I am not a Stephen King junkie. I think the only book of his 61 novels I have read was Carrie when I was in high school. That said I have loved some of his movies; The Green Mile, Stand by Me and Shawshank Redemption is possibly my favorite movie of all time.
Oh and I have to give a shout out to Rose Red (TV Miniseries) because my son had a cameo part in that movie! He was so cute.
But I digress. Stephen King books aren’t usually my cup of tea. But 11/22/63 kept showing up on lists of must reads, and then my friend Sue said it was here book club’s favorite of the year. Seemed like it was calling to me. And even though it was published in 2011, I’ve finally come around to reading it.
This book is a behemoth. More than 850 pages. What an undertaking King pulled off with this book. Apparently it too was a mini-series that I never heard of.
So by the title you can assume the book is about the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 11/22/63. But the focus of the story is much broader. This is the story of unassuming high school teacher Jake Epping who travels back in time through a “rabbit hole” found by his friend, in an effort to stop the assassination.
King takes his time with this story, filling the plot with exciting detail as we follow Jake’s efforts to change history. Not a simple task as he learns the past does not want to change, and the past throws obtacles at Jake, nearly killing him on several occasions. As Jake says over and over in the book the past is obdurate.
Jake makes multiple trips through the rabbit hole, and of course on each journey he meets, befriends and even falls in love with people from the past. Jake also makes enemies, gets to know Oswald and the other players in the JFK assassination and finds out changing history is not always the best course of action.
Although I felt a few parts of the book dragged, I also feel King’s detailed story is crucial to the complicated plot and thus justifies the length of this meticulously comprehensive book.
Does Jake succeed? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Read last week’s review of City of Girls.
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A couple of months ago I read Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network and I really enjoyed it. So I decided to tackle her new book The Huntress. And I loved it even more. Here is my book Review of The Huntress by Kate Quinn.
Quinn introduces an intriguing cast of characters in The Huntress – a post World War Two novel built around the search for Nazi war criminals.
Nina Markova, raised in Siberia, turned Russian fighter pilot known as the Night Witches. Witness to unthinkable atrocities and dealing with her own pain and loss, with deep and disturbing memories of hate and revenge.
Ian Graham, British War Correspondent unable to let go of his own personal search for one particular war criminal, a woman known as The Huntress.
Jordan McBride, Boston teenager and aspiring photographer, Jordan wants to forget the war, move forward and live a life of her choosing.
Anneliese McBride, Jordan’s new step-mother, appears friendly and engaged in her new American life, but something underlies the perfect facade she allows.
This book is tightly written, with a believable plot that develops a different side of oft overdone WWII story. Quinn’s attention to research and detail is apparent in the mix of fact and fiction from descriptive landscape passages to intense emotional drama of the characters’ past and present.
In the end the reality is all of them are The Huntress. See for yourself if you agree.
I really loved this book and highly recommend The Huntress by Kate Quinn.
Five Stars for The Huntress. Read last week’s review of The Immortalists.
Wow. This book. I’m not usually one to go for a “thriller” book, but this story sucked me in and I was riveted.
Similar to novels like Gone Girl (but not as good), Pieces of Her develops a plot of twists and turns, whodunnit and “who the heck are you”, as Andrea Olive struggles to determine the true identity of her mother.
When Andrea and her mother Laura find themselves the witnesses to a horrific crime, a crime that leads Laura to kill the perpetrator at the scene before he can murder more people, Andrea’s world comes tumbling down.
A video tape of the terrorist and his demise at Laura’s hands circulates on the news, and with it Laura’s secret life unravels and her enemies catch up to her after decades of being on the run.
Andrea is thrust into this mystery as she runs from the danger, finding a trail of a woman, her mother, whom she never knew. Who is this woman and why has she spent her life in hiding? Andrea begins to put the puzzle together bit by bit, finding herself in danger but determined to uncover the identity her mother walked away from decades before.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Read last week’s review of The Birth of Venus.
This is a beautifully rich tale of life and death, love and art in Florence Italy during the tumultuous 15th century. Told in first person from the viewpoint of a young Florentine girl, but told as her final life’s work as an old woman.
The young girl, Alessandra Cecchi, daughter of a rich textile merchant in Florence, knows she isn’t like her sister or other girls around her. Her passion of art and learning overpowers her, and alienates her from the life of sewing and searching for a rich husband.
Alessandra is also tall, awkward and not beautiful like her sister. Called a “giraffe” by her hateful sibling Tomaso, Allesandra searches for meaning to her life.
Alessandra falls for “the painter” who has been commissioned to paint the ceiling of her families chapel. But she marries a chosen husband “Cristoforo” who turns out to only have married Alessandra to appear heterosexual, which he is not.
During a terribly violent time in Florence as the church and the people battle for control, Alessandra lives a tumultuous life of her own not able to love the one she wants.
After I finished the book I spent some time in a discussion group about the book, interested in what other readers theories were about if “the painter” in the story is supposed to be a real person from the era. Certainly the book weaves real characters with fictional ones, and towards the end of the book there is a reference to Michelangelo that made me think this is who it was supposed to be. In the discussion group there was a wide range of strong opinions, and nobody seemed to know for sure. Theories included Michelangelo, DaVinci and several other 15th century painters.
Only Sarah Durant knows for sure.
A beautiful story about a period in history I knew little about.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four stars for The Birth of Venus by Sarah Durant.
Read last week’s review of The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
It’s rare anymore that I read a real book I can hold in my hand. It’s a special treat and I always want it to be a book I love…one I can curl up and enjoy. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton was one of those books.
This story travels across decades and is told in multiple voices, traversing time and characters with one anchor to it all – Birchwood Manor outside of London.
From 1854 to 2017 we follow the house and the cast of characters who occupy it, own it, love it, go to school in it, visit it, stumble upon it, search it and haunt it.
It’s a clever way to inspire a story that spans multiple generations. I really enjoyed the characters and the twists and turns Kate Morton was able to generate bringing her readers into the novel and easily navigating the 160 year span of time the book covers.
A great read.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton.
This is my second Ken Follett novel. My first was Pillars of the Earth, one of the most brilliant books I have ever read.
Fall of Giants is a great book as well but didn’t have for me the same spellbinding story and imagery Follett created in Pillars of the Earth.
But I still loved it. The story begins in 1911 in a coal mine in Wales, and follows a series of families; Billy Williams and his coal-mining family of Wales; The Earl of Fitzherbert and his family – the wealthy land and mining family; the von Ulrichs – Austrian cousins of the Fitzherberts; American Gus Dewar; and Russian brothers Grigori and Lev Peshkov.
These main families and characters are used to build an intriguing story of the years leading up to World War I and the entire war time for these characters. Additionally the novel covers in detail themes of working class people in the coal mines and poverty in Russia as that country finds itself falling headlong into a revolution.
The brilliantly developed characters provide the story a platform to focus on important themes of the era including class structure and wealth disparity; women’s rights and the suffrage movement; aristocratic empowerment leading to the uprising of the lower classes; and the many poor decisions made by European leaders that made WWI so long and deadly – ultimately bringing Germany to its economic knees leading to the rise of Hitler.
Follett is one of our generations most talented story-tellers and I am a big fan.
I did it. I read and wrote a review of one book each week for the past 52 weeks. Some week’s it was a challenge, but other weeks I had finished more than one. So it usually evened out.
Since returning to the USA in May (for a four month visit) it’s been a struggle to get a book done a week. We have been so incredibly busy with family, friends and our villa remodel. Not much time to read.
At one point over the past several weeks I found I had three books going at one time – one paperback, one kindle and one on audible!
Yes I am a bit obsessed with reading – I love what it does to my brain!!! And I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life.
Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 52. In fact in the list below are five that I can say are some of the best books I have ever read…and that is saying a lot.
I’ve put those five at the top, and then below that the rest are listed randomly. I hope you can find a favorite of your own amongst this list and I thank you for your continuing support of Reading Wednesday and My Fab Fifties Life.
The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman – my favorite read of the year. Not everyone is going to love this book as much as I did but I found it to be a beautifully written book of historical fiction about a time period and real life events I knew nothing about. Based on the siege of Masada in 73AD I could not put this book down. I loved the strong female characters, the mix of fact and fiction, the mystical and the esoteric. I loved this book.
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund – this book is twenty years old but I had never heard of it. It’s a very long book and it took me a long time to read it but I fell hard into this remarkable story and couldn’t put it down. I loved the fictional tale of this remarkable woman and how the author weaves real life characters and other fictional characters into the plot. I loved this book.
Educated by Tara Westover – this book is amazing, for it’s writing but also for the fact that it is a remarkable true story about a young girl’s desire to go to school in a family of radical isolationist and anarchist. Her survival and perseverance makes a compelling novel that I could not put down. I loved this book.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – just go read this book if you haven’t. It’s been around since 1989 but it holds up and it is a spectacular saga historical novel. Fictional but with many historical facts Follett is a brilliant storyteller and I was captivated cover to cover despite the length of this book. Not only is the story brilliant but I learned so much about historical architecture and it opened my eyes to some of the incredible ancient cathedrals and buildings we see in our travels. I have just purchased Fall of the Giants by Ken Follett to start soon. I loved this book.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is the third book I have read by Hosseini. His masterpiece The Kite Runner is my favorite and this work A Thousand Splendid Suns comes in a close second. He writes in a hauntingly beautiful style that brings his characters alive, in a country few of us have or will ever visit. I loved the brave female characters in this story, the strength and endurance and the message that family is not always from blood. I loved this book.