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Reviews by Betty Taylor

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Daughters of Shandong
by Eve J. Chung
Beautiful story of women coping (11/21/2023)
Eve J. Chung's debut novel, Daughters of Shandong, offers a poignant and compelling narrative of a mother and her daughters' courageous escape to Taiwan during the turbulent times of the Communist revolution in China. Set against the backdrop of civil war and political upheavals in 1948, the Ang family, particularly the four daughters, becomes the focal point of the story.

The novel delves into the lives of the Ang family, focusing on Hai, the eldest daughter, and her three sisters. In a society where sons are highly valued, the lack of a male heir becomes a cause of concern for the wealthy Angs. The Communist army's advance forces the prosperous household to flee, leaving the daughters and their abused mother behind as they are deemed burdensome.

Chung weaves a gripping tale as Hai, selected for trial due to her position as the eldest, faces the brutality of the land-seizing cadres. The narrative unfolds as the women, driven by resilience and resourcefulness, embark on a harrowing journey from the countryside to the bustling city of Qingdao, British Hong Kong, and eventually Taiwan. Their odyssey is marked by the changing tide of a nation and the challenges faced by those caught in the wake of revolution.

The author's prose is assured and evocative, bringing to life impeccably drawn characters. The Ang daughters emerge as unforgettable and complex figures, each with a unique story to tell. The novel captures the enduring love between mothers, daughters, and sisters, portraying the sacrifices made to secure a better future for generations to come.

Chung's skillful storytelling navigates through the political upheavals of mid-century China, providing readers with a spellbinding and transportive experience. The Ang daughters' will to survive resonates on every page, offering a glimpse into a world of despair and hope. The novel not only entertains but also educates and inspires, making it a rare work of fiction that lingers in the minds of readers long after the last page.

Daughters of Shandong stands out as a powerful exploration of the resilience of women in times of war, offering a hopeful narrative that emphasizes the strength found in the bonds of family. Eve J. Chung's debut is a noteworthy addition to historical fiction, promising to illuminate various facets of humanity through its compelling storytelling.
Banyan Moon: A Novel
by Thao Thai
Beautiful story of women coping (5/29/2023)
I often find myself drawn to multi-generational family stories. "Banyan Moon" immediately drew me right into the lives of three generations of Vietnamese women – Minh, the grandmother; Huong, the daughter; and Ann, the granddaughter.

The story opens with the death of Minh. Ann, born in the US and living in California, returns to her crumbling childhood home in Florida, a home with an old banyan tree growing at its side. Ann now must reconnect with her estranged mother. Unknown to her mother, Ann's seemingly perfect life in California is in question after she discovers she is pregnant.

Minh's narratives are set in Vietnam and follow her life as a teenager during the Vietnam War and follow her as she flees to the US in search of a better life for her children. The love between Minh and Ann was beautiful, and my heart warmed at their interactions.

"Banyan Moon" is an emotional character-driven story. The story is told in alternating perspectives of the three strong-willed women. It runs the gamut of emotions with its tale of losses, regrets, secrets, heartbreak, and, ultimately, love.

The best part of the story for me was how Ann and Huong had to re-examine their past together and realize how much they do love each other.

Thai uses beautiful imagery throughout the book, especially involving the banyan tree.

If you are a fan of Nguyen Phan Que Mai, I recommend you give this book a try.
Mrs. Plansky's Revenge
by Spencer Quinn
Feisty Grandmother (4/16/2023)
This is a take on the grandparent scam we have all read about. An elderly grandparent receives a call from their supposed grandchild saying he is in trouble and needs money. Next day all the funds from the grandparent's account are gone.

I enjoyed the first half of the book as it laid out Mrs. Plansky's well-to-do life in Florida and how she falls prey to the scam. But the last half of the book where she goes to Romania to find her money was too far-fetched for me. There are some likeable characters, but they are not well-developed.

Seventy-one-year-old Loretta Plansky is feisty and courageous, not one to be messed with. The story takes a surprising turn when she encounters the perpetrators. I would like to have known more about Dinu and Romeo, the young boys who are part of the scam.

It is a fast read and provides some moments to chuckle over.
Wade in the Water: A Novel
by Nyani Nkrumah
A Phenomenal Debut (11/26/2022)
I was immediately drawn into this story of a relationship that develops between Ms. St. James, a white woman from Princeton, and Ella, a precocious 11-year-old Black girl.

It is hard to believe that this is Nkrumah's debut novel. The writing flows smoothly and paints a picture of the rural segregated community of Ricksville, Mississippi. The characters are authentic, and their emotions relatable.

Set in 1982, Ms. St. James rents a house on the same street where Ella lives. This piques people's curiosity since she is the only white person on the street. She has come to Ricksville to do research for her thesis on the civil rights movement. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella who has always felt she was not accepted by others because she has a different daddy than that of her siblings, and she has notably darker skin.

Alternating with the 1982 timeline are flashbacks to Ms. St. James' childhood in the 60s in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was a childhood where racism was acceptable, where it was beaten into her. No matter how much she tries to distance herself from it, it is always lurking in the shadows.

The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James is extremely complex. There are times that my heart swelled with love that Ella, so starved for attention and love, thought she was getting from Ms. St. James. But at other times, Ella was unknowingly pushing St. James closer and closer to losing control of the façade she lived behind, closer to revealing a secret that she must keep hidden.

The story is uncomfortably raw at times as the atrocities of the Jim Crow South are revisited. A question asked by the author is not only how the civil rights movement changed Black society but also how it changed white society.

There are several well-developed characters throughout the book. Mr. Macabe, who is blind, says he cannot see the color of one's skin. He says that he classifies as good, evil, or somewhere in between. There are characters here that fall into all those categories.

There is a shocking reveal near the end that I should have caught but I was just too absorbed in the story to figure it out.

Thank you to HarperCollins and BookBrowse for the advance copy of the book. These opinions are entirely my own.
In the Time of Our History
by Susanne Pari
Well-written Family Saga (10/1/2022)
Beautifully written and thought-provoking.

I always find myself drawn to stories from the Middle East. Having had friends displaced during the Iranian Revolution, I found this story especially interesting. This story centers on the Iranian-born Jahani family and their extended family who fled Iran for America after the fall of the Shah in 1979. The setting for the Jahani family is San Francisco and New Jersey in the late 1990s.

It took a while for me to really get into this story, but once I reached that point, I became totally immersed in this family saga with its generational culture clashes and their conflict that centered on long-held secrets.

Through her masterful writing, Pari brought these characters to life. The father was stiff and domineering; Shireen, the mother, caught between her love for her children and the demands of her husband; sweet Ana who did what was expected by her father; and the rebellious Mitra ("a girl who wanted to be as free as a boy in choosing her future"). The emotions flowed from the pages into my heart, especially the shame, the pain, the frustrations, and the anger.

I liked how the family worked to find a blend between their new American home and their rich Persian culture, something all immigrant families encounter. This entire story is, in fact, based on the Iranian custom of "The One Year" which is the observance of the one-year anniversary of a death.
All the Lonely People
by Mike Gayle
I absolutely loved it! (8/30/2022)
I absolutely loved this book! Loaded with wonderful characters that made me laugh, made me cry, and made me feel lots of emotions.

Hubert Bird, a native Jamaican, moved to England when he was a young man in search of employment. He faced discrimination especially when he married Joyce whose family disapproved of him and disowned her. They had a loving marriage and raised a couple of children until she met an early death. After her death, Hubert withdrew from friends and mostly became a hermit. My heart broke for Hubert over all the losses he experienced. Then one day the elderly widower receives news that reluctantly forces him out into the world again.

I do not want to say much here about the plot as I do not want to give anything away. There are several special moments that I do not wish to ruin for the reader.

This book addresses the societal problem of loneliness. When Hubert is forced out into the world, he surprisingly makes friends. Through these friends, he finds himself spearheading a movement to conquer loneliness in their community.

I loved this quote: “It used to be the family all looking out for one another but it’s not like that anymore…It used to be neighbours kept an eye on you but people like to keep themselves to themselves now”.

If you enjoyed “A Man Called Ove,” you are sure to enjoy this book.
Aurora: A Novel
by David Koepp
Captivating Story (6/15/2022)
Have you ever wondered what would happen if we lost power for months? Think of all we are dependent on for electricity – our cellphones, televisions, cash registers, lights, electric cars, and so much more.

When I heard about this book, I knew I just had to read it. I was the Program Manager for the Department of Defense’s network of solar observatories. That made this book a quick read for me. I really enjoyed it, especially the scientific portions dealing with the Coronal Mass Eruptions (CME).

A series of three CMEs destroy the power grids all over Earth, sparing only the remotest of areas. The story focuses on one family and their neighborhood in Aurora, Illinois. People are terrified: they don’t know what is happening and how long it will last; they are cut off from their loved ones. They find themselves fighting for their lives.

I thought the main characters were well-developed and realistic. I loved their evolution throughout the book – some from helplessness to the strength to survive, others from petty crimes to felony crimes, from isolation to working together. I was eager to learn which would survive.

I recommend this scientific thriller which focuses on the very human experiences.
The Favor: A Novel
by Nora Murphy
Amazing debut! (5/19/2022)
This book grabbed me from the very beginning and kept me on edge. I wanted to just escape someplace where I would have no interruptions while reading it. I could feel for myself the fear and hopelessness the main characters experienced. It is hard to believe that this is Murphy’s debut novel.

In a liquor store, Leah crosses paths with McKenna and thinks “It was like looking at myself, nine months ago.” Thus, their lives will both be changed.

This is a story of two women who supposedly have it all - husbands who are both handsome and wealthy, beautiful houses, all the trappings of a successful life. But no one knows what goes on behind their closed doors. No one knows about the controlling husbands and the abuse the husbands inflict upon Leah and McKenna.

Leah is compelled to find where McKenna lives and begins observing her from afar. Then one night she sees a violent act in McKenna’s home, and she snaps. She takes matters into her own hands.

Written with compassion and an understanding of the emotional impact of spousal abuse, this story may make you wonder if someone you know is experiencing the same nightmare that Leah and McKenna experience.

I will be watching for future books by this author. Her writing is incredible.

I received an advance egalley from the publisher. The opinions expressed here are my own.
I Must Betray You
by Ruta Sepetys
Very Powerful (5/7/2022)
Powerful story of the oppression of Romanian citizens under the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Set in 1989, the story follows the day-to-day life of 17-year-old Cristian Florescu. I never realized the extent to which paranoia and fear ruled their lives. You never knew who was an informant. Your best friend? Your sister? Your girlfriend? Ceausescu first isolated Romania from the rest of the world. Then, by recruiting (often blackmailing) informants, he isolated citizens from each other. They knew their homes were bugged so were not even free in their own homes. I just could not imagine how confining it was to live as they did.

And while Ceausescu and his family lived with wealth surrounding them, the Romanian citizens lacked food, electricity, all the things we take for granted.

Cristian plots to undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe. Can he do it? Cristian and his friends were true heroes. They risked their lives to let the world know what was going on in Romania. Cristian dreams of being a writer someday, but Romanians had little chance of fulfilling their dreams. I could easily feel the mental anguish the characters endured day after day. When the Revolution began, I was on edge, afraid to turn the page. Afraid to know what happened next.

I also got a better understanding of Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America. It was only through their broadcasts that the citizens of Romania learned that the Communist nations around them were crumbling.

The book is well written, and it is obvious that the author did a lot of research.
Good Husbands: A Novel
by Cate Ray
Meh,,, (4/13/2022)
While the premise of the book promised a compelling read, the story itself did not meet up to my expectation.

The interaction among the three wives who received the letter was well written, but I just did not care for any of the women. I think the characters themselves needed more depth. The reaction from the husbands when they learned about the letter was also not very realistic.

It is a slow build and provides just enough suspense to keep the reader interested. It does provide various views on the women being forced to see their husbands in a different light. Can they believe that the men they love would commit such a heinous crime? Who can they believe? But the ending just did not work for me.
Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel
by Anthony Doerr
Challenging read, but worth it (2/16/2022)
This is a tough book to get into, a very challenging read. But I persevered, and I am glad I did. At first, I had no idea where the story was going, nor what the past, present, and future stories had to do with each other. But about three-fourths of the way through the book, I started seeing the interconnectedness of the characters and how the love for one book brought them together.

In 15th century Constantinople, we have Anna, an embroiderer, who is determined to learn to read. In a library, she finds a book about Aethon. Aethon longs to be a bird so he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky, to Cloud Cuckoo Land. I loved the character of Omeir, a young village boy who is conscripted into the invading army, along with his beloved oxen. He led a tragic life, so I was happy when his and Anna’s paths crossed.

Present day 2020, in a library in Idaho, 86-year-old Zeno is in a library with five children. He had introduced these children to Aethon’s story. They are preparing to put on a play about Aethon. He is about to encounter the other main character in this section, Seymour. Seymour is a bright young man who becomes an environmental terrorist. I am not sure why, but I thought the “past” story made a good balance with the “present” story.

In the future, Konstance is on a spaceship that has left Earth and is headed to another planet. She frequents the library on board the ship. (I would love to have an atlas like the one she used!) This part of the book really stretched the imagination, but I decided to suspend reality and just go with it.

It took brilliant writing (and quite an imagination) to fit all the pieces together into a beautiful tapestry of past, present, and future. At the core of the entire book are libraries and the importance of preserving books from being lost to history. And there are little jewels scattered throughout – “sybil,” one through whom the gods speak; a character named Omicron and the outbreak of a virus, to name just two.

I thought it was worth the struggle to get to the point where it all started making sense.
The Magnolia Palace: A Novel
by Fiona Davis
Interesting piece of history (1/24/2022)
I always enjoy books by Fiona Davis as I learn about NYC’s historic landmarks while reading a well written historical fiction. Her books are also perfect for book clubs.

“The Magnolia Palace” features the Frick Museum, one of New York City’s most striking Gilded Age mansions. As is typical of Davis’ books, this one is written as a dual timeline alternating between 1919 with a murder mystery within the Frick family and “present day” 1966 when a model and an archivist become locked in the museum overnight.

I enjoyed the story of “Angelica” (Lillian Carter aka “Miss Lilly”) who was one of the most sought-after artists’ models in New York City. Statues of her are at various landmarks in the city. I never really thought about the women who posed for statues, which is one of the main points of this book. Miss Lilly is hired as personal secretary to the demanding and eccentric Helen Clay Frick. Thus, Lilly is thrust into the middle of the Frick family’s daily lives.

While the Frick family seemed to have it all, the unveiling of secrets and schemes within their house was interesting. Mr. Henry Clay Frick was nasty to his daughter Helen. Mrs. Frick locks herself away day after day. Martha, the oldest child, died at a young age. And siblings Helen and Childs do not get along.

Overall, I found the story fascinating and am eager for another story by Fiona Davis. I think anyone with an interest in the architectural landmarks of NYC will enjoy this book.

I received an Advance Review Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
by Thrity Umrigar
Very Powerful (1/13/2022)
This book grabbed me from the very beginning. The writing is superb, the story heartbreaking and haunting. If you loved Khalid Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, then you must read this book.

A powerful quote from it:
"Everywhere she went, it seemed, it was open season on women. Rape, female genital mutilation, bride burnings, domestic abuse - everywhere, in every country, women were abused, isolated, silenced, imprisoned, controlled, punished, and killed. Sometimes, it seemed to Smita that the history of the world was written in female blood."

Smita, a young American Indian journalist, returns to India to cover a story about the murder and attempted murder of a couple in a village in a rural part of India. Abdul, a Muslim, and Meena, a Hindu, dared to fall in love and marry. Meena’s family has been dishonored and must pay. Her brothers kill Abdul and try to kill Meena. But Meena and their daughter survive.

Smita is plagued with the memories of the night her family fled India with no intention to ever return. While she has very negative views of India, her driver Mohan gracefully listens to her and expresses his love for and pride in his home country. Together, they confront the brutality against Abdul and Meena and the corrupt leadership that allows it to happen. Smita and Mohan both will have their views of India challenged.

This is a story of love, hope, cultural and religious clashes, sacrifice, and promises kept. The bravery of Meena, the callousness of Ammi (Meena’s mother-in-law) and the kind heart of Mohan will linger with me for some time.

I highly recommend this phenomenal book.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars: A Novel
by Kristin Harmel
Captivating Story (7/8/2021)
I love Ms. Harmel’s books and think this may be her best so far. Her newest book is a story of hope, courage, bravery, survival, and love. It is also a story of determining who we are inside and how to become that person.

Yona was born to a German family and named Inge. But when she was two years old, she was stolen from her parents by a woman named Jerusza and renamed Yona. Living in the forest, Jerusza taught Yona valuable survival skills. These skills would be the key to Yona’s survival and her ability to save other lives.

As the Nazis gained ground in Poland, thousands of Jews fled to the deep forests of Eastern Europe to escape their clutches. When Yona encounters some of these Jews, she feels she must help them survive. But because she has been isolated deep in the forest throughout her life, she has no social skills. All this leads to a fascinating story of underground bunkers, danger, hardships, trust, conflict, and betrayal. But through it all, Yona learns how to open her heart to others. And when Yona comes face-to-face with her past, her world is turned upside down.

Ms. Harmel did intense research so she could tell the story of the real-life Jews who lived this story. The writing was so vivid that I felt an emotional connection with the characters. I could feel their fear, their hunger, their shivering in the harsh winters, and the solace that came from looking up at the stars from deep within the forest.

I highly recommend this stunning book to all historical fiction fans.
The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America
by Elizabeth Letts
Stole My Heart (6/22/2021)
This book is officially one of my all-time favorites. While it is nonfiction, it reads like a novel. Letts did extensive research, and it shows. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

In 1954, Annie Wilkins, 63-years old, was about to lose her home in Minot, Maine since she could not pay the back taxes. No money, no family, and her medical condition was such that she had been told she only had two years to live. So, she bought an older horse, loaded her belongings onto it and set out for California with her dog. She wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. At that time there were no printed maps so she could plot her entire trip, so she took it state by state, not always taking the shortest route. She pushed through blizzards, flash floods, desert heat. As the modern interstate highways were just beginning to be built, the three travelers often had to share the road with speeding cars and trucks. There were times I was not sure she would make it to her destination.

The best part of the book for me was the relationship between her four-legged traveling companions: her little dog Depeche Toi, her horse Tarzan, and later the addition of Rex, a Tennessee walker. Their personalities were as well developed as the human characters in most books. I loved them!

I learned quite a bit of history along her journey: the origin of our interstate highway system, the early days of medical insurance (used as an incentive to get workers), the birth of the TV Western, the two great migrations to the West, how local jails were receptive to allowing travelers to spend the night in a cell, and Art Linkletter’s connection to Annie. Some may find that boring, but it is written in such a way that it flowed easily with the story.

Annie could not have made the journey without the kindness of strangers along the way. People allowed her to stay in their homes, bedded her animals, gave her food and medical help. I have to admit to feeling a bit nostalgic for an innocent America that no longer exists. She became a celebrity and was interviewed by the media all along her route. She took on the distinction of being the “last saddle tramp.” Annie truly had the wanderlust. Annie kept diaries along the way and the letters she received. These documents were used in the author’s research.

Overall, this book stole my heart. If you love adventure or love sweet animals, you should read this book.
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur: The Jaipur Trilogy #2
by Alka Joshi
Captivating Story (6/22/2021)
I loved “The Henna Artist” when it came out last year, and I loved its sequel just as much, or maybe even a bit more. As I began reading it, it soon felt like a family reunion. I had come home to visit again with Lakshmi and Malik and various friends, like Maharani Indira, Manu and Kanta Agarwal, and even Madho Singh.

Just as at all family reunions, I wanted to know what everyone had been up to. Lakshmi is now living in Shimla and is married to Dr. Kumar (I saw that one coming.) Malik, just as charming as ever, has finished school and met the widow Nimmi and her two children. But Lakshmi arranges for Malik to take an apprenticeship position back in Jaipur, thus leaving Nimmi in Shimla. Malik finds that not much has changed in Jaipur - it is still all about power and money and keeping secrets. Then a tragedy strikes, and Malik is caught in the middle of it. He must make some difficult decisions in his quest to uncover the truth as to what (and who) is responsible for the tragedy.

I really love how Joshi gives the reader a glance into the lives of the various levels of society, from sheepherders and servants to royalty and the upper echelons of society. I found Nimmi to be interesting because of her cultural background. She is from a hill tribe that moves about with their flocks of sheep. Through Joshi’s descriptions, I could easily imagine the beautiful clothing and the jewels. I could almost taste the banquet of luscious Indian foods.

If you enjoy historical fiction and learning about other cultures, I highly recommend this book! But I do suggest that you read “The Henna Artist” first to get the backstory for Lakshmi and Malik. “The Henna Artist” was Lakshmi’s story and tells how Malik becomes part of her family. It also reveals Lakshmi’s relationship with her sister Radha. (I believe Book 3 will be Radha’s story.) I think there would be too many gaps in the story if you skip the first book.
The Mountains Sing
by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
Beautifully written saga (4/26/2021)
It seems almost sacrilegious to say this is a beautifully written book while the content is about two violent periods of Vietnam’s history. Even though surrounded by violence, respectfulness and gentleness could still be found among the people of Vietnam. This is a story of human endurance, family, loyalty, hope, and the strength of the women.

“If our stories survive, we will not die, even when our bodies are no longer here on earth.” Thus, this story follows two timelines, one of Tran Dieu Lan as a young woman during the time of the Land Reform movement of the mid-twentieth century, and the other is told from the perspective of Guava, Tran Dieu Lan’s granddaughter after the Vietnamese War that involved the US soldiers.

While I was mostly untouched by the Vietnam war, many around me were not. While I am aware of the trauma the returning American soldiers suffered, I never really thought about the Vietnamese soldiers. It was interesting reading about the division of North and South Vietnam and the impact it had on the people there. The timeline involving the Land Reform reminded me of the book “In the Shadow of the Banyan” which I enjoyed immensely.

The author’s short essay at the end of the book was very informational. I am so impressed that she wrote this book while learning the English language!
by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Interesting piece of history (3/30/2021)
“Libertie” was hard for me to get into. While the writing itself is beautiful, the story did not draw me in. While I enjoyed the first portion of the book, I lost interest after Libertie ran off to get married. It did have some very interesting aspects though.

There were moments of beautifully lyrical writing. The book, inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States, was well researched. The book addresses several themes - complex mother-daughter relationships, feminism, and searching for what freedom means for a young female dark-skinned woman in the aftermath of the Civil War. It is also a look at life in Haiti, where women are still subservient to men.

An eye-opener from the book, for me, was how much easier life was for light-skinned Blacks who could pass for White than for the dark-skinned. It was also interesting - shocking - reading of some of the experiments done to treat people. The sea horse one. early in the book. still has me shaking my head. A powerful portion of the book that applies to present days is how even when a person may be freed there is lasting emotional damage that can result in serious mental health issues. We see that today in some of our refugees.

This is a good book for exploring another piece of American history that many of us were unaware of.

Thank you to Algonquin Books for generously supplying me with a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Lost Apothecary: A Novel
by Sarah Penner
Amazing debut! (3/8/2021)
An amazing debut novel! I immediately became immersed in the story.

Set in London England, 1791, Nella, a female apothecary, has been dispensing cures all her life. But after being abused by her husband, she now also dispenses poisons for women to get revenge on the men who have wronged them. “Vengeance is its own medicine.” She has two rules. Eliza, only 12 years old, is enthralled with what she considers magick and eagerly learns all she can from Nella.

Present day - Caroline Parcewell had planned a trip to London to celebrate her 10-year wedding anniversary, but instead finds that her husband has been cheating on her. Having abandoned her dream of becoming a historian, she decides to go to London alone and immerse herself in its history. Her discovery of an old apothecary vial in the muck of the river sets her on the path of researching the unsolved “apothecary murders” over two centuries ago.

Betrayal, grief, and revenge are core to this well plotted story. Some of the women’s stories were heartbreaking. I had to remind myself that in the 1790s women had no legal protection. The main characters were very well developed; I found myself really caring about them. I loved the suspense and was kept guessing as to what would happen to Nella and Eliza. While this is a dual storyline book and multiple (three - Caroline, Nella, and Eliza) narrators, I had absolutely no difficulty keeping the timelines and characters separate as I read.

I will definitely be watching for future releases by this author. If you are a fan of historical fiction and/or thrillers, I highly recommend this book.
The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Informational (2/16/2021)
I loved Lemmon’s book “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana” so was really looking forward to reading her newest book. Unfortunately, it was not what I expected.

I was expecting much more about the women themselves and their interaction, both in battle and privately. Instead, the book is mostly about the history of the Kurdish people and their determination to keep ISIS from taking over portions of Syria. The portions that did address the all-female militia (the YPJ) that defended Kobani were interesting and portrayed these brave women nobly. Azeema, Rojda, Znarin, Nowruz, and Miriam are representative of all the women fighting not only to stop ISIS but also to prove that women could lead in war. They fought alongside their male counterparts (YPG), often directing and leading the attacks, and won the respect of the US Special Forces by fearlessly fighting against the men who bought and sold women. Their goal, beyond the defeat of ISIS, was to build a democratic and egalitarian society and to defend women from around the region wherever they faced discrimination or persecution, not just in Kurdish areas.

A couple of favorite quotes: Miriam comments on ISIL - “Now they can talk to each other about getting killed by women instead of just beheading and enslaving them.” Nowruz says “One day we will be finished with this war. And then people will know that women showed their power on the front lines.”

If you know nothing of the history of the Kurds, this is a good synopsis and would be worth reading just for that. Lemmon did an extensive amount of research and interviews for this book.

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The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
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