Combining the stories of families torn apart by violence with children sent into the arms of strangers in the hope that kindness and compassion would prevail. 1938- Kristallnacht forces a horrible choice that sends six year old Samuel on a journey bound for England, a country where he knows no one and doesn't speak the language. 2019- guerrilla war in El Salvador forces a little blind girl and her injured mother to risk everything on a journey to the U.S. Caught at the border Anita is separated from her mother leaving her at the mercy of border agents in a country where she knows no one and doesn't speak the language. The efforts of truly good people working in a flawed system lead Anita to a distant relative who happens to be quarantined and working for elderly Samual Adler, once the little boy alone in England. Tragic and hopeful at the same time Isabel Allende brings us a story that will resonate with readers of the universal immigrant experience of children in the past and present. 4 stars
The story of the Lincoln family in Springfield as seen through the fresh eyes of Ana, a young Portuguese immigrant who worked in the Lincoln household and became a lifelong friend. Not only do we get a taste for their life in Springfield before the presidential election but also the political climate. Ana is smart and both the Lincolns do their part to help further her studies. She like many others appreciate Lincoln's calm contemplative demeanor and believe in his vision of a unified and just future for all people - all colors and backgrounds. Many others do not feel that way and tension and emotions run high in the city, state and the country. While war looms on the horizon families will be torn apart and neighbors turn away from each other as lines are drawn. Even after the war and the assassination tempers and racial hatred are not only elevated but escalate. Ana and her family will experience grief, joy and healing just as the Lincolns face the same life challenges.
Chock full of real event and well known figures from the debates to underground railroad as well as behind the scenes heroes, this is a deeply moving story spanning decades of the the scars and high cost of war, racism and loyalty. 4 stars
Everyone knows her brother Fred but Adele Astaire was an equally talented and famous dancer in her own right as well as his partner for many years. They graced stages from Vaudeville to New York to England. It was in England that Adele lost her heart a few times as she danced her way into a few thousand others. They partied with the Royals but were equally kind and helpful to other dancers on the way up. This is a historical who's who of stars of Hollywood, Broadway stage as well as British society brought down to earth by the author's portrayal of a woman who loved being on stage but also
hungered for a family and children. We follow Adele from Prohibition to post WWII to view a life living the dream she and her brother worked so hard to achieve even as she was denied her own personal happiness. For readers of behind the glamour looks at the rich and famous. 4 stars
A historical queer romance set in New York City in the 50's. Nick is a tough guy who comes from a tough Italian American family. He has worked his way up to his dream of being a crime reporter working for one of the top newspapers in the city. He is also quietly gay and terrified that his career and life would be over if outed. Andy is the boss's son who is likable, friendly and not sure of his feelings for his girlfriend, his legacy at the paper or his new friendship with Nick.
Out of mentorship comes friendship that becomes a relationship with serious consequences. In a very dangerous world for the queer community can they have the life they both know is true? There is not much about their newspaper job instead the story focuses on the social stigma of being gay in the 50's. 3 1/2 stars
Lady Tan was a female doctor practicing as best she was able to during the 1500's Ming Dynasty China. At a time where women had no rights at all and their pain and suffering was considered the ultimate love for their husband, women were never examined directly by a doctor but through a screen with a woman go between. Women grew to depend on themselves and knew a multitude of herbal remedies and a wealth of knowledge from assisting births as midwives and handed down from female family members. These women doctors and midwives treated patients at great risk to themselves especially if they were not able to cure their patients. Lisa See works her magic once again in bringing us behind the forbidden walled fortress of women of society and royalty. From foot binding to serving their sharp tongued mother-in-law to hiding their illness, depression or infertility. It is an amazing story of courage and the desire to better women's lives and one that could have been lost forever had not Lady Tan's secret journals.
4 1/2 stars
Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom
Mary, a Crow native is married off to an older but gentle fur trader from Canada. She does not want to leave but is already seeing her people herded into smaller and smaller spaces than promised, beholden to the whites for food, punished for hunting the buffalo that have always been theirs as well as their children stolen to be made civilized. While she befriends a few of the Metis women and a few of the men who work for her husband she has no love for Abe's friends and the whiskey traders who poison her people with whiskey and the wildlife for quick kills and terrorizing the natives. Mary is fierce and resourceful and although she loves her husband once he begins drinking and his friends ruin him it is up to her to seek out and dispense justice. Riveting historical fiction that offers a clear look at the violence, greed and waste of the white settlers compared to the gentle indigenous people. Fans of JEREMIAH JOHNSON and BEARSKIN will find much to love here. 4 stars
Another stunning example of bravery and compassion by invisible women serving their country in WWII. Irene escapes what she sees as a future of torment when she leaves an abusive fiancee behind and signs up with the Red Cross headed to Europe. She and her partners in grime serve coffee, donuts and a kind word to servicemen at bases. Whether it is at an airbase or the Battle of the Bulge these "Donut Dollies" were the last friendly face before going into battle as well as a sympathetic smile and donut as they survived another day. Irene teams up with no nonsense Dorothy to form an unbreakable sisterhood keeping each other calm and alive through countless near misses. With a few laughs, a love affair and more than enough pain and suffering, these ladies witness the aftermath of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Buchenwald and life postwar. Perfectly crafted in vivid detail and emotional weight this is a story close to the author's heart. His mom operated a Red Cross clubmobile. My hope is that it will be optioned for a movie as I can picture Dorothy driving her RV clubmobile one tire ahead of German Panzers and countless potholes in bombed out country roads. This will be a favorite of all WWII historical readers especially those of Kate Quinn, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE and EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN. 4 1/2 stars
Happy book birthday to DEEP AS THE SKY, RED AS THE SEA by Rita Chang-Eppig
Times are tough for pirates in the South China Sea. An uneasy alliance between the various pirate gangs and the increasing threat from European war ships have made more than one pirate keep an uneasy eye on the horizon. Shek Yeung is a good fit captioning alongside her pirate husband after he rescued her from the pleasure flower boats. Now, with one swift slice of an enemy sword her husband is dead leaving the fleet to his adopted son. They form an alliance of their own and marry to keep everything in the family and honor Cheng Yat's memory. Shek Yeung deftly navigates the shark infested waters of the other pirate clans, foreign attacks, spies and her new husband's expectations for her to provide him with an heir with the same grace and killer instinct that she wields a sword. This is a historical adventure on the high seas with all the political intrigue and battle skills but with a fierce pirate queen at the helm. Readers looking for the same high sea adventures of Patrick O'Brian and Wilbur Smith but focusing on savvy fierce women will sail through this.
Such Good Friends by Stephen Greco
Truman Capote was a "man about town" enigma who as a gay man was considered a non-threat by all of the New York social elite husbands and wives alike. His posse of wealthy influential women nicknamed "The Swans" included Lee Radziwill, sister to First Lady Jackie Kennedy. They had a deep friendship and respect for each other for decades until a falling out late in life. Our narrator is the fictional housekeeper/friend of Lee Radziwill who also develops a close connection to Truman and has a front row seat for the shenanigans of the posh NYC elite starting in the late 50's through the beginning of the 70"s. There is so much name dropping going on that you may want to keep a notepad handy. The money, the parties, the travel and oh so much gossip but in reality most only cared about being loved and maintaining loyalty. We see the pain behind the glittery veneer the back stabbing feeding the the outside world's hunger for dirt. For readers of behind the scenes tell- all books and historical fiction of the upper class. 3 1/2 stars
A brutally honest look at beauty and how we are affected by it. Trinidad is an island that depends on wealth from tourism and business and success comes from knowing people in power. Bianca comes from a wealthy family centered in politics but has managed pretty much on her own since her mother's death. She is a classic beauty who has had success modeling and wants to be a writer but that dream is gone since her affair with a married politician was made public. Eager to prove that she is more than a pretty face she takes a PR and writing job for a makeup artist who is giving everything he has to create a beauty empire. His brusque manner gets in the way of helping his younger sister or seeing Bianca for more than a cheap model but he is more caring than she first perceived. There is so much universal truth here about positive body image, makeup to make you feel empowered not to entice a man and how the powerful can lift up a young woman or crush her soul. I listened to the audiobook and the melodic narrator's voices made this book even more enjoyable. 4 stars
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