My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Sara and Brian Fitzgerald's life is forever changed when they learn that their two-year-old daughter Kate has leukemia. Their only hope is to conceive another child, specifically intended to become a donor and save Kate's life, right at brith. Even though this genetic engineering raises both moral and ethical questions, for the Fitzgeralds the only thing that matters is keeping Kate alive.

After years of medical procedures, the eleven-year-old Anna hires a successful lawyer to help her earn medical emancipation from her parents and ultimately initiates a court case that will divide the family and would leave Kate's rapidly failing body in the hands of fate.

This story brings up so many moral, ethical and legal issues surrounding organ donation, whether a child is capable of making their own medical decisions or whether it is ethically and morally okay to have a child just to save another. It's a heartbreaking story and emotional rollercoaster making you feel confused, angry and sad. So many unanswered questions. The movie adaptation, starring Abigail Breslin as Anna, Cameron Diaz as the mother, and Alec Baldwin as the lawyer will be out in the summer of 2019. Rating 5/5

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

It looks like a simple story- a man left his wife for his beautiful and young assistant and the ex-wife is left jealous and devastated. But it's not that simple at all, it's a story with many twists and turns. The first half of the book is told from alternate views. Nellie is pretty and bubbly, everything that Vanessa used to be. Vanessa is now a recovering alcoholic left penniless and living with her aunt. So she sets up on a mission to stop the wedding. The reader assumes that the two narrators are Vanessa now and Vanessa (or Nellie, the fiancé's nickname for her) preparing for her wedding to Richard.

At first I was pulled into the tense psychological thriller, but then there was just too much going on—the unreliable narrator, numerous plot twists—I guess more twists than substance. Rating 5/3


In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

The book is a page-turning story of William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered academic who in 1933 becomes America's ambassador to Hitler's Germany. Dodd has to deal with the Nazis’ lies and hypocrisy just as with the State Department snobs and anti-Semites. He is trying to change the lavish spending culture of his colleagues and faces criticism for being frugal. His dire warnings of Hitler are taken as frivolous.

Dodd brings along his flamboyant daughter, Martha. Martha is smitten by the new lifestyle, the glamorous parties, the handsome young men of the Third Reich. She has one affair after another, including with the first chief of the Gestapo and a Russian intelligence officer, Boris. As time passes, Martha, who was first dazzled by the glamorous world of the ruling Nazi elite and thought that Hitler would bring good things to Germany, starts feeling absolute disgust for the man and his followers. Which of course, makes her a perfect target to become a Soviet spy through her lover, Boris.

The complexity of Berlin in the mid-30s and unforgettable characters--it is a dazzling portrayal of this era. Rating 5/5

Without a Country by Ayşe Kulin

The book starts strong with a gripping story of Gerhard and Elsa Schliemann fleeing to Switzerland when Hitler’s reign of terror begins to loom over Germany. But life offers few opportunities for medical professor Gerhard until he discovers an unexpected haven in Turkey where he finds employment. Living in Turkey, his wife and two children attempt to adapt to the life in their new country and new culture. The family saga follows multiple generations from the 1930s to present day as Turkey itself undergoes massive changes throughout the years. This is where the momentum slows considerably and the family saga starts lacking depth and the characters seem a little shallow. Rating 5/3

The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree: A delightful story of friendship and entertaining adventures from Saudi Arabia to Norway by Evelyne Fallows

Yet another mediocre book based on someone's experiences in Saudi Arabia. It is an exotic country indeed at it seems that it sparks the inner writer in many expats living here. This book is about friendship between an older Japanese professor turned photographer and a younger woman, Ingrid. It covers Ingrid's experiences from working in the palace of a Saudi princess to an adventures in Norway and the Arctic with her new Japanese friend.

I think the book may be interesting to someone who does not know much about Saudi Arabia. But it looks like the author had a list of unusual things and experiences that she wanted to insert into the book and the result was just unnatural. While I give her credit for the effort, the writing is mediocre and I wish the author had employed a good editor. Rating 5/2.5