Clever. Heart Warming. Brutal. This new English translation of Zhang Ling’s unforgettable novel will have you on the edge of your seat. Here is my book review A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling.
When Emperor Hirohito announces Japan’s surrender to the Allies, three men make a pact, agreeing that after thier deaths their souls will return to this Chinese village each year. The village is where they have met, fought and befriended each other.
But it takes seventy years before all three will find themselves together again, their souls converging on the tiny Chinese village where their story began. An American missionary, a gunner and a local Chinese soldier. How these three men from very different backgrounds will touch each other’s lives is a remarkable journey.
And of course there is a girl. Her name is Ah Yan also called Swallow. Her profound impression on the three men in unique and very different ways will change her life, and the lives of each man.
The best part of this remarkable book for me is the telling. Ling’s beautiful writing narrates in the voice of each man from beyond the grave…a unique telling of the story as each man looks back on his life and the impact Ah Yan has on it. I hope you enjoyed my book review A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling.
Remarkable book and beautifully written and translated.
*****Five stars for A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling
Read last week’s review of Unsettled Ground.
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It’s been four years since I started adding a weekly book review to My Fab Fifties Life blog. At the time, many of my followers and friends were asking me for book suggestions, knowing how much I read especially while traveling. So Reading Wednesday was born and quickly became one of the most popular aspects of our blog. So today I once again share my year of reading, my fourth annual reading round up.
Fourth Annual Reading Round Up
My reading year runs from July to July…not to be difficult but just because July was when I did my first reading round up. You can see my past reading round ups by clicking here – for 2018 click, and for 2019 click and for last year 2020 click.
July ’20 to July ’21
In 2021 I read 84 books. I wasn’t trying to beat my previous year but I did by one book. My goal is just to love and get lost in books…and 84 books is a lot of books to love. Most of my books were read on my Kindle. A dozen or so were in good ole fashioned hardback and paperback. And another dozen or so were Audible books that we enjoy when on our car trips.
I might mention that we do not own a television. A lot of people find that astonishing…but we really have no desire at this time in our lives to have a TV. Instead we read – a lot – thus creating my fourth annual reading round up.
My Reading Year In Review
I wrote 52 book reviews again this year, culling the best of the best from my 84 reads. I rarely write a book review about a book I didn’t like. Since I have so many books to choose from I usually write about only the best. That’s not say I don’t occasionally slam a bad book or boring author…but it’s unusual. If you want to find all the book reviews from 2021 just click on the Reading Wednesday topic on the blog or click here.
My Top Five
Of my 84 books from the past year (July 2020 to July 2021) below I share twenty of my favorites, and five of the best. It was really hard for me this year to choose twenty favorites….I loved so many of the great books I read this year. But choose I did and they are listed here, beginning with my top five in order of the best in my opinion. Here you go;
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel – You know it’s something special when a book ends and you just can’t stop thinking about it. My heart was heavy when this remarkable novel ended…I loved it. Mantel is a brilliant storyteller and we are transported to 16th century England and the court of Henry VIII.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab– We have all read or at least heard of stories where the protagonist sells their soul to the devil. We have also had a variety of books available over the decades about time travel. In addition there are so many books floating around out there about magic and curses, witches and spells. But here in V.E. Schwab’s remarkably unique novel we find a beautiful, touching, sad but heartfelt story that covers all of these topics.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri – Books about war and war refugees are certainly not rare. But this story is incredibly rare as it deals with the plight of the worn torn region of Syria and the dangerous and nearly impossible lives of refugees trying to get to Europe.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – Written in 2001, Peace Like a River is the story of Reuben Land and his family and their small town life. Once again, Enger’s character development is perfection, as we fall quickly in love with Reuben, his brother Davy, sister Swede and father Jeremiah – a miracle worker in Reuben’s mind. The family finds itself on a cross-country trek in search of outlaw brother Davy, after a murder takes place. The journey include miracles and adventure and tests the family’s faith to it’s core. Along the way the family will befriend strangers who touch their lives and find peace like a river in family, friends, love and faith.
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger Virgil Wander nearly dies in a car accident, only to come out of the experience with a new life awakening. As he heals he begins to notice more clearly people and things in his small Midwestern town life. Given the small town setting, as you might expect, Virgil’s story is accompanied by a wide range of characters that Enger brilliantly develops. In fact the character development of this cast is one of my favorite things about this story; from the sudden appearance of Rune, a kite flying old man, or the reappearance of the town’s prodigal son Adam Leer, to the life-long residents like down on his luck Jerry, town drunk Shad, widow Nadine and Mayor Lydia. These are the people who make the plot of Virgil Wander unfold in a humorous and captivating way.
Fifteen More Favorites
And fifteen more I adored and couldn’t put down in no particular order;
Read for Joy, Read for Understanding, Read for Life
I hope you enjoyed my fourth annual reading round up. Reading has made me a better human being. A more caring, patient, understanding and tolerant person. Reading and travel provide me so much insight into our tiny planet and the people and cultures who share this space. If you can’t travel I beg you to read. Explore different cultures, religions, histories and stories through books. I guarantee you will become more empathetic, more aware, more curious and a better earth steward through books. And if that happens, my work is done here.
I read this book in one setting…well it was a long setting, a seven hour plane ride. But I read it cover to cover and enjoyed it. Here is my book review Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.
Recently I have read a few books with a similar theme of families or individuals who learn a secret about their family that unravels everything they were taught, everything they believed, everything they thought was the truth. Unsettled Ground is one of these stories.
Julius and Jeanie are 51-year-old twins who still live at home with their mother Dot. Their father was murdered when they were just children. Their mother Dot has protected them from the real world, keeping them home and living a subsistence life. The grow their own food and live on the poverty line.
But when Dot dies unexpectedly, Julius and Jeanie have no income, no family, and no friends. Then their landlord takes their cottage when they can’t pay back rent. As Julius tries everything he can think of to protect his painfully shy sister while finding a life of his own.
Slowly their world begins to unravel as they learn of secrets their mother has kept, unpaid debts, and lies that will shake the core of everything they thought was the truth.
Fuller’s novel exposes the core of a mother who tries to protect her children while weaving a life of hardship and survival only to fail her children miserably in the end. This is a story of survival and starting over. I hope you enjoyed my book review Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.
****Four Stars for Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
Such a fun story. A quick and easy read, and for anyone who grew up in the sixties and the seventies rock and roll period, a must read. Here is my book review Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Reid creates a fictional tale (but loosely based on real characters) of the whirlwind rise of an iconic rock band, thier gorgeous, carefree and talented lead singer, and the “handlers” and promoters who make it all happen.
Raucous and heedless Daisy Jones is young teen without parental supervision who, though underage, frequents the LA club scene fraught with drugs and alcohol and rock and roll in the early 1970’s. Eventually she will connect with the up and coming rock band known as The Six and they all will skyrocket to fame and success.
But it all comes crashing down when success takes it toll, mixed with an abundance of drugs and alcohol leading to addiction. But underlying it all is a simmering love story and a sad fate for young kids thrust into a world out of their control.
*****I really enjoyed Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Five Stars.
I loved this book. It was a page turner for me. Without planning to, I have read several books recently based in Korea or Japan. See my review of Fifty Words for Rain, and one of my favorite books this year Pachinko. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See is also one of my favorite reads this year. Here is my book review of The Island of Sea Women.
Lisa See is also the author of Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (as well as others) a book I really enjoyed last year. In the Island of Sea Women, See takes us to Korea, and the tiny island of Jeju just off the south tip of the Korean Peninsula.
Here we meet two young girls from very different backgrounds whose destinies will be entwined for all of their days; from Japanese colonialism, through WWII, the Korean War and into the modern era. These young girls, their ancestors and neighbors are the Sea Women, a remarkable group of women who dive the icy cold waters for food to sustain them, their families and thier futures.
In a changing world, this ancient culture will face so many challenges in the modern era, many challenges that will break friendships and families and hearts. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Island of Sea Women. It’s one of my favorite reads in the past several months.
Five generations of women bring this story to life in the olive orchards of northern California. But secrets and genetics come together in this beautifully told story of family ties and a life well lived. Here is my book review of The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo.
Santo introduces us to the matriarch of the family, 112 year old great-grandmother who is a spry as anyone half her age. Four generations of women below her struggle with life in each her own way, as the story unfolds and we learn about love, longevity and the tricks our minds can play on us with memories.
In an effort to be in the Guiness Book of World Records, the incredible genetic story of our matriarch opens a dark secret of the past, bringing to light what does it really mean to be family, and how does our genetic makeup define our health and happiness throughout our lives?
I really enjoyed this story and hope to read more by Courtney Miller Santo.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo.
A year end review of reading. I did it. I set a goal last July to read 75 books in a year. And I did it, I read 83 books. Nearly all these books I read on Kindle while we were traveling. A couple were on Audible and a few were good old fashioned paperbacks. I enjoy books in all three applications.
Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve found it a bit difficult to stay focused on a book. My mind wanders a lot. But I still was able to meet my goal, and I also wrote one book review blog a week over the past year.
I don’t think I’ll set a goal for next year. I’m just gonna read for the love of reading. We can see a year from now how that turned out.
I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life. If I can inspire you to get lost in a book, my job is done here. And hopefully a year end review of reading can do just that.
Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 83. 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.
For a year end review of reading 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 Immoralists by Chloe Benjamen – if you were told when you were a child the exact day you would die, how might it affect everything about your life? So is the question Benjamen explores in the brilliant and unique novel The Immoralists. I loved this story.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – Just after the end of WWII a young, unmarried and pregnant Charlie goes in search of her missing cousin in Europe. Her search will lead her to horror stories of the war and eventually to her true family and friends. I loved this book.
11/22/63 by Stephen King – I never read Stephen King so I was shocked to find that this story became one of my favorite reads ever. Not just about the assassination of JFK on 11/22/63, but an unequaled time travel book about the choices we might consider if we could go back and change history – would we do it and what would the consequences be. I loved this book.
The Testaments – by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale continues to rank as one of my favorite books of all time, even after 30 years. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that I waited for the release of the sequel (finally). It was worth the wait. Every bit as compelling and incomparable, even pulling in some subtle nods to the politics of the USA in 2020. I loved this book.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd – Kidd’s bold re-telling of the story of Jesus once again shows her chutzpa as a writer, her creative ability and incomparable talent to take the reader on a well-worn journey with an absolutely fascinating new twist. I love Kidd’s work and The Book of Longings did not dissapoint. I loved this book.
It was hard for me to only choose five for the list above. Because there were so many good ones this year. Here are 14 more of the very best from the 83 books I finished this year.
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