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The Codebreaker's Secret

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Member Reviews

I love WWII stories and this one takes place on Hawaii. It is told in 1943 and 1965. I enjoyed the characters and how they broke barriers set for women. I liked the 1943 part of the story the best because it focused on codebreaking in WWII, something that has alway fascinated me.
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I have always enjoyed books on codebreakers of the WWII and this is no exception. The plot follows dual timelines. Strong plot and enjoyable read. I recommend this to the historical fiction lovers
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Overall, I was very underwhelmed by The Codebreaker's Secret by Sara Ackerman. Though I enjoyed the storyline and the setting (who wouldn't like Hawaii?), something was just missing and I almost DNF'd the book multiple times. 

The first half of the book was downright tedious. The two storylines, while loosely linked through a common character and place, did not seem to connect. It was a slow build to the halfway part of the book when the mystery really started. It seemed like the author was trying to do too much and as a result, the characters weren't fully developed and there were a lot of sidetrails that seemed lacking. I was fascinated by some elements and confused by others. This book was unfortunately a miss for me, though I did like the ending.

Thank you to the publisher, NetGalley, and author for the advanced ebook copy. All opinions are my own.
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The Codebreaker's Secret is historical fiction at it's best!   A dual timeline set during WWII and the 1960's.   A mystery is solved and we get to travel to Hawaii to be a part of it.   Sara Ackerman's writing just makes you feel like you are there sharing in the beauty of the area she loves so much!   A five star read for me!
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Read if you like: WW2 fiction, historical mysteries.
This book follows two timelines, one during WW2 and the other twenty years later. Isabel works as a codebreaker during the war and is sent to Hawaii. Twenty years later Lu returns home to Hawaii to report on Rockefeller's new hotel opening and while there, Lu stumbles upon a mystery.
It was interesting to read about the two intertwining timelines. Loved the war timeline with Isabel and felt like it abruptly ended and wanted more. I also felt like the ending was a bit rushed, but overall I really enjoyed this one! 
CW: war, violence, death of a loved one, claustrophobia, sexism, misogyny, domestic abuse, murder, drowning, sexual content.
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The Codebreaker's Secret

“I do believe I’ve fallen in love, and her name is Hawai‘i. I am smitten with everything about her. There is no other place I’d rather be stationed on the whole of this planet. The water is warm, the air is sweet and you can walk around in shorts all year ’round.”

Walt is a young WWII pilot who dies, leaving behind a brilliant younger sister, Isabel, Izzy who carries the torch he left behind, working to decode Japanese code in the Dungeon in Hawaii 1942. There she meets her brother’s best friend in the service, Matteo Russi, a man from New York City who loves taking photographs. They spend all their time off together on islands, surfing, exploring the places that Walt and Russi enjoyed, reliving memories of Walt, each understanding the gaping hole that loss leaves behind, and the freedom in both having known and loved him. Before long, they begin falling for each other. 

In 1965, Lu is a former native from Hawaii who left to become a serious journalist. Now she’s back at the newly opened high-end hotel Rockefeller just built, there to write a story about the place. But she’s struggling to find inspiration. She feels more inspired by the people who work there and their stories, the ones she left behind. A young Mexican singer named Joni, charismatic, beautiful, and world-renowned befriends her. She’s also trying to learn the story behind the other famous journalist at the resort, a crabby man named Rossi who obviously has some tragedies in his past, as well as issues with the water. So then why is he here?

Then tragedy strikes, a young woman disappears, and a body from decades ago is found.

This split-time historical drama features women's empowerment and a bit of mystery. It's a consuming story woven through two past time periods, and will leave the reader yearning to visit Hawaii, to crack codes, and to bring justice to unfortunate tragedy. A satisfying portrayal of two intelligent women who help each other heal and find peace, even after tragedy.
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have read and enjoyed previous books written by Sara Ackerman, so was delighted when I received both an audiobook and ebook for review. This book did not disappoint and will be in my top books for 2022. There have been several books about female codebreakers during WWII, but this is the only one I have read set in Hawaii. In 1943, Isabel Cooper worked hard in Washington, in order to secure a spot in Hawaii. She and her co-workers are stationed in "the dungeon" at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor. Isabel wants to do everything she can to avenge her brother's death. While there, she meets his best friend, Mateo Russi, a hotshot pilot with secrets, and they begin a friendship that has a lot of chemistry, but they are both afraid to move forward. The second timeline is set in 1965, when a young reporter, Lu Freitas gets the opportunity to return home to Hawaii to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller's newest and grandest project. While there, she meets a well known and a bit grizzled photographer, Mateo Russi. The two work together when a celebrity guest and friend of both of them disappears. They also stumble upon some other information that takes them back to wartime. Can they decipher the clues they find? Will they find out what happened to their friend?

I enjoy historical fiction, especially if there is a mystery or secret to be solved. Both of these timelines were well written and I am unable to say which I preferred more. The characters in the past and present were well drawn and developed. The story was realistic, especially when we saw the way Isabel (Izzy) was treated by the men she worked with and for. Izzy tried to be a good friend to her female colleagues and warned her roommate about some of the men she dated, but she wouldn't listen. Both Izzy and Lu are characters that are smart, brave, independent, fight for what they want, hard working and loyal. The males are more of supporting characters, but flesh out the book well. This story is a good mix of history and women's fiction, including themes of sexism, friendship, working hard, family and a smidgeon of romance. I love the Hawaiian setting, a constant in the books of Sara Ackerman that I have read. I definitely recommend this one.
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As a fan of Sara Ackerman, I was extremely disappointed in this novel. I've come to rely on her to bring Hawaii during WWII to life and show me some unique experience of someone during that time. I was really looking forward to delving into the world of codebreaking Hawaii style. However, codebreaking received the attention of maybe a quarter of the book. It all felt a little surface level. Instead, it focused far more on Isabel connecting with Russi and retracing her brother's steps, but even that was only half the book because the other half was about a hotel opening and then someone's disappearance. While the two stories do connect come the end, it really felt like it should have been two books because both stories could have been so much more. As it is, the book starts off making it seem like it's going to be a mystery regarding a body on the beach. Unfortunately, no mystery even starts until over halfway through the book. It was a very slow build up to that point. At the same time, there's not enough intrigue placed in the mystery elements. She tries to introduce a suspicious character during the WWII stage, but it all seems so off handed, again, not enough attention given to the moment. It's so offhanded that when the later story starts talking about Nazi and spies, it feels like it comes out of left field. There was too much other stuff going on, especially when all of the codebreaking focused on Japan, that to suddenly focus on Nazis seemed out of place. It really just felt like there was a lot going on in the book and as a result, neither story really was done justice. I felt cheated out of the WWII "history lesson" that I've come to expect in her books. Momentous moments were mentioned - Midway and the another big attack/victory/moment - but I don't feel like they were explored enough that I feel like I fully understood what happened. At one point the characters mentioned some big event and were like "Oh, everyone knows about that," and I wanted to scream "but I don't!" 

This book had a lot of potential. Ackerman presents two initially compelling stories, but I think they would have worked better separately so that she and the reader could really sink their teeth into the moments. While I might have connected with the main characters and cared about them, the story itself left me uninterested. If this had been my first book by her, I do not think I would read the others, which would be a shame because her other novels are much better.

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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3.5 stars
This is my favorite genre of historical fiction. I also never get tired of reading about codebreakers so I really enjoyed Izzy's timeline. It took me a little bit to get into the story but once I did I was invested in both timelines. I enjoyed the mystery, the romance and the descriptions of Hawaii. This is my first book by Ackerman and I will definitely read more.
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I love World War 2 historical fiction books. This one was no exception. You follow events in 1942 and in 1965. As you read along, the connection between the dates takes a few chapters to get into. 
In 1942, Isabel is a code breaker for the Navy and a good one. She starts out in Washington D.C. but after making a breakthrough is sent to Hawaii. She wants to Hawaii appointment so she can meet the airmen that served with her brother than died in Pearl Harbor.
In 1965, LDR is opening a resort on Hawaii and all the big name people are invited including reporters Lu and Russi. Things at the resort do not go as planned and a must years in the making is brought up all over again.
This book will be a new recommendation for anyone looking for a great WW2 fiction. I did not expect the direction this book was going and it definitely kept me speculating.

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read this book.
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I love the look into the pacific threats during WW2 and Sara is the master at that. I love that Izzy was a Codebreaker and how she worked hard to get where she ended. Her search for answers on all fronts of her life seemed to pull her forward. Lu, in the same regard, was looking for answers on who she was and willing to make changes in her life to make it happen. I love how the story came full circle for all the characters in the end and will definitely pick up more Sara Ackerman books.
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I think I'm addicted to books about the codebreakers from WWII. Reading the summary of this, I was eager to dive back into the codebreaking world. I loved the dual timeline and a different take on codebreakers. I loved the setting of Hawaii. And I loved the mystery that was brewing throughout the book.
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When this book popped up in my summer reads review requests I was so excited.  I had read the author’s other book called The Radar Girls and adored the book.  I learned so much about the woman that helped in WW2.  They didn’t just grow victory gardens for sure.  I couldn’t wait to start her next book, I knew it was going to be good. 

Izzy is a codebreaker.  She must remain hush, hush about what she does.  Her brother dies in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor and she makes it her goal to get a job there as a codebreaker.  Lu is working at the Rockafeller hotel opening in her home state of Hawaii.  Events happen with Lu that force these two women today or does it?  Holy cow Sara Ackerman has done it again.  This book was amazing.  Showcasing amazing women of WW2.  We are strong and smart.  I will admit that the back and forth between the 40s and 60s did annoy me to no end.  I know that there was a complete and total point for it.  However, I would get so involved in one story, and then bam we would switch.  I really loved the sweeping pictures she paints for Hawaii.  If I could ever talk my sun and sand-hating husband into a trip there I would visit in a heartbeat. Think of it as a bucket list item.  

I completely fell in love with these characters.  I think I loved Izzy the best.  She is plucky and keeps at it even after her boss jumps down her throat.  I really wanted things to work out for her.  The writing flowed well.  Once I got in the flow of the time jumps it made a lot more sense.  I would have never guessed the ending that was written.  I didn’t see that until the author started to lay it out for us then I was like OMG seriously.  I really wanted Izzy to get her happy ending and she totally did and I was happy.  The book is well researched.  Some of the events are true and some she says she added to and changed some of them around to fit the book better.  I cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next.
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4.5 very strong stars for this unforgettable book! The Codebreaker’s Secret was the first book that I had the privilege of reading by Sara Ackerman but I will definitely go back and read some of her prior books in the future. I was very impressed with her vivid storytelling, impeccable research and development of believable characters in The Codebreaker’s Secret. Sara Ackerman wrote The Codebreaker’s Secret using the dual time lines of 1943 and 1965 while she used the Big Island of Hawaii as the backdrop for this captivating story. It was refreshing for me to read about World War II events as they unfolded and occurred in the Pacific and Pearl Harbor rather than in Europe. In addition to learning about the highly demanding and essential  jobs that code breakers held during World War II, it was surprising to learn how few women were given the opportunity to do this. I also enjoyed Sara Ackerman’s stunning descriptions of The Big Island of Hawaii including the beautiful beaches, secluded waterfalls, lush lands with exclusive vegetation and remarkable sunsets. It almost made me feel like I was in Hawaii with the characters. Sara Ackerman, based her book,The Codebreaker’s Secret, on real historic people, places and events even though it was a work of fiction. Set twenty-two years apart, Sara Ackerman, expertly wove the two stories together. The two women protagonists worked relentlessly to solve two different murder mysteries. At the conclusion, the two storylines collided into a stunning and satisfying ending.

In 1943, Isabel Cooper was a brilliant codebreaker who was employed through the United States Navy. Her talent and skills earned her a place in “the dungeon “ at Station HYPO in Hawaii. Isabel was the only woman that worked in “the dungeon “ but that did not bother her at all. Her dearest older brother, Walt, lost his life on December 7 when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. Isabel was determined to revenge her brother’s death by deciphering as many secret codes as possible from the Japanese. She also had another motive for wanting to work in Hawaii. After her brother’s death, Isabel received several letters from her brother’s war buddies that expressed their sorrow for her brother’s death. Isabel wanted to meet these war buddies so she could find out more about Walt’s final few days. One letter in particular stood out to her. It was from someone named Matteo. Walt had mentioned him in his letters to her before his tragic death. Apparently, Walt and Matteo had become best friends. Isabel, with the help of her roommate, sought Matteo out. Matteo offered to take Isabel to all the places he and Walt had frequented together. He hoped by doing this and sharing the stories of their discoveries Isabel would find solace. Isabel and Mateo began to develop feelings for each other but neither one of them was brave enough to admit it to the other. Isabel was instrumental in breaking several very important codes during this time. She had to keep her work a secret from all the people she knew. While Isabel became increasingly involved with Matteo and started spending more time with him, her roommate also became involved with someone. Then her roommate disappeared. She had been out swimming with her boyfriend and was ruled drowned. Her body was never discovered. Isabel was not buying this explanation but no one was willing to listen to her concerns or suspicions.

In 1965, Lu Freitas, a newly hired journalist, landed the best story of her career. She talked her way into being allowed to write a story about Rockerfeller’s new Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii. To Lu’s surprise, Matteo, world famous photographer and journalist was invited as well. Lu and Matteo slowly formed a working friendship. When a high profile guest was reported missing, Lu and Matteo joined forces to help discover what could have happened to her. While searching for clues about the guest’s disappearance, Lu and Matteo discovered something even more shocking. 

The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman was about secrets, romance, friendships, ambition, challenges that women faced of being accepted in certain fields of work, the difficulty of breaking and deciphering codes during World War II,, grief, hope and longing. I was immediately pulled into this story and enjoyed it very much. I highly recommend this book. Publication was August 2, 2022. 

Thank you to Mira Publishers for allowing me to read The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This is the second book I've read by Sara Ackerman and I loved it just as much as the first. She combines history with friendship, family, love, and other messy human emotions to create beautiful informative stories that imprint themselves on your heart. Isabel, Matteo, Lu, and Joni are fascinating characters and how their lives intertwine is a stroke of storytelling genius. The book deserves all the stars.
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This book has several timelines. Most of the time is spent in the 1940's and 1965. It is an enjoyable read. Isabel is a codebreaker. Her brother died in the attack on Pearl harbor. She hopes to learn more about his service. She is able to transfer to Hawaii which will help the process The 1965 timeline is in Hawaii also. It initially seems to be totally separate. Read the book and find the connection.  I read an electronic copy for review purposes.
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I have adored Sara Ackerman’s books over the years. She writes such interesting novels about WWII that are set in Hawaii. Her passion for the island and its history really shine under her pen plus there is always a little bit of romance to entertain readers. I really enjoyed reading all of her books and find that each has been between a 4 and 5 star rating for me.

When I saw this one was coming up, I made room on my review calendar for it. I hadn’t actually planned on reading it as soon as I did but I knew I would read it before the summer was out. I had an excerpt on my blog and once I read the excerpt I found that I simply needed to just read the rest of the book so I picked it up much earlier than I anticipated.

Ackerman’s book offer readers escapism and untold stories. If you love WWII novels but find the genre saturated with similar stories over and over again, Ackerman’s books are a fantastic option! This book itself offers a bit about female codebreakers during the war (a top topic in WWII era historical fiction) but in this book, the codebreaker isn’t in some London bunker trying to break German codes, she is on an exotic island trying to break Japanese codes while trying to grieve the loss of her brother.

A brilliant female codebreaker. An “unbreakable” Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. The Codebreaker’s Secret is a dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

1943. As war in the Pacific rages on, Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues huddle in “the dungeon” at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor, deciphering secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy. Isabel has only one wish: to avenge her brother’s death. But she soon finds life has other plans when she meets his best friend, a hotshot pilot with secrets of his own.

1965. Fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawai’i to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller’s newest and grandest project. When a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery. The two make a shocking discovery that stirs up memories and uncovers an explosive secret from the war days. A secret that only a codebreaker can crack.  (Summary from Goodreads)

Admittedly this is the first book of Ackerman’s that I struggled with. It’s not that it wasn’t a good book it’s more that it just took it’s time getting there if that makes sense. It started out really strong, the first couple of chapters were well written and set readers up for an engrossing tale. But then somewhere around the 20% mark it started to lose steam for me. I had a hard time believing that Isabel wanted to go to Hawaii to basically retrace the footsteps of her deceased brother. On the surface it made sense but as we got into the story where she meets Mateo and retracing her brother’s favorite spots as a catalyst for their romance just felt weird and off to me. For me it just didn’t work and felt a little off. The first half of the book mostly covered Mateo and Isabel going to her brother’s favorite spots and Mateo documenting those spots and the whole time I was thinking “Why???? What’s the point of this???”. And Mateo’s devotion to all those spots and memories felt a little weird too. Can’t explain it but it just didn’t feel fitting some how.

I struggled with Lu’s parts of the book too. There seemed to be zero connection between Lu and Mateo later on in the book and I just really struggled to get into that part of the story. For some reason this whole book felt very mismatched and strung together but not in a good way. After the 50% mark things eventually picked up and got better (no spoilers!) but by that point I was already feeling disconnected and bored with some of the story. It took too long getting there and getting to the interesting parts for my taste. This was unexpected for me because Ackerman’s books have generally been really good. This book started out with her trademark love of Hawaii and it’s war time history. I loved that part and I loved the descriptions of the island and it’s rugged beauty. But the characters felt lacking for me.

While this book didn’t excite me as some of Ackerman’s other novels, I think it’s still worth a read. It’s not bad but for me, I felt like her other novels were stronger and I think this one could have been better than it was. Ackerman is still an author that I recommend a lot to readers looking for ‘off the beaten path’ WWII novels. She is a marvelous writer and I love how she writes and the stories she tells, but in this one I think it could have been better.

Book Info and Rating
Paperback, 384 pages

Published August 2nd 2022 by MIRA

ISBN 0778386457 (ISBN13: 9780778386452)

Free review copy provided by publisher, MIRA, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 3 stars

Genre: War romance, WWII, historical fiction
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The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman

Dual timelines with strong intelligent young women in both eras, and two men that show up in both stories – one a good man and the other evil. How the two stories are linked, and murders solved while we learn of the romances, murders, wars, and more are the basis of this book. I found myself skimming quickly through the parts that were of less interest to me wanting to find out about the juicier parts I was more interested in and also found that though everything wrapped up nicely in the end, I was wishing that one couple had their happily ever after earlier and wishing that I felt more connected and invested in the two couples that were the romance portion of the story.

What I liked:
* Isabelle “Izzy” Cooper: codebreaker, cryptanalyst, in the US Navy, brilliant, strong, close to her older brother killed during the WWII Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, pivotal persona in both eras of the story
* Luana “Lu” Freitas: journalist, from Hawaii, probably dyslexic, misunderstood by her father, found a safe haven as a child with Auntie H, looking for a big story
* Matteo Russi: main characters in the 40’s and 60’s, Air Force pilot, photographer, journalist, war veteran, survivor, has PTSD, complex, and damaged by war
* Walt: Izzy’s brother, there for his sister, bigger than life, a good son, brother, man, pilot, and friend
* The setting of Hawaii – lovely place I visited when I was sixteen
* The idea for the story
* That the story has both WWII and the Vietnam War in the background of the book
* The spies, codebreaking, war elements
* The socializing and friend making that took place in both eras

What I didn’t like: 
* Who and what I was meant not to like: spies, killers, difficulties war can create

Did I enjoy this book? For the most part
Would I read more by this author? It would depend on the topic, but probably

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin-Mira for the ARC – This is my honest review. 

3-4 Stars
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Often WWII historical novels take place in France or Germany. However, the European front was not the only location where battles were fought. Novels have also been written about the code breaking that took place at Bletchley Park. However, this is the first time that I have read a WWII novel that involves breaking Japanese ciphers.

In her latest book, Ms. Ackerman has readers enter into the stakes of the war immediately as they meet Isabel. Isabel is in DC where she strives to decode Japanese messages. She is a bright and somewhat quirky young woman. For example, when her brain is humming, she literally wants to hum as well. Isabel’s life has been influenced by deep loss. Readers will viscerally feel the tornado that leads to her first reasons to mourn. Isabel also has lost her brother in the war. She longs to be in Hawaii so that she can learn more about what happened to him.

It is not a spoiler to say that Isabel goes to Hawaii. After all, all of the author’s historical novels take place there. Readers will eagerly follow Isabel’s life there as Pearl Harbor events unfold. Especially intriguing is the male character who enters the story. He is a “hotshot” pilot, a friend of Isabel’s dead brother and a man with his own story. Will he and Isabel come together?

As is often the case in historical novels, there is a dual story and timeline. Lu’s story takes place in the 60s as a luxury Rockefeller hotel is about to open, again in Hawaii. A guest goes missing. Lu links up with her own male counterpart. How will their stories intersect with that of Isabel? Readers will most definitely want to know.

I very much enjoyed this novel. It contains both mystery and romance in each of the time periods. I recommend this one to those who read WWII fiction and are looking for something new.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing for this title. All opinions are my own.
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I flew through this book!! I was expecting a little more about Izzy’s time as a code breaker and a little less of 1965. However I really enjoyed the back and forth between the timelines and the connections towards the end. I assumed that Gloria has been murdered by her boyfriend and I liked how that played out, I could have just probably done without Joni’s murder. 

But I would recommend this as a great historical fiction novel! As long as the reader understands that some details are mostly accurate and others are not.
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