Thursday, July 18, 2024

When We Flew Away

When the Frank family relocated from Germany to the Netherlands in 1934 they truly believed it would save them. The country remained independent and neutral on all political and religious matters. But as Europe succumbed to the atrocities brought by Hitler and the Nazi’s there was no longer a safe place to be found. When We Flew Away reimagines Anne’s life prior to 1942, before they were forced into hiding. Before she wrote a diary that changed the way we see the world. Anne and her sister led a simple life with all the normal urgencies of a young girl trying to figure out what she likes and who she wants be. This outspoken young girl was often reprimanded in school for being a chatterbox, while she idolized and was jealous of her older sister, the model student. As the family watched their freedoms slowly disappear they clung to each other and a few friends that would help them organize the infamous attic where they would be concealed for two years. Appreciating the birds and the flowers and the feel of sunshine on your face, Anne describes the simple joys we take granted every day. I simply love author Alice Hoffman but I must admit this is a very YA book and although I often enjoy them this one did not capture my heart. It was a little repetitive and told by a narrator when as the reader I would’ve liked to imagine her thoughts first person. Maybe because I have been reading about the life of Anne Frank for my entire life, nothing will ever compare to her diary and actual words. ⭐⭐⭐

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Maria

In 1959 Maria von Trapp marches into the infamous Lunt-Fontanne Theater. Yes, Maria von Trapp is an actual woman and she was angry. When Rogers & Hammerstein bought the rights to produce The Sound of Music from a German film company they used their artistic license to create the life they imagined for the family that escaped the Nazi’s and became a global singing sensation. But Maria lived this life. There were too many things that the play did not capture. Too many things their beautiful family had tragically lost. Always indefatigable, Maria meets with Fran, a secretary and writer who works for Hammerstein. The women walk through Central Park as Maria paints a picture of the magnificent hills of Austria and the family’s rise to fame. Born in 1905, Maria was orphaned at an early age and sent to live with an unkind uncle who terrified them all. Finally escaping to go to teachers college, Maria discovered her natural gift for music and singing. After her training she entered the Nonberg Abbey where she adored her students and was on her way to becoming a nun. Maria was finally at home, praying she would never be alone again. At 21 she received an opportunity to teach a sickly child, one of seven siblings at Baron von Trapp’s estate, and she accepted. Their father, the Baron, was 25 years her senior and his quiet house was still mourning the loss of their mother, the Baroness Agathe. Maria brought life and music back into their lives and well, the rest is history. I adored every single page of this amazing work of historical fiction. One of my all time favorite musicals, this new novel is an absolute joy and not to be missed. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The God of the Woods

When counselor Louise awakens she finds one empty bunk in her cabin. Barbara Van Laar is missing and no-one has seen her in hours. From the moment Louise reports this startling news to the director, chaos ensues. Barbara’s family owns Camp Emerson and the magnificent land surrounding it. Set in the idyllic Adirondack mountains in August 1975, the fast paced mystery has begun. Leaders are gathered to form a search party. The authorities are alerted. Campers are frightened and eerily the town remembers when 14 years earlier, Barbara’s brother Bear disappeared in these same woods, never to be seen again. As each witness is questioned, the investigators appear to have motives and alibis of their own. Some were involved in the previous case, others fear retribution from this powerful family. Judy, a young female investigator (the only woman on the team) was recently promoted from state trooper. She is inexperienced but has an honest approach that surprises them all. A teenager from a wealthy family is missing. An old case is unofficially reopened. And apparently every single suspect has something to hide. This is a long read and you would never know it. The chapters are short and will have you on the edge of your lounger with twists and turns you never expected! A perfect summer thriller. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Behind Every Good Man

When Beverly Diamond surprises her husband at the office, she finds him and his secretary in a most compromising position. Devastated by his betrayal, his bags are packed and Larry finds himself on a friend’s couch before the day is over. Feeling embarrassed and confused Beverly doesn’t see many options as a woman in 1962. Although she was an excellent student, Beverly gave up college and career to be a homemaker, a perfect wife and mother to her two young children. Now in her late twenties, Beverly refuses to let this man ruin her future. She chooses to use the lessons she learned watching the repeated success of her politician father and strong, competent mother. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Beverly realizes winning would be the sweetest revenge. As Larry runs the senatorial campaign of a two faced liar, Beverly weasels her way into the offices of an opponent. A young candidate named Michael Landau. He is smart, handsome and most importantly - breathtakingly honest. But Landau’s campaign has no money, no traction and very little direction. Well, she intends to change all that. Using every lesson and connection she has in her arsenal, Beverly turns the entire race upside down. Witty, fun and fast paced, this author once again brings us into the not so distant past when women looked the part but were not yet leading the way. They were entirely dependent on their husbands and the male counterparts of their families. The fight for independence and equality were hard won battles that are still in motion today. Do not miss this entertaining original novel and remember who you are when you vote this November. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Dixon, Descending

Dixon Bryant missed the Olympic track team trials by two-tenths of a second. He has spent his entire adult life trying to outrace his feelings of failure. Instead of relishing the memories of his many incredible record breaking events, he put all his energy into being the good boy, the rule following student, son and younger brother. Now, working as a middle school psychologist Dixon must often decide who he can save, which boys carry the possibility of rising above their circumstance. Nate is the older brother, a disarmingly handsome, charming, businessman searching for life’s meaning. He suggests the once athletic men, now middle aged, challenge themselves physically and mentally. Nate wants them to summit Mount Everest and become the first African American men to reach the top of the world. Hesitant at first, as soon preparations begin, they are hooked. Every waking moment becomes about the mountain and the arduous journey ahead. Frightened and excited, neither of the brothers is prepared for the choices they must make and living with the unknown future that lies ahead. A breathtaking, fascinating tale of mountaineering, family and racism. Not for the faint of heart, this unpredictable page turner is impossible to put down! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Friday, June 28, 2024

The Lion Women of Tehran

Until 1953 Ellie lived with her mother and father in a beautiful home, located in an upscale part of Tehran. Self described as a descendent of royalty, Ellie’s mother was obsessed with their image and status. That all disappeared when Ellie’s father unexpectedly dies. They are left under the watchful eye of his brother who moves them to a small apartment on the wrong side of town. Innocently enough at seven years old, Ellie’s only dream is to meet one girl she can truly call a friend. When school begins she is introduced to Homa, an outspoken classmate who takes her under her wing. The girls become inseparable and Ellie takes great pleasure from Homa’s large bustling family and striking confidence. Later, when their circumstances dramatically change Ellie and Homa are separated and she is returned to the bourgeoisie society of her earlier days. When the friends reunite Ellie is mostly concerned with clothing, hairstyles and “netting” a husband. Homa, an outstanding and earnest student wants to study law and become a judge. As the two navigate the Shah’s regime from contrasting perspectives their friendship is not as simple as it once was. While Ellie has fallen in love and envisions a family, Homa’s involvement in a student communist group on campus endangers them all. This magnificent, beautifully written story of friendship, family and history is both heartbreaking and hopeful. All these years later the brutal struggle for women in pursuit of their rights for freedom in Tehran is ongoing. But they have not given up. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

If You See Them

One day Vicki’s son, Cam, brought home a girl from his highschool. He didn’t know her well but she was smart, living on her own and about to drop out of school in order to earn enough money to support herself. A caring person, Vicki had been volunteering and organizing hundreds of meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas through a local charity for years. But maybe that wasn’t enough. Vicki slowly learned there was a large population of “unaccompanied homeless youth” in their midst that slipped through the cracks of our society alone, terrified and hopeless. She learned that ONLY children “taken” from the home are considered for the foster care system, an agency most people believe ensure the well being of minors. Now she understood the homeless youth she identified do not qualify for any benefits. Vicki Sokolik, a resident of Tampa Florida founded a nonprofit called Starting Right, Now - later coined SRN. Once identified by school administration these teens can apply to be part of this incredible hands-on program where they receive guidance, mentorship and a roof over their heads. The goal is to aid these young people to lead productive, healthy lives and build a trustworthy the support system they never had. As Vicki details her experiences creating the organization and the obstacles they faced, she also highlights the many personal journeys of these teens. Some are shocking, all are heartbreaking. This incredible woman along with her team has led the path to great change in her community and legislature in the State of Florida. It is a shining example of what patience, perseverance and change can accomplish. Writing a check is appreciated but not always enough when the system is broken. Thank you Vicki, for opening my eyes. We can all be a part of the solution. Highly recommend this well written and necessary read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Treason of Betsy Ross

As a teen Betsy Griscom follows her sister to the sewing shop where she spent her days. Without many options open to girls, and quite a talent with the needle, Betsy weaves her way to a position in the shop as well. The younger siblings at home keep her Quaker parents busy and they barely notice when Betsy brings home John Ross, a handsome young man she works beside. At first admitting they are only friends, Betsy fails to reveal John’s non-Quaker rebellious side and family ties to the Sons of Liberty. As violence in 1770 Philadelphia trickles down, Betsy can longer ignore the dangers of political unrest and what it means to be married to a militia man. She cannot no longer abide to the Quaker vow of nonviolence when their lives and that of their future children are at stake. Secretly helping John in any way she can Betsy is drawn closer and closer to the upheaval of this new American society and the future of an independent America. Fascinating historical detail of Philadelphia and the looming Revolutionary War, these turbulent times had many unsung heroes. Reflecting on what it meant to be patriot, the well known Betsy Ross was a brave feminist way ahead of her time. ⭐⭐⭐

Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Girl Called Samson

During the period of the American Revolution women were rarely seen and never heard. They generally did not attend school, could not own land and would never dream of being a soldier. In 1760 Deborah Samson was born. She is only a young girl when her no-good father abandons his five children and her mother has no choice but to send Deborah out as an indentured servant. But Deborah is lucky in her own way. She was taught to read and write at a young age and she was bestowed upon a kind family. The Thomas family has ten boys that teach Deborah to be tough and fast and competitive. She is not like other girls. As the war descends upon Massachusetts the boys go off, one by one to join. Deborah is a plain girl. She is tall, smart, athletic and able. It does not take long for Deborah to quietly change her appearance enough to pass as “Rob”, a 16 year old boy who will follow the brothers to war. Half the battle is keeping her secret, the other half is filled with all the things with which she excels. Deborah is smart and fearless. Behaviors that may have brought unwanted attention to her are masked by her bravery, loyalty and gumption. As her natural abilities become well known she is offered the coveted position of aide de camp to a kind and powerful general. With a surprising twist she falls in love with this man. Knowing that this is loosely based on a true story simply takes my breath away. Deborah Samson is an unknown in our history books and although this was fictionalized for our reading pleasure, I devoured this well written incredible story. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Love Letters to a Serial Killer

Hannah is adrift. Her job at a non-profit is going nowhere and she spends most of her time pining for men who never reciprocate. Hannah desperately wants to be in love and escape her mediocre family, her dead end job and the painful solitude of the studio apartment she can barely afford. On the wrong side of thirty, she is starting to think her window of opportunity has closed. Everything changes when she becomes obsessed with an online forum that is following the case of a serial killer accused of brutally murdering multiple women in Georgia. His name is William. He is a lawyer from a wealthy family and decidedly handsome. While William is in jail awaiting trial Hannah cannot stop thinking about the case, about William, and she writes him a letter. Not expecting a response, Hannah is shocked when William sends a friendly and rather flirty reply. They become penpals. Although Hannah believes he is guilty she learns all about his life and her feelings become magnified when William wants to know about hers. No-one has ever given Hannah this kind of attention and she is quickly drawn into his world. The trial is approaching and Hannah drives across the country to attend. She meets his family, she meets other women obsessed with the case and together they await the verdict. Hannah must be crazy, right? What kind of person would fall in love a serial killer? Filled with completely unexpected twists and turns, this fast paced insanity was absolutely unputdownable. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Friday, June 14, 2024

The Goddess of Warsaw

Lena Browning is a legendary actress. A Hollywood icon. Now in the last years of her life she wishes to come full circle. Her plan begins by sharing her life story with a young, popular actress who can easily play the role. As Lena flashes back to the early 1940’s she describes in detail her life as Bina Blonski, a beautiful blonde Jewish actress who has been thrown into the Warsaw ghetto by the Nazis. Her mother, father and sister - all killed. Her husband is a mild mannered journalist who is determined to record what is happening, while his brother Aleksandr and Bina want to fight back. They will save as many Jews as possible and are willing to kill when necessary. Bina’s Aryan looks and theatrical skills allow her to infiltrate the outside world. She arranges weapons and supplies for the small group of resistance fighters she has joined. When her husband is taken from the ghetto Bina acts on her hidden lustful feelings for Aleksandr. And then everything falls apart. Bina escapes and does whatever it takes to survive. Landing in Hollywood with a new identity Bina (Lena) spends her life in the spotlight using her money and fame to target Nazis who escaped unpunished after the war living lives they did not deserve. While the novel is fast-paced and an absolute page-turner, I found some of the romantic gestures to be a bit unrealistic and unnecessary. Nonetheless, the story is filled with many unexpected twists. If you're looking for a Holocaust story, I highly recommend it. Personally, I need a break from this genre for a while, but my mother-in-law thought it was riveting. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Summer Romance

Two years ago Ali’s mom sadly passed away. They were extremely close and Ali still finds herself locked in the car asking for advice. More concerning is that her mother answers. Then her husband announces he wants a divorce. This professional organizer and mother of two falls into a deep funk that she cannot climb out of. Keeping herself busy in the small town she grew up in creates an illusion making the days go quicker - but to what end? As summer approaches Ali wants to fix up more than her pantry, she wants to organize her life and start over again. In walks Ethan, or rather in rolls Scooter. (picture actor Adam Demos from Netflix Sex/Life on a skateboard) The once scrawny teenage brother of her best friend throws Ali for a loop de loop. Scooter has grown up and this devastatingly handsome, kind and sexy man may be just the fling to spice up her summer. As she and her ex work their way through a painful mediation juggling the needs and emotions of their kids, Ali must learn to manage the feelings unexpectedly bursting in her heart. Ethan is supposed to leave at the end of the summer. He has a home, career and people depending on him. But a four hour commute seems impossible and Ali fears she may lose her opportunity for a happy future. As cute, witty, sexy and well written as Nora Goes off Script, Summer Romance is the PERFECT read for the beach this summer! You will love every single minute of it! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐