After the war life in Italy was hard. The families who did without during the war had even less after it was over so a group took a train full of children from their desperate families in Southern Italy to stay with foster families in Northern Italy. For Amerigo it was a life changing experience - new shoes for the first time in his life, three meals a day of healthy fresh food and gifts such as a beautiful violin. After spending months with his adoptive family he is back on a train to see his mother. She is worse off than before and the changes he has undergone are too much for Amerigo to keep him there. Years later he will return an accomplished musician to reconcile with the past. Told in Amerigo's perspective the language gives it an authentic voice and a bit of humor. For fans of all the books about European refugees and especially those efforts to save the children, this is a heart- wrenching must read. 4 stars
Two teen sisters leave home to venture into the remote prairie of Nebraska to teach. They go to different parts of the territory and board with local families while teaching the local children in a remote one room schoolhouse. Both Raina and Gerda witness a legendary blizzard that strikes without warning but they deal with the crisis in very different ways. This one decision will alter their lives forever. Melanie Benjamin shares with us the hurtles and horrors of settling the Great Plains wilderness in the late 1800's. Grasshoppers, drought, freezing temperatures and any number of crop diseases could wipe out a homesteader's dream of a better life for his family after leaving Europe. The promise of low cost open farming land was a lure for those who had nothing and getting great numbers of people to settle in the west was instrumental in making sure the railroads were successful. This is an incredible story of survival and the immigrant experience in this country. It is also a testament to the fragility and strength of the human spirit. Little House on the Prairie meets a Stephen King nature horror show would best describe this work of historical fiction. 5 stars
Cadie has come back to the cabin of her youth where one summer changed her forever. She found a boat, made a best friend and discovered a boy who wanted to stay a secret but needed friendship and then they vowed to keep the horrible thing that happened a secret all these years. As adults the three have followed different paths but are reunited when it looks like the secret may come to light. Cadie's research on the destructive path of the bark beetle and a fire threat leads her back to the one place she vowed never to return to. There is still so much at stake and people she loves could be hurt. This multilayered story pivots around childhood friendships and keeping secrets but is also just as much a story of the effects of climate change and immigration policy. The landscape and natural beauty plus the coming of age story will resonate with readers of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and STAND BY ME. The politics of climate change and immigration laws will appeal to readers who enjoy a story about current events with strong characters. 4 stars
George is the Chairperson of Hermeneutics at Northwestern University in Chicago. He is just what you think of when you think of academics until the day he discovers he can fly - if your definition of flying is hovering in one direction 4 inches above the ground. This gives him certain amount of notoriety especially from the debunking husband of a very wealthy and mean psychopath billionaire out to promote her husband at George's expense. At first glance I felt this book would only appeal to academics but then later on I realized that it pokes fun at academics and the ridiculousness of his miracle ability begins to grow on you. The lengths that these people will go to embarrass and destroy this unassuming man is sad. This will appeal to those who enjoy small miracles and quirky gifts but also want a deeper look at the characters. 3 1/2 stars
That summer they spent as teens searching the ruins for the lost treasure diamond necklace was when it all changed for Andy. They had crushes on each other, they had secrets that they kept from each other and they took care of each other. Years later, she is back home searching for one of them who has gone missing. She keeps having flashbacks from that summer and then back to tracking each of her friends down to find where Peter has disappeared to. I enjoyed the dark gothic feel to the story and the game of searching for the real and then fake necklace. The story turns much more sinister in present day as Andy starts peeling back the layers of what really happened. Friendships, family secrets and betrayal are much more a part of the story than where Peter has gone to. 3 1/2 stars
This slim novel contains the inner mental ramblings of discontent from various people who are spending their holiday in rental cabins located in Scotland. Many of the occupants have family vacation cabins and have been coming here for years so they know that it rains but none of them expected a week of solid drenching rains. Imagine a remote area with no real wifi (except a mile away at the pub), no real tv reception and everyone stuck inside with just each other's company. All of them are doing their best to put up with the one noisy cabin filled with immigrants (that no one is able to pinpoint their homeland correctly) who play their music loud and party til the wee hours. Inbetween these bouts of crankiness there are short passages about the nature that is going on blissfully all around them. The writing is extremely atmospheric when it is about the surroundings and even though I was able to connect with a few of the characters it didn't mean I liked any of them.
It does come together in one unifying event but I would have loved to have seen that built up a bit more. 3 1/2 stars
In a cabin far away from civilization lives a woman, her husband and their two girls. Brooke has always kept her past a complete secret but when a fugitive winds up in their shed with a price on his head, she has no choice but to gather up her family and walk their captive to the sheriff miles away.
This is a surreal environment that feels like the wild west because Brooke and her family live in an area that has seceded from the U.S. leaving them without any modern convenience or real police.
The weather conditions, mistrust and being on foot with a dangerous man who has the power to take away everything important in her life makes her hardened and fiercely protective of her family. You don't necessarily like her or understand her motives until her upbringing is explained. This is the "Hatfields vs. McCoys" scenario but in a primitive remote setting filled with danger at every turn.
Readers who enjoy books with a light apocalyptic touch with strong characters who may have a checkered past will enjoy this. 4 stars
Reno Nevada was known for one thing in the 30's - quickie divorces. Ward is a good looking, hard working young ranch hand looking to find himself and he finds more than he bargained for at the Flying Leap Ranch. Emily is new to the ranch and struggling so the fearless Nina who is a return customer takes her under her wing. They need a partner in crime for the six weeks at the ranch so they turn to Ward. Together they ponder marriage, divorce, love , sadness and the search to find themselves. Wonderful honest characters - flawed but they steal your hearts as easily as they keep your secrets. This is historical fiction with a slice of life look at an area we haven't explored before. Readers of CITY OF GIRLS and Kate Quinn's books will love these spunky brave women searching to find their place and maybe someone to share it with. One of my faves already this year - 4 1/2 stars
This is a mash-up between a ghost story, the end of the world apocalypse, and zombie meltdown. Something weird happens and a sudden blizzard descends on England. In the middle of it is Claire who has an accident and wakes up in a strange bed in a strange house with a stranger taking care of her. No phones, little heat, no internet and a little bit of food but this is the least of their problems. Claire keeps seeing things in the shadows (no surprise in a mansion with candlelight) and thinks she is losing her grip on reality. Her roommate turns out to be a hero and cute (which always helps) but even he may not be able to win this battle. A giant pile-up of every scary book scenario that will appeal to lovers of this genre. 3 1/2 stars
Mallory is an intern charged with fact-checking entries to a dictionary being digitized. Specifically, she is looking for "mountweazels" or fake entries that were added to the previous edition.
David Swansby is her boss and the sole editor of the crumbling publishing house. This job proves to be something more interesting as Mallory starts receiving threatening phone calls. Mallory and David don't seem too upset by what they consider crackpot calls but Mallory's girlfriend Pip is very alarmed and joins in to assist Mallory or get her out of a potentially dangerous situation. The story is told in dual time periods in alternating chapters. The earlier story is about one of the first employees- his innocent additions of the mountweazels and obsession with a captivating woman engaged to someone he detests. Both stories are delightful and compete in their wit and charm but they come together in the connective tissue of Swansby House and the search for love and acceptance. The writing is smart and funny, the vocabulary extensive and you will want to introduce every mountweazel into your everyday conversations. 4 stars
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