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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Armour of Light by Ken Follett

    Ken Follett is in my opinion, one of the best authors the United Kingdom has ever produced. And this book, The Armor of Light, was long awaited by me. My love of the Kingsbridge series, starting with the brilliant Pillars of the Earth more than thirty years ago, has kept me intrigued through all five novels. Here is my book review The Armour of Light by Ken Follett.

    Ken Follett

    Now aged 74, I only hope Follett has the stamina to write one or two more Kingsbridge books. The level of detail and research in all of his Kingsbridge novels is so incredible. The series starts in 997AD with The Evening and the Morning (which was a prequel released in 2020), followed by Pillars of the Earth set in the 12th century and the original novel. Each subsequent book is approximately 150 – 200 years later; World Without End set in the 14th Century, A Column of Fire set in Elizabethian England, and now The Armour of Light set late 1700’s to early 1800’s.

    Book Review The Armour of Light by Ken Follett

    In this latest brilliant novel we find ourselves in a changing society as the world, and England, enter the industrial age. With the invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1770, the wool industry and it’s workers will find themselves in a new era. Those who can keep up with the changing times will survive.

    Change means violence, as those with power want more, and will do anything to keep in control of the industrial wealth. As the Napoleon War rages, we meet a cast of characters entwined whether they like it or not. Protestants and Methodists, wealthy and poor, men and women – all fighting for what they believe is right.

    Strong Characters

    Like usual Follett places strong female characters against ruthless church, political and industry male leaders. Convicted of misdemeanor crimes, punishment for the poor could mean being shipped to Australia for years of hard labor…or death.

    The survivors of this violent time, and the ashes of war, will rise up to be the early disciples of workers rights and labor rights and the future of the working class of England. Many will die before this long drawn out change in the system will benefit them, but their sacrifice will change the world forever.

    The novel is not lacking in Follett’s usual love stories, villains, vanity and religious persecution. There is a tantalizing collection of under-stories to titilize as usual. It’s a wonderful book, and another in the genius collection.

    Thanks for reading my book review The Armour of Light by Ken Follett. See last week’s book review The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.

    *****Five Stars for The Armour of Light by Ken Follett

    My current read Absolution by Alice McDermott

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

    I think this is my first book by Rosamunde Pilcher, surprisingly. She has a lot of novels out, and this one, The Shell Seekers has won numerous awards in Europe. But, it’s new to me! Here is my book review The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.

    Reflection

    The novel begins when Penelope Keeling is in her 60’s and after a recent heart attack she is reflecting on her past. The story flits back and forth between Penelope’s childhood – the daughter of a famous artist and his much younger French wife – and present day. Through Pilcher’s strong writing we learn about Penelope’s relationship with her father, mother and their survival during the World Wars.

    Pilcher creates some lovely characters in this novel as the life of Penelope Keeling evolves. Her oldest friend Doris, her French mother Sophie and her brilliant artist father Laurence Stern. All are living in England together during WWII and that time will define the rest of their lives.

    1984

    The novel moves from the past to present day 1984 when Penelope has just had a heart attack. Stubborn and self-confident, Penelope checks herself out of the hospital against her doctor’s advice. Through this experience we are introduced to her three adult children, who respond differently to Penelope’s decision. Each sibling is unique from the other, and two of them are desperately in need of money.

    As the novel moves forward it is revealed the paintings of Penelope’s father Laurence have recently become popular again and therefore valuable. Penelope has several paintings, and two of her children try to convince her to sell them. This is where the family begins to rip at the seams.

    Family

    Like so many beautifully written stories about family ties, The Shell Seekers is complex. Relationships between mother and children, and the siblings themselves is fraught with misunderstanding, stress, rivalry but of course, also love. Penelope finds she can identify more with two young people who come into her life (a gardener and a caretaker) than she can with her own children. But Penelope acknowledges her health issues require her to make some decisions about the future of the valuable art she owns. How will she satisfy her own love of the paintings, and all the players in this story?

    You’ll have to read Rosamunde Pilcher’s beautiful book, The Shell Seekers to find out. Thanks for reading my book review The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.

    *****Five stars for The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

    See last week’s book review In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

    My current read All The Broken Pieces by John Boyne

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Reading Wednesday

    Book Review In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

    We listened to a couple of Audible book this past month while tooling about Australia in a Motorhome. If you haven’t been following that journey you might want to check it out here Caravan Travel Australia Part One and Part Two. Anyway, my friend Pam asked if I had read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. This book is old…published in 2000, one my husband read it when it came out. But I had not, and so it seemed like the perfect story for our long drive. Thanks Pam. Here is my book review In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.

    Bill Bryson

    First of all, if you have never read Bill Bryson you are missing out on one of America’s greatest gems. What a writer, humorist, humanitarian and witty observer of people he is. Bryson has numerous book, but I had never read his book about traveling around Australia. Nothing could have been more perfect for us to enjoy, agree with and guffaw at on our road trip.

    Discovering the Undiscovered Country

    Bryson spends weeks and weeks while researching this book, traversing this incredibly empty, huge and surprising continent/country of Australia. In his telling of the journey he meets Australia’s most amazing creatures, encounters the most unlikely characters, falls in love with the solitude, all while finding humor in each and every unexpected moment.

    In a Sunburned Country brings to life a place that many will never get the opportunity to discover. I am lucky to have been here twice. And much of Bryson’s prose echo my own feelings about this lethal place (“more things that can kill you in malicious ways than anywhere else in the world”) and yet it’s like you just can’t get enough – forget the danger!

    Book Review In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

    In a Sunburned Country brings to life this usually forgotten country – with solid and cheerful people, low crime, safe cities, abundant sunshine, fascinating history and the craziest collection of animals. And yet, we hear so little about Australia in the media. Another reason you should visit. And whether you visit on your own, or via Bryson’s wonderful storytelling, you should get to know amazing Australia.

    Thanks for reading my book review In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.

    *****Five stars – I definitely recommend it to travelers or those who dream to travel.

    Read last week’s book review Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    My current read The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

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    In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    How deep is the connection of family? Of sisters seperated at birth? How deep is love through the worst of life’s trials, terror and torment? In this novel we learn the deep connections through eight generations. Here is my book review Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

    West Africa

    As the slave trade is gearing up and England has colonized, the native tribes turn against each other. It’s the eighteenth century in Ghana. Two half sisters are born, in different villages. Neither will ever know the other, but their connection is inscribed on their souls. Each always feeling a part of her is missing, despite the extreme different circumstances their lives will take. One will marry a British officer and lead a life of luxury, even though she is a black women, her status will be elevated for a lifetime. She will live out her life in a colonial castle. Her sister, captured and thrown into a holding cell in the same castle, will eventually make the horrific journey to the America’s and become a slave.

    Eight Generations

    Gyasi will develop the characters in this novel, following the two seperate but parrellel lives of the the descendants of these half sisters…one family in Ghana and not arriving in America until the 1970’s. The other family enduring slavery, civil war, and Harlem in the 1970’s. Gyasi looks deeply in this novel at the longlasting effects on a nation and a family that slavery and racism had…and still has…holding the memory of captivitiy in hearts forever.

    ****Four stars for Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

    Read last week’s Book Review Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See

    My current read The Armor of Light by Ken Follett

    Thank you for reading my book review Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

    We love it when you share and pin our book review posts. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See

    This is the third book I have read by Lisa See. Her works always focus on Asian women and I find her research into real historical figures, and her ability to create a fictional story around them, brilliant. Two other books I recommend by Lisa See are The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and The Island of Sea Women. Here is my book review Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See.

    Period: Ming Dynasty

    Inspired by the true story of Tan Yunxian, See takes us to 15th century China. A time of concubines and foot binding where women were meant to be beautiful above all else. See brings to life in this fictional story Lady Tan, brilliant, beautiful and captivating. Tan’s destiny is mapped out for her during the period of the Ming Dynasty, but this young women will grow to be a force.

    Studying with her grandmother from a very young age, Lady Tan will become a brilliant doctor, and leave behind at her death meticulous notes about her care of primarily women throughout her life. Not only will she be a mother, wife and eventually the head of the wealthy family she married into, but she will be a healer, life saver, and a connector of women. Building throughout her life a strong bond with both those in her upper class life and the common people too.

    Lisa See, in this book like all the others, does extensive research and travels extensively to find her stories. This book re-imagines beautifully this remarkable women, her unconventional life, and the legacy she leaves behind.

    *****Five stars for Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See.

    See last week’s book review The Editor by Steven Rowley. Thank you for reading my book review Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See.

    My current read is All The Broken Places by John Boyne.

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Editor by Steven Rowley

    I loved this book by the author of The Guncle, which was one of my favs from last year. Rowley has a engaging an thoughtful writing style which is perfect for the topic of this book – Jackie Onassis. Here is my book review The Editor by Steven Rowley.

    This is a work of fiction, but is based on the very real Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Rowley introduces us to Mrs. Onassis during the period in her life where she served as an Editor at Doubleday Books in New York City.

    Just imagine if you are a young author and your very first novel has been tapped by Doubleday. You walk into your first meeting with your Editor, and OMG. It’s her. Jackie Kennedy.

    This is how the story begins when James Smale is dumbstruck in the offices of Doubleday. Why would Mrs. Onassis like his book?

    As the plot unfolds we learn that James has written a book, loosely (well not so loosely) about his own dysfunctional family. Growing up with a father who was angry and not engaged and a mother who was often mentally absent, James tells the truth, but changes the names to protect the…well who exactly?

    Mrs. Onassis finds a connection to this story, and over the next year she will skillfully guide James to write the real story and find the real ending…all while she is quietly suffering in her own private world.

    I really enjoy Rowley’s writing and in this novel he managed to bring me to tears, which rarely happens for me. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love this book. Thank you for reading my book review The Editor by Steven Rowley.

    *****Five stars for The Editor by Steven Rowley.

    See last week’s book review Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

    My current read is Sidhartha by Herman Hess

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

    In this new work by Whitehead we find ourselves back in Harlem in the 1970’s also the sight of his earlier work Harlem Shuffle. I read Harlem Shuffle but never wrote a review on it because I struggled to get into it…although my husband loved it. But I wanted to give Whitehead another go, so here is my Book Review Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead.

    New York City Not a Nice Place in the 1970’s

    Ray Carney, ex-fence is now on the straight and narrow and owner of a well respected furniture store in Harlem. Harlem in 1971 is a tough place, but Ray is trying to stay on the straight and narrow, despite opportunity and necessity of crime at every turn.

    But Ray has promised his daughter he will get her Jackson Five tickets, and he turns to a former fixer cop he used to work with. And all hell breaks loose as Cop Munson pulls Ray into a deadly game.

    1973 Ray’s old partner Pepper is still looking to be in the game of hijacking and heists, but things are changing in the city and work is slow. So he takes on a job as security on a film being shot in Harlem. The world of Hollywood with its cast of hustlers, mobster and hit men underestimate Pepper much to their regret.

    1976 Harlem is underseige, as New York prepares for the Bicentennial Harlem is burning. When a young boy nearly dies in a suspicious fire in one of Ray’s properties, he suspects candidate Oakes. Even though Ray’s wife is supporting the candidate Ray knows he is a crook, willing to kill for power.

    Crook Manifesto is a dark, yet often funny, look at survival in Harlem in the 1970’s. It is also an endearing story of family and loyalty and perseverance.

    ****Four stars for Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

    Read last week’s book review Chenneville by Paulette Jiles.

    Thank you for reading my book review Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead. We love it when you pin, comment and share our book reviews.