“The Covenant” by Naomi Ragen

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Tragedy hits a Jewish family living in the settlement area of East Jerusalem when a father and his young daughter are kidnapped and held for hostage by Hamas terrorists. Meanwhile the wife/mother who is in her third trimester of pregnancy fights to keep her unborn child alive despite her emotional stress and grief. The young woman’s grandmother calls upon friends she met while a prisoner at Auschwitz to assist in locating her kidnapped family members. This was an emotional story which impacts the reader like a ton of bricks. Truly sad, yet uplifting at times.

Evaluation: 5 out of 5

“The Chemist” by Stephanie Meyer

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A former top secret government scientist teams up with a former government black ops agent to unravel the conspiracy that is targeting both of them for assassination. The plot gets a bit unrealistic at times but the conclusion gives the reader some satisfaction. Pretty typical of the genre. Nothing very special to me.

Evaluation: 3 out of 5

“An Invisible Thread” by Laura L. Schroff

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The author tells an inspiring story about how she, as a busy executive thirty years ago, befriended an eleven-year-old panhandler on a crowded Manhattan street. They met weekly for lunch, and she became a major influence in helping to turn his life around. She and the young man, who now has a family of his own, are still the best of friends, and he credits her, and rightfully so, for leading him to a life of productivity and respectability. The author is a Huntington native, and it was interesting to read about various familiar locations mentioned in the book.

Evaluation: 5 out of 5

“Below the Belt” by Stuart Woods

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Attorney Stone Barrington is asked by his close friend, former US President Will Lee, to pick up a brief case filled with classified information. Stone soon finds his life threatened by those who seek the contents of the case. As the story unfolds, politics, power, and the super rich people who are entwined in both, become central to the plot. This is a typical Stone Barrington (the man who can never do wrong), easy to read, with an under tone of humor, type mystery. If the reader is familiar with past books, it’s more of the same.

Evaluation: 3 out of 5

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

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This book graphically describes the horrors of slavery, and the cruelty and deprivations suffered by slaves at the hands of their masters. But the real twist in this book is that the Underground Railroad is a real railroad, with tracks, locomotives, station platforms, conductors, etc., and transports slaves as they try to escape to “free” states. The lives of the slaves are portrayed realistically, but other aspects of the book are figments of the author’s imagination.

 Evaluation: 4 out of 5

“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

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The central character in this book is a curmudgeonly old man, recently widowed, who sets himself up as the overseer of his neighborhood, and is known as “the bitter neighbor from hell”. But when a young family with two small girls and an outgoing wife moves in next door, his world is turned upside down. Although the book has comical aspects, it also deals compassionately with serious social issues, such as grief, suicide, terminal illness, same-sex relationships, and more. I found it to be a very interesting read, and a thought-provoking discussion book.

Evaluation: 4 out of 5

“Turbo Twenty-Three” by Janet Evanovich

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This is the latest comedy/mystery involving bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her boyfriends Morelli and Ranger. Ranger’s private security firm is hired to install new security equipment in an ice cream factory. When two of the factory employees are murdered Ranger enlists Stephanie’s help to investigate. As is typical in any Plum novel, much mayhem and confusion ensue. It’s a silly but fun, easy read.

Evaluation: 3 out of 5

“Cross the Line” by James Patterson

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Alex Cross and his partner Sampson investigate the murders of multiple criminals by a gang of vigilantes. At the same time, his wife Chief of Detectives Bree Stone investigates the murder of her former boss, his girlfriend and a disgraced former colleague. This latest Alex Cross novel is typical of those that came before it. Easy, action filled reading.

Evaluation: 3 out of 5