The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna BannisterThe Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister

This is the story of Nonna Bannisters childhood in Russia during World War II. As an adult she transcribed her own diaries of being a privileged young Russian girl whose family survives the Russian Revolution, endures Stalin’s rule, Germany’s invasion and occupation of Russia and the Holocaust.

I think that many expect this book to be along the lines of the Diary of Anne Frank. But, Nonna is not Jewish so she was not persecuted because of her faith, but rather was placed into a German slave camp. She saw her family lose everything. She saw her father die at the hands of the German occupation.

I absolutely loved the book. I do admit that it was not a polished work, but reflected the writingw of a child. I find that to be refreshing. It is after all her own childhood diary. They were also written in several different languages.

Nonna married her husband in 1951 and had kept this secret of her past until she was in her 70’s and feared she would die soon. That is when she told her husband it was time for him to learn her past. She gave him her transcribed diaries to read.

I enjoyed this book very much and I gained a new perspective of how things were during the war.

I give this 4 out of 5 stars.




Alert by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

AlertAlert by James Patterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alert (Michael Bennett Series #8) by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Michael Bennett is a New York City detective with ten children. His wife died several years ago and he has had a live in nanny, Mary Catherine who is from Ireland. She and Michael have become romantically involved and he has just left her in Ireland to sell her family’s business.

On his return to New York he is barely recovered when there is a terrible subway explosion. Emily Parker an old love interest who is an FBI agent is assigned to the case after terrorism is determined. They are good friends and they work together to solve the case.   Not long after the subway explosions, the mayor stages an all out press conference which ends when he is assassinated by way of a sniper.

The investigation continues on with no real suspect found. Just when they think they are getting a handle on things the Federal building is bombed and is totally destroyed. There are several references to 9/11 throughout the book. Which brings home the amount of devastation caused by the terrorists. Lead after lead go nowhere. Finally they are contacted by the terrorists. They are told that a tsunami bigger than the one in 2004 in Japan will hit the Eastern seaboard if they do not pay a ransom. This changes things and makes them look into other areas.

Seamus is Michael’s grandfather and a priest. He has had a stroke recently and this causes Michael concern. Seamus finds a temporary nanny for Michael’s kids which works out well. Finally, on viewing the video of where the next explosion will take place to cause the tsunami, a scientist recognizes nesting birds on an island off the coast of Africa.

They are able to reach the area in time and prevent the explosion with the help of the government of the island. They still have not found the people responsible for all of the destruction.

In the end, Michael is kidnapped by the two men responsible and he is almost killed. He manages to get free when Emily and the rest of the people on the case rescue him. Finally, the two men involved divulge their reasoning for all of the terror they have caused.

I enjoyed the book very much. And each book reveals more about the main characters. I like it when I get to know the characters more in each book.

I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.



Swan Point

Swan Point (A Sweet Magnolias Novel)Swan Point by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Swan Point (Sweet Magnolias Book #11) by Sherryl Woods is the last in series except for the Sweet Magnolias Cookbook which I never read. It is set in Serenity, South Carolina as were the previous books.

Adelia Hernandez is newly divorced from her husband Ernesto who has had a series of affairs throughout their marriage. He has gotten so brazen that he introduces his teenage daughter, Selina to his most recent mistress. Adelia’s mother Mrs. Cruz is against divorce and she herself put up with that type of behavior from her husband, so Adelia has been reluctant to leave. Finally, when Selina confronts her mother over the disrespect her father has shown Adelia she is moved to leave Ernesto. She realizes she doesn’t want her daughters to grow up thinking that it is right to be treated that way by their husbands or her son to grow up learning to treat his wife that way.

Adelia works for Raylene Rollins another member of the Sweet Magnolias in her Boutique. The Boutique is next door to the Sweet Shop owned by Lynn Franklin, a Sweet Magnolia and Mitch Franklin’s wife. Helen, one of the original Sweet Magnolias represents Adelia in her divorce. Not wanting anything more from Ernesto than support for the kids, she moves from her home and buys an old home in the old part of town Swan Point.

Gabe Franklin grew up in Serenity with an alcoholic mother who went through a string of men looking for someone to care about them. He would hear the gossip about his mother and his attempts to defend her only resulted in him fighting. He was labeled a troublemaker. Even members of his extended family did nothing to help them. Gabe works for his cousin Mitch Franklin who has a construction company in town. Adelia contracts Mitch’s company to do the repairs on the old home she bought. Gabe is assigned to do the work. Gabe begins to spend more and more time with Adelia and her four kids. He helps them with homework, teaches Tomas how to use tools and eventually falls in love with Adelia. Because of his past, he is reluctant to make a commitment to them. He feels he doesn’t deserve to be happy.

Ernesto attempts to take the kids away from Adelia after hearing that Gabe has been spending time with them. He loses in court and the kids remain safely with their mom.

This book touches on love, betrayal, domestic abuse, interfering families and raising children. I thought it was delightfully written and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.


The Front

The Front (Winston Garano, #2)The Front by Patricia Cornwell

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Front (Winston Garano Series #2) by Patricia Cornwell was such a disappointment to me. I haven’t read her in a while, but I used to really love her books. I did not read the first book in the series, but I don’t think that impacts on this book.

First let me say that I didn’t read this one, but listened to it last night in bed. I occasionally listen to books at night when I can’t sleep.

Second let me say that it was the most boring book I have ever read. The characters were flat with not much personality. The D. A. in the book was an egotistical snob who would never be tolerated in the real world. The protagonist was mediocre at best. The only character I felt had any depth to her was Stump.

I am so sorry that Ms. Cornwell’s writing has lost the reason I loved to read her books. I doubt I will read any more.

I give it 1 out of 5 stars.


Stealing Home

Stealing Home (Sweet Magnolias #1)Stealing Home by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stealing Home (The Sweet Magnolias #1) by Sherryl Woods

Maddie Townsend is a married mother of three children whose husband has just announced he has been having an affair and wants a divorce. He further tells her that his girlfriend is pregnant. Maddie can’t believe that her marriage is over. The Townsends live in Serenity, South Carolina which is a small town near Charleston.

Maddie is one of the Sweet Magnolias, a group of friends since high school. She enlists Helen, her friend, to represent her in her divorce. Maddie realizes she must now find work outside the home to support herself and her three children. Helen negotiates a settlement with Bill Townsend that ensures Maddie will not have to worry about things until after the kids are out of school.

Ty, Bill and Maddie’s son is 16 and plays baseball for the high school. He and his dad have always had baseball as a common love. He is angry with his dad and begins to struggle with his emotions. His baseball coach Cal Maddox is an ex-pro baseball player who takes a special interest in Ty. He is his best player. Cal and Maddie meet to discuss Ty’s situation and develop a friendship that feeds the rumor and gossip mill in Serenity.

Meanwhile Bill’s kids don’t accept Noreen, the pregnant girlfriend. They are having a hard time with the changes that are taking place in their lives. Ty especially resents his father’s insistence that Noreen be involved in their relationship. He even takes her to his baseball games. He is embarrassed by the fact that he got her pregnant while he was still married to his mother.

Cal, ten years younger than Maddie falls hard for Maddie. The begin spending more and more time together until a spurned woman who is a newspaper reporter takes all the gossip and writes a scathing story which becomes the fuel for the principal at the school to try to have Cal removed as both coach and teacher. The school board gives Cal a vote of confidence which ends the drama at the school.

This is also the story of the Corner Spa. Helen, Dana Sue and Maddie’s venture into owning a business together which caters to the women in Serenity. Maddie falls back on her business degree to get things running smoothly. This gives Maddie the independence she needs.

I loved this book. I like the way Ms. Woods develops her characters. If you continue to read the series, you begin to look on her characters as friends. I also like the romance of her novels.

I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.


Home In Carolina

Home in Carolina (A Sweet Magnolias Novel)Home in Carolina by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is #5 in the Sweet Magnolias series by Sherryl Woods. This story is about Annie and Ty. They have been friends their whole lives. They were engages when Annie went to college and Ty became a starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.

Long distance relationships are difficult as we all know. Ty began a cheating on Annie and got caught when the rumor magazines carried the story of one of his girlfriends became pregnant. Needless to say the engagement ended.

Fast forward to three years later and Annie is back home in Serenity, South Carolina. She is the physical therapist employed by the Corner Spa. Ty returns home to do rehab from a shoulder injury at his mother’s spa. Annie learns he has come back to Serenity by reading it in the papers.

True to form, the love story continues and Annie takes him back and becomes his son’t stepmother. I have really enjoyed all of the books in this series, but this one is way out there. Or Annie is a much better woman than I am. I could never get passed the infidelity. I just think that this one is just a little too far fetched.


Cross the Line (Alex Cross, #24)Cross the Line by James Patterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cross the Line by James Patterson is the twenty fourth book in the Alex Cross series. They are a crime, mystery and thriller novels set in Washington, D.C. Alex Cross is a D.C. Metro detective who is also a criminal psychologist. He has also worked for the FBI in the past. His partner John Sampson is also his best friend. Alex is married to Bree Stone who is also a detective at Metro PD.

Alex and Bree live with Nana Mama, Alex’s grandmother who raised him after his parents died, Jannine, his daughter and Ali his son. Alex’s oldest son, Damon is away at college.

The book opens with Cross and Sampson responding to an accident when they are called to respond to the shooting of Thomas McGrath the Chief of Detectives. When they get to the scene they find a woman dead at the scene too. Not knowing the relationship between the woman and the COD’s they begin their investigation. McGrath’s former partner is the major suspect.

While working the case, a series of vigilante suspected murder sprees are taking place. These are being perpetrated on known drug labs and human trafficking rings. Since this crime spree is crossing state lines the FBI becomes involved with Ned Mahoney taking point in the investigation. While Cross is involved in solving the crime spree, he is offered the position of Chief of Detectives which he turns down. However, Bree take the promotion when it is then offered to her. Alex adjusts well to his new boss since as he says Bree’s his boss at home too.

It soon becomes clear that there is a third crime to be solved. Motor vehicle drivers are being shot which is causing automobile accidents. One victim survives and is able to tell Cross what she remembers and it is clear that these drivers are being targeted because of traffic violations.

The book goes back and forth between the cases and you are drawn into the characters. I liked the fast pace of the book with twists and turns and a few surprises.

I am a big James Patterson fan and have loved the character of Alex Cross since my first introduction to him back in the 1990”s. I realize that Patterson has been churning out books like crazy and while he only writes outlines for a lot of what he does, he remains the only author in the Alex Cross books.

I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Midnight Promises

Midnight Promises (The Sweet Magnolias Book 8)Midnight Promises by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Midnight Promises by Sherryl Woods is the eighth book in the Sweet Magnolias series. Even though I have not read this series in order, it has not mattered since each one of these books are a standalone novel.

This book opens with a prologue of the wedding of Karen Ames and Elliott Cruz in Serenity, South Carolina. Karen’s first marriage was a disaster. Her husband Ray built up a lot of debt and then walked out on she and their two children Daisy and Mack. They divorced with Ray giving up his parental rights. After struggling to climb out from under this debt and almost losing her children, Karen emerges with some serious emotional scars.

The book moves to a few years later. Karen works as a chef in Sullivan’s which is owned by Dana Sue Sullivan, one of the Sweet Magnolias. Elliott works at the Spa owned by the Sweet Magnolias as a personal trainer. The opportunity presents itself to Elliott to become a partner in owning a gym for the men in Serenity. Elliott is in the investigation stage of the process but has not discussed it with Karen yet. She finds out about the venture by chance from the sous chef at the restaurant. This stirs up her issues with money and being shut out of decisions made for her family.

Karen’s mother is an alcoholic and she has no relationship with her. She is befriended by Frances, who helps her tremendously while she is working to get back on her feet. Frances becomes Daisy and Mack’s grandmother figure. Elliott’s mother is a strict catholic and does not believe in divorce and doesn’t accept Karen right away, which causes Karen anxiety. It took a long time for Elliott’s mother and sisters to finally accept her.

Adelia is Elliott’s older sister who is having marital problems herself. Ernesto, her husband has had a string of affairs and sees nothing wrong with treating his wife without respect. It takes a while but Adelia finally stand up to her husband giving him an ultimatum of stopping his behavior or she will leave. She gets a job working for Raylene another of the Sweet Magnolias and begins to regain her self respect. Karen and she finally become friends.

Elliott’s been wanting to adopt Daisy and Mack since Ray is completely out of the picture but Karen is dragging her feet about it which has Elliott feeling like an outsider. After both children tell Karen they want Elliot to adopt them, she finally sees that her children need the security that Elliott will be there for them no matter what.

Helen, another of the Sweet Magnolias, is Karen’s attorney and she provides much needed input about Karen’s reluctance to accept that Elliott is in it for the long haul which finally shows Karen that she can indeed trust that he will always do what it takes to keep she and the kids happy.

I really liked how Ms. Woods brought all of the characters together through the business venture of the new gym. She also touched on racial bias, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and infidelity in the lives of the characters. By exploring the reactions to those issues and the strategies they all used to deal with them.

4.5 our of 5 stars.


Where Azaleas Bloom

Where Azaleas Bloom (Sweet Magnolia #10)Where Azaleas Bloom by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is book #10 in the Sweet Magnolias series by Sherryl Woods. I loved this book so much. It’s the story of Lynn Morrow and Mitch Franklin who knew each other in their childhood. Mitch had a crush on Lynn back then but Lynn only had eyes for her soon to be ex-husband, Ed.

Lynn is Raylene and Carter Rollins’ next door neighbor and Mitch is the contractor who is working on her family room edition. He lost his wife in an accident involving a drunk driver. His two sons are away at college and so he often has supper with Raylene and Carter. Lynn and her children are at supper one night and he walks them home afterward. His interest is ignited again.

Lynn’s husband has asked for a divorce and is not taking care of supporting she and their two children. Mitch begins to stop by often and gives her a job so she can buy groceries. He knows her pride has interfered with her accepting help. Raylene gets wind of his interest in her and meddles a bit. Another of the Sweet Magnolias, Helen is Lynn’s attorney.

This is another love story with all the magic Sherryl Woods brings. One of the most romantic scenes is the Azalea garden Mitch plants in Lynn’s yard as a surprise. I really loved this book.


Catching Fireflies

Catching Fireflies (The Sweet Magnolias, #9)Catching Fireflies by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Catching Fireflies is the ninth book in the Sweet Magnolias series by Sherryl Woods. Pediatrician J.C. Fullerton and English teacher Laura Reed become involved after one of her students, Misty Dawson is bullied. Misty is skipping Laura’s class because she is being bullied by Annabelle Litchfield.

Misty is an excellent student and Laura Reed tries to find out why she is skipping class. Misty goes to Dr. Fullerton’s office to ask if he will write a note excusing her from school. He tells her he can’t and gives her twenty four hours to speak to someone else about her problem since she will not tell him. She confides there is a problem to Laura Reed after class and she contacts Dr. Fullerton.

J. C. Fullerton and Laura Reed join forces to help Misty and the Sweet Magnolias join them in an anti bullying rally held in the town square. Both Laura and J. C. have secrets in their past that complicate their budding romance. At the rally Laura learns that his brother killed himself after he was bullied. She then understands why he is passionate about fighting bullying.

Laura also had bullying in her past when she had become pregnant while she was in high school. She remained in school throughout her pregnancy because her parents were so disappointed with her. She continues to have a strained relationship with her parents.

I love how Ms. Woods brings important issues into her novels.