Entertaining, romantic suspense with vivid characters and a fast-paced plot.

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Lady President

The president of the United States faces foreign and domestic threats while battling a devastating illness in Owen’s (Emergency Care, 2013, etc.) latest novel.

A routine flight to Andrews Air Force Base takes an ominous turn for President Stephanie Franklin when she learns that Bantu Sibaba, leader of the African nation of Wakembezi, intends to build a nuclear bomb. Despite her campaign promise not to lead the country into war, she knows the scope of the mercurial dictator’s ambition. The situation with Sibaba is complicated by a series of anonymous, threatening letters that Franklin receives at her office; these missives take on a sinister new dimension after she survives an assassination attempt. She seeks support from her husband, Tony, a charismatic actor, but she soon learns he’s having an affair. Devastated, she turns to her close confidant and press secretary, Adam Thorsten, a man who’s loved her since they first met in Africa years ago. As she and Adam investigate the threats, they discover her mentor and former ally, U.S. Sen. Philip Lowe, may have secrets of his own. The investigation and the need to stop Sibaba become even more urgent when the president discovers that she’s suffering from a life-threatening disease. Soon, she’s in a race against time to find a cure and save the nation. Owen’s narrative opens with a suspenseful series of chapters that effectively introduce the main characters, and she maintains that momentum through strong character development and unexpected plot twists. President Franklin is a woman of great compassion and integrity who’s faced numerous tragedies in the past, including the deaths of her ambassador father and her first husband. Owen skillfully shows how her Christian faith guides her decisions and provides her with the strength to face her personal and political crises. Her relationship with Adam, built on years of mutual trust and respect, provides a solid emotional counterpoint to the political intrigue that surrounds them. They’re surrounded by an effective supporting cast, including Franklin’s adulterous husband; Sen. Lowe, a wily villain who seeks to manipulate the president; and a mysterious woman who may be connected to the president’s past.

Entertaining, romantic suspense with vivid characters and a fast-paced plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63192-291-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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