Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

I have inadvertently been reading a lot of historical fiction about World War II. How is this inadvertent you ask? I put a bunch of audiobooks on hold through OverDrive and as it so happened, five came ready at the same time. The last two that I’ve listened to have all been about World War II with the main women both playing the violin and one of the main men named Max. During the second book, I had to pay very close attention, so I wouldn’t mix up the books. Hidden Among the Stars was the second World War II fiction I listened to this week. It may be time for a lighthearted read…

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson slips from the past to the future in this gripping tale of hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people fighting to resist evil any way possible.  This piece of inspirational fiction unites 1938 Vienna, Austria with 2018 United States.

1938. Austria. Hitler’s troops are sweeping into Vienna, much to the chagrin of Max Dornbach. With political views that differ from his parents, Max has no desire to shun his Jewish friends. Max offers to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions, so they won’t fall into the hands of the Nazis. Max works closely with the father of Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman he has grown to love. Smuggling those goods to his family’s summer estate near Hallstatt, Max quickly finds himself needing the help of Annika Knopf. Annika’s father is the current caretaker of the summer estate, meaning that Annika and Max have grown up together. Annika has loved Max for as long as she can remember and has thusly decided to help him however she can. Her loyalty and love for Max is stretched when Max brings Luzia with him on one of his trips to the summer estate. Agreeing to hide Luzia in the castle, Annika doesn’t realize the full extent of what is on the line until the Nazis come to Hallstatt and destroy the castle. Luzia and the treasure have disappeared, throwing everyone’s lives into turmoil.

Flash forward eighty years. Callie Randall may not be living the life she thought she’d have at this point, but she’s mostly happy with what she has. Callie is running a small local bookstore with her sister where she is known as Storygirl with amazing striped socks. Callie also runs a blog where she writes stories about different authors. While working on her current article, Callie stumbles upon a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that introduces her to the bewildering world of Annika’s story. Digging into Annika’s life, Callie finds that this story may be connected to the life of a close dear friend of hers. In order to find the truth, Callie must venture outside of the safe place she has built for herself. She soon finds herself on an adventure with a chance for new love and long-awaited for answers.


This book is also available in the following formats:

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

If you could read a book and get a glimpse into another society, would you? By reading fiction books, I will often find a topic that intrigues me that will then push me to read a nonfiction book about the same topic. It’s an enjoyable cycle! Historical fiction is one of the biggest genres that leads me to nonfiction books. I love fact-checking the fiction book to see how closely the author wrote to what happened in real life. Historical fiction that focuses on remarkable women is one of my favorites. Stephanie Barron’s latest works falls under this category.

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron chronicles the life of one of history’s most remarkable, controversial, and influential women: Winston Churchill’s scandalous American mother, Jennie Jerome. Jennie was born in Brooklyn to a prosperous American financier father and a mother with high social ambitions for both herself and her daughters. Eventually ending up in Europe with her mother and siblings after a scandal rocked her parents, Jennie realizes that she is responsible for securing her own destiny. Jennie is wealthy, privileged, and raised by her father to be fiercely independent. The moment she landed in Victorian England, Jennie and her family took the area by storm.

Jennie runs into Lord Randolph Churchill at a party and decides she wants to marry him when she is just nineteen years old. The shocker? They have only known each other for three days when Jennie decides to marry him. Once they are married, she is instantly swept into a crazy whirlwind of British politics and the social climbers that surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Jennie is now the new Lady Randolph Churchill, a brash American woman who thinks for herself and is careless of English society rules. She becomes a London sensation, traveling without her husband to Marlborough House and gathering admirers and critics along the way. Since Jennie knows about politics and is also a gifted piano player, she uses her talents to begin shaping her husband’s rise in Parliament. Jennie is also widely known as the mother of Winston Churchill. She uses her talents to help navigate Winston’s journey into manhood. He had a difficult childhood, but Jennie made sure to be at his side.

As the Churchill family becomes more influential, scandal and tragedy begin to strike them. Jennie has had lovers besides her husband, but none mean as much to her as Count Charles Kinsky. Kinsky is a man who loves horses like she does  and passionately loves Jennie the way her husband can’t. Once Bertie, Prince of Wales, catches wind of their affair, Jennie is forced to rethink their love as she quickly realizes just how much her every move is judged in public. She must decide how to balance duty and desire, a choice which has consequences that ripple across the Atlantic. Jennie’s decision takes her to a new level of scandal as her children’s lives and all of those around her are greatly affected. This novel is a loving portrait of a woman who helped shape the Churchill era. Jennie’s legacy may be of a difficult and scandalous woman, but the balancing act she works out between obligation, desire, duty, love, and freedom is a testament to the soul of a woman who through sheer force of will was able to alter the course of history.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao is the story of two young girls who are trying to find their place in a world that values men higher than women. Poornima and Savitha are the eldest girls in their respective families in India. Chance leads the girls together where they strike up a once-in-a-lifetime friendship. Poornima’s mother died when she was young, leaving her to fill the mother role to all of her younger siblings long before she was actually ready to fulfill it. Working hard to help her father provide for the family, Poornima quickly realizes that even though her family isn’t dirt poor, they’re still scraping by. To help supplement their income, Poornima’s father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, thus allowing Poornima’s family to bring in more money while also giving Savitha money for hers. Poornima and Savitha begin to turn to each other for comfort. Savitha’s family is more impoverished than Poornima’s, but Savitha quickly shows Poornima how to find joy and beauty in the little day to day parts of life. Savitha’s infectious personality finally allows Poornima to imagine the possibility of a fulfilling life beyond the arranged marriage her father is so desperately looking for her to fill.

Just when Poornima and Savitha have reached a comfortable rhythm, a devastating act of cruelty and violence occurs that destroys their newfound joy. As a result, Savitha is ruined and driven away from their small village. Poornima is wrecked and decides to do everything in her power to find Savitha, so they can live a happy life together. Poornima’s journey takes her away from everything that she is accustomed to and everything that she holds dear. Poornima finds herself searching India’s dark underworld for any sign of Savitha. Willing to do anything to find her, Poornima goes on a journey across India and even ends up traveling to the United States.

This novel alternates between both Poornima and Savitha’s perspectives. They have never lost hope that they will eventually find each other, even when circumstances turn dangerous. Rao tackles many urgent issues facing women across the world: immigration, feminism, human trafficking, and domestic abuse, just to name a few. These issues provide a solid foundation for Rao to explore how friendship and the will to survive can help women work towards a better, more hopeful future.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Freefall by Jessica Barry

I’m an anxious flyer. The whole process terrifies me. To keep myself calm, I usually avoid fiction that has anything to do with planes or crashes. Jessica Barry’s novel, Freefall, was a notable exception as from the very beginning, readers know that the main character survived! A novel involving a plane crash with a positive outcome? Yes please!

Freefall by Jessica Barry is a psychological thriller following the lives of Maggie Carpenter and her daughter Allison. Maggie lives in Owl Creek, Maine. At home one day, Maggie isn’t surprised to see a police officer at her front door, given that he’s the husband of one of her best friends. What he has to say, however, shocks her to her core. Allison is dead. She died in a private plane crash in the mountains in Colorado. People keep telling Maggie that Allison’s death was a terrible accident, but she finds that hard to believe. Allison has always been a survivor. Looking for answers, Maggie digs deep into Allison’s life and the situation that led to her death. Maggie lost touch with her daughter over two years ago, but she hopes that Allison’s life hasn’t changed that much since then. Her research pulls up startling revelations that Maggie isn’t prepared to know, but what she finds gives her more hope that Allison is alive. Maggie must do everything she can to find Allison, even if that means looking through every detail of her daughter’s life.

While Maggie learns more about Allison, Allison herself is struggling to survive. She has survived the plane crash and is wounded. Hiking through the mountains, Allison is running from her past. As she fights her way to freedom and struggles to survive in the wilderness, Allison has to come to terms with the mess her life has become. She has lost her perfect fiancé and the luxurious way of life to which she has become accustomed.  As she trudges through the forest looking through any signs of civilization, Allison frequently flashes back to previous moments in her life. Engaged to wealthy pharmaceutical CEO Ben Gardner, Allison thought she had it all. How did she end up with so many dark secrets? How did she end up willing to leave it all behind? How will she survive? What if the people after her get to her mother? Allison must make it back to her mother in time. Hoping against all hope that Maggie is safe, Allison fights to get to Maine no matter the consequences.

This book is told from both Maggie and Allison’s perspectives giving readers a glimpse into how far a mother and daughter are willing to go when the other is in danger. Even though they are separated by distance and their relationship is strained, both Maggie and Allison feel a tug connecting them as each works to protect and keep the other from coming to any harm.

Also I forgot to mention that Maggie is a retired librarian! How cool is that?? Read this book and let me know what you think of it in the comments below.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Starting a new relationship means that you are not just in a relationship with your new partner, but that you have to build relationships with their family and friends. Sometimes those relationships are positive, while others start rocky and only get worse. In Sandie Jones’ new novel, The Other WomanJones examines the relationships that exist between a woman and the intense bond she shares with the man she loves.

The Other Woman is a twisty thriller that centers around how far someone is willing to go to get what they want. After a bad breakup, Emily has finally met the man of her dreams. Adam is perfect and everything she has ever wanted in a man. Emily thinks that her life couldn’t be any more perfect until she meets Adam’s mom, Pammie. Right from the start, Emily notices the odd and slightly off relationship that Pammie and Adam share. Thinking that Pammie is just overprotective of her son, Emily tries to work things out. Quickly things spiral out of control. Pammie is overbearing, overprotective, and, worst of all, extremely critical of everything Emily wears, says, or does around her. Nothing Emily does could ever be right. No one else notices Pammie’s bizarre behavior though. Mentioning this to Adam only serves to anger him and tarnish his mother’s perfect reputation in his eyes. Emily decides to stay the course.

Adam and Emily’s relationship progresses and flourishes as they begin to make plans to spend the rest of their lives together. Emily and Pammie’s relationship? Still rocky. With each new milestone Emily and Adam reach, Pammie seems to lose control even more. When Emily finally secures a forever relationship with Adam, she quickly learns that Pammie will do anything to keep her and Adam apart. Pammie wants Emily gone forever. Emily wants Adam forever. Those wants are not compatible. These two formidable women face off against each other in a battle of wills that will leave their relationships and lives in tatters.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

In college, I read primarily romance novels, but now that I work in a library surrounded by an infinite number of books, I find that I’m straying away from those old comforts. In an effort to reintroduce myself to romance novels, I have been reading a lot of ‘romantic suspense’ by Sandra Brown and other authors. I recently found Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak and decided to give this romantic suspense author a try.

Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak tells the story of how far one woman is willing to go to dig up her family’s dark secrets. Sloane McBride’s mother disappeared when she was five. Something happened to her mother the night she left, but no one wants to talk about it. Sloane was in the house the night her mom left and heard some things that she believes could have to do with her mother’s disappearance. Sloane heard her parents arguing and the things they were talking about made her skin crawl. In the midst of their arguing, a thump reverberated throughout the house. After that noise, the house went completely quiet. The next morning, Sloane discovered that her mother was gone. According to her father, her mother left and was never coming back.

Her father insisted that her mother just up and left, a situation that doesn’t sit well with Sloane given what she overheard that night and the fact that her mother was very loving and devoted to her two children. After their mother left, Sloane and her brother are raised by their strict and domineering father in their small Texas hometown. Desperate to escape, Sloane moves out of the town as soon as she turns eighteen and eventually ends up working as a model in New York. Despite all the distance between Texas and New York, Sloane is still haunted by what could have happened to her mother.

Thinking herself strong enough to stand up to her father and brother now that she has been away for ten years, Sloane decides to head back to Texas to finally find out the truth of what happened to her mother. Returning to this small town means that Sloane has to deal with her jilted ex-boyfriend, an angry best friend, a disappointed brother, and a father who will do anything to keep her from finding the truth. The more Sloane digs into her mother’s disappearance, the more dark family secrets she uncovers. As she learns more about what happened, Sloane is left to wonder how much of a coverup went into hiding what happened to her mother and just how each person she is investigating fits into this mysterious puzzle.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Believe Me by JP Delaney

Have you ever read a book where you were consistently confused about what is real and what isn’t?  I felt that way all through JP Delaney’s newest book, Believe Me. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, a twist would come from out of nowhere and I would be back at square one, trying to figure out what was happening.

Believe Me by JP Delaney tells the story of a young actress desperate for money. Claire is a struggling British actress who, through a series of nasty circumstances, finds herself living in New York without a green card. Not sure what else to do and needing money and a job, Claire becomes resourceful in order to find work. Since she is an actress, Claire eventually finds employ working as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Her job is simple: she has been hired to entrap straying husbands. She is to get close, but not too close, in order for him to proposition her, while she stays slightly aloof. The firm needs evidence of their straying, but they must not be coerced.

Claire’s newest job seems straight-forward: the client warns her to be careful and is insistent that Claire doesn’t fall for any of her husband’s tricks. Claire’s meeting with the client’s husband hadn’t gone as well as she had hoped which frustrated them all. Moving on, Claire is surprised when that wife ends up violently murdered and the cops are convinced that the husband is to blame.

The cops decide to take advantage of Claire’s lack of a green card and her prior association with the suspect. They entreat Claire to use her acting skills and her work as a decoy to hopefully lure the husband unto a confession.

This seems like an easy job to Claire. After all, she is paid to lure men into propositioning her. How hard could it be to lure a man into confessing? Claire takes on a new identity and voice that the police feel will catch the killer’s eye. The closer she gets to the target though, the more Claire wonders if she is actually the decoy or the prey. Is she the hunter or the one being hunted? The further she gets into the investigation, the more questions are raised.

The twist at the end of this novel hit me so hard that 1) I audibly gasped and drew the attention of everyone in the grocery store around me and 2) I had to rewind and listen to the ending multiple times before I fully understand what was going on. I love when books do this to me. Read this book and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

What would you do if one of your close family members disappeared and you were left wondering what happened to them? Author Lisa Jewell takes this desperate situation and weaves a complicated story of love, loss, and emotions in her book, Then She Was Gone. How would you deal with a missing daughter? With the media swirling around you spreading rumors and the police not able to find any answers, how would your future life turn out?

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell covers those questions and more.  Ten years ago, Ellie was fifteen years old and the youngest of three children. Her mother, Laurel, treated Ellie like she was her golden girl. Ellie had a loving boyfriend, an adoring family, was studying for tests, and had her whole life in front of her. Leaving one day to study, Ellie disappeared. Despite a public plea for help, intense media scrutiny, and the police looking for her, the initial hopeful window for finding Ellie slips away, leaving her family with many unanswered questions and no Ellie.

Flash forward ten years. Ellie is still missing. Her disappearance has torn her family apart. Her mother, Laurel Mack, is struggling to find some semblance of normalcy. It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, seven months since her marriage officially ended, and a short couple months since she was contacted about the latest lead in Ellie’s disappearance. Her relationships with her other children are strained, leaving Laurel to seemingly float through what’s left of her life.

Heading to a coffee shop one day, Laurel meets a charming man named Floyd. Their chance meeting morphs into something serious, much to Laurel’s surprise. At Floyd’s house, Laurel is introduced to Floyd’s youngest daughter and her heart stops. Floyd’s youngest daughter, Poppy, is the spitting image of Ellie when Ellie was her age. This uncomfortable reminder of Ellie’s disappearance begins to haunt Laurel and raise uncomfortable questions that she thought she had dealt with. Questions surrounding Ellie’s disappearance like where she went, why did she go, and did she go willingly, among others, begin to stalk her thoughts. Examining Floyd and Poppy’s relationship makes Laurel uncomfortable as well. She begins to look into who Floyd really is and tries to learn more about Poppy’s history as well. Her resemblance to Ellie is uncanny, something that continues to bother Laurel. As she searches for answers to all of these questions, Laurel has to decide what exactly she wants out of life and how far she is willing to go to get answers.


This book is also available in the following formats:

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

I’m finding that a lot of the current books I’m reading contain themes that are very relevant in today’s society and culture. Emily Giffin’s newest novel deals with social media and the broader consequences and societal implications that happen when decisions are made without thinking through the possible  repercussions. In this novel, readers follow three different people as they struggle choosing between their family and their values. The core message present throughout this book is incredibly relevant to people in all walks of life: are you willing to compromise your beliefs, and if so, how far would you go?

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin tells a devastating story from the point of view of three different people: Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina has married into Nashville’s elite. Her husband’s tech business has rocketed them into wealth. Her son Finch is attending Windsor Academy, a prestigious private school, and has just been accepted into an even more prestigious college. Their lives are perfect.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs to help put his daughter through school. While they may not have everything, the life that they are living is nothing to be scoffed at.

Lyla is Tom’s teenage daughter. Her mother left when she was young, a situation she has to deal with on a daily basis. Wanting to give his daughter a better life, Tom works hard for Lyla to attend Windsor. Lyla finds herself going to school amongst all this wealth and privilege, while she attends the school on scholarship. Lyla doesn’t always fit in, but lucky for her, she has some friends that help her along the way.

Everything seems to be working out for Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina is happy with her husband and son, Tom’s businesses are providing him with the income and stability he needs, and Lyla is succeeding in school. Everything comes to a crashing halt with a picture taken at a party. Finch takes the offending picture of Lyla passed out,  captions it with an offensive saying, and sends it out to some of his closest friends. Spreading like wildfire, the picture soon makes it way out to everyone in the community, including Finch’s parents while they are at a dinner party.

The aftermath of this life-changing picture works to divide the Windsor community into two separate camps: those rallying behind Finch and those sympathizing with Lyla. Dealing with scandal, shame, and blame, Lyla, Tom, and Nina all have to decide how far they’re willing to go in two areas: support of family or standing by your beliefs. Nina struggles justifying the actions of her husband and son, while reconciling their behaviors with an event from her past that begins to poke through as her moral compass. Tom’s reaction and Nina’s husband’s reaction are at odds, leaving Nina unsure of who to side with and how she wants the rest of her life to go. Lyla wrestles with teenage hormones, her feelings for Finch, and her understated and sometimes missing outrage at what was done to her. Tom is extremely upset, but finds himself trying to reconcile Lyla’s somewhat bizarre reaction to this incident with his immense desire to seek revenge, sympathy, and what he deems is appropriate recompense for the wrong done to Lyla.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Force by Don Winslow

I find most of my reads while I’m looking through journals at work or when patrons suggest authors to me that I should try. Don Winslow came to my attention both ways. One day I saw his newest book in a journal I was flipping through. The next day a patron came to the desk and, through conversation, suggested I should try one of his books. As I’m a believer in coincidence, I knew I needed to give him a try.

Wanting to start with a standalone first to see if I liked him before I dragged myself into yet another series, I decided to start with Winslow’s newest standalone, The Force . This book is a fantastic representation of Winslow’s crime writing abilities. He is a gifted crime writer, proving that he really understands the subject matter that he chooses to write about.

In The Force, readers are brought into the world of Denny Malone and the mean streets of New York. Malone says at the start of this book, ‘Our ends know our beginnings, but the reverse isn’t true’. If you knew how your life, your job, or your relationship was going to end at the beginning, would you change your decisions? What about at the end of your career? If you could go back and change, would you? At the beginning of this novel, Malone finds himself contemplating all the decisions that he has made throughout his life. This book serves as a glimpse into everything that happened in Malone’s life that led him to where he is now.

Denny Malone just wants to be a good cop. When he started work as a police officer, all he wanted to do was make a difference for the public that he served. Now Malone is the king of Manhattan North. Working as a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant has changed Malone from the straight and narrow cop that he started out to be to his current position as the real leader of what is known as ‘Da Force’. Malone is a cop who knows that there are lines that, once you cross them, can never be uncrossed. Knowing that doesn’t stop him from crossing those lines, a little at first and then bigger and bigger. People in Manhattan North, cops and the public alike, know not to mess with Malone or his team because he isn’t afraid to use his position of power to get what he wants.

While Malone is working to clean up Manhattan North from drugs, guns, and gangs, there is decidedly some shady activity going on behind the scenes. While Malone and his team are credited with the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history, some(okay A LOT) of their actions surrounding said bust were not 100% legal. Since that bust, Malone and his partners have stolen millions of dollars worth of drugs and cash. If word got out of what they had done, they would all be in a great load of trouble.

Malone is going about his daily life surrounded by other corrupt cops, politicians, lawyers, and judges just struggling to provide the best for the public, his family, and himself. Called into a meeting that quickly turns sour, Malone is faced with a choice that, no matter where he turns, will end badly. He finds himself balancing on a thin tightrope being pulled in multiple directions. Malone must choose who to betray: his family, the woman he loves, his partners, the police force, or his brother. Will he end up betraying them all? While Malone finds himself going through this struggle, the city he loves so dearly, New York, is on verge of collapse. A racial confrontation between the police and the public could destroy the city, let alone the nation.

The topics covered in this novel are incredibly relevant to today.  Several of the events discussed within happened in real life. I really enjoyed how Winslow pulled events from today’s headlines and incorporated them into the fictional world that he created for Winslow and his fellow police detectives. Read this book and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats: