Amy’s Picks and Pans, Issue 28

  Welcome to my Monthly Book Round-Up! This month, I dive into a vibrant selection of ten reads that promise to spark your curiosity and stir your emotions. From the latest bestsellers to hidden gems waiting to be discovered, some were standouts and others were duds, but the list aims to cater to a wide array of tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for a thrilling mystery, a heartwarming romance, or a deep dive into historical intrigue, there’s something here for everyone. Grab your favorite beverage and let’s explore these enticing titles that are sure to keep your pages turning and your imaginations soaring. Happy reading!   Drawn […]

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Age is Just a Number in This Thrilling, Humorous Mystery

“Just then Fogerty emitted an unpleasant noise accompanied by a smell I knew too well. The human body has over sixty sphincters, and every one of them relates in death.”—Deanna Raybourn, Killers of a Certain Age. Killers of a Certain Age sweeps readers away on a wild, action-packed adventure that defies the typical portrayal of women over sixty. The novel introduces us to Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie—the first all-women assassin team of the secretive organization known as the Museum. After forty years of eliminating the worst of the worst, these formidable ladies are forced into retirement, deemed too old-school for modern times. However, their send-off—an all-expenses-paid Caribbean cruise—turns […]

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The Helsinki Affair: A Spy Thriller that Misses its Mark

I always get excited for a new spy thriller, but The Helsinki Affair didn’t quite hit the target. The setup was intriguing—Amanda Cole, a CIA agent in Rome, gets a tip about a planned assassination of a US Senator. The premise promises high stakes and international intrigue. However, the execution was lackluster. Amanda’s quest to unravel an international conspiracy after the assassination takes us on a whirlwind tour from Rome to Helsinki, yet the storytelling felt bogged down by too many details and awkward sentence structures. The narrative’s frequent point of view switches, especially noticeable in the audiobook, added to the confusion rather than the suspense. Halfway through, the novel […]

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The Letter Tree: A Sweet Blend of Romance and Mystery in 1920s New York

“Sometimes folks don’t want to let go of their hate, even if they know they’re being watched. They hold it tight, like they would any other vice.”—Rachel Fordham, The Letter Tree. 3.5 stars The Letter Tree by Rachel Fordham blends a dash of Romeo and Juliet with a pinch of You’ve Got Mail. In the 1920s, the Campbell and Bradshaw shoe companies are bitter rivals after their founding fathers fall out. Heirs to the companies, Laura Bradshaw and Isaac Campbell are raised to despise with each other. The novel unfolds as Laura Bradshaw finds refuge in the letters hidden within the letter tree after losing her mother. Her correspondence with an anonymous […]

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Safari Turned Hostage Drama

The Lioness is an enthralling tale of glamor, danger, and survival. Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Serengeti in 1964, the novel follows Hollywood elite Katie Barstow and her new husband, David Hill, as they embark on a honeymoon safari with their closest friends. What starts as an idyllic adventure quickly spirals into a horrifying ordeal when Russian mercenaries hijack their camp. Author Chris Bohjalian masterfully intertwines the allure of 1960s Hollywood with the raw beauty of Africa, crafting a narrative rich in historical detail and description. The African scenes are so vividly portrayed you can almost feel the oppressive heat and see the majestic wildlife. However, the true […]

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Ice-Cold Justice: Unraveling Mysteries with Martha Ballard in The Frozen River

Ariel Lawhon’s The Frozen River plunges readers into the harsh winters of 1789 Hallowell, Maine, with a historical mystery that’s as chilling as the Kennebec River. At the heart of this riveting tale is Martha Ballard, a 54-year-old midwife and healer with connections that stretch from Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, to Mary Hobart, one of America’s pioneering female physicians. When Martha is called to examine a man found frozen in the river, she uncovers signs of foul play. The deceased, Joshua Burgess, appears to have been beaten and hanged prior to his icy entombment. Adding layers to the mystery, Martha recalls her earlier documentation of […]

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Prayers for Prodigals

“Prayer combined with a believing mother’s or father’s love is powerful. When placed in Jesus’s hands, it is invincible. Obstacles may come when you least expect them, but perseverance in prayer will lead to a breakthrough.”—James Banks, Prayers for Prodigals. Prayers for Prodigals offers a heartfelt guide for parents grappling with a child’s departure from their faith. The premise resonates deeply with Christian parents facing this painful challenge, aiming to fortify their perseverance through structured, scripture-based support. Pastor James Banks draws from his personal experiences with prodigal children, aiming to bolster readers’ faith and trust in God through this trying time. The book’s structure comprises scriptural prayers, words of encouragement, […]

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Science Novel Critique

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict tells the story of Rosalind Franklin, an unsung hero of science who braved the storm of gender bias to map the structure of DNA, despite constant harassment and undermining in the late 1940s and 1950s. As an X-ray crystallographer, Franklin battled not only the complexities of scientific discovery but also the demeaning attitudes of her male colleagues in academia. Despite her pivotal contributions, the theft of her work shadowed her achievements by other scientists who later won a Nobel Prize. Benedict, who has a knack for bringing the stories of overlooked women in history to light, paints Franklin as a tenacious and intelligent trailblazer. […]

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Panama Canal Coup

I just finished Command and Control, a thrilling addition to the Jack Ryan series that kept me turning pages well into the night. The legacy of Tom Clancy lives on, and this book is proof that the spirit of Jack Ryan continues to captivate readers with its intense political and military scenarios. This time, the drama unfolds around the Panama Canal, an essential artery of global trade. The plot kicks off when President Jack Ryan is caught in the middle of a coup while visiting Panama to support his friend, President Rafael Botero, against socialist threats. What was supposed to be a routine display of democratic solidarity spirals into chaos, […]

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Mixed Feelings About Violeta

Violeta by Isabel Allende, a nominee for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction in 2022, is a bit of a mixed bag for me. It’s the life story of Violeta del Valle, a woman whose 100 years span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century, told through letters to her grandson. This setup promises a lot—emotional depth, historical insights, and the personal touch that comes with such a narrative form. And while Allende is no slouch in the storytelling department, this journey felt uneven. Starting off in the stormy year of 1920, during the Spanish flu pandemic, Violeta’s life is undeniably epic. I could almost see the […]

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