Follow:
Topics:
Browsing Tag:

authors

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Five Presidents by Clint Hill

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This story is truly incredible.  But so is the way I stumbled onto this book.

    I follow Mike Rowe on Facebook…you know the funny “Dirty Jobs” guy in the baseball hat.  A month or more ago I saw a post from Mike Rowe about meeting a guy in a bar.  An older gentleman who ordered a drink called a “Clint”.  When the bartender was puzzled, the man pulled a card from his pocket, on one side was his name and information and on the other, the recipe for his favorite and personal drink the “Clint”.

    Of course Mike Rowe was intrigued and they struck up a conversation.  I don’t know how long the spoke but I do know Rowe was flabbergasted to find that he was sitting next to a man who had first hand experience at some of our countries most poignant and sorrowful moments.  Mr. Clint Hill, who served five Presidents in the Secret Service.  Mr. Clint Hill, who infamously is the agent clinging to the back of the convertible while Jackie Kennedy reaches across the trunk of that car to collect pieces of her husbands brain.

    Yes that man.  He ordered a “Clint”.

    Rowe later writes about his meeting Hill on his Facebook page, and suddenly sales of his book “Five Presidents” rockets on Amazon.  I am one of those people who purchased the book for my Kindle and I learn that Hill has also written two other best sellers “Five Days in November” and “Me and Mrs.Kennedy”.

    So that is how I came to find this book.  And once I started it I couldn’t put it down.  Writing with the help of author Lisa McCubbin, Hill describes his incredible life as a secret service agent, beginning with President Eisenhower and ending with President Ford…through some of this nations most turbulent times; assasinations, civil rights, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Watergate and so much more – Clint Hill had a front row seat to it all.

    It’s funny because I never really thought that much about what these men (and now women) sacrifice in the line of duty.  Hill admittedly left the service when the unnamed (at the time) post traumatic stress disorder drove him to alcohol.  He sacrificed seeing his children grow as he traveled all over the world.  He slept little and gave 110% every day of his long career.

    And it all is spelled-out in the fascinating book about a fascinating man and his fascinating journey.

    Five stars for Five Presidents.  A remarkable read.

    Read last week’s review of Nectar in a Sieve

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    (Note – following the tragic fire yesterday at the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, I am compelled to share this blog again.  Ken Follett’s Book Pillars of the Earth, although based in England, is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, focused on cathedral building in the Middle Ages. This brilliant story is what I thought of all day yesterday as Notre Dame burned – thinking about the people who created this and other majestic structural wonders during the  period.

    Today I mourn the loss of historic structure and art while saluting those humans whose perseverance created it all. Who deserve our thanks and reverence.  We can be confident it will rise again.)

    The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    A Saga.  A Gripping historical novel from contemporary writer Ken Follett.  Published in 1989, how is it that I have waited so long to read this masterpiece?  I absolutely love The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

    As a full time traveler, I have been witness to some of the most remarkable cathedrals in the world.  And I have often felt flabbergasted at the thought of how these monstrous but beautiful buildings could possibly been constructed in an age with no machinery, electricity, power or technology.  These monuments to God are truly a wonder.

    Little did I know all this time that Ken Follett had in the 1970’s felt the same, and over a decade of time he wrote his brilliant masterpiece The Pillars of the Earth.  I am so glad I found this book.  My eyes have been opened and my appreciation will be far greater still, when next I stand in front of one of these masterpiece architectural wonders.

    The Pillars of the Earth is set in 12th century England, a time of anarchy and war, brutal famine and poverty, royal power and catholic corruption.  The story follows a memorable cast of characters who you grow to love as they struggle in their own existence, as well as a brutal cast of characters – power hungry and evil, who you despise.  Follett’s ability to bring together this believable group of people, set against real historical events and characters in a time of medieval anarchy is a masterful work of fiction.  The author builds the story alongside the building of the magnificent Kingsbrige Cathedral, despite fire and pillaging, death and destruction, backstabbing and power grabbing at every corner.

    The Pillars of the Earth is ambitious to say the least.  Masterful at its best.  And written with compassion for the everyday people of the time – just trying to survive in a world where any day could bring disaster.

    Spectacular classical reading at its best. 

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    Read what Wikipedia has to say about Pillars of the Earth here.

    Read last week’s review of The Keeper of Lost Things.

    Please share our blog

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is a depressing story. A very real look at the incredibly difficult life of many people in India. This book was first published in 1954, and although there has been much improvement in the lives of people in India, there are still people like Rukmani.

    Rukmani tells the story of her life from child bride to widow.  The very difficult life of a serf farmer, a mother of several sons and a daughter during a turbulent and changing time, and a woman just trying to hold her family together and survive day-to-day.

    I have read several books over the years with similar themes.  One of the best books I have ever read follows the plight of a young man in India.  I highly recommend A Fine Balance, a book that remains one of my favorites of all time.  And though Nectar in a Sieve is not as good, it is still a sad and helpless tale – one that most of us cannot possible ever fully comprehend. And for that exact reason you should read it.

    The book reminded me of the classic The Good Earth by Pearl S.Buck.  However The Good Earth has a slightly happier ending.  Nectar in a Sieve does not end happily.  In fact, there is very few happy moments in the entire book.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for Nectar in a Sieve by Kamal Markandaya

    Read last week’s review of The Pecan Man

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Tao of Pooh by Ben Hoff

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Hoff is a follower of Taoism and in 1982 he wrote The Tao of Pooh as a way to introduce the Eastern belief system to the Western reader.  Using the beloved A.A. Milne characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh series, Hoff tells the simple story of Tao.

    I found this book in our room at the Yoga studio in El Salvador.  I picked it up, and read it easily in a few hours.  Even though the story was published more than 35 years ago, it actually is very timely by today’s standards.  In our current state of egotistical leaders, selfish and fast-paced lives, and sometimes frightening world – looking at the Taoism beliefs through the simple mind of Pooh is brilliant.

    “Hoff uses many of Milne’s characters to symbolize ideas that differ from or accentuate Taoist tenets. Winnie-the-Pooh himself, for example, personifies the principles of wei wu wei, the Taoist concept of “effortless doing,” and pu, the concept of being open to, but unburdened by, experience, and it is also a metaphor for natural human nature. In contrast, characters like Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion, and Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be. Hoff regards Pooh’s simpleminded nature, unsophisticated worldview and instinctive problem-solving methods as conveniently representative of the Taoist philosophical foundation. The book also incorporates translated excerpts from various prominent Taoist texts, from authors such as Laozi and Zhuangzi.” (taken from Wikipedia).

    A simple and easy read for a lazy Sunday in the hammock.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for the Tao of Pooh by Ben Hoff

    Read last week’s review of The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Powerful.  This story is powerful.  These women are powerful. The history is powerful.  The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman is one of the most powerful books I have read in a very long time.

    I actually know very little about the history of Israel, Jerusalem and the legend of Masada – the last stronghold of the Jews during the Roman siege in 73 AD.  After reading this novel however, I am so intrigued to learn more about the plight of these people – a struggle that has continued for thousands of years.

    A beautifully written tale weaving fact and fiction together, Hoffman creates four remarkable women who lead the reader through this turbulent, magical, bloody, faithful and powerful period of history.  Each of these powerful women bring a different strength, different background, different loss and different love to Masada.  The author uses Biblical history and the historical chronicle by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish rebel leader captured by the Romans.  Through her meticulous research she captures the magic of the era and creates these characters, developing the story through their lives, as they each find themselves in Masada by different paths. Each women carries with her secrets and strengths that come to play in the final days of the bloody siege that will ultimately take the lives of more than 1000 men, women and children, and change the course of history.

    Who survives in this amazing fictional tale of a real-life event?  You must read The Dovekeepers to find out.  Read it today.  A fascinating and powerful novel.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for the The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Read last week’s review of Twenty-Five Years in Provence

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Year in Provence & My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Witty and talented writer Peter Mayle passed away in 2018.  But his mark will live on in all those who have grown to love Provence as he did during his 25 years living there.

    I picked up the book A Year In Provence at a lending library in one of the Airbnb’s we stayed at in Spain.  I don’t know why I had never read this book.  I loved it.  So humorous and insightful to the trials and triumphs of Mayle and his wife who left behind cold and rainy England for their new life in Provence.

    Certainly Mayle’s best seller changed both him and his beloved Provence.  And certainly he had moments of regret about that.  But after twenty-five years he realized he had more story to tell and thus a second book My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now. The second book is just as witty and fun with a bit of nostalgia thrown in as Mayle reflects on his life and love of this unique, beautiful, delicious part of France – home to an eccentric and lovable collection of patriotic Provencals.

    Both books are short and easy to read and I really encourage reading them sequentially.  It will make you want to spend a few month in Provence – or perhaps the rest of your life.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Mayle’s A Year in Provence and My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now

    Read last week’s review of Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    His first thought was of her. His final thought was of her.

    At the heart of it, Freeman is a love story.  But it is much more.  It is a story of endurance and heartache. Determination and sorrow.  It is a story of human sacrifice and conviction.  And it is a love story.

    Pitts creates a novel with a wonderful cast of characters who draw you in to the story of the months following the end of the Civil War.  It’s not a book about the Civil War.  It is a novel, much like Cold Mountain, that begins when the war ends and follows the lives of four complex human beings.  Sam a free black man in the North who goes South looking for his lost wife; Tilda a slave woman down-trodden and still with her protagonist “owner” unsure what the end to slavery and the word “free” means to her; Prudence a young, wealthy, educated white widow from Boston who ventures South to open a Negro school and fulfill her father’s wishes; and Bonnie, the black woman raised and educated with Prudence who finds herself struggling with her own feelings about her heritage.

    Sam undertakes a 1000 mile journey on foot.  Tilda is beaten, abused and raped. Prudence and Bonnie turn a town to violence against them in their quest to help and educate the free slaves.

    The book is often violent but written with compassion and care and the reader finds much to love about this hard-scrabble life during one of the most brutal periods in the history of the United States.  It is a sweeping saga that takes place all within just a few months – months when the country should be at peace and yet death is around every corner.

    I really enjoyed the perspective of this story, looking at the post-war era filled with possibility from the black slaves point of view, their hope and fear of what lies ahead for them in the “united” states.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

    Read last week’s review of The Good Neighbor – The Life and Work of Fred Rogers