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T is for Translated Fiction #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the ...

November 25, 2022

Holiday Buying Guide 2022

by Donna Huber


We have stuffed ourselves with turkey and now trees are going up so it means it is time for my annual guide to the best books to buy for the reader on your gift giving list. I've read 136 books so far this year but only 15 earned 5 stars from me (not including a few beloved reads). They fall mainly into two broad categories - historical fiction and crime fiction - not surprising since those are my favorite genres. I do have some books of nonfiction and other genres to recommend as well.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Nonfiction


The Daughter of Auschwitz by Tova Friedman

book cover of World War II memoir The Daughter of Auschwitz by Tova Friedman

I listened to this book, and I think it made it feel even more real. This book would be great for people who enjoy memoirs and history - particularly WWII history. Tova tells her story of being a Jewish child during WWII but goes all the way to present day so you see how that period of time had a lasting effect on life. Read my full review.

Tova Friedman was only four years old when she was sent to a Nazi labor camp at the start of World War II. While friends and family were murdered in front of her eyes, the only weapon that Tova and her parents possessed was the primal instinct to survive at all costs. Fate intervened when, at the age of six, Tova was sent to a gas chamber, but walked out alive, saved by German bureaucracy. Not long afterwards, she cuddled a warm corpse to hide from Nazis rounding up prisoners for the Death March to Germany.

In this heartrending, lyrical account of a young girl's survival during the Holocaust, Tova Friedman, together with Malcolm Brabant, chronicles the atrocities she witnessed while at Auschwitz, a family secret that sheds light on the unpalatable choices Jews were forced to make to survive, and ultimately, the sources of hope and courage she and her family found to persist against all odds. (Goodreads)



One Hundred Saturdays by Michael Frank
book cover of biography One Hundred Saturdays by Michael Frank

Michael Frank, through a series of conversations, conveys the life of one of the very few surviving Rhodes Jews. It is fascinating and informative. I knew very little about Italian Jews during WWII. It also explained a lot about Jewish traditions and really made the people real and not just names on a page in a history book. Frank has largely maintained the conversational style of the interviews so you feel at times that you are sitting in the living room with them. Read my full review.

With nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. Then she met Michael Frank. He came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she’d grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium.

Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays over the course of six years that they would spend in each other’s company. During these meetings Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this luminous, legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians conquered in 1912, began governing as an official colonial possession in 1923, and continued to administer even after the Germans seized control in September 1943. The following July, the Germans rounded up all 1,700-plus residents of the Juderia and sent them first by boat and then by train to Auschwitz on what was the longest journey—measured by both time and distance—of any of the deportations. Ninety percent of them were murdered upon arrival.

Probing and courageous, candid and sly, Stella is a magical modern-day Scheherazade whose stories reveal what it was like to grow up in an extraordinary place in an extraordinary time—and to construct a life after that place has vanished. One Hundred Saturdays is a portrait of one of the last survivors drawn at nearly the last possible moment, as well as an account of a tender and transformative friendship that develops between storyteller and listener as they explore the fundamental mystery of what it means to collect, share, and interpret the deepest truths of a life deeply lived. (Goodreads)

Buy One Hundred Saturdays at Amazon

Historical Fiction


Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

book cover of historical fiction novel Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

This book is set in the years before the U.S. entered WWII and is focused on the rise of Fascism in California. It is well-writte, thought-provoking, and has great characters. It is based on true events. Read my full review.

June 1940. France has fallen to the Nazis, Britain is next—but to many Americans, the war is still something happening “over there.” Veronica Grace has just graduated from college she and her mother, Violet, the widow of a Navy commander, are looking for a fresh start in Los Angeles, where the sun always shines and the opportunities feel riper. Having taken a misstep that cost her a prestigious career opportunity back in New York, Veronica is relieved to take a temporary typing job—only to realize that she’s working for one of L.A.'s most vicious anti-Semitic propagandists.

Overnight, Veronica is exposed to the dark underbelly of the place she now calls home, where German Nazis are recruiting new American members and building a bunker in the Pacific Palisades for Hitler’s anticipated visit to the West Coast. After the FBI dismisses their concerns for “lack of evidence,” Veronica and Violet decide to call on an old friend of Violet’s late husband—who introduces them to Ari Lewis, L.A.'s anti-Nazi spymaster.

At once, the two blonde-haired, blue-eyed German American women go undercover and infiltrate the heart of Nazism in Los Angeles. Risking their lives, Veronica and Violet aim to gather enough information about the California Reich to take to the authorities. But as the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor ripples through the Nazi population in Southern California, and President Roosevelt declares war, the Grace women realize that the plots they’re investigating are far more sinister than they feared—and even a single misstep could cost them everything. (Goodreads)



The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin
book cover of historical fiction novel The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

This was even better than I expected. It is set in neutral Portugal during WWII and the librarian doesn't work in a typical library. She worked for the Library of Congress before being sent to a special task force in Lisbon to collect and catalogue information from print media (newspapers, books, maps, magazines, etc.) that might be useful to the Allies was effort. Read my full review.

Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the US military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.

Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.

As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war. (Goodreads)

Buy The Librarian Spy at Amazon


Scarlet Carnation by Laila Ibrahim
books cover of historical fiction novel Scarlet Carnation by Laila Ibrahim

Ibrahim is an excellent storyteller. I know there is much I don't know about WWI and the influenza epidemic, but there was so much about this book that I was like why have I never heard anything about this. I didn't realize that there was a possibility of Mexico invading the U.S. during WWI. The historical bits are just a bonus as the characters are wonderful. Read my full review

In an early twentieth-century America roiling with racial injustice, class divides, and WWI, two women fight for their dreams in a galvanizing novel by the bestselling author of Golden Poppies.

1915. May and Naomi are extended family, their grandmothers’ lives inseparably entwined on a Virginia plantation in the volatile time leading up to the Civil War. For both women, the twentieth century promises social transformation and equal opportunity.

May, a young white woman, is on the brink of achieving the independent life she’s dreamed of since childhood. Naomi, a nurse, mother, and leader of the NAACP, has fulfilled her own dearest desire: buying a home for her family. But they both are about to learn that dreams can be destroyed in an instant. May’s future is upended, and she is forced to rely once again on her mother. Meanwhile, the white-majority neighborhood into which Naomi has moved is organizing against her while her sons are away fighting for their country.

In the tumult of a changing nation, these two women―whose grandmothers survived the Civil War―support each other’s quest for liberation and dignity. Both find the strength to confront injustice and the faith to thrive on their chosen paths. (Goodreads)

Buy Scarlet Carnation at Amazon


Little Souls by Sandra Dallas
book cover of historical fiction novel Little Souls by Sandra Dallas

Being set during WWI, I thought it would be more about the war but the influenza epidemic was more of the focus. There is also a little bit of a mystery and the story touched subtly on women's rights (or lack thereof). I listened to the audiobook and it was well-done. Read my full review.

Colorado, 1918. World War I is raging overseas, but it’s the home front battling for survival. With the Spanish Flu rampant, Denver’s schools are converted into hospitals, churches and funeral homes are closed, and nightly horse-drawn wagons collect corpses left in the street. Sisters Helen and Lutie have moved to Denver from Ohio after their parents’ death. Helen, a nurse, and Lutie, a carefree advertising designer at Neusteter’s department store, share a small, neat house and each finds a local beau – for Helen a doctor, for Lutie a young student who soon enlists. They make a modest income from a rental apartment in the basement. When their tenant dies from the flu, the sisters are thrust into caring the woman’s small daughter, Dorothy. Soon after, Lutie comes home from work and discovers a dead man on their kitchen floor and Helen standing above the body, an icepick in hand. She has no doubt Helen killed the man—Dorothy’s father—in self-defense, but she knows that will be hard to prove. They decide to leave the body in the street, hoping to disguise it as a victim of the flu.

Meanwhile Lutie also worries about her fiance “over there”. As it happens, his wealthy mother harbors a secret of her own and helps the sisters as the danger deepens, from the murder investigation and the flu. (Goodreads)

Buy Little Souls at Amazon


The Kew Gardens Girls at War by Posy Lovell
book cover of historical fiction novel The Kew Gardens Girls at War by Posy Lovell

This is the second book in a two book series featuring The Kew Gardens. The first book is set during WWI and is very good as well but as it was published last year I'm not including it on this list. The second book was set during WWII and about a new group of girls though we do get updates on the previous Kew Gardens Girls. If you have a reader that loves historical fiction then it would be great to get them both books. Read my full review of both books.

When Daisy Turner's new husband joins the RAF to fight the Battle of Britain, she's terrified she's going to lose him. So when her mother Ivy suggests she joins the gardeners at Kew to keep busy, Daisy's intrigued. After all, Ivy worked at Kew during the last war and made lifelong friends along the way.

Ivy's friend, Louisa Armitage, is feeling old and useless at her Kent home, wishing she could return to Kew and do her bit for the war effort. Tensions are rising between Louisa and her pacifist husband, as they argue over their nephew Christopher, who's enlisted. But Louisa's not ready to hang up her gardening gloves yet, and she's soon on her way to Kew with an idea that could really make a difference.

Meanwhile Beth Sanderson is furious after her father stops her applying to medical school. Angry and frustrated, she applies to a new wartime role at Kew Gardens, alongside her doctor friend Gus Campbell. But the committee is run by men and Beth is asked to take a job a gardener instead, running a demonstration allotment with new friend Daisy. As the bombs fall on a Blitz-stricken London she finds herself torn between Gus, and her boyfriend Paul. Can Gus and Beth overcome the racism of wartime Britain to be together?

When tragedy hits, the women are forced to come together to support each other through their darkest hours. But can the Kew Gardens Girls survive the horrors of war-torn London this time? (Goodreads)



The Bucharest Dossier by William Maz
book cover of Cold War-era spy novel The Bucharest Dossier by William Maz

This was a great Cold War-era spy novel. It gave me the feel of the old Jack Ryan novels like Cardinal in the Kremlin. I kept telling myself just one more chapter, but it was hard to stop reading after just one chapter. One plot point I figured out pretty early but I still like how it played out in the end. Read my full review.

At the start of the 1989 uprising in Romania, CIA analyst Bill Hefflin—a disillusioned Romanian expat—arrives in Bucharest at the insistence of his KGB asset, code-named Boris. As Hefflin becomes embroiled in an uprising that turns into a brutal revolution, nothing is as it seems, including the search for his childhood love, which has taken on mythical proportions.

With the bloody events unfolding at blinding speed, Hefflin realizes the revolution is manipulated by outside forces, including his own CIA and Boris—the puppeteer who seems to be pulling all the strings of Hefflin’s life. (Goodreads)

Buy The Bucharest Dossier at Amazon


The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale
book cover of biographical fiction novel The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

The 1890s isn't a time period I usually read about but I couldn't pass up a book about a real-life female trailblazer. The book is based on the 10 days female reporter Nellie Bly spent in a notorious insane asylum. It was fascinating and engrossing and I'm glad this is listed as book 1 in the Nellie Bly series. Read my full review.

In 1887 New York City, Nellie Bly has ambitions beyond writing for the ladies pages, but all the editors on Newspaper Row think women are too emotional, respectable and delicate to do the job. But then the New York World challenges her to an assignment she'd be mad to accept and mad to refuse: go undercover as a patient at Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum for Women.

For months, rumors have been swirling about deplorable conditions at Blackwell’s, but no reporter can get in—that is, until Nellie feigns insanity, gets committed and attempts to survive ten days in the madhouse. Inside, she discovers horrors beyond comprehension. It's an investigation that could make her career—if she can get out to tell it before two rival reporters scoop her story.

From USA Today bestselling author Maya Rodale comes a rollicking historical adventure series about the outrageous intrigues and bold flirtations of the most famous female reporter—and a groundbreaking rebel—of New York City’s Gilded Age. (Goodreads)


Thrillers


Zero Hour by Don Bentley
book cover of thriller Zero Hour by Don Bentley

I'm a big fan of the Jack Ryan universe. Even though Tom Clancy is no longer writing these books I still enjoy them. Read my full review. P.S. If you think your reader has already read this book another book in the Jack Ryan universe, Red Winter, comes out December 6.

When the leader of North Korea is catastrophically injured, his incapacitation inadvertently triggers a “dead-man’s switch,” activating an army of sleeper agents in South Korea and precipitating a struggle for succession.

Jack Ryan, Jr. is in Seoul to interview a potential addition to the Campus. But his benign trip takes a deadly turn when a wave of violence perpetrated by North Korean operatives grips South Korea’s capital. A mysterious voice from North Korea offers Jack a way to stop the peninsula’s rush to war, but her price may be more than he can afford to pay. (Goodreads)

Buy Zero Hour at Amazon


The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
book cover of thriller The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

This is a story within a story so it might take a minute to settle into it but once you do you are in for quite the ride. Even though you know there is a going to be a twist it kind of sneaks up on you and wham! But it isn't out of left field either. It was definitely a masterful piece of writing to get the timing of it right. Read my full review.

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all. (Goodreads)



My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer
book cover of domestic thriller My Wife is Missing by DJ Palmer

Palmer is one of the best writers of domestic thrillers. This is a great novel with not one but two unreliable narrators. You don't know who is telling the truth. There are plenty of twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages as fast as you can. Read my full review.

A family vacation turns into a nightmare for Michael Hart when he discovers his wife and two children have disappeared from their New York City hotel room. Horrified, he fears they've been kidnapped. Michael's frantic search to find them takes a shocking turn when he discovers that his wife, Natalie, appears to have left quite willingly, taking their children with her. The police want to know why, and so does Michael. But there may be a reason why Natalie ran, something Michael can't tell the police -- the truth about his past. While untangling his deceptions might be the key to locating Natalie, Michael knows it could also be his undoing. To find his wife, he must now turn to the one person capable of exposing all that he's been hiding. Natalie thinks she has Michael all figured out and has hatched a plan to escape from him permanently. One detail, though, threatens to derail her efforts: sleep -- or more accurately, the lack of it. Since the moment the shocking revelations about her husband came to light, Natalie's insomnia has worsened to the point that she now suffers from delusions. Are her fears about Michael valid -- or a symptom of her condition? With her children's lives at risk, the stakes for Natalie could not be higher. On her own, running low on energy and resources, avoiding increasingly close calls with Michael -- who is on the hunt and closing in fast -- Natalie needs someone to turn to for help. But who can she trust when she can't even trust herself? (Goodreads)

Buy My Wife is Missing at Amazon


Women's Fiction


The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews
book cover of summer beach read The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews

I'm a big fan of HGTV's home fixer up shows so I loved reading a book that featured a house flipper/restorer and a director of home improvement shows. It's a fun rom-com book with a mystery. Read my full review.

Hattie Kavanaugh went to work helping clean up restored homes for Kavanaugh & Son Restorations at 18; married the boss’s son at 20; and was only 25 when her husband, Hank, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Broken hearted, but determined to continue the business of their dreams, she takes the life insurance money, buys a small house in a gentrifying neighborhood, flips it, then puts the money into her next project. But that house is a disaster and a money-loser, which rocks her confidence for years to come. Then, Hattie gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: star in a beach house renovation reality show called The Homewreckers, cast against a male lead who may be a love interest, or may be the ultimate antagonist. It's a question of who will flip, and who will flop, and will Hattie ever get her happily-ever-after. (Goodreads)

Buy The Homewreckers at Amazon

Mystery


Fierce Poison by Will Thomas
book cover of mystery Fierce Poison by Will Thomas

This is only the second book in this series that I have read. I listened to the audiobook this time and I think that I preferred it to reading the book myself. The mystery is terrific and I couldn't guess the murderer. Read my full review.

London, 1893, there is poisoner loose in the city, with deaths piling up, and private enquiry agents Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn are apparently his next target in Fierce Poison by Will Thomas.

Private Enquiry agent Cyrus Barker has just about seen it all—he's been attacked by assassins, his office has been bombed, and evil-doers have even nearly killed his dog. But never before has a potential client dropped dead in his office. When Roland Fitzhugh, Member of Parliment arrives to consult Barker and his partner Thomas Llewelyn, he falls to the floor, dead, upon entering. As they soon learn, he's been poisoned with a cyanide laced raspberry tart, and the adulterated tarts also take out an entire family in the East End. Labelled the Mad Pie Man by the press, Barker and Llewelyn are hired by former Prime Minister William Gladstone to find out who has targeted the House of Commons's newest member.

But before they can even begin, they find themselves the latest target of this mad poisoner—with Barker's butler poisoned with digitalis and dozens of diabolic traps discovered at their home. On the run from their unseen adversary, Barker and Llewelyn must uncover the threads that connect these seemingly random acts and stop the killer before they and their closest friends and family become the latest casualties. (Goodreads)

Buy Fierce Poison at Amazon


The Maid by Nita Prose
Book cover of mystery The Maid by Nita Prose

It seemed like everyone was talking about this book around its release date. It definitely deserved all the buzz. I didn't want to put it down. Read my full review.

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misinterprets the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has had to navigate life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is turned on its head the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself very dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late? (Goodreads)

Buy The Maid at Amazon


I hope one or more of these suggestions helps you find the perfect gift for the reader on your list. We have a few more weeks of new releases so if you need more recommendations come back each day for a new review.


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour


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