The Traitor Beside Her

This book had potential but ultimately fell short of expectations. Set in 1944, it follows 21-year-old Justine Byrne, who is recruited by US Army Intelligence, to work at Arlington Hall, a code-breaking facility to uncover a traitor. Initially, the premise promised a gripping WWII espionage thriller. Unfortunately, the execution didn’t live up to that promise. The pacing was inconsistent, with the plot dragging in places where it should have been tense and thrilling. The characters, especially Justine, lacked depth and development. Though portrayed as an intelligent woman, she came across as flat and one-dimensional. The historical setting was well-researched, but it often overshadowed the plot. The repetition of words throughout […]

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A Beautifully Woven Tale of Love and Family Secrets

The story centers on Matelda Roffo, an Italian grandmother nearing the end of her life, who decides it’s time to reveal her family’s hidden secrets. As she unfolds the past, we’re transported back to her mother Domenica’s life in pre-World War II, Italy. Domenica thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio, Italy until she is banished by the Catholic Church. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland and onto the dangerous streets of war-torn Liverpool. Trigiani’s writing is lush and evocative. She captures the essence of Italian culture—the food, the landscapes, and the deep-rooted traditions. I could almost taste the homemade […]

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A Gripping Tale of Courage and Survival in the Arctic Wilderness

  In early 1853, a mysterious benefactor summons experienced California Trail guide Virginia Reeve to Boston and offers her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead a party of 12 women into the wild, hazardous Arctic in search of the lost Franklin Expedition. Based on true events, Greer Macallister’s The Arctic Fury is an adventurous historical mystery that considers what might have been if a women’s expedition traveled to the Arctic when women weren’t expected to leave the house, let alone explore the corners of the globe. A year and a half after the expedition, Virginia finds herself on trial for murder when not all the women return. Macallister captures the suspenseful […]

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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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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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A Maritime Disaster in 1915 Chicago

“If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we’d find that much of what we love has a lot to do with the memories we’ve attached to it.”—Jocelyn Green, Drawn by the Current. Jocelyn Green’s Drawn by the Current takes you on a harrowing journey aboard the ill-fated SS Eastland, which capsizes while tied to a dock in 1915 Chicago. Olive Pierce, an insurance agent, takes her best friend on an excursion on the ship to celebrate her birthday when the unthinkable occurs. With Claire missing amid the chaos, Olive’s escape is just the beginning. The wreckage is more than the twisted steel and the chilling waters of the lake—it’s the […]

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A Sweeping Equestrian Journey

“You have to know that bigots are unwittingly handing you an edge. By thinking you’re lesser than they are, they underestimate you. Lean on that. Learn to use it, and you’ll get the upper hand.” —Geraldine Brooks, Horse. I’ve been a fan of Pulitzer Prize-winner Geraldine Brooks since reading her first novel, Year of Wonders. She once proves once again why she’s a household name with her novel Horse. Based on a true story, this journey weaves through centuries, tying together the lives of people separated by generations but connected by the legacy of a record-breaking thoroughbred named Lexington. You’ll meet Jarret in the 1850s, bound by the chains of […]

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Where the Last Rose Blooms

Ashley Clark’s third installment in the Heirloom Secrets series, a dual-narrative historical novel, intertwines the lives of two women bonded by loss and a hidden language of flowers. The suspenseful story flips between post-Katrina New Orleans and Civil War-era Charleston, focusing on Alice, a florist who stumbles upon an embroidered mystery, and Clara, a Confederate general’s daughter, turned abolitionist spy. The women, separated by centuries, share a common determination and depth of spirit as they face challenges including slavery, societal prejudices, and personal demons. The novel shines with its well-crafted female protagonists, both embodiments of resilience and faith. The historical fabric of the narrative, particularly Clara’s journey, is richly woven, […]

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