Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Told through flashbacks to various family members throughout the years, Gabriela Garcia has written a novel of fierce familial pride in her debut work, Of Women and Salt. Five generations of women are linked through blood and the love of story as they each navigate life.

1866, Cuba: Maria is the only woman employed at a local cigar factory. Each day, a man comes in and reads to them from various books. The current book he reads is by Victor Hugo. Dangerous political times rock her life. As Maria realizes that she won’t be able to escape her current life without getting married and starting a family, war descends on them all.

1959, Cuba: Dolores is often stuck at home feeding and caring for her daughter while her husband disappears for long stretches of time. Her husband is a supporter of Fidel Castro and frequently heads to the mountains in order to answer Castro’s call to arms. Dependent on what little money her husband brings home and with his income drying up with him gone, Dolores knows that in order to survive she will do whatever it takes. What she decides to do may end up destroying her daughter Carmen’s life as well as her own, but she is hopeful that in the long run, they will be able to survive.

2016, Miami: Carmen is struggling. Her feelings of displacement have never completely evaporated. When her daughter Jeanette tells Carmen that she will be traveling to Cuba to visit her grandmother Dolores, Carmen is shocked and confused. Why would Jeanette want to travel? What will Dolores tell her? Carmen and her mother Dolores have a very complicated relationship that she has had to wrestle with for years. Meanwhile, Carmen and Jeanette also have a rocky relationship, something that Carmen has been working through while trying to keep her wayward daughter from going too far off-track. All Jeanette wants is to understand her family’s histories. The best way to do so she believes is to travel to Cuba and visit with her grandma. The secrets in her grandma’s house hold the power to give her answers while also destroying the fragility of the past.

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The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

“Books and ideas are like blood; they need to circulate, and they keep us alive.”

One of my absolute favorite genres to read is historical fiction, but this particular book hits the jackpot because it is also about libraries and the amazing people who work in them! Just published in February, The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles, weaves together two primary narratives spanning across time and place to create a beautiful and haunting story about the strength of friendship, family, and libraries in the face of betrayal, loss, and war.

This story begins in 1939 France with the narrative of Odile Souchet, a fresh graduate of library school who interviews for a librarianship position at the American Library in Paris (ALP). She quickly finds herself at home in the stacks and among several new friends, including fellow librarians, devoted library subscribers, a volunteer who quickly becomes her best friend, and a police officer who becomes her beloved beau. Before long, however, Odile loses a part of herself as her twin brother, Remy, goes off to war and everything she loves, including the library, is endangered.

The second central narrative takes place in 1980s Montana through the eyes of a young teenager named Lily. After the death of her mother and her father’s eventual remarriage, Lily finds herself both lost and trapped in a small rural town she desperately wishes to escape. She eventually finds a sense of liberation in the friendship she develops with her elderly neighbor, who teaches her French, shares her love of literature and books, and essentially becomes a second mother during some of her darkest moments. Before long, Lily becomes curious about her neighbor’s past, as all she (and the rest of the town) knows is her status as a widowed war bride who left her entire life behind in Paris to come to Montana with her husband after the war. Despite the difference in age and background, these two characters have more in common than meets the eye and share a kinship of love and understanding that truly stands the test of time.

Overall, this novel is a heart-wrenching and tragic, albeit beautiful, story filled with memorable characters who are tested by unimaginable hardships. I reveled in the development of several characters, especially since I felt I was able to connect with their complex and flawed personas. While you learn the fate of many of these individuals, I definitely found myself wanting more information on others! I also really enjoyed Charles’s writing style – in addition to writing beautifully, it is obvious how much research she did in the creation of this book by the way she is able to truly whisk you away to another time and place as you read.

While I definitely loved the fictional aspects of this novel, I was delighted to learn that several librarians in the story, along with their remarkable and heroic actions, were based on real individuals. Despite the dangers and risks war posed to both the people and resources of the library, the ALP stayed open to subscribers, maintained a service in which they delivered around 100,000 books to soldiers fighting overseas, and risked their own lives to deliver books to Jewish subscribers who had been barred from entering the library. Charles first learned about this incredible history upon becoming the programs manager at the ALP and, feeling wholly inspired, decided to delve deeper into the history by writing this book. The result? An ode to the truly incredible and impactful roles libraries will always have in our society.

All in all, I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who loves libraries and books, remarkable character development, and experiencing the strength and resiliency of the human race, especially through relationships formed with others.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

2021 is the year that I read outside my comfort zone. This means reading more horror and science fiction. My latest read is a mix of fantasy, occult, and paranormal fiction called The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. This book lays a solid foundation as the first book in the Bethel series.

In The Year of the Witching, Henderson indulges in her love of witchcraft, dark fantasy, cosmic horror, and ghost stories by telling the story of a rigid puritanical society that shuns and abhors dark powers and the witches that tried to ruin the town.

The Prophet’s word is law in Bethel. Immanuelle Moore struggles with this proclamation, despite being raised in the faith. Her mother conceived her out of wedlock with a Bethel outsider of a different race. Immanuelle’s once proud and highly revered family was cast into disgrace when she was born. Her very existence is blasphemy to the Prophet and his followers. Despite of, and perhaps because of, the disgrace her family is in, Immanuelle works hard to follow Holy Protocol, worship in the faith, and lead a life of conformity, devotion, and utter submission. All the other women in the settlement follow these rules, so Immanuelle shouldn’t have a hard time doing so.

Out one day, Immanuelle is lured into the Darkwood that surrounds Bethel. The Darkwood is forbidden as it is the place where the first prophet had chased and killed four powerful witches many years ago. The Darkwood is haunted by the spirits of the witches and people who stumble in are never seen again. This forbidden place gives Immanuelle an extraordinary gift: the diary of her dead mother.

The diary holds the secrets of her mother’s life as well as the history of the Prophets and the Church. The more Immanuelle reads and digs into the mysteries, the more she understands what she has to do. Immanuelle has always known that there is something extra inside her. Both fascinated and fearful of what she finds out, Immanuelle discovers why her mother once worked with the witches. She must do something to save Bethel from its own darkness. Bethel must change.

This book is also available in the following format:

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary to get your life back on track. Other times, it can end up completely derailing the precious balance that you have. Mary Kubica’s latest book, The Other Mrs., talks about the balance between family and work, new and old.

Sadie and Will Foust have the perfect life. Well, at least they used to. Having started their family in Chicago, they always imagined staying there forever. When Sadie finds out that Will is having an affair and when her older son has issues at school, they decide they need to move. Uprooting their family from Chicago to a tiny island off the coast of Maine, the Foust family is ready to start over.

Having only lived in this small town for a few weeks, Sadie is shocked when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home down the street. Crime doesn’t happen on the island. The murder shocks the small town, but Sadie takes it extra hard. She never imagined the horrors of Chicago would follow them to Maine, but it seems that they did. Sadie is on edge.

Searching for any clues as to what happened to Morgan, Sadie is dismayed to discover that suspicion has been cast onto her family. As the new family in town, Sadie can’t understand why people believe that anyone in her family would have anything to do with Morgan’s death. Wanting to clear her family, Sadie starts digging into what really happened that night. The more she uncovers, the more uncomfortable and uneasy she feels about the truth. If anyone finds out what actually happened, her life would be destroyed. Sadie has to decide what she’s going to do with the information she discovers.

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Virtual Book Club – July 15

Join our Virtual Book Club on Wednesday, July 15th at 2pm central for a virtual discussion of You Are Not Alone  by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. We will be using GoTo Meeting for this program.  Information on how to join in is listed below! We hope to see you there!

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is the third and most recent book written by the duo. The below is a description of the book provided by the publisher:

Shay Miller has three strikes against her: no job, no apartment, no love in her life. But when she witnesses a perfectly normal looking young woman about her age make the chilling decision to leap in front of an ongoing subway train, Shay realizes she could end up in the same spiral. She is intrigued by a group of women who seem to have it all together, and they invite her with the promise: ‘You are not alone.’ Why not align herself with the glamorous and seductive Moore sisters, Cassandra and Jane? … They are everything Shay aspires to be, and they seem to have the keys to getting exactly what they want. As Shay is pulled deeper and deeper under the spell of the Moore sisters, she finds her life getting better and better. But what price does she have to pay? What do Cassandra and Jane want from her? And what secrets do they, and Shay, have that will come to a deadly confrontation? You are not alone: Is it a promise? Or a threat?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Jul 15, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/617521805

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (312) 757-3121

Access Code: 617-521-805

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
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The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton

I don’t know about you, but the amount of reading I have done recently has drastically decreased. I have been gravitating toward podcasts instead. Another librarian recommended The Less People Know About Us  by Axton Betz-Hamilton as a true crime memoir that I would like and she was right! This book may be nonfiction, but it reads like fiction: a riveting tale of family drama and one person’s journey to rebuild their life from bare bones.

The Less People Know About Us  by Axton Betz-Hamilton follows Axton from childhood to adulthood. Growing up in small-town Indiana in the early 1990s, Axton and her parents (and the occasional grandparent) found themselves struggling. Why? When she was 11, both of Axton’s parents had their identities stolen. Life changed forever for them after this happened: fights over money became more and more frequent and their credit ratings were tanked. Every time Axton mentioned going to the authorities or the banks to help, her mom said she would handle it, when in reality, there was nothing much they could do to help because identity theft was a somewhat new concept.

To hide from the identity thief, they moved to different addresses and changed all of their personal information. Going so far as to avoid answering the door and to try to live as quiet a life as possible, Axton and her parents completely cut off the outside world. Isolated from friends and family, Axton’s life became increasingly more lonely. She became more and more anxious and eventually developed an eating disorder, seemingly quarantined in her childhood home as the identity thief was always able to find them no matter where they moved.

Years later, Axton discovered that she also was a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately by the time she discovered this, she was already thousands of dollars in debt. Her credit was ruined. In order to dig herself out of this, Axton became an award-winning identity theft expert doing research into this topic and trying to figure out why people choose to steal the identities of others. It took her years to figure out who was responsible and that involved trying to untangle a massively intricate web of lies that formed before she was even born.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is a suspenseful mystery author who has consistently put out a new bestseller every year since 2015. Her newest book, The Turn of the Key,  takes the idea of a ‘smart’ home and juxtaposes that high modernity against the ruggedly beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Rowan Caine wasn’t looking for a new job when she stumbled upon the advertisement online looking for a new live-in nanny. The description made the job sound too good to be true. Being a nanny to a wealthy family living in the Scottish Highlands sounded like a dream, plus the pay didn’t hurt. Heading out to the interview, Rowan becomes increasingly nervous when she arrives at Heatherbrae to see all the technology that essentially runs the home for you. After getting the job, Rowan moves in to Heatherbrae and everything starts to change.

The family is made up of three young girls, an older girl away at boarding school, a father seldom home, and a mother with never-ending boundless energy. Throw in two rambunctious big dogs and a handsome handyman and Rowan can’t comprehend why the family has such a hard time keeping a nanny. As soon as she moves in, Rowan begins to struggle with learning the technology that runs the home. Even the simplest tasks are controlled through hidden panels in each room. Consoling herself with the fact that the mom will be around for a few weeks to help her establish a routine with the girls, Rowan is shocked when both mom and dad take off the day after she arrives, leaving her alone with the children, the dogs, and the increasingly creepy house.

Desperate to show she is capable, Rowan tries to do her best. It doesn’t take long before she begins to question her decision to take this job. Strange noises in the night and notes left around for her to find combined with the house’s technology seeming to revolt against her at every inopportune moment leave Rowan shaky and shattered. The housekeeper doesn’t like Rowan, plus one of the children, Maddie, is becoming increasingly difficult and is acting like it is her life’s mission to make Rowan miserable. The noises from the attic above keep her awake throughout the night, affecting her sleep and her ability to care for the three youngest children. When the oldest girl, Rhiannon, arrives home from boarding school, Rowan’s life slips from bad to worse when Rhiannon starts acting out and disappearing for hours and sometimes all night. Once Rhiannon begins digging into Rowan’s past and finds her secrets, Rowan begins to wonder how and if she will survive her time at Heatherbrae.


This book is available in the following formats:

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

   The Most Fun We Ever Had  by Claire Lombardo tells the story of multiple generations of one family. The two people at the head of the family have been deeply in love for over forty years and aren’t afraid to show affection. Their four daughters may grow weary of their constant love, but this novel highlights each person’s connections to the other and how old rivalries may have the power to shatter the carefully built lives they have all built over the years.

Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson met and fell in love in the 1970s. Growing their marriage and their family, the two don’t have any idea the paths that their lives will travel down.  In present day 2016, Marilyn and David have four daughters who couldn’t be more different than each other: Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace.

Told through a series of flashbacks that eventually line up with the present, readers are privy to the ever-expanding lives of each member of the Sorenson family. I listened to the audiobook version of this book and enjoyed the many characters as they allowed me to form a more three-dimensional, multi-faceted portrait of the family as a whole.

Wendy, the oldest daughter, spent years dealing with body issues, was widowed young, and has found the only way to gain comfort in life is through increasing amounts of alcohol and lithe younger men.

Violet is Wendy’s Irish twin. Born less than a year after Wendy, Violet had big dreams of being a lawyer and was able to become one. Soon after though, Violet switched gears to being a stay-at-home mom and circumstances converge to bring her self-doubt, family issues, and anxiety to all time highs as her biggest secret comes back to haunt her.

Liza, the third daughter, has finally become a tenured professor. If only her boyfriend would get help for his depression and leave the apartment, Liza’s life would be infinitely better. When Liza discovers that she’s pregnant, she is forced to confront whether or not she and her boyfriend actually work together anymore.

Grace is forever the baby. Born nine years after Liza, Grace is struggling to find her place. After an innocent lie gets bigger and bigger, she finds herself having to settle down and live in the lie even though it’s eating her up inside.

The arrival of teenage Jonah Bendt into the Sorensons’ lives upsets the delicate balance the family has been living for years. This novel follows the first year after Jonah shows up, as well as flashing back to many other years and life-changing events that helped form them into the people they are today. Marked by the highest highs and the lowest lows, the Sorensons’ pasts are forever tied together even if they want to be separate.


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Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Mistakes you make in high school can have the ability to destroy your life. Lisa Scottoline talks about these mistakes and their life-long consequences in her newest novel, Someone Knows.

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline is a page-turning novel about how one decision can destroy family, friendships, and hope of a positive future in a split second. This domestic thriller dives into the choices of a group of high school friends who are forced to keep a secret and how it affects each of them.

Twenty years ago, four teenagers are spending the summer hanging around the suburb that they live in in Philadelphia. Fifteen-year-old Allie Garvey has had a rough childhood. Her older sister Jill has cystic fibrosis and that diagnosis has changed her entire life as well as that of her family. Hanging around with three other teenagers, Allie is finally able to experience a normal teenage life. When a new boy moves to town, the relationships the four have developed are put to a test.

One night, they end up drinking and partying in the woods. After deciding to play a dangerous prank, the night turns deadly. Running for their lives and in shock, the teenagers decide to keep what happened a secret. Each believes that being caught or telling someone in authority what happened would make the situation even worse for them.

Allie has lived with this secret for 20 years. It’s eating her up inside, especially since she had never told anyone. Allie distances herself from her family, friends, and her husband. Heading back home to Philadelphia for a funeral of one of her childhood friends, Allie struggles with grief, panic, and shame. Clearly the others have been facing the same struggles as her and one had reached the breaking point.

Coming to terms with this unexpected death, Allie realizes that she can’t keep living life the way she has been. She must make a change, but doing so means she would utterly destroy and lose everything. Allie wants to learn the truth about how the prank turned deadly. While she’s searching for answers, Allie learns things that shock her and change the events that she thought were true.

This novel is a fascinating examination of what it really means to want justice and to receive it. Family, marriage, love, and friendship are all tested throughout. I enjoyed the twists and turns this novel took with an ending that I did not expect. Check out the book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


This book is available in the following formats:

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

After someone dies, loved ones are left to pick up the pieces. That usually means sorting through personal possessions and reading through the will. Secrets can be revealed during this time leaving loved ones to wonder who exactly the deceased was in life and why they were hiding some things. Lisa Jewell discusses the topic of secrets in her 2013 novel, Before I Met You.

Before I Met You  by Lisa Jewell tells the story of two women growing up decades apart. In 1990s grungy London Soho, Betty Dean has arrived to find the mysterious Clara Pickle. Clara was listed as the main beneficiary in her grandmother Arlette’s will. No one in her family has ever heard of Clara Pickle. Arlette never mentioned her. Going through her grandmother’s possessions, Betty finds hints tucked in coat pockets and hidden in books. Betty has always dreamed of getting out of Guernsey and moving to Soho. Trying to find Clara provides Betty with the perfect reason to head to Soho and begin a new glamorous life filled with excitement and hope.

In 1920s Jazz Age London, Arlette finds herself on the doorstep of her mother’s childhood best friend. Becoming friends with the woman’s daughter, Arlette quickly becomes drawn into the bohemian lifestyle of the Bright Young People. Arlette is beautiful and charismatic, but a bit sheltered since she spent all of her life before London growing up on the quiet and secluded island of Guernsey. Arlette is looking for love, a change, and acceptance now that the war is over. Two years later, Arlette’s new life is on course to give her what she wants. Right when she is ready to settle down, tragedy strikes and Arlette heads back to Guernsey where she stays for the rest of her life.

Betty searches high and low for Clara. While doing so, she learns even more secrets about Arlette’s life in London during the 1920s. Glamour, fashion, and music all played major roles in both women’s lives. Betty uncovers photographs and stories about Arlette’s life. She soon realizes that Arlette had major reasons for keeping her past firmly in her past.

While this is an older book, I enjoyed the topics discussed throughout. The parallels between Betty’s life in Guernsey and London in the 1990s as compared to Arlette’s life in the same places in the 1920s were so striking that I was left to wonder continuously throughout whether Betty would make the same life choices as Arlette. Betty’s journey to find Clara was fascinating because she kept searching for answers even when people told her to give up.  Read the book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


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