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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

    Reading Wednesday

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    One of the best books I’ve read since The Dovekeepers, and similar in style. This beautifully written and Homeric first novel by Joukadar is poetic and powerful. I enjoyed every word.

    Similar to works by Houssein about Afghanistan, Joukhadar takes us to ancient Syria and present day war torn Syria in a melodic tale that weaves fact and fiction, myth and legend, family and heartbreak.

    The story follows two young girls in alternating timelines, one traveling and posing as a boy in ancient Syria on a mapmaking odyssey reminiscent of Homer. The other a young girl posing as a boy to survive crossing multiple borders in war torn present day Middle East North Africa along a similar route to survive the horrific and brutal destruction of her families home country.

    A remarkably told story, gripping and beautiful. I highly recommend this debut novel. I learned a lot about Syria both past and present and have a greater appreciation of the devastation for the innocent victims of this violent situation. I look forward to more works by Joukhadar.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar.

    Read last week’s review of A Long Way Gone.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

    Reading Wednesday

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    Book Review – A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah

    I had heard a lot about this book over the past few years but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Until my mother-in-law gave it to my husband, with a stack of other wonderful books, as a birthday gift.

    I immediately picked it up before my husband could start it and began to read. Although Ishmael is not a brilliant writer, the story is so compelling and incredible you can’t put it down.

    Born in Sierra Leone in 1981, Ishmael’s young life is rocked at the age of 12 when Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war comes knocking on his door. Over the next five years Ishmael’s incredible story unfolds in the pages of A Long Way Gone as he fights for survival.

    Unlike many, he does survive, but the scars of his existence during the war will never heal. Loosing everybody he loved, Ishmael endures things no one, and certainly not a child, should ever need to endure.

    This extraordinary account of the life of children during bloody civil war should make us all pause and be grateful and then go out and try to make a difference in the world.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

    Read last week’s review of A Room with a View

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I had never read this classic and popular story by E.M. Forster but I had definitely seen the 1985 Merchant Ivory film adaptation (glorious) and have also seen the play adaptation on stage ( which includes the full skinny dip scene – hilarious).

    Reading the book however I found a bit more difficult, wading through the English tendency to talk in circles.  The story of a young English girl looks at the social class structure of England as it began to shift in the early part of the 20th century.

    Like other similarly written stories of the time, a strong-willed but naive young woman (Miss Honeychurch) walks the reader through a series of events beginning in Florence Italy, continuing on to Rome and returning back to England.  The events look at the sometimes ridiculous social etiquette of the era, with a lot of romance, confusion and sometimes long drawn out English conversations.

    Both sweet and funny, with one of the funniest scenes in literature playing out when the young ladies happen upon  the young men skinny dipping in the pond, the comedy of errors is a fun if sometimes slow read, but a classic to be enjoyed.

    Four stars for A Room with a View by E.M. Forster.

    Read last week’s review of Florida.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Florida by Lauren Groff

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Florida by Lauren Goff

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    I picked this book up in an airport to read on the plane.  And I read almost the entire book on just one four-hour flight.

    I had never heard of Lauren Groff but she has some full length novels.  This book however is a collection of short stories, all based in Florida or about Floridians.  Having recently spent a lot of time in Florida I found it really interesting, and Groff’s writing style poetic.  In fact since finishing this book I have read reviews of her other works, not all favorable.  But she seems to have a unique quality as a short story writer.  Each story creating engaging characters and sometimes gripping scenarios.  Stories of snakes and boys, abandonment and small girls, adults with issues, families in despair.

    Florida is as unique and diverse as the state itself and I enjoyed this easy and beautifully written collection.

    Four stars for Florida by Lauren Groff

    Read last week’s review of The Murmur of Bees.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

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    I took advantage of Amazon’s free book download a couple of months ago, in celebration of International Book Day.  As they did last year, Amazon offered up several books by international authors for free.  I downloaded about a dozen books, and The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia was the first one I read.

    You might think a free book would be bad.  Not.

    I really loved this book and this story by Mexican author Segovia.

    Segovia brings the reader to pre-revolution Mexico, where landowners and tenant farmers, corrupt politicians and revolutionaries are walking a fine line of survival and power in early 1900’s.

    The Morales family is a hard-working and upstanding family with generations of land ownership being handed down from father to son.  But their lives will be forever changed when anciently old Nana Reja discovers a newborn baby…a child with mysterious ways and the power to change everyone’s lives forever.

    Segovia’s talent for story telling and use of some third person chapters and some first person chapters creates a lovely rhythm to the book and you will find yourself lulled into the characters and their lives and in particular the peculiar and fascinating child named Simonopia.

    Like the swirling bees that follow Simonopia everywhere he goes, this book buzzes with the frenzy of the developing plot, believable characters, stunning narrative describing the rich and beautiful scenery and most of all the love and sacrifice of family.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five stars for The Murmur of Bees by Sophia Segovia.

    Read last week’s review of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See

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    Although I enjoyed this story, I expected a bit more, given how long I was on the wait list to get this book from the library.

    It’s good.  Just not great.  The best part for me was learning about a particular minority ethnic group in China I was not familiar with.

    The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See is a compelling story of the remote Akha mountain people of China.  The Akha in 1988 when the story begins, are still a very superstitious and traditional people, living a poor existence in their remote region with little food, power or plumbing.  Their traditions and tea farming life go back thousands of years and have changed little over the centuries.

    But slowly the modern world approaches and the long-established customs of these people are challenged in every way possible.  The book follows the life of Li-yan, a girl from a family of tea farmers.  It is her generation that will be directly affected by the challenges to the conventional and somewhat ignorant way of life, and the encroachment of the modern world.

    Li-yan faces scandal and gives up a baby girl, then leaves the village to go to college and eventually becomes a highly successful tea broker.  Back in the village life is changing dramatically as the cultivation of the now highly prized Pu’er tea is making all the village extremely wealthy.

    But Li-yan never forgets the daughter she abandoned and wonders about her always.

    It’s not too hard to come up with how this will end, and a few too many coincidences bring it all together in the end.

    But the book is interesting for the education I received about the very lucrative world of tea, the fascinating culture of the Akha, and the heart-tugging topic of the one-child society of China.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel, by Lisa See

    Read last week’s review of The Altruist.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Altruist: A Novel by Andrew Ridker

    Reading Wednesday

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    An engaging story of family and dysfunction with some lovely writing that includes occasional brilliant descriptive prose that took me by surprise and made me admire this writer.

    The story, Ridker’s debut novel, spans several continents and decades as it wanders through the life of Francine, her husband Arthur and their children Ethan and Maggie.

    Francine passes away of cancer and after her death the family learns that she has amassed a fortune in stock that even her husband knew nothing about.  But in her will she gives it to her children and leaves nothing for her Professor husband who has never gained tenure and has lived his entire life regretting choices he made in his youth.

    Ethan, gay and insecure, and Maggie, angry and dealing with an eating disorder, have zero relationship with their father following the funeral and thus the story unfolds as the author takes you through the inner thinkings, struggles and personalities as well as the mistakes and choices that have brought this family to where it is in this story; on the brink of disaster.

    I enjoyed this book very much.  I found this family sad, believable, pathetic, and endearing.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Altruist: A Novel by Andrew Ridker

    Read last week’s review of The Children of Blood and Bone.