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Book Reviews 

Penelope's Book of the Month-December 2021

 

Gifts―A Christmas Novella

 

Author: Jeanette Handsome

 

Cozy up by the Christmas tree or a warm fire with "Gifts" for an evening of inspiration. You might even start a new tradition.

 

Justine McNally is down to the last two packages in a box of twelve anonymous gifts to give away when one arrives in the mail with her name on it. It's from her stepfather, and she does not plan to accept it. But when the final days before Christmas bring a flood of decade-old memories of shattered trust, a too-good-to-be-true college romance, and agonizing regret, Justine discovers that marking a package Return to Sender is not that easy. Justine's gift-giving (and returning) plans get set aside to help her boss at the historic Main Street Hotel pull together a Dickens-era Christmas Eve extravaganza. When the party guests include faces from her past, Justine must decide whether to keep running or receive a gift that might free her to give much more than her beautifully wrapped presents.
 

You can find "Gifts" on amazon.com.

 

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Penelope's Book of the Month-November 2021

 

Trial and Error―A Novel

 

Author: Robert Witlow

 

If you love a good suspense novel with a surprise ending Trial and Error is a must-read.

 

A small-town lawyer has been searching for his daughter for eighteen years. Now another young woman is missing, and he's determined to find them both—no matter the cost.

 

Buddy Smith built his law practice around tracking down missing children. After all, he knows the agony of being separated from a child. Not long after his daughter's birth, her mother ran away, and Buddy never saw either one again.

 

Gracie Blaylock has known Buddy her entire life, and now that she is clerk of court for the county, their paths cross frequently. When Gracie hears that a teenager in town has gone missing, she knows Buddy is the one for the case.

 

The girl's parents are desperate for answers. Together with Gracie and Mayleah—the new detective in town—Buddy chases all leads, hoping to reach the missing teen before it's too late. And as he pursues one girl, he uncovers clues that could bring him closer to the girl he thought he lost forever: his own daughter.

 

Master legal writer Robert Whitlow will keep you guessing in this gripping legal drama while reminding you of the power of God's restoration.

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Penelope's Book of the Month-October 2021

 

Home Front-A Novel

Author: Kristin Hannah

 

Kristin Hannah doesn't disappoint.

 

"Home Front is Hannah's crowning achievement." ―The Huffington Post

In this powerhouse of a novel, Kristin Hannah explores the intimate landscape of a troubled marriage with this provocative and timely portrait of a husband and wife, in love and at war.

All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost. . . .

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life―children, careers, bills, chores―even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then a deployment sends Jolene deep into harm's way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier, she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own―for everything that matters to his family.

At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family, Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope.

"Hannah has written a remarkable tale of duty, love, strength, and hope that is at times poignant and always thoroughly captivating and relevant." ―Library Journal (starred review)

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Penelope's Book of the Month-September 2021

The Last Bookshop in London

 

A Novel

 

Author: Madeline Martin

 

A different kind of WWII novel. One from the perspective of the citizens of London. Exceptionally well written. The Last Bookshop in London will leave you inspired to share the stories. 

 

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hilter's forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she'd wind up working at Primose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

 

Through blackouts and air raids as the Bliz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed--a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war. 

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Penelope's Book of the Month-August 2021

 

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman's Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti -A Memoir Megan Boudreaux

 

"It took months of God waking me up in the middle of the night before I realized I was the one He was calling to leave my comfortable American life and move to Haiti." Megan Boudreaux

 

I found Miracle on Voodoo Mountain to be riveting. The reader will witness miracle after miracle, and every word is true. My friend and two-time New Your Best-Selling author, Susy Flory, ghostwrote this book and has visited the mountain and the people who prayed for someone to come save them. He sent Megan. After you read Miracle on Voodoo Mountain, you will never think the same.

 

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain is the inspirational memoir of an accomplished and driven 24-year-old who quit her job, sold everything and moved to Haiti, by herself—all without a clear plan of action. Megan Boudreaux had visited Haiti on a few humanitarian trips, but each trip multiprlied the sense that someone needed to address the devastation—especially with the children, many of whom were kept as household slaves on the poverty-stricken and earthquake-devastated Caribbean island.

God guided her every step as she moved blindly to a foreign land without knowing the language, the people, or the future.

 

From becoming the adoptive mother of former child slaves to receiving the divine gift of the Haitian Creole language to starting, building, and running a school for more than 500 children, "the amazingness of what God did after I made the choice to be obedient is incredible," said Megan.

 

Three years later, six acres on Bellevue Mountain in Gressier is the home of the nonprofit Respire Haiti at the former site of voodoo worship, and in the area that many still come to make animal sacrifices, Megan and her staff of nearly 200 are transforming this community as they educate, feed, and address the needs.

 

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Penelope's Book of the Month-July 2021

 

Sooley-A Novel

John Grisham

 

Not a book I normally would pick up, but Sooley caught my attention. Gripping. The story builds, taking the reader inside the world of Sudan and American college basketball. An unexpected turn of events will open your eyes to hidden dangers... But I will let that be a surprise. A compelling read.

In the summer of his seventeenth year, Sam­uel Sooleymon gets the chance of a lifetime: a trip to the United States with his South Sudanese teammates to play in a showcase basket­ball tournament. He has never been away from home, nor has he ever been on an airplane. The opportunity to be scouted by dozens of college coaches is a dream come true.

Samuel is an amazing athlete, with speed, quick­ness, and an astonishing vertical leap. The rest of his game, though, needs work, and the American coaches are less than impressed.

During the tournament, Samuel receives dev­astating news from home: A civil war is raging across South Sudan, and rebel troops have ran­sacked his village. His father is dead, his sister is missing, and his mother and two younger brothers are in a refugee camp.

Samuel desperately wants to go home, but it's just not possible. Partly out of sympathy, the coach of North Carolina Central offers him a scholar­ship. Samuel moves to Durham, enrolls in classes, joins the team, and prepares to sit out his freshman season. There is plenty of more mature talent and he isn't immediately needed.

But Samuel has something no other player has: a fierce determination to succeed so he can bring his family to America. He works tirelessly on his game, shooting baskets every morning at dawn by himself in the gym, and soon he's dominating everyone in practice. With the Central team los­ing and suffering injury after injury, Sooley, as he is nicknamed, is called off the bench. And the legend begins.

But how far can Sooley take his team? And will success allow him to save his family?

 

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Penelope's Book of the Month-June 2021

When Twilight Breaks
 
Sarah Sundin 

 

 

ATTENTION THOSE WHO LIVE NEAR FRESNO, CALIFORNIA

 

Sarah will be speaking at People's Church on Saturday, June 26, 9-11 a.m. Tickets are $15 and can be bought on the website www.peopleschurch.org/tickets. You will not want to miss out.

 

This is Sarah's best work yet.

 

"Two Americans meet in 1938 in the heart of Nazi Germany. Their efforts to expose oppression attract unwanted attention, pulling them deeper into danger as the world marches toward war"-

 

Booklist Starred Review

 

Munich, 1938. Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent as determined to prove her worth in a male-dominate profession as she is to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country―or worse. If she fails to truthfully report on major stories, she'll never be able to give a voice to the oppressed―and wake up the folks back home.

 

In another part of the city, American graduate student Peter Lang is working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, he is impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But when the brutality of the regime hits close, he discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party―to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can't get off his mind.

 

This electric standalone novel puts you right at the intersection of pulse-pounding suspense and heart-stopping romance.

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Penelope's Book of the Month-May 2021

 

The Four Winds

Kristin Hannah

 

 

Novel

 

The Four Winds was recommended by a friend. Oh, my what a story. What a writer―Kristin Hannah. I could taste the dirt and feel the pain of those who fled the Dust Bowl. For those of us who live in Central California, the story is closer than you might think. One of the camps mentioned in the book still stands today in Arvin, California. I learned much about the trials of those living with dust bowl. And then I watched The Grapes of Wrath. Intriguing.

 

From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.

"My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family."

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman's only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa's tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa―like so many of her neighbors―must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it―the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

 

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Penelope's Book of the Month-April 2021

 

The Curator's Daughter

Melanie Dobson

 

Novel.

 

A page-turner. Melanie Dobson is one of my favorite authors. Her books are always well researched and engaging. The Curator's Daughter does not disappoint.

 

A young girl, kidnapped on the eve of World War II, changes the lives of a German archaeologist forced into the Nazi Party and―decades later―a researcher trying to overcome her own trauma.

1940. Hanna Tillich cherishes her work as an archaeologist for the Third Reich, searching for the Holy Grail and other artifacts to bolster evidence of a master Aryan race. But when she is reassigned to work as a museum curator in Nuremberg, then forced to marry an SS officer and adopt a young girl, Hanna begins to see behind the Nazi facade. A prayer labyrinth becomes a storehouse for Hanna's secrets, but as she comes to love Lilly as her own daughter, she fears that what she's hiding―and what she begins to uncover―could put them both in mortal danger.

Eighty years later, Ember Ellis is a Holocaust researcher intent on confronting hatred toward the Jewish people and other minorities. She reconnects with a former teacher on Martha's Vineyard after she learns that Mrs. Kiehl's mother once worked with the Nazi Ahnenerbe. And yet, Mrs. Kiehl describes her mother as "a friend to the Jewish people." Wondering how both could be true, Ember helps Mrs. Kiehl regain her fractured childhood memories of World War II while at the same time confronting the heartache of her own secret past―and the person who wants to silence Ember forever.

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Penelope's Book of the Month-March 2021

This very well-written and unusual story may be the most captivating book I read in 2020. Four teenagers write down their hopes and dreams put them in a blue bottle. The bottle is found 65 years later. Read The Blue Bottle Club and find out what happened to them and the lessons learned. I won't soon forget these women and the woman who brought them back together.

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