

4.5 stars rounded up to 5. Only the Beautiful is a poignant historical novel set during the 1930s and 1940s that masterfully intertwines the lives of two remarkable women. The story begins in 1938 with sixteen-year-old Rosanne, whose life is shattered by the tragic deaths of her parents and brother in a car accident. Taken in by the owners of the vineyard where she has lived her entire life, Rosanne soon uncovers a dark secret about her new guardians. The narrative then shifts to 1947 Austria, where Helen Calvert witnesses Adolf Hitler’s ruthless pursuit of racial purity. Upon returning to her brother’s vineyard in California, Helen unravels the mystery of […]

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A Mother’s Relentless Pursuit of Justice

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 The Necklace by Matt Witten is a riveting, page-turning thriller that centers on Susan Lentigo, a mother seeking justice for her seven-year-old daughter Amy, who was brutally raped and murdered two decades ago. The prime suspect, Ray Jansen, a drifter with a criminal record, confesses to the crime but recants before his trial. Nevertheless, the court finds him guilty and imposes the death penalty by lethal injection. On the eve of Jansen’s execution, Susan embarks on a road trip from her home in Lake Luzerne, New York, to North Dakota to witness the execution and find closure. During her journey, she discovers shocking new evidence […]

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Thrills and Chills in the Depths

In Drowning by T. J. Newman, a routine flight turns into a nightmare when a plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean, sinking 200 feet below the surface with twelve passengers trapped inside. As water floods the cabin, a desperate race against time unfolds. A small pocket of air keeps them alive, but the clock is ticking. The story shifts between the passengers fighting for their lives underwater and the frantic rescue team on the surface, working against the clock to save them. Amidst the chaos and fear, the characters reveal their strength, courage, and humanity. Newman delivers a heart-pounding and authentic portrayal of survival, hope, and the indomitable human spirit […]

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A Cultural Exploration of Redemption and Family Secrets

3.5 stars rounded up to 4. “There is no room for hope in the museum of failures. Even if it hangs on the walls for a moment, it usually comes crashing down.”― Thrity Umrigar, The Museum of Failures. The Museum of Failures is a poignant novel that delves into themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the beauty of second chances. Remy Wadia, the protagonist, is tasked with curating an exhibit on failures, a project that parallels his tumultuous personal life. Having left India with resentment towards his indifferent mother, Remy returns years later to adopt a baby and visit his ailing mother, only to grapple with past grievances and newfound revelations. The […]

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A Gripping Political Thriller

“But I believe that evil forces make evil men do evil things. That’s how I anticipate what can and will happen next in life. That’s how I got to be the head of the Mossad, young man. And why I’m good at it. It’s going to be one hell of an August, and my country is going to suffer very badly because your country doesn’t believe in evil, and mine was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.”—Joel C. Rosenberg, The Last Jihad. Jon Bennett and Erin McCoy, two of Wall Street’s shrewdest strategists, are close friends of the President of the United States. They are working on a […]

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