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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh

    Reading Wednesday

    And another World War II book! BUT wait! This one has a very different twist. Yep, an elephant. Here is my book review The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh.

    In the fall of 1940 young zookeeper Hettie Quin’s dream comes true as she is put in charge of a recently orphaned elephant new to the Belfast zoo. But the winds of war are blowing and a world war rages in Europe while another war simmers at home. Tensions are escalating between British Loyalist and those fighting for a free Ireland as Germany begins a blitz on Belfast.

    Walsh uses a nearly forgotten real life event to create the story of Hettie and the Elephant known as Violet. War through the eyes of an animal and a young girl, both who have lost so much, will lose even more, and desperately need each other to survive.

    I really enjoyed this book, both for the indelible bond between Hettie and Violet and the look at a region devastated by Hitler that rarely gets notice in novels. But mostly this book is about how animals and humans can save each other, in so many ways.

    *****Five stars for The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh.

    Read last week’s review of The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

    My current read The Lions of Fifth Avenue.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

    This is the third novel by Kate Quinn that I have enjoyed. Last summer I read both The Alice Network and The Huntress. Quinn is known for her historical fiction, focusing on female heroines during World War II. The Rose Code follows that same pattern. Here is my Book Review The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.

    The code breakers of Bletchley Park played a critical role for the the allies during WWII. Hidden in plain site in the the unassuming area of Buckinghamshire about an hour outside of London, the code breakers, mostly women, took an oath of secrecy. Their important work would remain secret well into the 21st century.

    Quinn uses real characters who were code breakers to mold the fictional characters in The Rose Code. The main characters in this novel are three women, from three very different backgrounds who are thrown together in the war effort, each playing an important role in the successful outcome of the war. The three women; Mab, Osla and Beth form a deep bond, only to be challenged by secrecy, love, death, espionage, family ties and most of all the oath they swore to uphold for life.

    Curiously for me, one of the main characters in this book is Prince Phillip, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth. Coincidentally I started this book on the day Prince Phillip died in April. I learned through this book that Phillip was seriously involved in real life with a women named Osla, prior to his engagement to Princess Elizabeth. Quinn uses this storyline in her book and it makes for an interesting history piece.

    I enjoyed this book and Quinn’s talent for story telling, combining fact and fiction. She is a genius at historical fiction and opens our eyes once again to the important role women played in taking Hitler down.

    *****Five Stars for The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.

    Read last week’s review of West with Giraffes

    My current read The Wife Upstairs

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

    Reading Wednesday

    I write a lot of book reviews, and tend to not write reviews for books I don’t like. This book I liked…inspirational at a time when I needed some feel good reading. Here is my book review West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge.

    Rutledge, an award winning freelance journalist, was inspired by newspaper articles from the 1930’s about two giraffes that caught the nations attention as they were transported across the USA. From this real life event, Rutledge built this fictional story.

    West with Giraffes finds young Woodrow Wilson Nickle lying in a gutter after a hurricane hits New Jersey. His unlikely survival continues a string of unlikely survival episodes in his young life…a story that will unfold as the plot develops. Woody maneuvers himself into being a driver to help “the old man” transport two giraffes as far as Memphis.

    The giraffes, affectionately known as the “darlings” may be the focus of this story, but the deeper story here is one of depression era survival, accepting ones past and finding ones future, life, death, love and coming of age. Isn’t this what all good books are made of?

    Moving two giraffes from New Jersey to San Diego by road in the 1930’s is no small undertaking, and during the 12 day odyssey Woody, the “old man” and Red, a female photographer who falls in with them, will encounter several adventures. Including several life and death situations. Thus Rutledge provides the reader with a heartfelt page turner.

    I enjoyed this book very much. I hope you enjoyed by book review West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge.

    ****Four stars for West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

    Read last week’s review of Klara and the Sun

    My current read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

    Reading Wednesday

    Once again the brilliance of Ishiguro unfolds in the pages of this strange but emotionally gripping book. Here is my book review Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Fans of Ishiguro will likely love his latest work, his first since winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017 for The Remains of the Day. However, Klara and the Sun feels more like his work Never Let Me Go, a near future look at our society and the sad and disturbing direction things may go. Fans of Handmaids Tale will enjoy Klara and the Sun.

    Ishiguro’s strength lies in his ability to create stories about the banality of everyday life, all while generating such strong emotional pull, sometimes horrific sadness and grief and often deep human connection. I really loved this book, but the reviews are mixed…

    It takes some time in reading this novel about Artificial Friends (robots) of the future to really understand what exactly is happening. We meet Klara, an Artificial Friend (AF) waiting in the AF store to be purchased. Klara is an unusual AF with a high level of intelligence and what almost appears to be empathy. Klara’s intense observational powers provide her a greater insight into her surroundings than the other AFs.

    Josie is the lucky girl who brings Klara home, and in the years ahead we learn about the present day society and the difference between “lifted” children and those who are not “lifted”. We learn about how artificial intelligence has taken over in many parts of society. And we meet a wealth of characters who surround both Josie and Klara and bring both sadness and hope to the story.

    I found the ending very moving…with Klara looking off into the distance and the sun shining on her.

    This book may not be for everyone, but once I got the rhythm of what was going on I really enjoyed it.

    *****Five stars for Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Read last week’s review of Red at the Bone

    My current read West with Giraffes

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

    Reading Wednesday

    This was a beautiful story. A surprising little book that I read in one sitting. About three hours start to finish. Here is my book review Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.

    Woodson manages to create the most incredibly compelling story in less than two hundred pages; covering topics relevant to our time from class struggle, racism, ambition, prejudice, faith, honesty, selfishness, sexual desire and family. All tied up in a novel full of the most engaging, emotionally deep and eloquently developed characters.

    Red at the Bone tells a story of two families from different social classes, thrown together by an unexpected pregnancy. Woodson explores the broken dreams, shattered faiths and family expectations that are altered by the birth of a little girl. Red at the Bone probes the societal conjecture of family, motherhood, fatherhood and what it means when we don’t live up to those presuppositions.

    Woodson is not unknown to me, but this is the first book of hers I have read and I enjoyed it immensely. I high recommend Red at the Bone.

    I hope you enjoyed my book review Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.

    *****Five stars for Red at the Bone.

    Read last week’s review of The Beekepper of Allepo

    My current read Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

    Wow. This is the word that comes to mind for this book. I loved this story. Here is my book review The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.

    On our recent road trip (3 months and 6000 miles) we listened to a total of five Audible books. We never listen to music when we drive, we always have an audio book in the works, in addition to whatever books we are reading on Kindle or in paperback. And this beautiful book, The Beekeeper of Aleppo was perfect for audio. Both for the exquisitely written word Lefteri created, and for the the brilliant performance by reader Art Malik.

    Books about war and war refugees are certainly not rare. But this story is incredibly rare as it deals with the plight of the worn torn region of Syria and the dangerous and nearly impossible lives of refugees trying to get to Europe.

    Lefteri’s own experience working for an NGO in Syria inspired her to write this novel. And though this is a work of fiction, the author uses real people she met to mold the main characters of this captivating story. The character develop is at the heart of this work…as the reader (or listener) becomes engrossed in the tragedy of innocent people, the unbearable grief of war and loss and the mostly hopeless flight out of war torn Syria.

    Following the beekeeper Nuri and his artist wife Afri who has lost her sight in a violent act, readers of this novel will feel each step, each catastrophe and each triumph of their journey. Lefteri shows the reader how the human mind searches for coping mechanisms during life’s most cruel and devastating misfortunes.

    Everyone should read this book to better understand the war in Syria. It is presented in such a sensitive and powerful way, a true masterpiece about being human.

    *****Five stars for The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.

    Read last week’s review of The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

    My current read Tidelands by Philappa Gregory

    See this week’s top performing book review pin News of the World here

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

    We listened to several audio books while on our recent road trip through the southwest USA. This new release by Kristin Hannah was one of them. I struggled to enjoy the voice of this audio book, but in the end I enjoyed the overall story. Here is my book review The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

    This is the story of the dust bowl and the migration to California and those who suffered through it, those who survived it, and those who didn’t. But Hannah is no Steinbeck, so don’t expect Grapes of Wrath here. It is however a touching story, and in true Hannah form, a story of women who endure the unimaginable for their families and what they believe.

    We are introduced to Elsa, a young women who has been coddled by her wealthy family her entire life after being a sickly child. Elsa’s family expect her to live her life as a spinster, refuse her hopes of college and rarely even let her leave the house. By age 25, she has no self-confidence and no future. And then she meets a younger man whose family is from Scilly and soon is pregnant with his child. Elsa’s reputation- obsessed Texas family disown her and she is literally left on the doorstep of the Italian speaking family whose son gives up college to marry her.

    This is certainly not a good way to begin a marriage, and you can only imagine how things develop, particularly as crops dry up and fail, drought takes over the land and Texas becomes a dust bowl.

    Elsa will find herself abandoned and alone with two young children looking for a new life in California, with thousands of other families just like her. When she becomes involved with a movement for better conditions for workers things get both complicated and dangerous for Elsa, her family and all the downtrodden, starving and destitute depression era laborers.

    Although there was much of this book I found weak, and I disliked Elsa’s character in the beginning, she definitely grows throughout the book and finds her voice in the end. I might have liked the book better if I had read it instead of listened to it.

    If you are a Kristine Hannah fan you won’t be disappointed. I hope you enjoyed my Book Review The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

    ****Four stars for The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

    Read last week’s review of News of the World by Paulette Jiles

    My current read The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christi Lefteri

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