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June 5, 2022

3 Books with Strong Women Characters

by Susan Roberts

Strong women main characters show up in every genre of fiction.  We no longer just have stories about damsels in distress who need to be rescued.  Instead, we have strong female characters who can take care of themselves and those around them.  Today I have reviews of a suspense novel, a historical fiction novel, and a women's fiction that all show the strength of women when faced with problems

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A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser 

book cover of women's fiction novel A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser
March 2021; St. Martin's; 978-1250241627
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); women's fiction

When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer―that is, for one half-sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true.

This new novel by Jessica Strawser is a real page-turner.   It's a book that will make you question what you would do in a similar situation.  It's about love and family, past mistakes brought to life, and a story about two sisters who aren't real sure that they want to be sisters.

Caroline lives a busy life.  With three children and a full-time job, she has no free time in her life. Luckily she has a husband (Walt) who helps take care of the kids.  He is very loving to his wife and at times but she doesn't seem to appreciate him.  He did the Christmas shopping a few months earlier and got Caroline's parents and his wife and himself DNA kits.  Caroline went ahead and did the test as a lark knowing that it wouldn't come up with any matches but she had no idea that the results of the tests would find something that totally changed the dynamics of her family and created havoc for her parents' lives.

Sela lives in Brevard, NC.  Her mother has died, she and her husband are in the midst of divorcing and she is losing the battle with kidney issues that will kill her if she can't find a donor.  She worries about her future since she has a two-year-old son that she treasures. She knows that she has a half-sister somewhere in the world, and uses her DNA test to locate her.  She contacts Caroline with a request to be friends but doesn't want to tip her hand to the fact that she needs to find out if Carolina would be a good match and would be willing to donate her kidney.

Caroline and Sela begin to communicate and it looks like they may become friends until Caroline and Walt find out the real reason for her initial communication was to find a close match that would give up her kidney.  Questions remain after the truth is revealed and it begins to look doubtful that the sister will bond.

This is a compelling story about organ donations and how people make the decision to become a donor.  The two main characters tell the story in alternate chapters.  Caroline and Sela are well-written characters and most of the secondary characters add considerably to the story.

I have read all of Jessica Strawsers' books and she has become one of my go-to authors.  Give her books a try, you won't be disappointed.

Buy A Million Reasons Why at Amazon

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

book cover of historical fiction novel Eternal by Lisa Scottoline
March 2021; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 978-0525539766
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); historical fiction

"War is eternal, but so was peace."

Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro grew up as best friends in Rome.  Eternal is about their lives from 1937 to 1957.  It's a novel about loyalty and loss, family and food, love and war.  As the three get older, both Marco and Sandro fall in love with Elisabetta and she is forced to make a choice between her two best friends.  When World War II starts, all three choose different paths.  Will their lives change enough that they can reconcile or will the War shatter their friendship for good?

  • Elisabetta dreams of becoming a novelist. Her home life is difficult - her mother left when she was young and her father is an alcoholic.  She tries to take care of her father but it becomes more difficult over time..
  • Sandro is Jewish and is moved into the ghetto with his family.  He loves school and wants to be a mathematician but as the new laws become harsher for the Jewish citizens, he sees his dream begin to fade.
  • Marco is the daredevil of the group.  His goal in life was to become a professional cyclist which is greatly encouraged by his family.  Marco becomes part of the Fascist group in Rome and works at their headquarters.

As the Nazis start their rule of Rome, all three of them are tested by issues about their families, their homes, and their connection to one another.  As the war goes on, they all have to make decisions about their friendship and the link between them.  Can their friendship survive the best and the worst of Rome during this time?

All three of these characters are well written and I was invested in all three of their lives.  The plot moves fairly slowly in part but that didn't alter my enjoyment of this book.  It's apparent that the author did a lot of research for this book.  It's also one of the few WWII books I've read that takes place in Rome  I'd suggest having tissue close at hand because there are scenes that will make you cry  If you enjoy WWII, you don't want to miss this book! 

Buy Eternal at Amazon

Campfire Confessions by Kristine Ochu 

book cover of women's fiction novel Campfire Confessions by Kristine Ochu
March 2022; Books Fluent; 978-1953865434
ebook, print (338 pages); women's fiction

Can you ever really hide a secret from your best friends?

I enjoy reading books about the importance of friendship to women. I know that my friends are an important part of my life - they are always there when you need them and I'd be lost without them. I also have several childhood friends who knew me when...and we always get a good laugh about our earlier days as friends. The three women in this novel are childhood friends who have grown apart and not seen in each other in a long time. But when one of them needs help, the other two immediately put their lives on hold and travel to the town they grew up in to help.

Annie is a pastor's wife with 4 sons. Her life is so busy with church duties and school volunteering and just being the best mom and wife she can be that she loses herself. She starts abusing anti-depressants to get her through her days and one day she takes too many and ends up in the hospital with people in town believing that she tried to commit suicide. When Jo finds out about Annie's trouble, she immediately calls Sondra and they both rush to Annie's side. Jo is a recovering alcoholic who is in the process of divorcing her husband even though she still loves him. Sondra is married to an older man who gives her everything she wants but can't provide the intimacy that she needs. When Jo and Sondra get to town, they decide to pick up Annie and go on an overnight camping trip like they did when they were younger. They felt that getting Annie away from her family would make her be more honest with her friends but it turns out that they were all hiding secrets from each other. The camping trip is hilarious at times but it's also a soul-searching, death-defying adventure. Everything goes wrong and they end up lost in the woods and not sure how to get home.

This is a wonderful book about friendship. All three of these women are plagued with beliefs that they are not enough - that they need to try harder to help their families but will they be able to convince each other and themselves that they are enough and don't need to continue to struggle??

I really enjoyed all three of the main characters. Even though their friendship has cooled, they are always there to help each other with compassion and love. Those are the kind of friends that we all need in our lives.
This was a very enjoyable book with characters that I could relate to.  This is a debut novel for this author and I look forward to her future books.

Buy Campfire Connections at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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