Book Reviews


The Lost Girls of Paris

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

It is 1946, and Grace Healey is passing through Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on her way to work when she sees an abandoned suitcase sitting under a bench.  In a moment of unrestrained curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase and finds the individual photographs of twelve young women.  She takes them.  Before long, Grace learns that the suitcase belonged to Eleanor Trigg, the woman in charge of a program that trained young women to be secret agents and deployed them out of London during World War II…. (Continue reading)




13 Hours13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff

13 Hours is the true story of the terrorist attack on the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound and the Annex, a nearby CIA station, in Benghazi, Libya.  On September 11, 2012, a team of six American security operators fought for thirteen hours to drive away the attackers, risking everything to protect the Americans there.  13 Hours is the story as told by the operators themselves, replete with first-hand knowledge of the events and details that can be found nowhere else…. (Continue reading)




51Svywt-ZhL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Adventures of a Young Naturalist by David Attenborough

In 1954, David Attenborough was offered an opportunity to begin a new show for BBC called Zoo Quest.  He jumped on it.  He traveled the world, finding and capturing rare animals for the London Zoo and filming the whole expedition.  Adventures of a Young Naturalist recounts three of these voyages, taking the reader first to Guyana in search of the giant anteater, then to Indonesia for the legendary Komodo dragon, and finally to Paraguay to find the giant armadillo…. (Continue reading)




Book-Cover-Image-All-the-Light-We-Cannot-SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives in Paris with her father, who works for the Museum of Natural History as the lock master.  At age six, she becomes completely blind, and her father trains her to navigate her own way through the city.  When the Nazis occupy Paris, twelve-year-old Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo, where they live with Marie-Laure’s great-uncle.  With them they carry what may be the museum’s most coveted jewel…. (Continue reading)




athousandnights_cvrA Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

The cruel ruler Lo-Melkhiin has already taken three hundred girls to wife and killed them all, one by one.  Now he is coming to her village, and she knows who he will take – her beautiful sister.  She vows she will not let that happen.  And so she takes her sister’s place and becomes Lo-Melkhiin’s next wife, fully expecting death to follow soon after.  But night after night, Lo-Melkhiins visits her and listens to her stories, and in the morning she awakes to see the sun in the sky…. (Continue reading)





Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

It is 1939, and twelve-year-old Rill Foss lives with her four younger siblings on the Arcadia, her family’s Mississippi River shantyboat.  For Rill, it is the perfect life – magical, free, and filled with adventures.  Until one night, when her father must rush her mother to the hospital, leaving Rill in charge.  With both parents gone, strange men arrive at the boat and drag them away to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, where they are met by the cruel director who seems determined to tear them from each other at every opportunity…. (Continue reading)





Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Seventeen-year-old Pino Lella is living happily in Italy and has no intention of becoming involved in the war.  But when his home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, he is sent to Casa Alpina, where he joins an underground railroad that helps Jews escape from the Nazis over the Alps.  When they learn what he is doing, his parents enlist him in the German army in an attempt to protect him.  After Pino is injured in a bombing, however, he is recruited as a personal driver by General Hans Leyers, the left hand of Adolf Hitler…. (Continue reading)




City of Thieves

City of Thieves by David Benioff

During the Nazi siege of Leningrad, Jewish Lev Beniov is arrested for looting a dead German’s body and thrown into prison, where he meets Kolya, a deserter with perfect Aryan looks.  Expecting to be executed, they are surprised to be met instead with a peculiar command from a powerful Soviet colonel – find a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake.  If they succeed, they will regain their freedom and access to rations.  And so Lev and Kolya set out to find eggs, in a city where everyone knows eggs no longer exist, in a time when it is every man for himself…. (Continue reading)





Clamour of Crows by Ray Merritt

Clamour of Crows features Jonathan Tucker, a widower who resigned from his Wall Street law firm after the death of his wife and children.  His peaceful life is suddenly shattered one day when the firm’s most powerful client dies of an apparent heart attack, leaving behind a precatory letter that seems to indicate “murder most foul.”  Tuck’s senior partner calls him back to investigate the death, leading to a chase across two continents as he works to piece together the puzzle before time runs out…. (Continue reading)




deception-point-9780743497466_hrDeception Point by Dan Brown

NASA has just made a groundbreaking discovery in the Arctic, one that has great implications for the floundering agency as well as the imminent presidential election.  To verify its authenticity, the White House employs a team of four expert civilians, including Rachel Sexton, the daughter of the current presidential candidate.  What they discover, however, is shocking beyond belief – evidence of scientific fraud beyond their wildest dreams…. (Continue reading)





Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

It is 1876 and arrogant, entitled William Johnson is attending Yale as a freshman.  On a dare from his chief student rival at the University, he joins a summer expedition led by the notoriously eccentric paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh.  Marsh becomes convinced that William is a spy for his sworn enemy, Edward Drinker Cope, and abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming…. (Continue reading)






Hammerhead Six by Captain Ronald Fry

Hammerhead Six, written by Captain Ronald Fry, is the true story of the captain and his Special Forces A-Team, code name Hammerhead Six, during the War on Terror in Afghanistan.  Situated in Camp Blessing in the Pech Valley of Kunar Province, the SF team worked to eliminate terrorist threats, targeting valuable suspects, seizing weapon stockpiles, and fighting off Taliban ambushes…. (Continue reading)






In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Once again, Bill Bryson steps out the door and into his favorite activity – travel.  This time, it is Australia, where he will brave the scorching heat, the many miles of barren desert land, and, of course, the many ways one could die.  There are the spiders, the snakes, the crocodiles, the jellyfish, the sharks, and a whole host of other dangers.  Yet despite this multitude of hazards, Australia is a country filled with sunshine, and Bryson plans to have a blast…. (Continue reading)





Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Young Anna Kerrigan travels one day with her father to meet Dexter Styles, a man her father seems very anxious to impress and who appears to play a vital role in her family’s survival.  Several years later, Anna’s father has disappeared, and Anna is working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard in an effort to contribute in some way to the war.  Eventually, she becomes the first female diver, a dangerous job that requires her to repair the ships needed to win the war…. (Continue reading)





My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

My Stroke of Insight is the true story of Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain.  In the space of just a few hours, Taylor lost the abilities to walk, talk, read, write, and recall any of her past life.  It took her eight years to recover completely, a miraculous feat she accomplished with the help of her caring mother…. (Continue reading)






Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson

In 1972, Bill Bryson traveled across Europe with his notorious friend from A Walk in the Woods, Stephen Katz.  Twenty years later, he decided to retrace his steps, stopping by Paris, Rome, Vienna, and many other cities.  The result of this second trip is chronicled in Neither Here nor There…. (Continue reading)







One Second After by William R. Forstchen

After an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) sends America back to the Dark Ages, John Matherson struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town.  Without electricity, food and medicine spoil, clean water is in shortage, and the order of society begins to break down.  Throughout all this, John must take a leadership role in his town and work to increase their chances of survival against all odds…. (Continue reading)






Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

In 1885, brothers Tommy and Billy McBride come home one afternoon after swimming in a remote waterhole to find a devastating tragedy.  Enraged and thirsting for revenge, they turn to sly and cunning John Sullivan, their father’s former employer and the wealthiest landowner in the region.  Sullivan forms a team lead by Inspector Edmund Noone, a ruthless and dangerous man…. (Continue reading)






Origin by Dan Brown

Edmond Kirsch, Robert Langdon’s former student at Harvard University, is scheduled to make a presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, featuring a discovery that he claims “will change the face of science forever.”  Langdon, as well as several hundred other guests invited to the event, watch as Kirsch begins his presentation that purports to answer the two earliest questions ever asked about human existence…. (Continue reading)





Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In 2045, reality is a place where no one wants to live anymore.  For eighteen-year-old Wade Watts, the only place he feels truly at home is in the virtual utopia known as the OASIS.  It has been five years since James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, has died, leaving behind a short video message.  The video reveals that Halliday has hidden an Easter egg somewhere inside the OASIS and offers the first clue to finding it.  Whoever finds this egg first will inherit Halliday’s entire fortune…. (Continue reading)





Red Sky at Noon by Simon Sebag Montefiore

When Benya Golden is sent to the Gulags for a crime he never committed, he joins a penal battalion composed of Cossacks and convicts.  In July 1942, after enrolling in the Russian cavalry, he and his fellow convicts are sent on a mission behind enemy lines and told that the only way to redeem themselves and win their freedom is by either dying or being wounded in battle…. (Continue reading)





Image result for Salt to the Sea cover image

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

It is the winter of 1945.  Four teenagers of different nationalities, each with their own dangerous secrets, converge onto the same path as they fight to get aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise ship used for military transport, which many believe is the path to safety and freedom.  Along the way, these teenagers must suffer through many tragedies and cruelties.  And they must also learn to face the dark secrets that plague them…. (Continue reading)




Skyward 2

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Since Spensa was a child, she dreamed of becoming a pilot, a hero that defended her world from the Krell.  But she has been branded coward’s daughter since the day her father broke rank and fled from the enemy.  Her chances of becoming a pilot are almost zero.  And as Spensa strives to become the warrior she had always envisioned, she begins to unearth old secrets, secrets that may better have remained hidden…. (Continue reading)




{2E99EA1C-9E85-49F4-AFEF-4EDA4C20BBBF}Img400Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn

Matthew Dunn creates a breathtaking spy story in his book Spycatcher.  Will Cochrane is the CIA and MI6’s deadliest asset and has never been outsmarted.  Now, however, that may all be about to change.  Will’s authorities task him with tracking down and neutralizing one of the most wanted terrorist masterminds.  Will devises what he believes to be a perfect plan, but he soon discovers that this man is more dangerous and cunning than any other he has ever faced…. (Continue reading)





Still Alice by Lisa Genova

At age fifty, Alice Howland holds an enviable position as a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard, as well as an impressive reputation in linguistics.  She has led an incredibly successful life along with her husband and is the mother of three grown children.  But as her memory begins to deteriorate and she becomes increasingly disoriented, a devastating diagnosis sends her life spiraling downwards as she gradually loses touch with her family and the rest of the world…. (Continue reading)





The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

In 1947, young Charlie St. Clair, pregnant and unmarried, travels to Europe with her mother to have her “Little Problem” taken care of.  As it happens, Charlie has also come up with a plan to escape her mother and search for her cousin Rose, who disappeared during World War II.  When her chance comes, Charlie slips away and heads to London, where she hopes to find answers…. (Continue reading)





boystripedpajamasThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

It is 1942.  Nine-year-old Bruno comes home one day to discover that all his belongings are being packed into boxes.  His father, a soldier, has just been promoted, and they are moving to a house far away, outside of Berlin.  At first, Bruno sulks, mourning the loss of his three best friends and the old house, which was much bigger and had a banister to slide down.  Soon, though, he remembers how he used to explore back in Berlin and decides to go for a walk one day…. (Continue reading)





The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

Colonel Marc Rodin is the new operations chief of the OAS, an organization with a current primary goal of eliminating the president of France, Charles de Gaulle.  Rodin can no longer trust the OAS, which has become heavily infiltrated with spies.  Instead, he turns to the Jackal, a cold and calculating assassin possessing unparalleled skill in his art.  By a queer twist of fate, the authorities discover the plot…. (Continue reading)




The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago, an accomplishment that secured America’s place in the world.  The Devil in the White City tells the story of the mastermind behind the fair, Daniel Burnham, and the many other architects that worked together to design it.  Struggling with politics, unions, and a ridiculous time constraint among other things, they strove to create a fair that would exceed the expectations of all watching and also surpass the greatness of the 1889 world’s fair in Paris…. (Continue reading)




The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Yasuko Hanaoka, a divorced single mother, believes she has finally left her abusive ex-husband behind her.  But one day he shows up at her door, and the situation quickly spirals out of control until he ends up dead on her apartment floor.  Her neighbor, the genius math teacher Ishigami, quickly steps in and offers to help them establish an alibi on the condition that they must follow his instructions to the letter.  After the discovery of a brutal murder, the Tokyo Police taps the detective Kusanagi… (Continue reading)





The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Glass Castle is the true story of Jeanette Walls and the events that shaped her, beginning with her childhood and following her into early adulthood.  When she was a child, her family was always on the move, usually running from some sort of trouble.  They skipped from town to town, making a living however they could and often going hungry for lack of food.  Throughout all this, Jeanette and her siblings learned to be self-dependent and to make use of whatever came their way…. (Continue reading)





The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

When Ernt Allbright, Leni’s father, comes home from the Vietnam War as a former POW, he is barely recognizable as the man he once was.  In 1974, he makes an impulsive decision to move his family to Alaska, where they will harvest their own crops and hunt their own meat.  Thirteen-year-old Leni hopes for a fresh start, and at first, it appears that her father has finally found his cure in the rugged beauty of Alaska.  But as winter approaches, he gradually deteriorates and becomes increasingly unstable…. (Continue reading) 





The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

It is the second half of the twentieth century and Afghanistan is on the brink of a turning point in its history.  The Kite Runner follows the friendship between Amir, the son of a wealthy man, and Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant.  Their friendship is doomed from the start, and the event that tears them apart will shape both of their lives and haunt Amir for many years to come.  This is a story of friendship, betrayal, and sacrifice, and the enormous responsibility that comes with each of our choices…. (Continue reading)




51W8NpvI0fL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Joe Talbert is a college student tasked with a writing assignment for his English class – interview an elderly person and write a brief biography.  Joe finds Carl Iverson in a nearby nursing home, a Vietnam veteran convicted of rape and murder and dying of cancer.  As Carl relates his life’s story, Joe cannot reconcile the hero in war with the man that raped and murdered an innocent girl.  With the help of his neighbor, Lila, he works to uncover the truth…. (Continue reading)





The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale is the story of two young women in France during World War II – Vianne Mauriac and her rebellious sister Isabelle.  It is 1939 and Vianne is living in Carriveau when her husband Antoine is drafted into the army to serve as a soldier in the Front.  At first, she doesn’t believe the Nazis will invade France.  But invade they do, and when they take her village, Vianne and her daughter are stuck with a German officer who billets in her house…. (Continue reading)





The Operator by Robert O’Neill

In his New York Times bestseller The Operator, Robert O’Neill begins by briefly describing his childhood in his hometown of Butte, Montana.  He quickly moves on to his impulsive decision to join the SEALs and the grueling months of intense training required to qualify.  During his time as a SEAL – over a decade –, there were periods of time where each night he and his team would record multiple enemy kills…. (Continue reading)





The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan’s Tale is the story of two women in the middle of World War II.  Noa, a sixteen-year-old girl who was thrown out by her family after her affair with a German officer resulted in a pregnancy, has recently had her baby taken from her.  When she sees a boxcar full of Jewish babies being sent to their death, she rescues one and flees.  She eventually finds shelter with a traveling circus and begins training for the flying trapeze under Astrid, the lead aerialist in the circus and a Jew…. (Continue reading)




9780451488336The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was interesting.  I also liked big books, and this is a big book.  However, when I hit what must have been about page 100, everything changed.  I read a whole page devoted to a sexual scene.  After that it was practically nonstop, almost every other page.  Finally, around page 150, when I had read about the twentieth extremely inappropriate scene to my mom, she snatched the book out of my hands and told me to go read something else…. (Continue reading)




The Spy and the Traitor

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Oleg Gordievsky was the model of a perfect KGB officer.  Born into a KGB family, he possessed a deep intellect and graduated from the “Russian Harvard”.  But eventually he recognized the lies and tyranny of the Soviet regime for what they were, and as he worked his way up to the highest post in the KGB’s London station, he began acting as a double agent for MI6, the British intelligence service…. (Continue reading)





The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  There he is made the Tätowierer, tattooing numbers on his fellow prisoners’ arms day after day.  For almost three years, he witnesses the barbaric acts of the Nazis, uses his privileged position to help other Jews, and vows to himself that he will survive.  Then one day, he meets a terrified young woman waiting in line to have her arm tattooed…. (Continue reading)





The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

In the spring of 1708, a Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers anchored off the coast of Scotland and nearly succeeded in reclaiming the throne of England for exiled James Stewart.  Bestselling author Carrie McClelland intends to use this historical event as the backdrop for her next novel.  She rents a small cottage near Slains Castle in Scotland and begins to write, taking the name of one of her ancestors for her heroine.  But as she weaves her story, she realizes that many of her ideas correspond perfectly to real historical records, leading her to suspect that her book may not be the fiction she thought it was…. (Continue reading)





Tomorrow by Damian Dibben

Tomorrow is the story of a 217-year-old dog in search of his lost master.  For 127 years he has waited in Venice, hoping every day for his master’s return.  But he has waited in vain… until one day Tomorrow senses his presence and embarks on a journey to find him.  As he strives to reunite with his master, danger lurks in the shadows, and he must reach his master before an old enemy, one who threatens to destroy everything Tomorrow holds dear…. (Continue reading)




51s5miLY1bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

We Were the Lucky Ones is the story of a Jewish family during World War II, based on the author’s own family history.  When the war begins, they are separated from each other one by one, and are unable to receive news from the others.  One family member tries to flee Europe.  Some are forced to work long hours in the ghetto, always with the fear that they will be the next to be murdered in the streets…. (Continue reading)




When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, just months away from finishing his years of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  In an instant, Kalanithi’s imagined future with his wife was gone, replaced by pain and uncertainty.  Where he had been the doctor before, he was now the patient, struggling to live and find the path that had once been so clear.  He had chosen to be a neurosurgeon with the belief that through his work, he could reach an understanding of identity, meaning, and death…. (Continue reading)

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