Broken Lives

The Two Lives of Sara is a dramatic novel set in 1960s Memphis, Tennessee. The story follows Sara King, a young, unwed mother fleeing her troubled past in Chicago with her newborn baby and haunting secrets. She finds refuge at The Scarlet Poplar, a boardinghouse owned by the kind and formidable Mama Sugar. Sara discovers a new sense of community. Mama Sugar and the diverse group of boarders offer her and her son Lebanon friendship and support. Among them is Jonas Coulter, an elementary school English teacher. As their romance blossoms, Sara becomes increasingly involved in the civil rights movement. Despite the warmth of her new life, Sara’s past and […]

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A Love Story Dimmed by Nazi Brutality

Sarah Freethy’s debut novel intertwines the haunting past of Nazi Germany with a daughter’s quest for truth. 1920s: Bettina, a free-spirited German avant-garde artist, meets and falls in love with Max Ehrlich, a Jewish Austrian student. The rise of the Nazis shatters their dream of escaping Germany. Max is deported to Dachau, where his skill in creating exquisite figures at the Allach porcelain factory helps him survive. Desperate to protect their unborn child, Bettina marries a rising Nazi SS officer. 1993: Clara, who grew up not knowing her father, sets out to discover his identity after her mother’s death. Bettina left behind a single clue—a rare porcelain Viking figurine. Clara’s journey uncovers […]

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A Heart-Wrenching Tale of Love and Defiance

We Must Not Think of Ourselves is a moving story set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The novel follows Adam Paskow, an English teacher and childless widower, confined to the ghetto along with 450,000 others. Forced to leave his spacious flat, Adam now shares a cramped apartment with two other families, works in a soup kitchen, and teaches English to children in a bombed-out movie theater. Adam’s life takes a turn when Emanuel Ringelblum recruits him to join a secret group of archivists documenting their experiences. Through interviews with his students and fellow residents, Adam records their lives, dreams, fears, and survival strategies. One of these interviews […]

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A Mother’s Quest to Find Her Children.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4. Eleanor Shearer’s debut novel, River Sing Me Home, begins on the Providence sugar plantation in Barbados in 1834. The master announces the end of slavery, but the slaves must work as apprentices for another six years. Rachel, born on the plantation, escapes in the dead of night to find her five children, sold away years ago. Her dangerous journey takes her from Barbados through the dense forests of British Guiana across the sea to Trinidad. Along the way, she receives help from former tobacco harvesters and runaway slaves. In Bridgetown, Rachel reunites with her mute daughter, Mary Grace. They travel with a seaman named […]

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A Daunting, Yet Rewarding WWII Epic

I’ve had an advance reader copy of For Malice and Mercy for a couple of years but procrastinated because of its length (575 pages). I finally read it and am glad I did. The novel tells the story of Karl and Marta Meyer, who immigrated to America from Germany for the freedom to practice their Mormon religion. But when America enters WWII, the FBI arrests the Meyers as spies. After stripping them of their citizenship, rights, and livelihood, the US government sends them to a German/Japanese internment camp, and then eventually deports them to war-torn Germany. Their son Hank joins the US Army Air Corps, and after being shot down, […]

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A High-Octane Thriller of Betrayal and Suspense

Jack and Gabe are the best in the business at breaking into buildings and hacking security systems. As top penetration specialists, they get hired by high-profile companies to test their security vulnerabilities. But after a routine assignment goes terribly wrong, Jack returns home to a nightmare—someone brutally murdered Gabe, and the police suspect her of doing it. Determined to clear her name, Jack goes on the run to find the killer. She uncovers a connection between Gabe’s death and a dangerous zero-day exploit, a vulnerability in a popular app that could be worth millions to the wrong people. Jack must stay one step ahead of the authorities and the killers. […]

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Russian Women’s Family Saga

This debut novel spans three generations of Russian women, from the 1917 revolution to the final days of the Soviet Union, with an enduring love story at its core. It starts with a young girl living happily in Moscow with her sister, father, and eccentric mother, who collects porcelain dolls and tells fairy tales. One summer night changes everything, leaving only the girl and her mother. A decade later, Rosie, studying at Oxford with an English name and a loving fiancé, seeks to understand and bury her past. When her mother dies, Rosie returns to Russia with her mother’s folklore and a single key. She uncovers a devastating family history […]

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High Hopes, Mixed Results: A Review of The Leftover Woman

I had high hopes for The Leftover Woman since I loved Jean Kwok’s Searching for Sylvie Lee, but this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me. The story follows Jasmine Yang, who flees her controlling husband in rural China to New York City. She’s on a desperate mission to find her daughter, taken from her at birth. At the same time, we meet Rebecca Whitney, a high-powered publishing executive with an adopted Chinese daughter, Fiona. Jasmine’s character had depth, and her struggles felt real. Her journey from a small village to NYC, working as a nanny by day and a cocktail waitress by night, was enthralling. However, some of her decisions were […]

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Unmasking a Nazi Conspiracy in 1930s Hollywood

“If not us, who? If not now, when? It must be us, and it must be now. I would fight this war. I would not be silent!”― Stephanie Landsem, Code Name Edelweiss. Code Name Edelweiss is a fabulous historical thriller that reveals a chilling but little-known chapter of American history. Set in the summer of 1933, it follows Liesl Weiss, a single mother in Los Angeles, struggling to support her family during the Great Depression. Enter Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer deeply alarmed by the rise of Adolf Hitler and the increase in anti-Semitism in America. Convinced that Nazi agents are plotting to seize control of Hollywood, the world’s greatest propaganda machine, […]

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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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