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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Sun, Surf, and Struggles

California Golden by Melanie Benjamin is set against the vibrant backdrop of 1960s California, where the surf culture is thriving, and societal norms are being challenged. The story centers on Carol Donnelly, a trailblazing female surfer who is both captivating and flawed. Carol’s passion for the waves and the free-spirited lifestyle that comes with it often puts her at odds with her responsibilities as a mother. Her two daughters, Mindy and Ginger, grow up in the shadow of their mother’s fame and struggle to find their own identities amidst the chaos. Mindy, the elder, yearns for stability and a sense of belonging, while Ginger embraces the rebellious spirit of the […]

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Post-WWI Intrigue with Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear’s Among the Mad (book #6) is a great addition to the beloved Maisie Dobbs series. Set in post-WWI England, the novel follows Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator, as she works with a high-powered team from Scotland Yard to catch a madman before he commits murder on an unimaginable scale. The story kicks off when Maisie witnesses a man commit suicide in front of her on Christmas Eve. His death sets off a chain of events involving cryptic letters threatening mass destruction. Maisie races to prevent a catastrophe while facing her own psychological scars left by the war. Winspear excels at creating a vivid and immersive historical setting. […]

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A Pioneering Woman’s Struggles in Medicine

The Surgeon’s Daughter follows the journey of Nora Beady, a pioneering woman in the 19th-century medical field. Orphaned and raised by Dr. Horace Croft, Nora receives an unconventional education in medicine, leading to a deep passion for surgery. However, her path is filled with obstacles in a male-dominated society that views women as unfit for the operating room. Nora’s journey takes her from England to Italy, where she becomes the only woman attending medical school. She faces both personal and professional challenges, including the prejudices of her colleagues and societal norms that limit her opportunities. Everything changes when she allies herself with Magdalena Morenco, the sole female doctor on staff. […]

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A Journey of Courage and Resilience during the Revolutionary War

A Girl Called Samson is a powerful and inspiring historical novel that beautifully blends the struggles of the American Revolutionary War with the personal journey of Deborah Samson. Harmon’s immersive storytelling captures the essence of a turbulent time while highlighting themes of courage, resilience, and identity. Born to Puritan parents in 1760, Deborah Samson becomes an indentured servant after her father abandons the family. Twenty years later, as the American colonies buckle in their battle for independence, Deborah disguises herself as a soldier and enlists in the Continental Army. Her impressive height and lanky build make her transformation a convincing one, and it isn’t long before she is confronting the […]

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Historical Thriller Falls Short Despite Promising Premise

Andrew Gross’s The Saboteur promises a gripping WWII tale of resistance and espionage but ultimately falls short in execution. Set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Norway, the story follows Kurt Nordstrum, a Norwegian resistance fighter who teams up with Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) to sabotage The Norsk Hydro plant, a heavily guarded factory set atop unscalable cliffs where the Nazis are manufacturing heavy water—a crucial component of nuclear weapons. It’s a mission they expect they will not survive. While the author’s meticulous research and inclusion of real historical figures add authenticity, the novel suffers from several significant flaws. One of the most glaring is the lack of character […]

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Disappointing Dive into Dark Themes

Karin Slaughter’s After That Night, the latest in the Will Trent series, left me cold. The novel dives into the lives of Sara Linton, Will Trent, and Faith Mitchell as they navigate a chilling web of privilege and abuse in Atlanta’s elite circles. Fifteen years after Sara’s own trauma, she witnesses the death of a young woman named Dani Cooper, whose brutal assault draws eerie parallels to Sara’s own and she must confront her demons once again. Despite the promising premise, I found myself unable to connect with the story. The narrative felt overly long and failed to maintain my interest beyond the halfway mark. While some may find the […]

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Intrigue, Romance, and Redemption

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). This poignant biblical quote sets the stage for Colleen Coble and Rick Acker’s collaborative novel, What We Hide, a blend of suspense, romance, and spiritual depth. History professor Savannah Webster’s life shattered after losing her toddler and her marriage collapses. Amid her research on the Willard Treasure, pre-Columbian artifacts with a shadowy past at Tupelo Grove University, Savannah stumbles upon forged provenance letters, hinting at a sinister plot to steal from the collection. Matters worsen when her estranged husband, Hezekiah, reappears seeking reconciliation, only for Savannah to find herself embroiled in a murder investigation soon after rejecting […]

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Family Bonds and WWII Secrets

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann passes away, his three estranged daughters find themselves brought together at his vineyard for the reading of his will. JoAnne Ross’s novel, The Inheritance, explores the lives of Tess, a renowned writer and actress; Charlotte, a Southern socialite, trapped in an unhappy marriage; and Natalie, Jackson’s French daughter from a long-term affair, who grew up amidst the vineyard’s rich history. The sisters come together reluctantly and find themselves captivated by the enchanting legacy of their grandmother—a former WWII Resistance fighter in France—and her love for a wounded American soldier who influenced the fate of their family. For readers intrigued by wine culture and WWII history, […]

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A Historical Dive into 19th-Century Asylum Life

The Madwomen of Paris takes us back to 19th-century France, focusing on Laure Bissonet, a talented artist. After her father’s death leaves her homeless and in debt, Laure has a breakdown and ends up in the hysteria ward of the Salpêtrière asylum. As she recovers, Laure works as a resident ward attendant and takes on the responsibility of caring for Josephine, a patient who the asylum’s famous director uses in hypnosis demonstrations. Laure plots their escape from the oppressive institution. The novel vividly depicts the struggles women faced in a society that often labeled them mad for defying norms. It highlights the 19th-century obsession with hysteria and the dangerous treatments […]

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