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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Fourth Annual Reading Round Up

    My Reading Year In Review

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    It’s been four years since I started adding a weekly book review to My Fab Fifties Life blog. At the time, many of my followers and friends were asking me for book suggestions, knowing how much I read especially while traveling. So Reading Wednesday was born and quickly became one of the most popular aspects of our blog. So today I once again share my year of reading, my fourth annual reading round up.

    Fourth Annual Reading Round Up

    My reading year runs from July to July…not to be difficult but just because July was when I did my first reading round up. You can see my past reading round ups by clicking here – for 2018 click, and for 2019 click and for last year 2020 click.

    July ’20 to July ’21

    In 2021 I read 84 books. I wasn’t trying to beat my previous year but I did by one book. My goal is just to love and get lost in books…and 84 books is a lot of books to love. Most of my books were read on my Kindle. A dozen or so were in good ole fashioned hardback and paperback. And another dozen or so were Audible books that we enjoy when on our car trips.

    I might mention that we do not own a television. A lot of people find that astonishing…but we really have no desire at this time in our lives to have a TV. Instead we read – a lot – thus creating my fourth annual reading round up.

    My Reading Year In Review

    I wrote 52 book reviews again this year, culling the best of the best from my 84 reads. I rarely write a book review about a book I didn’t like. Since I have so many books to choose from I usually write about only the best. That’s not say I don’t occasionally slam a bad book or boring author…but it’s unusual. If you want to find all the book reviews from 2021 just click on the Reading Wednesday topic on the blog or click here.

    My Top Five

    Of my 84 books from the past year (July 2020 to July 2021) below I share twenty of my favorites, and five of the best. It was really hard for me this year to choose twenty favorites….I loved so many of the great books I read this year. But choose I did and they are listed here, beginning with my top five in order of the best in my opinion. Here you go;

    1. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel – You know it’s something special when a book ends and you just can’t stop thinking about it. My heart was heavy when this remarkable novel ended…I loved it. Mantel is a brilliant storyteller and we are transported to 16th century England and the court of Henry VIII.
    2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab– We have all read or at least heard of stories where the protagonist sells their soul to the devil. We have also had a variety of books available over the decades about time travel. In addition there are so many books floating around out there about magic and curses, witches and spells. But here in V.E. Schwab’s remarkably unique novel we find a beautiful, touching, sad but heartfelt story that covers all of these topics.
    3. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri – 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.
    4. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – Written in 2001, Peace Like a River is the story of Reuben Land and his family and their small town life. Once again, Enger’s character development is perfection, as we fall quickly in love with Reuben, his brother Davy, sister Swede and father Jeremiah – a miracle worker in Reuben’s mind. The family finds itself on a cross-country trek in search of outlaw brother Davy, after a murder takes place. The journey include miracles and adventure and tests the family’s faith to it’s core. Along the way the family will befriend strangers who touch their lives and find peace like a river in family, friends, love and faith.
    5. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger Virgil Wander nearly dies in a car accident, only to come out of the experience with a new life awakening. As he heals he begins to notice more clearly people and things in his small Midwestern town life. Given the small town setting, as you might expect, Virgil’s story is accompanied by a wide range of characters that Enger brilliantly develops. In fact the character development of this cast is one of my favorite things about this story; from the sudden appearance of Rune, a kite flying old man, or the reappearance of the town’s prodigal son Adam Leer, to the life-long residents like down on his luck Jerry, town drunk Shad, widow Nadine and Mayor Lydia. These are the people who make the plot of Virgil Wander unfold in a humorous and captivating way.

    Fifteen More Favorites

    And fifteen more I adored and couldn’t put down in no particular order;

    1. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
    2. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
    3. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
    4. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
    5. Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
    6. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    7. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare’
    8. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
    9. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
    10. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farell
    11. The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin
    12. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
    13. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
    14. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
    15. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

    …and so many more!!!

    Read for Joy, Read for Understanding, Read for Life

    I hope you enjoyed my fourth annual reading round up. Reading has made me a better human being. A more caring, patient, understanding and tolerant person. Reading and travel provide me so much insight into our tiny planet and the people and cultures who share this space. If you can’t travel I beg you to read. Explore different cultures, religions, histories and stories through books. I guarantee you will become more empathetic, more aware, more curious and a better earth steward through books. And if that happens, my work is done here.

    Find your local library here.

    My current read is The Song of Achilles

    Read last week’s book review Unsettled Grounds by Claire Fuller.

    Read last year’s Reading Year in Review 2019-2020

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

    I read this book in one setting…well it was a long setting, a seven hour plane ride. But I read it cover to cover and enjoyed it. Here is my book review Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.

    Recently I have read a few books with a similar theme of families or individuals who learn a secret about their family that unravels everything they were taught, everything they believed, everything they thought was the truth. Unsettled Ground is one of these stories.

    Julius and Jeanie are 51-year-old twins who still live at home with their mother Dot. Their father was murdered when they were just children. Their mother Dot has protected them from the real world, keeping them home and living a subsistence life. The grow their own food and live on the poverty line.

    But when Dot dies unexpectedly, Julius and Jeanie have no income, no family, and no friends. Then their landlord takes their cottage when they can’t pay back rent. As Julius tries everything he can think of to protect his painfully shy sister while finding a life of his own.

    Slowly their world begins to unravel as they learn of secrets their mother has kept, unpaid debts, and lies that will shake the core of everything they thought was the truth.

    Fuller’s novel exposes the core of a mother who tries to protect her children while weaving a life of hardship and survival only to fail her children miserably in the end. This is a story of survival and starting over. I hope you enjoyed my book review Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.

    ****Four Stars for Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

    Read last week’s review of Instructions For a Heat Wave

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    NEXT WEEK – our annual Reading Wednesday Year in Review! Don’t miss it!!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O’Farrell

    Instructions for a Heat Wave

    Unexpectedly good read about family and the secrets we keep. Here is my book review Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O’Farrell.

    I just recently read O’Farrell’s spectacular novel Hamnet and I loved every word. So tackling another Maggie O’Farrell seemed like a good idea. This story, though very different from Hamnet, was also well developed and interesting.

    It’s 1976 in London and we find the Riordan family in the middle of a heat wave. Then unexpectedly Gretta Riordan’s recently retired husband goes out for the morning paper and never returns. This event is the catalyst that not only brings three siblings back to the family home, but opens a Pandora’s box of long held family secrets.

    Michael Francis the oldest son who gave up big dreams for his family is now a high school teacher with a crumbling marriage. Monica’s hidden insecurities and skeletons in the closet have created a wide rift between herself and her baby sister Aoife. And Aiofe living in Manhattan is holding her own very big and sad secret.

    This family, full of hidden tragedies, will be rocked to it’s core when they learn the truth about their parents as they search for their missing father. Can it possibly end happily ever after?

    ****Four stars for Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O’Farrell

    Read last week’s review of Five Quarters of the Orange

    My current read In Pursuit of Memory

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    Instructions for a Heat Wave
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

    Reading Wednesday

    I have never read Harris’ more well-known novel Chocolat, but I think I should now because I truly loved this book. Here is my book review Five Quarters of the Orange by JoAnne Harris.

    France During the War

    The place is a tiny village on the Loire River in France during the German occupation in World War II. This is a place where a terrible tragedy occurs. Who is responsible for this terrible tragedy and how does it change the lives of so many people? This will unfold in the pages of Five Quarters of the Orange.

    Framboise is nine years old the summer of the tragedy. A precocious but naive young girl, whose disdain for her mother leads her to create often cruel ways that put her sensitive mother to bed for days – allowing Framboise and her older siblings to run about the village unsupervised. Framboise summer goal is to catch the mysterious giant Loire River pike called Old Mother, but she unexpectedly finds herself developing a crush on a German soldier.

    The Tragedy

    Framboise mother, Mirabelle Dartigen, is looked on by the villagers as “unusual” and perhaps even a witch for her odd behavior. Mirabelle keeps a scrapbook of recipes that also serves as somewhat of a journal and will play an important role in unraveling the events of that fateful summer.

    The family is run out of the village at the end of the summer, but decades later Framboise returns. She hopes to lead a quiet life and not be recognized as the daughter of Mirabelle Dartigen. But her secret begins to unravel as she runs a small local creperie and her nephew and his wife go to great lengths to get their hands on the infamous recipe book.


    This is a dark story about mothers and daughters. It is a book about being young and naive and living with our mistakes. This is a novel about food, family, and facing the past to have peace in the present. I enjoyed it very much. I hope you enjoyed my book review Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris.

    *****Five stars for Five Quarters of the Orange

    Read last week’s review of The Music of Bees

    My current read About Grace

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

    Reading Wednesday

    Eileen Garvins debut novel captivated me from the very first page. Here is my book review The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin.

    Life is a rollercoaster even during the best of times. But during the worst of times, it often seems like the hits just keep coming. And that is the case for the three main characters in this beautiful and uplifting novel.

    First we meet Alice, a beekeeper in Hood River Oregon prone to panic attacks. She has endured the loss of her husband, her parents and the orchard she grew up on. She is a loaner who finds interacting with people stressful, and so has created “Alice Island” where she lives a nearly solitary beekeeper life. That is until the day she hits a boy in a wheelchair with her truck.

    Here we meet Jake. A teenage paraplegic, whose bad decision showing off for a girl has put him in a wheelchair for life. His future is bleak as he navigates being stuck in the chair, in his childhood home with his loving but timid mom and bully father, and in a life with few options. That is until Alice nearly runs him over with her truck.

    Then we meet Harry. A twenty-something year old, recently out of jail for playing a role in a crazy prank. Harry is a drift and comes to Hood River to live with his elderly and poverty stricken uncle in a dilapidated trailer in the woods. That is until the uncle passes away and Harry takes a job helping with the bees.

    These three become unlikely friends, and even family, as they each navigate their individual grief and loneliness, together overcoming adversity, harassment, fear, and broken hearts.

    It’s a beautiful story that includes fascinating insight into beekeeping as well as potential environmental chemical issues in today’s society. A great debut novel by local Oregon author. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin.

    *****Five Stars for The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

    Learn more about beekeeping here.

    See last weeks review of Where the Forest Meets the Stars

    My current read America’s First Daughter

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

    Reading Wednesday

    In her debut novel, Vanderah creates a story of life’s most difficult trials, many unimaginable to most of us. But her characters and their difficulties will pull the reader into this story, even when it sometimes feels raw and violent and a bit unbelievable. Here is my book review Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah.

    Jo Teale is an ornithologist trying to finish her Phd after taking two years off to deal with both the death of her mother and her own breast cancer. Determined to get back on track to what she loves after such a heart wrenching couple of years, JoAnna moves to a cabin in the woods to study nesting birds in rural Illinois.

    The peaceful, idyllic life, combined with hard work, is just the therapy Jo needs, until a tiny pajama clad and barefoot little girl shows up claiming to be from another planet. She calls herself Ursa.

    Jo can’t shake the little girl, who comes back each day, and so she begins to research missing children, calls the sheriff and enlists the help of her reclusive and mysterious neighbor Gabe. But slowly Gabe and Jo begin to realize what a special child Ursa is, brilliant in fact, and the three begin to live happily together after a few weeks… neglecting the missing child websites.

    Until a very violent act, dangerous perpetrators and the truth catch up with Ursa and her newly adopted friends. Who will survive the battery of gunfire and can this story possibly have a happy ending? I hope you enjoyed by book review Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah.

    ****Four stars for Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

    Read last week’s review of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

    My current read The Music of Bees

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

    Reading Wednesday

    My second time reading Fiona Davis. Several years ago I read The Dollhouse, like The Lions of Fifth Avenue a historical novel based in New York City. The Lions of Fifth Avenue also is similar in that it runs two parallel timelines; New York in 1913 and New York in 1993. Here is my book review The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis.

    Two protagonists share the spotlight in this novel. Laura Lyon, wife of the New York Public Library superintendent in 1913, and Sadie Donovan, her granddaughter. Sadie is a curator at the New York Public Library in 1993.

    Sadie knows little about her grandmother, only that later in her life she became a well-known writer whose works have recently come back into fashion. Much of Laura’s life has been hidden from Sadie and she doesn’t know that Laura was part of a radical, all female club in Greenwich Village – a place for women’s rights, suffrage, birth control and lesbians. A place where women felt comfortable to be themselves – and Laura found her purpose and love of her life.

    When rare books begin disappearing from the high-security research library, Sadie becomes a suspect and she has to work fast to clear her name. With the help of a local detective, Sadie will embark on a dangerous game of cat and mouse to save the library, her reputation and learn the long hidden truth and tragedy of her own family tree. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis.

    ****Four stars for The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

    Read last week’s review of Hamnet

    My current read The Wife Upstairs

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