My Favorite Reads of 2022


I read 106 books in 2022, so narrowing it down to my very favorites was a challenge. The list below comprises my crème de la crème in a great year of reading. You’ll find a variety of genres set in the United States, Mexico, Ghana, Ukraine, China, England, Poland, Austria, Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam. Most of these were 5-star reads for me, but one was a 4.5 rounded up to 5. I hope you find something you love!

Carrie Soto is Back
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“We live in a world where exceptional women have to sit around waiting for mediocre men.”—Taylor Jenkins Reid, Carrie Soto is Back.

I’ve never been much of a tennis fan, although I took the obligatory tennis lessons at Wesley Park several summers through community ed and then married into a tennis crazed family of jocks. Despite my lack of athleticism, Carrie Soto is Back was engrossing from start to finish. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid has written another ace.

When Carrie Soto retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. But six years later, she sits in the stands of the 1994 US Open as Nicki Chan ties her record. At thirty-seven years old, Carrie comes out of retirement for one final, epic year to prove she is still the Greatest of All Time. Carrie Soto is back, and I rooted hard for her.

Carrie Soto, aka “the Battle-Axe” isn’t very likeable, but this book sure is! 5 stars.

** Thanks to Netflix and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are entirely my own.


The Diamond Eye
by Kate Quinn

“Snipers must make themselves calm in order to succeed, and that is why women are good at sharpshooting. Because there is not a woman alive who has not learned how to eat rage in order to appear calm.”—Kate Quinn, The Diamond Eye.

With each of her historical novels, Kate Quinn gets better. After her 2021 book, The Rose Code, I didn’t think that was possible, but The Diamond Eye is a stellar achievement.

In the snowbound city of Kiev, history student Lyudmila “Mila” Pavlichenko’s life revolves around her job as a library researcher and caring for her five-year-old son, Slavka. But when Hitler invades Russia, she forges a different path. Armed with a beat-up rifle, the Russian army sends her to the bloody battlefields of the eastern front. Mila becomes the Nazis hunter known as Lady Death. With news of her three hundredth kill, Mila joins the Russian delegation and travels to the United States to raise funds for the war effort.

Still reeling from a serious injury and devastated by the loss of several loved ones, Mila develops an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a fellow sniper. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe, Lady Death battles her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel loaded with phenomenal heroism and historical detail. As with The Alice Network, The Huntress, and The Rose Code, her latest features a strong, whip-smart woman as the main protagonist. Her descriptive prose made me feel as if I were inside Mila’s head and looking through a sniper’s rifle. Much of the plot came from Pavlichenko’s book Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper, which I look forward to reading. I will say, however, that I was uncomfortable with the author putting thought in Eleanor Roosevelt’s head, but that is a minor criticism.

A realistic, propulsive read full of action and emotion, The Diamond Eye an unforgettable true story of a quiet bookworm who became history’s deadliest female sniper. It was riveting. Bravo. 5 stars.

** Thanks to Netflix and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are entirely my own.


Gilded Mountain
by Kate Manning

“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there, and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad, he would be a United States Senator.” — Mary Harris “Mother” Jones.

The early 1900s is an epic time in American history and Moonstone, Colorado, is a harsh place to live. In Gilded Mountain, author Kate Manning introduces readers to Sylvie Pelletier, an unforgettable teenager who bravely exposes the corruption that enriches her father’s employers.

Sylvie is a first-generation American and the daughter of French-Canadian parents. To help put food on the table, the sixteen-year-old serves as an apprentice to the editor of the local newspaper. But when she is offered a temporary position as a personal assistant, she leaves her family’s dilapidated mountain cabin to work in the opulent manor house of the Padgetts, exploitative owners of the marble-mining company that employs her father. “Countess” Inge is charming, Mr. Padgett is lecherous, but it’s their son Jasper who has her affections.

The town of Moonstone is roiling with discontent. Labor conditions are dangerous, the camp is primitive, and what provisions can be had must be bought at the overpriced company store with company scrip.

A handsome union organizer, along with labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, is stirring up the quarry workers. The company hires union busters and the Pinkertons to quell the protests.

Gilded Mountain is drawn from the true stories of powerful robber barons and the immigrants who make them rich. Sylvie’s vivid first-person narrative and deeply sympathetic characters captured my imagination and didn’t let go. 5 stars.

** Thanks to Netflix and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are entirely my own.


by Yaa Gyasi

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”—Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing.

Homegoing traces a single bloodline across seven generations, beginning in eighteenth-century Ghana and ending three hundred years later. This epic family saga follows two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are born into different villages and never know one another. One of them marries into privilege, the other is sold into slavery. The enslavement of Africans was not just a crime committed by white men, but was abetted by other Africans.

The novel is effectively written in alternating narratives. One thread follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, Homegoing is gorgeous. Gyasi wrote unforgettable characters into this epic novel of horror and beauty. It is well-researched, gut-wrenching, and beautifully told. A fabulous debut novel. 5 stars.


I Must Betray You
by Ruta Sepetys

“Please remember that when adversity is drawn out of the shadows and recognized, we ensure that human beings living under oppression—past and present—know they are not forgotten. Together, we can shine a light in dark corners of the past. Together, we can give history a voice.”—Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You.

Ruta Sepetys’s latest novel is set in Romania in 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe, but tyrannical dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, who has been in power for twenty-four years, still governs by isolation and fear. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

When Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police, they force him to inform on his friends and family to save his grandfather. He risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. Cristian himself, is betrayed… but by whom?

This was an extraordinary book. In fact, every book I have read by Ruta Sepetys has been extraordinary. She writes about teens for teens, and although her novels are considered young adult, they are perfect for every reader over fourteen. As usual, her writing is brilliant and masterful, soul-searching and heart-wrenching.

Her research is expansive; she gathered it through archives and personal interviews, and she sheds a bright light on another dark period in history (She has also tackled WWII and the Spanish Civil War). The short, tense chapters are told in Cristian’s voice interspersed with frightening interrogation reports from the secret police. It’s hard to imagine a life of constant surveillance, fear, and hunger during the waning days of communist Romania and Sepetys made me feel like I was there. The author’s note is as good as the book. Wow! I Must Betray You had a profound impact on me, and I highly recommend it. 5 stars.


Lights Out
by Natalie Walters

“Choose fear or choose faith, but only one choice will bring peace.”—Natalie Walter, Lights Out.

As a CIA analyst, Brynn Taylor developed a new program to combat terrorism, and invited members of foreign intelligence agencies to America to foster cooperation between countries. Now one of them, Egyptian spy Remon Riad, is missing.

Jack Hudson has been working for the Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency (SNAP) for almost nine years and takes the lead in hunting down the missing spy. But he isn’t at all pleased to find out Brynn is involved. It’s hard to trust a woman who’s already betrayed you.

Every lead they follow draws them dangerously deeper into an international plot and the terrorists will do anything to accomplish their goal of causing a digital blackout that will blind a strategic US military communications center and throw the world into chaos.

This hits home, doesn’t it? I’m less afraid of a terrorist attack via explosives or missiles; it’s the chaos of a cyberattack that keeps me up at night. Lights Out by Natalie Walters had me hooked from the get-go. The plot is gripping and suspenseful with a modicum of romantic tension. I was on the edge or my proverbial seat! The author did a marvelous job with characterization, too; I appreciated their points of view, personalities, and emotional tells… The Hawaiian techie, Kekoa, is a hoot!

The faith elements are minimal, so this is a splendid choice for someone looking for a fast-paced thriller without gratuitous sex and violence. The tagline on her website perfectly describes what you can expect in this book: “The fight against evil and the promise of hope.” This is my first book by Natalie Walters, and she has definitely gained a new fan. Book two in The SNAP Agency series was released in May, so check out Lights Out now. 5 stars.

** Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own.


Malibu Rising
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

How were you supposed to change- in ways both big and small- when your family was always there to remind you of exactly the person you apparently signed an ironclad contract to be?”—Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising. 

The Rivas siblings are tightly knit. Nina, the eldest, is a supermodel; Jay is a championship surfer, Hud a renowned photographer, and Kit is their adored teenaged sister. They’re a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over, especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

It’s August 1983, the day of Nina’s annual end-of-summer party. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas, movie stars, recording artists, authors, business tycoons, models; anyone who is anyone will be there rubbing shoulders. The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has just been publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Kit and Hud are also anxious about the party; they have secrets to confess.

By midnight, the party is out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion has gone up in flames and the lives of the siblings are irrevocably changed.

Malibu Rising is the winner of the 2021 Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction and is another bestseller for Reid. She always has fascinating plots, and this book is no exception. It describes what life is like for the rich and famous—I’ve never been either, so I assume it is accurate. She drops many famous names throughout the novel, particularly in the scenes of the party. Other than her epic plots, I am especially impressed by Reid’s characters. They are always complex and splendidly flawed, albeit not all of them are likeable. The relationships between the siblings are beautiful because of the hardship they’ve experienced together. In Malibu, there are a lot of characters, yet I could easily keep them straight. That is true writing talent.

The author uses multiple perspectives to tell the story, and alternates between the siblings’ current day lives and the story of their past: how their parents, Mick and June, met in the 1950s, fell in love, and had a tumultuous relationship. That drew me in—I truly wanted the best for them (well, except for their deadbeat dad). However, not all the scenes are realistic, one toward the end in particular, but overall, I could imagine the storyline happening in real life. But the ending… read it for the ending! 4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

** Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own.


Made in China
by Amelia Pang

“During our endless search for the newest trends for the lowest prices, we become complicit in the forced-labor industry. Chinese manufacturers often believe they have no choice but to secretly outsource to gulags, because they cannot meet the global consumer demand for budget prices and the latest trends. Studies have shown it is precisely brands’ demands for lower prices, faster production, and fulfillment of unanticipated orders that compel factories to illegally subcontract work to places like labor camps.”—Amelia Pang, Made in China.

Like many of you, the last few years I’ve tried extra hard to avoid buying products made in China. It’s quite a challenge. Most websites hide the country of origin and the only way to get that information is to dig through consumer questions or call the company. After reading Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods, I’ve become even more zealous in doing my due diligence before handing over my greenbacks.

In 2012, a woman in Oregon purchased a package of cheap foam headstones at Kmart. When she opened the box, an SOS note written in broken English fell out:

“Sir: If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicuton of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

The note’s author, an engineer named Sun Yi, was a Chinese political prisoner, sentenced without trial to work grueling hours at a “reeducation camp.” In Made in China, investigative journalist Amelia Pang pulls back the curtain on Sun’s story and the stories of others like him—followers of banned religions and spiritual movements, political prisoners; ethnic minorities; migrant workers; and juvenile and adult offenders who are imprisoned, tortured, and subjugated. Through extensive interviews and firsthand reporting, Pang shows us the true cost of America’s addiction to cheap goods.

Made in China is a well-researched and sobering exposé on the laogai system of forced-labor camps. Here are some disturbing things I learned:

  • The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothing arrives at a landfill every second.
  • There is mounting evidence that laogai camps not only supply free manufacturing labor but also human organs for the nation’s booming transplant industry, which is estimated to be worth a billion dollars.
  • According to the author, many large US retailers—including Amazon, Nordstrom, Kmart, Walmart, and Target—sell products manufactured in forced-labor camps.
  • Concentration-like camps in the Xinjiang region detain approximately three million Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims.
  • Global brands use the labor of workers held against their will. The author mentioned Nike, Apple, BMW, H&M, and American Girl.

The scale of the forced labor in China is massive and deeply disturbing. What is happening there is pure evil. Made in China wasn’t an easy read, but it was an important one. Like me, you may change your shopping habits. We need to ask more questions and demand more answers from the companies we patronize. 5 stars.

** Thanks to Netflix and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are entirely my own.


The Man Who Died Twice
by Richard Osman

“More women are murdering people these days,” says Joyce. “If you ignore the context, it is a real sign of progress.”—Richard Osman, The Man Who Died Twice.

In this second installment, the Thursday Murder Club takes on the Mafia, hunts for stolen diamonds, investigates a murder or two, and avenges the brutal mugging of one of their own. Former MI5 spy Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake and his life is in danger. As bodies start piling up, she enlists fellow Club members: retired nurse Joyce Meadowcroft, psychiatrist Ibrahim Arif, political activist Ron Ritchie, and three honorary members, fixer Bogdan Jankowski, Detective Chief Inspector Chris Hudson, and Police Constable Donna De Freitas. But this time, they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four senior citizens. Can Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

It’s an intricately woven whodunit with delightful characters and witty dialogue, a laugh-out-loud, quirky gem I couldn’t put down. There were so many twists and turns that I was guessing until the very last pages. The friendships between the septuagenarian sleuths are poignant and added depth to the eccentric novels. Of course, I loved that the primary character was a woman of a certain age. Book #2 was even better than the first — great entertainment during trying times. 5 stars.

** Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own.


Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”―Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is widely recognized as one of the most influential books of our time. It chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and describes his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most traumatic ones.

Frankl was so precocious and intuitive that he first spoke publicly about the meaning of life when he was only 15 years old and began corresponding with the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Upon earning his doctorate in medicine in 1930, Frankl began his medical career at the Maria Theresien Schloessl, a Neurological Hospital in Vienna founded by the Nathaniel Rothschild Foundation. In 1933 he joined the staff of the Steinhof psychiatric hospital in Vienna, where he headed the female suicide prevention program.

Then the Nazis came to power. After Germany annexed Austria in 1938, they forced him to close his private practice because he was Jewish. He had to adopt the middle name “Israel” and call himself “Fachbehandler” (Specialist) instead of physician. In 1940, he was named the chief of neurology at Vienna’s Rothschild Hospital, which served the Jewish population. Despite personal risk, he sabotaged Nazi attempts to euthanatize mentally ill patients. Frankl married Tilly Grosser, a nurse with whom he worked. A short time later, the Nazis force the young couple to have their child aborted.

In September 1942, the occupying forces deported Frankl and his family to Terezin Ghetto, north of Prague (also known as the Theresienstadt concentration camp), where his father died. In 1944, the surviving Frankls were taken to Auschwitz, where his 65-year-old mother was immediately sent to the gas chamber. After a few days, they transferred Frankl to a labor camp. They brought him to Kaufering and, later, Tuerkheim, subsidiary camps of Dachau in Bavaria.

On April 27, 1945, US troops liberated Tuerkheim. Viktor Frankl was devastated when he learned the Nazis had murdered his wife, father, mother, and brother. The following year, he wrote his classic book, Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager (A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp), which was published in English in 1959 as Man’s Search for Meaning. The book had sold over 16 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 24 languages.

Based on Frankl’s own experience and the stories of his patients, Man’s Search for Meaning argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward. He penned one profound statement after another, citing anecdotes from his life and the lives of others he met in the camps. One of his key strategies was to focus on the love he had for his wife, not knowing if she was dead or alive. “I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.”

Overall, I had some issues with his composition, but it isn’t the writing that has drawn to people to his book for decades—it is the message. “… there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” 5 stars.


Once Upon a Wardrobe
Patti Callahan

“No matter your age, may you never, ever grow too old for fairy tales.”—Pattie Callahan, Once Upon a Wardrobe.

Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford, and dreams of unraveling the mysteries of physics. She prefers the dependability of facts—except for one: the brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When eight-year-old George becomes entranced by a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and begs her to find out where Narnia came from.

Despite her reservations about approaching the renowned author behind the book, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford tutor and his brother, Warnie, imploring them for answers. Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? What Megs learns in these sessions is far more precious than any facts or figures. They regale her with tales of the author’s life, of the joys and sorrows that shaped him into the person he became. As she listens to these stories, Megs learns that the truth lies both in physics and in fairy tales.

I couldn’t have loved this book more. It started and ended with a flourish in moving, heartwarming, and magical prose. I loved learning about Jack Lewis’s life (you probably know him as C. S. Lewis) and the imagined inspiration for his classic book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This novel about faith and hope is utterly enchanting. 5 enthusiastic stars.

** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own.


Out of the Cave: Stepping into the Light when Depression Darkens What You See
by Chris Hodges

I’ve shared little of my journey with depression on my blog or social media, and I won’t get into in depth now, other than to say that it has sometimes been crushing. That’s one reason I enjoy reading so much—a good novel can whisk me away to another place, another time.

It’s time to get your life back. It’s time to stop pretending that Christians don’t get depressed. It’s time to get real with God about where you are and who’s in charge. It’s time to step forward into his light and enjoy the life he has for you. It’s time to come out of your cave.—Chris Hodges, Out of the Cave.

Out of the Cave is an extraordinary book that has had a profound effect on me. Chris Hodges is the founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands, a non-denominational, multi-site mega-church headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. As of 2018, it was the largest congregation in Alabama and the second largest church in the United States, with an average of 43,030 attendees every week. Over the years, he has counseled scores of people who suffer from anxiety and depression. But that’s not what made Out of the Cave such a powerful book. It’s because he has had significant seasons of emotional pain. He has walked the walk.

Depression is the number one health issue in the world today, yet those who suffer are still sometimes stigmatized—especially followers of Jesus. Many assume God’s peace, power, and protection should prevent us from ever feeling anxious, depressed, and afraid. But the Bible teaches otherwise, particularly in its depiction of the life of the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

In Out of the Cave, Hodges uses Elijah’s life to illustrate that everyone is susceptible to depression. Even when we’re walking closely with God, we can still stumble and get lost in the wilderness of tangled emotions. But we don’t have to stay there, because we serve a God who meets us in the darkness. Hodges provides a comprehensive approach to wellness—mind, body, and soul—with his trademark blend of Bible-based wisdom, practical application, and vulnerability in sharing his personal struggles, Hodges explores the causes of depression we can’t change, the contributors we can conquer, and offers transformative hope and spiritual power to help us win the battle.

Hodges is an excellent writer, smooth and professional. He used an effective mix of personal anecdotes, biblical examples, charts, and questionnaires to convey his important message. One thing I most appreciated about this book is that he didn’t use a one size fits all approach, recognizing that some people suffer from a chemical imbalance and need medication to manage their depression, while others can use other management techniques for more situational depression. I related to so much of what he wrote because he has walked in my shoes. Bravo. 5 stars.

** Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own.


The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris

This wonderful novel maintained my interest from the first sentence. Unlike so many WWII novels I’ve read, The Ways We Hide one isn’t about the British who served as intelligence agents. This is about an American woman’s involvement with MI9 (which I knew nothing about). MI9, the British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9, was a highly secret department of the War Office between 1939 and 1945. Their function was two-fold: to help Allied POWs escape Nazi Germany, and help downed airmen evade capture after being shot down.

Fenna Vos grew up on Michigan’s harsh Upper Peninsula. On Christmas Eve, 1913, a party is held at the Italian Hall in Calument for copper miner’s families during their five-month-long labor strike. She experiences the trauma of a lifetime when a stampede down a steep stairwell kills seventy-three people, fifty-nine of them children. Fen narrowly escapes with her life.

Fast forward to WWII. Fenna is making a living as an escape artist in New York City. When a recruiter for MI9 sees her show, he recruits her to use her skills to make escape aids to thwart the Germans.

The author relates haunting experiences, the characters are well developed, and the plot is riveting. The Ways We Hide has elements of mystery, history, and adventure, and it is based on fascinating true events. It was both thrilling and frightening in parts; I even learned a bit about Henry Houdini.

The novel wasn’t perfect, but it deserves 5 stars. Highly recommended.

** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy. The opinions expressed her are my own.


West with Giraffes
by Lynda Rutledge

“Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”—Lynda Rutledge, West with Giraffes

Inspired by true events, this part adventure, part historical saga and part coming-of-age love story follows Woodrow Wilson Nickel as he recalls his journey in 1938 to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo.

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he recalls the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.
It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo.

Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. Inspired by true events, the tale weaves real-life figures with fictional ones, including the world’s first female zoo director, a crusty old man with a past, a young female photographer with a secret, and assorted reprobates as spotty as the giraffes.

Many people recommended I read this book, so I finally took the plunge. Several of the primary characters have interesting relationships with the truth, which kept me guessing but also made me anxious nervous. Whenever someone tells lie over lie, they inevitably get caught, and man, did they ever! The depiction of life during The Great Depression was authentic and I could see and smell (but thankfully not taste) the dust, the despair, and the giraffes. (As usual, I supplemented my reading with the audiobook. I didn’t care for the narrator at all.) This heartwarming, rousing historical novel is witty and charming and I enjoyed it very much. 5 stars.


Whose Waves These Are
by Amanda Dykes

“He would never forget the impression of that voice on his heart. It was the voice of the man, who, king of the universe, stooped to wash his own disciples’ earth crusted feet. Who rubbed spit into dirt and used the mud to make a blind man see. Whose royal day of birth was enrobed in dust, right there with the animals in a barn. That man was accustomed to doing great things in humble places, and it usually involved dirt. or rocks, as it were. The same God who told a solitary man to build a boat to prepare for a flood when no one had so much as seen a drop of water fall from the sky in all their lives.”  ― Amanda Dykes, Whose Waves These Are.

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving—but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town when she learns her great-uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn’t expect was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

Amanda Dykes knocked it out of the park with Whose Waves These Are. The story is so beautiful it changed me. It inspired me. It made me weep. Her book made me feel warm inside and her words were medicine for my weary soul. I could feel God in them. And her writing is gorgeous; lyrical and sweeping. I like to highlight passages when I read for later reflection, but if I did that with this book, my eBook would have been more yellow than not. Don’t even get me started on her characterization. I fell in love with the people and their way of life. I envied their sense of quiet contentment.

I met Amanda years ago at a writer’s retreat. She is a real sweetheart and I’m thrilled she has found her literary voice. Her debut novel, Whose Waves These Are, is the winner of the prestigious 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, and the winner of an INSPY award. Read this one! 5 stars.


The World Played Chess
by Robert Dugoni

In 1979, Vincent Bianco has just graduated from high school. His only desire: collect a little beer money and enjoy his last summer before college. So he lands a job as a laborer on a construction crew. Working alongside two Vietnam vets, one suffering from PTSD, Vincent gets the education of a lifetime. Now forty years later, with his own son leaving for college, the lessons of that summer—Vincent’s last taste of innocence and first taste of real life—dramatically unfold in a novel about breaking away, shaping a life, and seeking one’s own destiny.

Robert Dugoni has always been a superb storyteller, but this coming-of-age story was exceptional. The World Played Chess is a brilliant, poignantly written masterpiece rich with historical detail and one of the best books I have read in a long time. The novel is three coming-of-age stories in one: a young man fighting in Vietnam, Vincent, a recent high school graduate he befriends on a job site, and Vincent’s son, Beau, who experiences a life-changing tragedy. Dugoni earns top marks for character development and emotive writing. The World Played Chess was heart wrenching and I’ll admit I shed a few tears, but it wasn’t overemotional either. It was a powerful depiction of the consequences of war, and how sorrow affects us in different ways. I’m a better person for reading it. Don’t just take my word for it, buy a copy, and decide for yourself. Although Dugoni’s crime novels, legal, and espionage thrillers are great, I’d like to see him write more books like The World Played Chess and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, both of which received 5 stars from me.

** Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own.












Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Literature, Newsletter, Reading and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .