pearl brokeAn eye-opening novel about the women who have struggled for centuries and continue to struggle today in Afghanistan due to its repressive male-dominated culture. Rahima and Shekiba, the novel's protagonists, face their life situtations with courage and a strong survival spirit. After reading this heart-breaking story, I more than appreicate the opportunities and freedom we have in this country. While not a light read by any means, it is so enlightening to understand  that this kind of culture still persists today. Highly recommended!

scarlet skyBased on true events that occurred in Italy during the last two years of WWII, Pino Lella, a young 17 year-old Italian, becomes part of the Resistance, leading a number of Jews and downed Allied pilots out of the country over a treacherous mountain to Switzerland. When his parents insist that he join the German Army, feeling that it was safer to be in the German Army than the Italian Army, he once again puts himself in danger by becoming a spy at the same time serving as a personal driver for a high ranking German official.

This story is incredible. It reads like an action novel, It is full of suspense, intrigue, heartbreak, brutality, love and twists. This is a piece of World War II history seldom if ever heard about as it centers in war torn Italy. One of the best historical fiction books on WW2 that I have read. Take the time to read this one even if your interest in war is limited. Ultimately, it is about the courageousness of the human spirit in the face of horror.

beartownNot being a hockey fan, I was not sure I was going to like this book. However, while the storyline revolves around the hockey team in a small dying blue-collar town, it is not really about hockey but rather is a fascinating look at the people in the community when faced with a crisis.  Backman’s characters (author of A Man Called Ove) are three-dimensional, so real that I felt I could relate to them or had known someone in my life like them.

A violent act sends the town into turmoil and pits one person against the other, bringing out both the worst and best in the town.  The characters are so well drawn that you can feel their raw emotions as they deal with guilt, pride, anger and the pain and suffering of those with secrets and those who have been wronged.

Bear Town challenges our thinking about right and wrong and good and evil as well as what we stand for.

Others have commented that the first 50 pages are a bit slow. Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed!

Shark TroublePeter Benchley’s final book is not another shark novel, but rather a “valuable guide to being safe in, on, under, and around the sea.” Awash with anecdotes based on over 3 decades of his own experiences, Benchley not only covers sharks in detail, but many other denizens of the deep that one may encounter.  He also explains how to swim safely in the ocean, the dangers of tides & currents, behaviors to avoid in the water, and how to survive when danger strikes.

Benchley regretted the irrational fear and wholesale slaughter of sharks that came in the wake of Jaws, and spent the last decade of his life seeking to educate the public and advocating for marine conservation & shark preservation. 

This is a great read for “Shark Week”—or, any week for that matter.

atkinson life after life homeLife After Life has an intriguing premise. The central character, Ursula, dies numerous times throughout the story returning time and again to her life in pre-WWI England, each time meeting a different fate and demise, depending on shifts in her choices or events and having life altering effects on all those around her. It is a story of “what ifs,” reincarnation, and fate. You need to have an open mind because this is not a linear story. The writing is beautiful, atmospheric and tension-filled.

On one level this is a story of one family's life in England over the course of two world wars. The details of everyday life are written so effectively  that I felt I was there witnessing the life changes for returning veterans, the political tensions leading to WWII, and experiencing the horrors of Londoners during the Blitz.

It’s a book that is difficult to explain. You must experience it for yourself!

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