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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

    Reading Wednesday

    Absolutely astonishing. I loved this non-fiction book about mental illness in America. I listened to this one on Audible, it was brilliantly read, but I suspect reading it would be just as compelling as Kolker’s empathy towards the material and the family was first rate.

    Hidden Valley Road is the story of the Galvin Family of Colorado Springs Colorado and begins when Don and Mimi Galvin are teens in the 1950’s and continues through 2017. During this span of time, Don and Mimi Galvin will have 12 children and become important in genetic research due to the fact that six of those children will be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

    The book includes a great deal of medical detail and information, but Kolker’s writing makes it very easy for the lay person to understand. Combined with his brilliant approach to telling the story of this remarkable American family, the complicated relationships between each of them, as well as the astounding family history, Kolker creates an unforgettable read.

    The book has received critcal acclaim and has been “praised for it’s astounding depth and empathy”. It was highly commended by Ophra’s Book Club and debuted number one on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction.

    Few American’s have not been touched in some way by mental illness in their families or their acquaintances, and I believe anyone can identify and appreciate this memorable multigenerational story of one American families heartbreak.

    *****Five Stars for Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

    Read last week’s review of Wolf Hall here.

    My current read The Imperial Woman

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    See this week’s top performing pin here, my book review of American Dirt.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I tried to read this book several years ago (published 2009) but couldn’t get focused on it. That was back when I was still a frantic working mom. Oh times have changed.

    I am much calmer and have a lot more free time, and on my second try I became engrossed in the Wolf Hall story. This novel has been showered with awards, and is fascinating in its complexity and historical detail.

    The book covers the early 1500’s in England, during the reign of King Henry the VIII and follows Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power within King Henry’s court.

    This is the first of a trilogy about Cromwell’s life, a man who was close to every major historical event in England during this period. He influenced Kings and Lords, had his hand in the Catholic Church and eventually the Church of England.

    Though filled with historical facts and people, the book is a re-imagined story built from historical records. My love of Ken Follett’s work of this same era is because of Follett’s ability to bring the reader so intimately into the lives of the lowly working class people of the time. Mantel does the same, but shows us the inner workings and confidences of the ruling class and aristocracy. From the King on down through the court Mantel careful makes these historical figures familiar to us.

    I’m looking forward now to tackling the next two books very soon. I loved Mantel’s writing, her beautiful descriptive prose precisely put the reader in the moment. Her talent for words in itself is beguiling. She is a faithful, veracious author.

    *****Five Stars for Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

    Read last week’s review of The Devil’s Cup

    My current read The Magic Circle

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    Reading Wednesday

    The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen

    Coffee. It’s my drug of choice. If you know me you know I don’t just drink coffee, I experiment with it around the world. And through that experimentation I have learned to appreciate the cultural aspect of coffee, the history of coffee and the fierce competition of the world’s best coffee. And so my Book Review of The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee fell right in my coffeehouse.

    By the way, you should read my blog My Favorite Coffee Around the World. You definitely shoud.

    This book is actually old, published in 1999 and the story beginning in 1988. At that time, author Allen embarked on a around the world trek to research and get caffeinated and answer the question: Did the advent of coffee give birth to an enlightened western civilization?

    Allen traveled from Yemen and Ethiopia to Europe and India and the United States and in his journey he not only drinks a hell of a lot of coffee, he finds himself in some interesting and hair-raising situations. All for the love of coffee.

    The book has some great cultural history and Allen’s witty writing helps us follow the bouncing bean. Funny and interesting, but a tiny bit dated.

    ****Four stars for The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee

    Read last week’s review of Heart Spring Mountain

    My current read –

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Heart Spring Mountain: A Novel by Robin MacArthur

    I wasn’t sure I liked this book in the beginning. In fact I put it aside to read another book and eventually came back to it and started again. And I am glad I did. I really did enjoy this story.

    We are introduced to Vale, a young woman living in New Orleans but raised in Vermont. Vale is estranged from her mother, but when her mom Bonnie goes missing during the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene, Vale returns to Vermont and her roots.

    Returning home for the first time in eight years, Vale rediscovers the poverty stricken region of Heart Spring Mountain, home to three generations of women before her. Through her search for her mother, Vale will find lost family history and secrets, understanding of pain and love from the past, and a love of her own. Vale will see for the first time the connection her ancestors have with the mountain, how it shaped them and thus her own life and the life of her missing mother.

    Beautifully written story of family ties, fractures small and deep, and healing.

    ****Four stars for Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur

    Read last week’s review of The Book of Longings

    My current read The Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I have loved the other three books I have read by Sue Monk Kidd, and in this new novel she strays far and in doing so creates a compelling story of Biblical times with a twist. Here is my Book Review of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.

    Kidd herself says she is audacious to write this fictional tale, based period of Jesus in the first century. But instead of following the practiced story from the New Testament Kidd gives Jesus a wife. Ana is the key character of The Book of Longings.

    Imagining a world for women during this period we follow Ana from her upbringing in a wealthy but unloving family in Galilee, to her first meeting with Jesus and through their eventual marraige, which saves her from being forced to become a concubine for Herod Antipas.

    In the ensuing years of marriage Jesus and Ana each develop their own spiritual beliefs, with Jesus setting off to follow John the Immerser and eventually declaring himself the long awaited Messiah, King of the Jews. Ana and Jesus are separated for several years during his pilgrimage and she finds her own voice in her spiritual writings, even while women are not allowed to do such things or be educated.

    Followers of Jesus are unaware he is married, or that Ana and Jesus lost a baby girl at birth. In Kidd’s story these unknowns about Jesus are never recorded.

    Despite much trial and a long endured separation, Ana and Jesus are reunited, but of course we all know how Jesus’ life ends.

    I loved how Kidd takes the biblical stories we all know, elaborates with other historical facts we may not know, and then peppers the story with fictional detail that blends seamlessly and beautifully to round out the life of all the characters; most names we will recognize.

    Particularly poignant for me was the focus on the Jesus as a human being not a divinity. The overarching message is one of bold and strong women of the time-period, who persevere despite strict control by males to keep women subordinate. The triumph of this story is Ana’s will and courage, a beautiful account of a woman finding her voice during a historical period where society wants to silence her.

    I loved this book.

    *****Five stars for The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

    Read last week’s review of The Night Watchman

    My current read Wolf Hall

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

    This is my third book I have read by author Erdrich, and unfortunately my least favorite of the three. Here is my Book Review of The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.

    Although the story, which is based on Erdrich’s grandfather’s life, was good, I found parts of the plot too mystical and fantastical.

    However, I did really enjoy the characters Erdrich developed in this fictional story of Native American life and trails. Her grandfather is featured as one of the main characters, Thomas, a night watchman at the local bearing plant where he lives on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. Thomas, a tribal leader takes the fight agaisnt dispossesion form North Dakota all the way to Washington D.C.

    The story follows Thomas and his struggle with the US Government, while also following Patrice, a young native girl who goes searching for her missing sister Vera. Patrice, somewhat coincidentally, falls in with a riffraff group of individuals, who know the whereabouts of her sister and her sister’s baby. On her search Patrice encounters a lot of horrible things, including some dreams and visions that guide the story.

    Two young men who both have falling for Patrice figure prominently in the tale, as the impoverished reservation and it’s residents seek a life of love and compassion, amidst the toil and poverty and lack of promise they all must endure.

    ***Three stars for The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.

    Read last week’s review of American Dirt.

    My current read The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I know this book has had a wide range of love and criticism. I have purposefully not followed all of that because I wanted to read the book with out that baggage. I’m glad I did, I enjoyed the book very much.

    I went into the story thinking it was about detention of illegal immigrants and the holding of illegal immigrants in the USA. So I was surprised to learn it wasn’t about that at all. Instead it’s about the trial and peril Mexican and other Central American migrants put themselves through in an effort to get away from certain death in their home countries.

    Following the mass murder of her entire family, Lydia escapes Acapulco with her son Luca. She knows she is being hunted by Javier, someone she thought was her friend but who has killed her family and now wants to kill her.

    On their journey to cross into the USA Lydia and Luca endure ordeals that are unimaginable to most of us. They are traveling with other undocumented immigrants- a wide representation of the human beings who need to escape certain death, rape and torture. Not all of them will make it across the border.

    This book is brutal and told with depth and despair. I enjoyed the writing and the story.

    *****Five stars for American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

    Read last week’s review of No One Will Tell You This But Me

    My current read Middlemarch by George Eliot