Books On My Reading List This Week – January 4, 2022

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Here it is! My first reading list of 2022. I’m really looking forward to checking more books off my ‘Want to Read’ list on Goodreads. In 2021, I set a goal of 50 books for the year and finished 96. This year, I’ve set my goal at 75 and am really going to try to stick to that. I want to allow myself more time to write and do more artwork, too.

But enough about all that. Let’s get to this week’s list.

The first book on my list is The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron. I interviewed Michelle about another of her books quite a while ago and added this title to my list at the time. I’m looking forward to finally getting around to reading it.

I’m also enjoying four audiobooks this week. I discovered The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir while shopping at an outlet mall and thought the story sounded interesting. Next Year in Havana and Code Name Helene were added to my list while I was doing research for an article for Mystery & Suspense magazine. And Day After Night is by Anita Diamant, of whom I am a great fan.

What’s on your reading list this week?


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Books This Week

The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron
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Based on the life of the author’s thirteenth-century ancestor, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, a renowed Jewish scholar of medieval Europe, this is the richly dramatic fictional story of Rabbi Meir’s wife, Shira, a devout but rebellious woman who preserves her religious traditions as she and her family witness the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Raised by her widowed rabbi father and a Christian nursemaid in Normandy, Shira is a free-spirited, inquisitive girl whose love of learning shocks the community. When Shira’s father is arrested by the local baron intent on enforcing the Catholic Church’s strictures against heresy, Shira fights for his release and encounters two men who will influence her life profoundly—an inspiring Catholic priest and Meir ben Baruch, a brilliant scholar. In Meir, Shira finds her soulmate.

Married to Meir in Paris, Shira blossoms as a wife and mother, savoring the intellectual and social challenges that come with being the wife of a prominent scholar. After witnessing the burning of every copy of the Talmud in Paris, Shira and her family seek refuge in Germany. Yet even there they experience bloody pogroms and intensifying anti-Semitism. With no safe place for Jews in Europe, they set out for Israel only to see Meir captured and imprisoned by Rudolph I of Hapsburg. As Shira weathers heartbreak and works to find a middle ground between two warring religions, she shows her children and grandchildren how to embrace the joys of life, both secular and religious.

Vividly bringing to life a period rarely covered in historical fiction, this multi-generational novel will appeal to readers who enjoy Maggie Anton’s Rashi’s Daughters, Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Illuminator, and Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, 19-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest – until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…. 

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. 

When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage. 

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Day After Night by Anita Diamant
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Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for “illegal” immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp who survived the Holocaust: Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Tedi, a hidden Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor. Haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to hope, the four of them find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country.

Diamant’s triumphant novel is an unforgettable story of tragedy and redemption that reimagines a singular moment in history with stunning eloquence.

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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
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As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.

An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

In 1936 Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Marseille who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène follows Nancy’s transformation from journalist into one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, known for her ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and her ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces. But with power comes notoriety, and no matter how careful Nancy is to protect her identity, the risk of exposure is great—for herself and for those she loves.

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