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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

    Jennifer Doudna is The Codebreaker. Walter Isaacson is the renowned author who can take her story and put it in lay terms we all can understand. Here is my book review The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson.

    The full title of this book is The Code Breaker Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race. My friend who is a librarian recommended this book to me. I listened to it on audible on a road trip. Though I might have gotten lost if I had been reading instead of listening to this book, which takes the reader through a fascinating history of gene editing. But I loved it as an audible book. Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Prize winner, along with a wide cast of other characters, are the brilliant and captivating scientists whose work has thrown open the door to gene editing.

    The decades of research and discoveries Doudna and her team, and many more teams around the world have done leading up to the current pandemic, were instrumental in developing tests for Covid. Their work will continue to impact the human race forever.

    Isaacon, whose list of books about intriguing people includes Steve Jobs, Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, da Vinci and others, is a talented and compelling writer. His knack for taking a difficult and deep subject and creating words and voices that are understandable and engrossing for the average person is remarkable. Everyone can learn something from The Code Breaker while realizing the human side of beguiling and competitive scientific developments.

    I learned so much from this book.

    *****Five stars for The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Code Breaker by Walter Issacson.

    Read last week’s book review Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.

    Check out our Reading Year In Review here for 15 of my favorite books of the past year.

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

    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday Year In Review

    As you likely know if you have been following all these years, I track my reading year from July to July. Nothing fancy, just keep a little tally in my notebook of all the books I read. This year I read 80 books, and today I will share with you some of my favorites, once again, for Reading Wednesday Year In Review.

    Over the past year I have written 52 book reviews, pulling into reviews my favorites of the 80 books. Sixty of the 80 were read on my kindle, five were traditional books, while 13 were audible books we listened to on road trips. Some of my top books of the year were on Audible…a fantastic way to enjoy a book while driving.

    My Top Fifteen

    So today I will share with you my top 15 of my Reading Wedensday Year in Review, beginning with my top five in order;

    1. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer – This remarkable book is either loved or hated, but for me, it was one of the most beautifully written, uniquely plotted, and astonishingly creative books of the past several years. I admit, if you can’t spend the time really digging deep to understand the complicated plot, (which jumps from medieval times to the distant future) you might not like it. It is not for the faint of heart. But it took my breath away and it is my favorite book of this year. This is a story of how life goes on.
    2. Trust by Hernan Diaz – Like Cuckoo Land, Diaz is brilliant in plot development of Trust taking multiple complicated storylines and weaving them beautifully into a book I could not put down. The story of early 19th century Wall Street is written in several different styles, and it adds to the fun and intrigue of this great book. This is a story of things aren’t always what they seem.
    3. Project Hail Mary by Anthony Weir – to be honest I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Generally I’m not a Science Fiction reader, but Weir’s story of a space mission to save the Earth had me falling in love with the characters (both human and not) and enjoying every aspect of this fun and exciting adventure story. This is a story of friendship and heroes.
    4. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson – last year one of my top books was Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson. When I learned she had an earlier book, I really wanted to read it. In this story Wilkerson’s vast research and interviews bring to life in the pages what it was like for the black population in the American South in the years after the Civil War. She follows a handful of real people as they make the life changing decision to leave the racially toxic southern states for points north and west. It’s a brilliant book that every American should read. This is a story of America’s racial tension then and now.
    5. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – Mandel’s Station Eleven was one of my favorite reads of 2018, and once again she captivated me with Sea of Tranquility. It’s another story of alternate realities, looking both forward and back and ultimately leaving the reader wondering about their own daily reality. Is what we do and see each day real? Or is it all an illusion. This is a story about time and place and the human experience.

    And Ten More I Loved

    In no particular order, these ten more I recommend very highly;

    1. The Bonesetters Daughter by Amy Tan – This is a story of family and how cultural misunderstanding can lead to a life of sorrow. Sweet.

    2. The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton – This is a story of what some people will do for fame. Intense.

    3. So Brave Young and Handsome by Leif Enger – This is story about the early 1900’s in the United States and coming to terms with aging and choices we have made. Sentimental.

    4. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn – This is a story of WWII and brave females who changed the course of the war. Exciting.

    5. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – This is a story about writers, plots and psychotic people in our midst. Jaw Dropping.

    And these too…

    6. Playing With Myself by Randy Rainbow – This book is about more than a comedian and satirist – it’s about growing up, coming out and love that binds through thick and thin. Heartfelt.

    7. The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan – This book is about a near future life where the internet rules our thoughts and memories. Creepy.

    8. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrel – This book is about the power men (husbands, fathers, lovers) had to make women disappear in the early 20th century. Horrifying.

    9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – This book is a classic American novel about a young girl coming of age in tenement in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. Wonderful.

    10. The Maid by Nita Prose – This is a book about a quirky and lonely young women who finds adventure as a maid in a swanky hotel. Hilarious.

    Go Read a Book and Explore a New World

    Thanks for reading my Reading Wednesday Year in Review. I always welcome book suggestions, and I hope some of these make their way onto your reading list. Reading, like travel, is a door to understanding the world. Go read a book.

    See all our book reviews from the past year on our Reading Wednesday list here.

    Some more suggestions for you here from Goodreads.

    Next Wednesday we will be back to our weekly book reviews.

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

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Trust by Hernan Diaz

    I loved the writing and clever plot presentation in this enthralling book. By the time I got it from the library wait-list I couldn’t remember what it was about or who had recommended it. But I dove in, and barely came up for breath. Here is my book review Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    The novel opens with a story about a 1930’s Wall Street Tycoon Benjamin Rask, with uncanny ability to know what the market will do, before it does it. The story also opens with the wife of this tycoon, Helen, who is slowly going mad.

    Next we jump to another story, but gosh the characters seem so familiar…but not exactly. Another wealthy Wall Street speculator Andrew Bevel, and his wife Mildred. Living in a world of wealth and philanthropy in the 1920’s in New York City, but the wife is slowly dying of cancer…I begin to wonder if this book is a collection of novellas pulled together about Wall Street?

    But no. Diaz has a exceptional writing style and he eloquently pulls these narratives into each other. The reader is not quit sure if you are reading an autobiography, a fictional tale, a diary or a manuscript. And you honestly are reading all of the above. What is going on here?

    Enter Ida Partenza. This young woman, will be the one who pulls all of these storylines together. But we first meet her as a 70-year-old women, looking back at her remarkable time with Andrew Bevel. A brief and strange employment that ended abruptly and left so many unanswered questions. Through her memory, and Diaz’s brilliant plot development, all of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. And you will wonder…who can you ever really Trust?

    *****Five Stars for Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    Thank you for reading my book review Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    Read last week’s book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    This is a timeless and beautiful book, that for whatever reason, I have failed to read until now. And despite it being written nearly 80 years ago, the story remains captivating, graceful and engaging. Here is my book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    This coming of age story is largely autobiographical as the protagonist, a young girl named Francie and her family, are based on the author herself. We meet Francie in 1912 when she is eleven years old. Living in Williamsburg, a tenement neighborhood in Brooklyn. Life is very difficult for Francie and her family; Mother Katie a house cleaner is the family breadwinner; father Johnny sings in a restaurant but drinks away most of his earnings; and ten-year-old brother Neely is one of Francie’s only friends.

    Francie is intelligent but shy and her families circumstances make it difficult for her to make friends or do well in school. Francie escapes through books and reads everything she can. She also releases much of her pent up imagination through writing.

    Smith writes the family story jumping between present day (starting in 1912) and back to the early days of courtship of Johnny and Katie. Francie loves her father dearly, and senses her mother loves her brother more than her. But Katie realizes how smart and independent Francie is, and so leans more love Neely’s way.

    Francie and Neely both leave school to help support the family. Alcoholism eventually takes the life of Johnny, just before Katie learns she is pregnant with a third child.

    Francie wants to finish high school and go to college and have a boyfriend, but life is so hard for her and her family and leaving Brooklyn seems like an impossible dream.

    Throughout the book the reader will be drawn effortlessly into the deep feelings and emotions of these characters, and particularly the young girl Francie who goes from age 11 to age 17 – from a child to a young woman. Francie represents an entire generation of young girls like herself, whose 2nd generation immigrant parents give them everything the can for a better life.

    Betty Smith should have had a Pulitzer for this exquisite book. I loved it. It’s not too late to read this American masterpiece. Thanks for reading my book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    See last week’s review The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan.

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

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Night by Elie Wiesel

    Elie Wiesel survived. Millions did not. I have known about this book most of my life, but for some reason it never made it into my hands, until I picked it up when I was in New York at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Here is my book review Night by Elie Wiesel.

    There are many World War II and Holocaust survivor books worth reading. I have read many. But this short and even simple story is so personal, so heartbreaking, so real. It took Elie ten years from the time he was liberated from the Nazi death camps to even talk about the experience. And in 1956 he finally did, in the book Night.

    When Elie was 15 years old, he was deported with his family (father, mother and sister) from Hungary to the Auschwitz – Birkenau camp in Poland. Elie’s mother and sister were likely killed shortly after their arrival, but he never knew. Elie’s father died a horrible slow death. Elie was the only one to survive.

    Over the years the book has had it’s critics questioning its factuality. Of course it has. There are those who think the holocaust is a hoax. But the pages of Night tell a nightmare of a young boy pulled from his studies in his home in Hungary and thrust into unimaginable horrors.

    Night was a watershed moment for the holocaust literature. It has been translated into thirty languages and is often on the syllabus at universities. It contains profanity, violence and horror, as told through the eyes of a young man living it. Wiesel would live the rest of his days (he died in 2016) with regrets. He would go on to write dozens of books and in 1986 he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wikipedia writes –

    “The Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a “messenger to mankind”, stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler‘s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel delivered a message “of peace, atonement, and human dignity” to humanity. The Nobel Committee also stressed that Wiesel’s commitment originated in the sufferings of the Jewish people but that he expanded it to embrace all repressed peoples and races.”[6] 

    I am so glad I finally read this masterpiece. Thanks for reading my book review Night by Elie Wiesel.

    Read last week’s book review of The Maid by Nita Prose.

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

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger

    I’m a big Leif Enger fan. One of my all time favorite books is his first novel Peace Like a River, published in 2001. I also immensely enjoyed Virgil Wander, published in 2018. This book, falls between these two published in 2008, and I am happy to have finally read it. Here is my Book Review So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger.

    It would be my dream come true to be able to write in such a gifted way as Leif Enger. Because what makes a brilliant author is one who has a believable and compelling plot that is married with outstanding character development. Leif Enger does that.

    So Brave, Young and Handsome is a coming of age story, but more for middle-aged men…the characters we fall in love with. Even the “bad guy” is someone your heart will go out to. Such a sign of exceptional storyline and writing.

    It’s 1915 in Minnesota when we meet Monte Becket, a fledging author trying to find his sense of purpose. Along comes Glendon, a reserved but beguiling man of similar age who literally materializes through the fog on the river.

    And so begins an adventure of a lifetime for Becket, and just one more dangerous and volatile adventure for wanted outlaw Glendon. The two befriend a young boy, stay one step ahead of the relentless bounty hunter Charles Siringo and make their way across the country together and separately to Glendon’s former wife Blue. And along the way what a story is told.

    Like Enger’s other two books, I could not put this page turner down. I loved it – even the bad guy. Thanks for reading my book review So Young Brave and Handsome by Leif Enger.

    *****Five big stars for So Young, Brave and Handsome

    See last week’s review of All That She Carried – The Journey of Ashley’s Sack

    My current read The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Voices of the 21st Century by Gail Watson and Heather Markel

    Conscious, Caring Women Who Make a Difference

    One of the most fun things for me about traveling all over the world and being a travel writer, is meeting so many other travelers and travel writers. One travel writer I consider a friend is Heather Markel, despite the fact we have never met in person! Heather and I will meet for the first time when I am in New York later this month. She has a wonderful story about how she became a full-time traveler, and it is one story featured in this week’s book. Here is my book review Voices of the 21st Century by Gail Watson and Heather Markel.

    Voices of the 21st Century

    This book is the fifth in a series of Voices of the 21st Century books, highlighting women who make a difference. This book focuses on a series of inspirational essays where women from all walks of life and from many countries share. From triumphs to tragedies, these brave women motivate and galvanize through their writing. They influence and encourage other women to overcome, validate and soar.

    My Favorites

    I really enjoyed reading all of these essays (a total of 50) but certainly had a few I identified with the most. Of course I enjoyed my friend Heather’s story (page 97) about leaving the corporate chaos for a life of travel. And here are a few more that really spoke to me;

    Clearing the Clutter by Sandra Ateca page 5

    Dear Younger Me by Kim Combs page 25

    Impacting the World One Child at a Time by Dr. Gloria Gonzalez page 41

    Dear Zan: A Letter to My Younger Self by Zaneta Varnado Johns page 61

    Nature is Conscious by Chiara Marrapodi page 101

    An Ever-Evolving Journey: Coal-Mine Canary to Living Legend by Dr. Michelle St. Jane page 133

    Calling All Parents: Don’t Forget to Say Thank You by Janet J. Sawyer EdD page 149

    And many more…as you can tell from the variety of titles these women discuss a wide range of experiences, challenges and achievements. There is truly something for everyone in this book. I enjoyed getting to know these remarkable women through their individual stories. I think you would too. Thank you for reading my book review Voices of the 21st Century by Gail Watson and Heather Markel.

    Four Stars for Voices of the 21st Century

    Read last week’s book review Short Night’s of the Shadow Catcher

    My current read Taste – My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

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