A Sprawling Tale of Mafia Origins

The origins of the Mafia have always fascinated me. Loyalty explores the complex dynamics of good versus evil in a time of societal upheaval. Set in 19th-century Sicily, during the rise of the Mafia, the novel follows four main characters whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways: – Franco Fiorvanti, a determined lemon grower with dreams of owning his own lemon grove. To prove his loyalty to his boss, Baron Zito, Franco agrees to arrange the kidnapping of a little boy, Dante, setting off a chain of events that shape the future of the world’s first Mafia family. – Gaetano Catalano, an idealistic lawyer and member of the Beati Paoli, a […]

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A Cozy Whodunit with a Dash of Nostalgia

3.5 stars. Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge is a cozy mystery set in the English countryside. The story follows Phyllida Bright, the housekeeper for the famous author Agatha Christie. Phyllida is loyal to and protective of Christie, who is as much a friend as an employer. When a dead body is discovered during a house party at the home of Agatha and her husband Max Mallowan, Phyllida leads the charge to solve the murder, using her keen observation skills and knowledge gleaned from Christie’s novels. The atmospheric setting captures the essence of a grand manor house with a cast of intriguing characters. Phyllida’s interactions with the staff and […]

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Love and Betrayal in the Vineyards of Champagne

Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of the renowned champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade France. As danger mounts, Michel becomes involved with the Resistance. Inès fears exposure, while Céline, the half-Jewish wife of the chief winemaker, faces an even greater threat as rumors of Jewish deportations spread. Desperation leads Céline to a reckless choice for happiness, and Inès makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, risking the lives and legacy of those she loves. New York, 2019: Liv Kent is grappling with a recent divorce. When her eccentric French grandmother arrives and insists on a sudden trip to Paris for reasons unknown, Liv […]

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A Tale of Mystery and Enchantment

As a follower of Christ, Patti Callahan Henry understands our purpose and the promise of eternity in Heaven. Viewing The Secret Book of Flora Lea through this lens enhances its power. In this mesmerizing novel, Hazel Linden’s world is upended when she discovers a rare book revealing long-held secrets about her missing sister, Flora. The story begins in 1939, with fourteen-year-old Hazel and her five-year-old sister, Flora, evacuated to the English countryside during World War II. The sisters find solace with Bridie Aberdeen and her son, Harry, in a village along the River Thames. Hazel creates Whisperwood, a magical fairy tale world, to distract Flora from the war. But their […]

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A Gripping Espionage Thriller

In Moscow X, David McCloskey delivers a high-stakes espionage thriller set in modern-day Russia. CIA operatives, Sia and Max, enter Russia to recruit Vladimir Putin’s moneyman. Sia works for a London firm that conceals the wealth of the super-rich, while Max runs a family horse-breeding business in Mexico, a CIA front since the 1960s. They pose as a couple, targeting Vadim, Putin’s private banker, and his wife, Anna, who is both a banker and an intelligence officer. As they navigate a world of luxury and gangland violence, they hope Anna, who is playing her own game, will be their ally. Disgraced CIA officer Artemis Aphrodite Procter sees a chance to […]

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Breaking Barriers in 19th-Century Medicine

The Girl in His Shadow is a fascinating historical novel set in 19th-century London. The story is about Nora Beady, an orphan raised by the brilliant and eccentric Dr. Horace Croft after her parents died during a cholera outbreak. Unlike other young women of the time, Nora is trained in suturing and anatomical illustrations, rather than embroidery, defying societal norms that restrict women from practicing medicine. Nora secretly assists Dr. Croft with surgeries and medical research, honing her skills and expanding her knowledge. Dr. Daniel Gibson, a charming and ambitious young doctor, threatens to expose Nora’s hidden talents. As Nora navigates the challenges of working in a male-dominated field, she […]

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A Lyrical Journey Through Love, Memory, and Family

Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake is a stunning read that earns all 5 stars. Set during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel follows Lara Nelson and her daughters—Emily, Maisie, and Nell—as they quarantine at their family orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, Lara recounts her time as a young actress in New Hampshire, focusing on her romance with Peter Duke, who later became a famous actor. The daughters are eager for details about Lara’s past, and each responds differently to her revelations and then reflects on her own life. Through these stories, Patchett explores themes of love, memory, and the choices that shape our lives. Her writing […]

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A Multigenerational Tapestry with Mixed Results

The Grandmother Begins the Story is a rich multigenerational novel that explores the lives and heritage of a Métis family. This unusual and almost weird novel is told by a chorus of funny, wise, confused, and struggling characters, including five generations of women in an indigenous Canadian family. Even bison, grasslands, dogs, and a car chime in to tell their stories. The characters include Mamé, who’s having trouble settling in the afterlife; her daughter Geneviève, who checks into rehab at age 81 after decades of alcoholism; Gen’s daughter Lucie, who is dying of cancer; and Carter, Geneviève’s great-granddaughter, who’s just discovering her Métis heritage after escaping an abusive adoptive mother. […]

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The Thursday Murder Club Faces Their Most Poignant Mystery Yet

Richard Osman’s The Last Devil to Die brings the Thursday Murder Club back with their signature humor, suspense, and heartfelt moments. This time, the spirited retirees—former spy Elizabeth Best, retired nurse Joyce Meadowcroft, psychiatrist Ibrahim Arif, and longtime union organizer Ron Ritchie—are caught up in a new mystery when their friend Kuldesh Sharma, an antiques dealer, dies and a dangerous package he was protecting disappears. As they investigate, the club encounters art forgers, online fraudsters, and drug dealers while navigating the picturesque English countryside. The journey is filled with twists and turns, uncovering secrets and hidden agendas that test their friendship and sleuthing skills. This fourth installment also brings heartache […]

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The Phoenix Crown Falls Flat Despite High Expectations

2.5 stars rounded up to 3. I have long been a fan of Kate Quinn, with several of her books earning 5-star ratings. Because of that, I eagerly anticipated The Phoenix Crown, co-written with Janie Chang. I was so disappointed that I almost didn’t finish it. Here’s why. In 1906, opera singer Gemma Garland moves to San Francisco to join the New York Metropolitan Opera’s traveling company, hoping to room with her old friend Nellie Doyle. Instead, she meets and falls for railroad magnate Henry Thornton. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Feng Suling, disguised as a boy to avoid an arranged marriage, is trying to forget her missing lesbian lover, Reggie. When a […]

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