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Reviews by Peggy K. (San Diego, CA)

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The Witches at the End of the World
by Chelsea Iversen
Careful what you wish for... (8/7/2023)
A lovely story of two young witches. One wishes to be free of a restricted and lonely life. She leaves her home but her sister has nothing but hatred and a desire for revenge in her heart. Her curse will destroy more than ease her pain and cause misery but it is how these two come together that is the heart of this story. It is a tale as old as time and useful to remember in today's world.
The Gifts: A Novel
by Liz Hyder
Angels (3/13/2023)
In many ways this book will generate a lot of questions about miracles, their meaning and what they do for humans. On the surface we have a fairly simple tale about four different women in a time when they were far less valued than today. The miracle brings them all together.

The men involved are not truly out of the ordinary, but one will be ruled by an obsession that is unusual. The women are truly fascinating, all from different stations of life and having great talents. They are also strong women who want more out of their lives.

The book is truly their story and readers will be drawn to each one. What happens to two of them is extraordinary and that event will bring all of them together and change their lives forever.

This book makes you stop and think about the struggle for women to find their place and it also makes you think more about the miracles and how religion looks at them.
The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill
by Brad Meltzer, Josh Mensch
Winning the War (12/25/2022)
This is a very good book about WWII but more importantly about the meeting of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. For those readers who don't like or don't want a lot of in-depth details, this book is perfect. The authors have put together a story that includes much of what the war was about, but also how far Adolf Hitler was willing to go to win. The meeting at Tehran was crucial for the Allies but more crucial was Hitler's plan to kill all three leaders. The book tells this story so well and without a single boring war story. It is an amazing tale.
Dirt Creek: A Novel
by Hayley Scrivenor
Hometown (3/21/2022)
There are not a lot of places today where folks know each other because the town is small. The disappearance of a child is a nightmare for any parent and perhaps you might think that living in a small town would make finding that child easier. This book shows you how complicated that can be.

This book delves into the secrets of everyone in town and finds connections are not quite what they seem to be. The reader will hear the stories from each character and then you have to figure out who is hiding what. All the characters are quite easy to relate to because they really are ordinary people. In the end there is a twist to the story of this missing child, and it will be a surprise. That is what makes this story so well drawn. It is a terrific start to a new career for this debut writer.
The Fields: A Novel
by Erin Young
Iowa Corn (10/18/2021)
This is a rather ambitious mystery with tangled storylines but an author who manages to tie them all up very well. The main character is a woman with a past that still haunts her. Riley is a police officer who is struggling to find her way in her hometown.

A murder case will bring her past and the present together with a bang. She recognizes the victim and worries that her past will become common knowledge. However this case is about more than that. All the characters are well drawn and interesting.

The author also manages to bring in a subject that many readers might not know about. Farming and Big Agra not to mention the cultivation of corn and other vegetables are very hot topics.

This book has a rather in depth look at the heartland and farmers suffering while presenting a page turning murder mystery.

Readers age 16 and up might enjoy this one and book clubs will want to talk about the problems in the Midwest and about experimentation in our crops while also touching on serial killers. Excellent book for those cold winter nights.
Crossing the River: Seven Stories That Saved My Life, A Memoir
by Carol Smith
Grief (2/21/2021)
Intense,heart breaking loss comes in many forms and the loss of a child may be one of the worst. Finding a way to accept and move on is what this book explores. It is a sad story but also one that the author explores by telling those of others dealing with grief. Beautifully written and one that book clubs can use to discuss deeply. Understanding how the mind deals with death or living with diseases, life altering injuries and more perhaps helps us all live a better life.
The Lost Apothecary: A Novel
by Sarah Penner
Poisonous Love (9/9/2020)
Here we meet Nella and Eliza in 18th century London. Nella was raised to be a healer but now supplies women with poisons to end unhappy relationships. Eliza wishes to learn to be an apothecary with Nella.

Enter Caroline who is in modern day London trying to decide what to do about infidelity in her marriage.

The book is about the dangers os such a life in old England and the discovery of a new future in the modern world. Nella is slowly dying and Eliza is young and fascinated with Nella's work. One mistake changes everything just as it does for Caroline and her husband.

Nicely written and enjoyable as a mystery romance. So much to learn about poisons along the way. Reading age 16 and up. Book clubs will truly enjoy discussing the the reasons for Nella's decision to help women use these poisons.
Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo
by Louise Callaghan
Desert zoo (10/22/2019)
Abu Laith had a dream. This poor mechanic wanted to create a zoo in Mosul right in the middle of a war. Nothing would stop him despite the cultural dislike of animals.

What slowly became a reality became a race to save these animals in the aftereffects of war. With the help of a sympathetic scientist he is able to succeed and this book is his story.

A well written, if a bit slow, tale. Readers 16 and up may enjoy this story. Book clubs may want to talk about home grown zoos.
The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz
by Jack Fairweather
The Other War (4/23/2019)
This book is a stunning tale of the depths to which men sink in times of war and the heights that some of them reach to save others. This is a tale of Auschwitz from the beginning. That a man would volunteer to go inside a camp where death was the only escape is amazing. It is easy to see why this chapter in the history of WWII has been erased in Poland.

It is indeed a page turner and this is somewhat surprising for a non fiction book but the author has put it all together in a way that you simply cannot stop turning the page. This is a book that should be read by everyone especially today's youth. Book clubs will be able to find so many questions to discuss about this book and the time it represents. It clarifies so much about what came later when the killing was unstoppable.
Red, White, Blue
by Lea Carpenter
Agency Scars (7/5/2018)
This is a very analytical book. It is the story of a daughter's search to know who her father really was. Anna's father was not who he seemed to be and only a chance encounter after his death reveals the truth. It isn't Anna's story alone. There is the young agent, the protégé who perhaps was the reason for her father's downfall in the Agency. There are two conversations going on here, one with that agent talking about the process of becoming a spy and Anna's search for herself through understanding her father.

It is a fascinating journey with much information about the murky world of espionage and what being an agent does to a person over that period of time. It would appear that Anna's father wanted her to know about his real life. The question in the end is will finding out the truth make Anna stronger and allow her to make her own life.

In today's world this is an idea that is full of questions about truth and what justice really is and how far we can go for our country.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles
by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel
Cats and Friends (5/14/2018)
A delightful collection of stories that will entertain all pet lovers. While these stories all involve a cat they also give us a deeper look into relationships with family and friends. They show how our connections with animals shape so much of our actions. Take this book with you to read on vacation or in front of a fire on a cold winter day. There is a lot of humor here but also many touching moments.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After
by Elizabeth Weil, Clemantine Wamariya
Loss of Identity (2/20/2018)
This is a breathtaking and heartbreaking novel. It may be hard to understand completely unless you have experienced such a traumatic event but everyone would benefit from reading this tale. Rwanda was and still is a horrific thing. While we may only touch the surface in understanding it can provide one with a window into that world. There are so many questions open to discussion with a book like this and nothing should be taken for granted. Each event like this is different as noted by the author. We cannot compare one tragedy to another but we can learn from discussing what happened here and what has happened elsewhere. Some of us know a little bit about lose of identity but generally it is a small part of our lives . Refugees are an everyday thing in our country now and there isn't much understanding of what it is like to try and survive in these countries. I was very happy that I decided to read it.
The Chalk Man
by C. J. Tudor
Children's Games (12/11/2017)
I was struck by the resemblance to Stand By Me which also involved a group of young kids. This story involves a group of young kids who have formed together to find adventure and protect each other from bullies. They create a way to message each other by using chalk figures.

It is a great game until a figure leads them to a murdered young girl.

In the present we find one of the kids, Eddie, now grown. He is leading a fairly normal life when one of the group returns to town and is later found murdered. Suddenly the past returns with a vengeance and to save himself and his friends Eddie must find out what happened all those years ago.

This is a rather creepy twisted tale and full of surprises along the way and especially at the end.

Readers from 16 and up will enjoy this tale but perhaps it is most enjoyable for those of us who grew up in a quieter time when playing with friends meant getting out and not sitting in front of a computer.
The French Girl
by Lexie Elliott
Secrets (9/4/2017)
Kate Channing has made a lot of her life in the past 10 years. The week in France with friends that ended with the break up of a relationship still stings but barely. She has almost forgotten the French girl who disrupted it all.

Then the girl's body is found and remaining friends come together and Kate is haunted by the past and her imperfect memories.

Nicely written novel that grows from a mystery to dangers that Kate could never have imagined. She looks closer at each friend and begins to wonder what really happened 10 years ago. What does she really know about each of them and their deepest secrets? For that fact what does she really know about her own?

Readers will come to the end of this story wondering about these characters and then perhaps relating to their own friends in the same way. Do we ever really know someone and how far they might go to protect their own secrets?

Good discussion panel here to delve into the idea of what friendship means and how much you really should or need to know. Good reading for ages 16 and up.
The Essex Serpent
by Sarah Perry
Superstition (2/17/2017)
For me this is a rather dark and dour novel with a main character who is somewhat unappealing. Few of the characters really grab the reader. The main character is an intelligent young woman married to an abusive man and his death is a relief. The storyline however remains far too dark for this reader. Cora joins forces with a vicar to investigate the mysterious return of a legendary serpent but the story truly is about the Victorian era and its mores.

Older readers may find this book interesting for its discussion about the mid nineteenth century and superstition. Younger readers might find it a bit too dark and gothic.

Book clubs would concentrate on discussing how different this era was but how superstition and the natural world collided as the century headed towards its end into the modern world.
Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge
by Helen Rappaport
Red October (10/15/2016)
Gripping story of the Russian Revolution seen through the eyes of visitors, diplomats and other foreign nationals. Having nowhere else to go really they were witnesses and sometimes victims at the beginning of this revolution. The book reads like fiction in that it feels unbelievable but this is a very real story of the disintegration of a nation.

This book opens up the events of the Russian revolution in a way none has before. It should appeal to all history lovers but also for the young students today who often think that history is boring.

Book clubs will love this book. So many questions here to be fielded and discussed.
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
by Susan Bishop Crispell
Wishes (7/8/2016)
A delightful romance but one also with topics of importance in life. Who hasn't wished that all they wanted could be granted or that their secrets could be hidden away? It sounds so good but in this lovely story we can see the pitfalls of having that ability. Readers of all ages can simply enjoy the romance and the idea of it all but reader clubs can find a gold mine here to talk about in just what it might mean to be able to grant wishes at will. We can see the damage that can be done to the person who has this ability as well as the effects on those that wish. Hiding secrets baked in a pie might look like a great idea too but again there are many pitfalls here and one thing affects another sometimes to the good and sometimes to the bad. I don't read romances often these days but I found this one to be very enjoyable and I think readers will as well.
Crazy Blood
by T. Jefferson Parker
Competition on the Slopes (1/4/2016)
Mr. Parker normally writes mysteries but I believe he will find new readers as well with this book. I found it quite enjoyable to read. Characterization is very strong and despite a plotline that isn't all that original it is still refreshingly new. Readers will also learn a great deal about the sport of skiing and competition.

This book will appeal to many male readers but that isn't to say that females won't enjoy it as well. At its base it is the tale of two families and two brothers who hate each other.

Book clubs may want to ask what drove the writer to create this story. Then there may be a discussion of family and the complexity that it involves. Some may have questions about skiing and what makes a truly great skier and what drives them.

I don't think anyone will be sorry that they chose this book to read.
The Devil in Jerusalem
by Naomi Ragen
Twisted Faith (7/11/2015)
This is an excellent drama. At the start it appears a simple case of child abuse but before you finish the first chapter you know that there is far more going on. A young couple come to Israel to make a new life for themselves and their religion. Instead the female becomes involved with a charismatic man who will take her faith and nearly destroy her life.

The author builds up the tension from the start and the reader can't stop turning the page what could possibly have made this woman allow her children to be abused in the name of God.

Readers 17 and up will find this tale fascinating. The stage is set in Jerusalem and the author truly brings that city to life. The characters are haunting. I found myself somewhat disliking the main character but I couldn't stop reading either.

Book Clubs will truly enjoy this one as it offers up so many views about religion and how it can take over completely in a negative way. Questions about faith, domestic violence and cults will also be asked and discussed.
What Doesn't Kill Her: A Reeve LeClaire Series Novel
by Carla Norton
Killer Designs (5/8/2015)
Whether you have read Carla Norton's first Reeve Leclaire mystery or not, this book will keep you turning the pages and going back to read the first book.

This is a real thriller with an incredibly brave young woman still struggling to recover from her own touch of evil and an escaped psychotic she knows so well. Readers are drawn in by this frightening tale but it will also provide great insight into the mind of a true psychotic.

Readers from 17 and up who love mysteries and thrillers will find this a truly frightening and haunting tale. The terror that Reeve feels as she tries to save someone else from the man who tortured her will stay with you long after you finish the book. Book clubs can easily put together a number of questions about the characters especially regarding being kept in captivity for years.
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