A worthy war narrative with a strong, likable female lead and a solid supporting cast.


A young woman from the Philadelphia Main Line region joins the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a telephone operator during World War I in Runyan’s (Daughters of the Night Sky, 2017, etc.) historical novel.

Readers first meet Ruby Wagner in early December 1917. She’s helping her mother host a high-society get-together of women knitting socks and scarves for the troops overseas. Ruby’s enlisted brother, Francis, is in France, as is her fiance, Nathaniel Morgan. Both families encourage the engagement, although Ruby isn’t as excited about it: “He was kind and quick to laugh, and most importantly to Mother, he was from an old and respectable family,” she explains. “If he slid over to the pompous and boring side of things at times, it seemed of little consequence.” But before the afternoon ends, the Wagner family receives a dreaded yellow telegram: Francis has been killed in action. A few weeks later, Ruby, who’d been working shifts as an operator at the Pennsylvania Bell Company Central Office, decides that she must do more to help the war effort. The U.S. Army is looking for phone operators to work with the troops overseas, and Ruby is selected to become the chief operator of the First Telephone Group. This will change her life forever. Ruby proves to be a fine narrator for this engaging novel. In it, Runyan depicts a lesser-known story of heroism and courage during World War I, and she packs it with enough action to keep readers turning pages without submerging them in the throes of grisly battles. Ruby’s long hours at the Central headquarters in Chaumont, a few miles from the front lines, are interspersed with scenes of romance, possible espionage, and welcome moments of levity. The women of the First Telephone Group are also revealed to possess impressive skills as the story goes on; they’re not only bilingual, but also able to memorize complicated codes that change from day to day—and sometimes within just a few hours.

A worthy war narrative with a strong, likable female lead and a solid supporting cast.  

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0456-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...


An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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