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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Stranger by Harlan Coben

    Reading Wednesday

    This is a good story if you are looking for a suspenseful novel in the vein of Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. But don’t expect any Pulitzer Prize winning story telling. But I liked it.

    Coben shares with the reader the All American Family, Adam and Corinne Price. Living the dream in an upwardly mobile New Jersey suburb with their two lacrosse playing sons. The perfect life. So it seemed.

    Until the day the “Stranger” appears to give Adam Price a chilling piece of information about his wife. A moment that will change everything about the All American Family and the perfect life, not just for Adam but an entire community.

    Coben’s novel is intense and interesting, although not always believable and like so many novels of this genre, is filled with a few too many coincidences for my liking. Coincidences that keep the plot moving forward but take away from a reality based story.

    But like I said, if you want to fall into a book that keeps you turning the pages, The Stranger is for you.

    ***Three stars for The Stranger by Harlan Coben.

    Read last week’s review of The Imperial Woman

    My current read This Tender Land

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck

    Reading Wednesday

    Another fascinating novel by the incomparable Pearl S. Buck Buck – an amazing women well ahead of her time – writes about another remarkable women, Tzu Hsi, one of China’s greatest leaders.

    Buck’s ability to bring her readers into a bygone era is astonishing, and one of the things I love the most about her writing talent. The Good Earth by Buck remains one of my favorite reads of all time, and won Buck a Noble Prize.

    Much has been written about Tzu Hsi, a modest concubine who rose to power in the Qing Dynasty and became China’s last empress. But this novel takes Tzu Hsi life and dissects all of the amazing details of her beauty, cunning, and brilliant leadership during a time of extreme national turmoil and change.

    If you loved the film The Last Emperor by Director Bernardo Bertolucci, Buck’s work in The Imperial Woman educates the reader of the period just prior to The Last Emperor, the politics and intrigue, tradition and power that had been Chinese life for thousands of years, until the fall of the Empire in 1912. Tzu Hsi died in 1908.

    Fascinating and beautifully written. Powerful and complete, you will come away with respect and awe for one of the world’s least known female leaders.

    *****Five stars for The Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck.

    Read last week’s review of A Woman of No Importance

    See this week’s top performing pin here.

    My current read All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

    I have read dozens, perhaps hundreds of World War II stories. I thought I had heard it all. But my book review A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell captures a remarkable tale. A story of an amazing, brave and determined American woman, who has gotten lost in history, despite the very important role she played.

    I have never heard the name Virginia Hall. And yet thousands owe her their lives. And countries owe her their freedom. American Virginia Hall was the most unlikely of heroines and spies. The most unlikely of people to lead the French resistance against the Gestapo and live to tell about.

    It’s almost like a dime store novel – a one legged beautiful woman who nearly single handedly takes down a regime. But it’s not a dime store novel. It’s a true story of a significant hero whose story has been left untold until now.

    The odds were against her. She was gorgeous, smart and brave. But she also was a woman, with a disability. Somehow she percivered and changed the course of history.

    My only complaint about this book is it was a bit dry…lots of detail. I wish it could have been written less in a chronological historic tone and more in a spy novel thriller tone…because it was all of that, but some readers might find it too detailed.

    I enjoyed learning about this amazing woman, and wish she could have been recognized more publicly before her death.

    ****Four stars for A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell.

    Read last week’s review of The Magic Circle

    My current read Stamped from the Beginning

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Magic Circle by Katharine Neville

    Reading Wednesday

    On the heels of my read of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings, this book once again transported me to biblical times. But Neville builds a story of international intrigue that spans the centuries. Unfortunately no where near as entertaining or beautifully written as The Book of Longings, but I still enjoyed it.

    My biggest complaint about the book is that it actually had too much going on. The story bounces from biblical times to present day. Hitler makes an appearance and then so does Greek Gods. From Idaho to Russia, hidden caves to dark forests. It all was a bit to keep track of and seemed aimless at times.

    I liked the main character of Airel Behn, despite some stupid mistakes she kept making as she tried to figure out how she got messed up in this international plot of espionage, solve a murder mystery, save the ancient scrolls that are the root of all this evil, have a love affair with the bad guy, all while learning her eccentric and very wealthy family is not exactly who she thought they were.

    I can’t give it five stars but it wasn’t terrible either. Three and half stars for The Magic Circle by Katharine Neville.

    Read last week’s review of Hidden Valley Road.

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    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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