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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Knife by Salman Rushdie

    I have only read two of Salman Rushdie’s books – Victory City and The Enchantress of Florence. And enjoyed them both. I have never read The Satanic Verses, but of course I know the story of the fatwa against Rushdie following the publication of that book. And I knew about the attack that nearly killed him in 2022. I was very happy to hear about his book, certainly part of the long therapy following the harrowing attack. Here is my book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

    Get Personal

    Rushdie gets very personal in this account of the attempt on his life August 12, 2022. It had been thirty years the the Ayatollah’s fatwa against him. Rushdie – no longer in hiding – was actually speaking at the Chataquah Institution on the topic of keeping writers safe. And that is when I man, dressed all in black came running down the aisle, onto the stage and tried to kill Rushdie.

    Here You Are

    Despite thirty years having passed, at the moment Rushdie thought – “So it’s you. Here you are.” This honest and intimate account of the attack, near death, and months in recovery is some of Rushdie’s best work. Brutally honest and deep, it’s a powerful first hand narrative of life, love, family, friends, mortality, healing and moving forward.

    Survivor

    Rushdie’s account of this near death experience is raw and real and worth a read. An easy read that brings to light how survival mode kicks in, even when everything around you is trying to kill you. I really enjoyed this book. Worth a read. Thanks for reading my book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

    Book Review Knife by Salman Rushdie

    ****Four stars for Knife by Salman Rushdie. See last week’s book review Loot by Sharon Waxman.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Loot: A Novel by Tania James

    Long listed for the National Book Award, this third novel by Tania James is one of the best books I have read this year. Here is my book review Loot: A Novel by Tania James

    Irresistible Historical Fiction

    I couldn’t put this book down. Several book reviews of James work use the word “spellbinding”. Indeed it was. I loved every page. James takes a real artifact from India, Tipu’s Tiger (currently a centerpiece in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and creates a fictional tale around it. Brilliant.

    18th Century India

    Young Abbas, a master wood carver at only 17 years, gains the attention of Sultan Tipu and his life will change forever. He is brought to the palace to build an automatron tiger, to be a gift for the Sultan’s son. Here he begins to work side by side with French clock maker Lucien du Leze to create the masterful Tiger. Along the way he meets the enchanting Jehanne, still a child herself but sparks fly.

    British Forces

    When Tipu’s palace is looted by British forces wanting to colonize India, the Tiger disappears. Abbas escapes and slowly makes his way to France in search of Lucien. But when he arrives Lucien had died, but he find Jehanne, living in Lucien’s house and posing as his daughter. The two will begin a partnership of clock repair and carving and eventually set out on a scheme to retrieve the stolen Tiger.

    Fifty Years

    Loot spans fifty years and multiple continents as war ravages and dynasties fall under colonialism. James has a remarkable talent for inventive storytelling. The reader is pulled into a story so visually rich you clearly see yourself in India, London, and on the high seas. It’s imaginative, original and a refreshing read.

    *****Five stars for Loot by Tania James

    Thank you for reading my book review Loot by Tania James. See last week’s book review A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides

    Imperial Ambition, First Contact and the Fateful Final Voyage of Captain James Cook

    This fascinating story brings to life the Age of Exploration and the role Captain James Cook played in it, until his death in Hawaii. Here is my book review A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides.

    Captain Cook

    Hampton Sides astonishing research culminates in this incredible account of the third and final voyage of Captain James Cook. Revered by his men, considered one of the greatest sea captains and explorers in British history, and unique for his respect of indigenous people. How then did he come to his fate at the hands of the Hawaiian people?

    A Change

    Many of his crew noticed that Cook was different on this third voyage. Unfocused and unpredictable. Moody and distant. Did this change in personality attribute to the decisions he made about discipline that would ultimately end his life?

    On previous voyages Cook had been responsible for mapping much of the unexplored Pacific including much of Australia. He made first contact with a variety of local indigenous people and cultures, including being the first European explorer to visit the Hawaiian Islands.

    Cook’s first encounter with the Hawaiian people was positive and congenial. But after exploring Alaska and then returning to Hawaii, Cook’s poor decisions regarding discipline of the theft of a sheep would explode into all out war – killing several of the crew and Cook himself.

    Imperialism

    This is a fascinating and educational book, well-written and vast in the material it covers. Captivating, I was intrigued throughout and learned a great deal about, like last week’s book review Born in Blackness by Howard French, the European White Imperialistic surge to conquer and manifest wealth and superiority, at all costs.

    Book Review A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides

    Highly recommend. *****Five stars for A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides. See last week’s Book Review Born in Blackness by Howard French.

    Thank you for reading my book review A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides. We are grateful when you comment, pin an d share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Born in Blackness by Howard French

    The Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War

    What if the history lessons of the world emerging into modernity were re-framed? What if we put Africa and Africans – normally placed at the margins of global development – at the center? This is what Howard French does brilliantly with this sweeping narrative. Here is my book review Born in Blackness by Howard French.

    The Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War

    This book is long, and it was a perfect Audible for us on a long car trip. I was riveted as French re-frames the story of medieval and emerging Africa, creating a new narrative on the domination and exploitation of Africa and Africans. The so-called enlightenment ideals of Europe’s dehumanizing engagement with the “dark” continent. This period focused on furthering and strengthening European imperialism. French reveals the centuries-old desire to forge a trade in gold with legendarily rich Black societies sequestered away in the heart of West Africa, often turning those societies against each other.

    Born in Blackness

    French creates a historical timeline that begins with the commencement of commercial relations between Portugal and Africa in the fifteenth century and ends with the onset of World War II. His work demonstrates the important role Africa and Africans played in the rise of the modern world. Presenting historical facts that have been trivialized and forgotten through duplicity for 500 years.

    Excellent

    This eye-opening epic revisionist narrative should be read by everyone, although I know it won’t be. Rethinking the history we have been taught with new details and facts is an interesting and fascinating account. An excellent exercise for those of European and African ancestry, it is the benevolent thing to do for understanding the world we live in today.

    *****Five Stars for Born in Blackness by Howard French.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review Born in Blackness by Howard French. See last weekl’s Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvilli.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

    Wow. Just wow. I am ignorant in the history of the Central Europe country of Georgia, even though my husband and I have it on our travel list soon. But this book, really opened my eyes to the former Soviet country, and the difficult transition it made after communism. Here is my book review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili.

    Tbilisi Georgia

    Vardiashvili’s first novel is not a biography, although he, like the novels protagonist, fled Georgia in the early 1990’s for London as a young boy. The novel introduces us to Saba, his brother Sandro and his father Irakli, who fled Georgia together leaving their mother behind. The plan was to get the mother out as soon as enough money could be saved for her counterfeit papers to be bought.

    But that never happens. London is harder than Irakli can manage. Barely earning enough to keep a roof over the heads of himself and his two boys. Years go by. Decades. Irakli threatens many times he is going back to get her. He never does. But then, he steps on the plane.

    Disappearing

    Irakli disappears. The last communication the boys get is “don’t follow.” Sandro flies to Tbilisi and also disappears. This leaves Saba, guilt ridden and afraid, in London. He has no one he can turn to in either London or Georgia. He takes the plunge, despite getting a warning at the airport from a stranger not to get on the plane, he does anyway.

    Danger at Every Turn

    Saba’s passport is confiscated at the airport. The first sign that he is being watched. Saba, exhausted with no plan, gets a taxi where he meets Nodar. Nodar will become his local guide, friend, and ultimately sacrifice himself for the cause of Saba and the corrupt and violent Georgia.

    The novel is violent yet humorous. It keeps you on your toes throughout as Saba searches for his brother and his father and tries to understand this country that he fled. Most everyone he left behind is dead, but he encounters a few old “friends”, follows a poetic and cryptic trail of clues left by his brother, meets quietly supportive new friends who help him dodge police and harm.

    In the end, he is left with unexpected results and feelings about Georgia and his life back in London.

    Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

    I thought this was a great story. Intense. Raw. But I loved the commitment this young man has for his family. He grows in this book. I liked that. It’s not an easy book. It certainly made me even more interested in seeing and learning about Georgia in the near future.

    *****Five stars for Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili. See last week’s book review Northwoods by Daniel Mason. We love it when you comment, pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review James by Percival Everett

    If you read Huckleberry Finn when you were a child, or even as an adult, you may have thought of the slave Jim as a rather minor character. Percival Everett sees it differently, writing an amazing novel of the Huckleberry Finn story but his time, from the viewpoint of Jim. Here is my book review James by Percival Everett.

    Mark Twain

    I think Twain would approve of this incredible retake on Huckleberry Finn through the eyes and voice of slave Jim (James). Considering Twain’s book Huckleberry Finn was written in 140 ago in 1884, Twain would surely see the genius of Everett’s modern-day twist.

    James

    When Slave Jim learns he is about to be sold, he lets out to hide and becomes a wanted runaway. When Huckleberry Finn fakes his own murder Jim becomes a suspect. And of course if you know the Huck Finn story the two will make their way down the Mississippi River and engage in a variety of dangerous adventures.

    Bringing the story around to Jim’s view, we are presented with a multitude of new ideas about James and slaves in general, during this period just prior to the Civil War. Everett creates a deep and intelligent human in Jim’s story, so different to the quiet and stupid character portrayed by Twain. As James tries to make his way to freedom, and to free his family as well, the character brims with compassion and anger, reason and fear, creativity and empathy. And most of all bravery.

    Book Review James by Percival Everett

    This new release and Pulitzer Prize finalist is bound to become an American classic. You must read James by Percival Everett. *****Five stars for James by Percival Everett.

    See last week’s book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thanks for reading my book review James by Percival Everett for this week’s Reading Wednesday.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    The Story of One Man’s Personal Pandemic Battle

    Throughout the world, each person’s individual experience with the global pandemic was different. Many people felt anger, fear, helpless. Others dug in for a long haul and tried to stay positive. Children and young adults suffered sadness and loss. This debut novel by Rustin Thompson is one man’s story of desperation. It is raw and will resonate with many. Here is my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Covid in 2072

    Thompson starts the novel in 2072. More than fifty years have passed since Covid One and the planet is now under the siege of Covid Four. The pandemic has never really gone away, and tens of millions have died, mostly those unvaccinated. This world fifty years in the future was partially foretold by writers after the 2020 Pandemic. But at the time, these writers could not find a publisher. No one wanted to read about what they had just lived through. But fifty years on, one man’s story is told. The story of little known author Richard Duvall.

    Covid in 2020

    Richard Duvall finds his life in limbo, feeling unconnected, immaterial and depressed. Suicide has crossed his mind. The pandemic has really hit home in Seattle and Richard and his wife Beth are feeling the pinch. Already suffering malaise as a sixty-something man battling a sense of irrelevance, the pandemic brings Richard to the brink.

    Richard’s tiny bubble of family, a handful of friends and a couple of neighbors is what keeps him going while political stupidity flows like a river through the United States.

    Covid and Mental Health

    It’s no secret how many people throughout the drama of the pandemic had similar feelings as our protagonist Richard. Even four years on, mental health issues related to the pandemic persist. As do ongoing staffing issues, economic issues and supply issues. Hard Times in Babylon made me think more deeply about my own personal experiences of the Pandemic. Though I never felt suicidal I certainly had fears. I feared for the collapse of my country. I feared for the collapse of the banking system and supply chain. And I definitely feared for my children and their futures. Addressing these fears and acknowledging that other people suffered similarly is a good tool to healing.

    History Repeats

    For thousands of years plagues of all kinds have taken entire populations. And yet, life goes on. Books like Cloud Cuckoo Land and Station Eleven, two of my favorites, look at how past and future generations deal with fear, hunger, violence, plague, anarchy and life expectancy. Despite Covid and our current unstable political situation, we still are living in some of the best of times. What comes next? Thompson ends his book in 2072 with a frightening speculative scenario about Covid Four. But will Richard Duvall survive Covid One as he teeters on the edge of depression and personal tormoil? His story in 2020 ends with a hopeful phrase;

    So much life. All around us. So much life.

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    Thank you for reading my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thompson is a Seattle based author and has self-published this first novel. I have known him and his wife for many years. Getting published is a difficult task and I congratulate him on his efforts.

    *****Five stars for Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Read last week’s book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. We love it when you comment, share and pin our book reviews. Thank you.