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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    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.

    Five stars for Fall of Giants. Read last week’s review of Stay and Fight.

    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Round Up

    52 Books in 52 Weeks!

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    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.

    So since late July 2018 I have read 52 books, and I have written about each one. You can find the entire book review collection in the Reading Wednesday section of this blog (just click).

    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.

    (Note: I’m trying to build our email following. Can you subscribe to our blog please?)

    Top Five of the Year

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

    And 12 More I Really Enjoyed;

    Murmur of Bees by Sofia Sergovia

    The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa Lee

    Five Presidents by Clint Hill

    The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

    The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

    Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

    The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhader

    Thanks for reading, sharing and loving these books! Pin it for future reference!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    One of the best books I’ve read since The Dovekeepers, and similar in style. This beautifully written and Homeric first novel by Joukadar is poetic and powerful. I enjoyed every word.

    Similar to works by Houssein about Afghanistan, Joukhadar takes us to ancient Syria and present day war torn Syria in a melodic tale that weaves fact and fiction, myth and legend, family and heartbreak.

    The story follows two young girls in alternating timelines, one traveling and posing as a boy in ancient Syria on a mapmaking odyssey reminiscent of Homer. The other a young girl posing as a boy to survive crossing multiple borders in war torn present day Middle East North Africa along a similar route to survive the horrific and brutal destruction of her families home country.

    A remarkably told story, gripping and beautiful. I highly recommend this debut novel. I learned a lot about Syria both past and present and have a greater appreciation of the devastation for the innocent victims of this violent situation. I look forward to more works by Joukhadar.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar.

    Read last week’s review of A Long Way Gone.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I had never read this classic and popular story by E.M. Forster but I had definitely seen the 1985 Merchant Ivory film adaptation (glorious) and have also seen the play adaptation on stage ( which includes the full skinny dip scene – hilarious).

    Reading the book however I found a bit more difficult, wading through the English tendency to talk in circles.  The story of a young English girl looks at the social class structure of England as it began to shift in the early part of the 20th century.

    Like other similarly written stories of the time, a strong-willed but naive young woman (Miss Honeychurch) walks the reader through a series of events beginning in Florence Italy, continuing on to Rome and returning back to England.  The events look at the sometimes ridiculous social etiquette of the era, with a lot of romance, confusion and sometimes long drawn out English conversations.

    Both sweet and funny, with one of the funniest scenes in literature playing out when the young ladies happen upon  the young men skinny dipping in the pond, the comedy of errors is a fun if sometimes slow read, but a classic to be enjoyed.

    Four stars for A Room with a View by E.M. Forster.

    Read last week’s review of Florida.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Florida by Lauren Groff

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Florida by Lauren Goff

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I picked this book up in an airport to read on the plane.  And I read almost the entire book on just one four-hour flight.

    I had never heard of Lauren Groff but she has some full length novels.  This book however is a collection of short stories, all based in Florida or about Floridians.  Having recently spent a lot of time in Florida I found it really interesting, and Groff’s writing style poetic.  In fact since finishing this book I have read reviews of her other works, not all favorable.  But she seems to have a unique quality as a short story writer.  Each story creating engaging characters and sometimes gripping scenarios.  Stories of snakes and boys, abandonment and small girls, adults with issues, families in despair.

    Florida is as unique and diverse as the state itself and I enjoyed this easy and beautifully written collection.

    Four stars for Florida by Lauren Groff

    Read last week’s review of The Murmur of Bees.

    Please share our blog with others who love to read! Book Review Florida by Lauren Goff

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I took advantage of Amazon’s free book download a couple of months ago, in celebration of International Book Day.  As they did last year, Amazon offered up several books by international authors for free.  I downloaded about a dozen books, and The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia was the first one I read.

    You might think a free book would be bad.  Not.

    I really loved this book and this story by Mexican author Segovia.

    Segovia brings the reader to pre-revolution Mexico, where landowners and tenant farmers, corrupt politicians and revolutionaries are walking a fine line of survival and power in early 1900’s.

    The Morales family is a hard-working and upstanding family with generations of land ownership being handed down from father to son.  But their lives will be forever changed when anciently old Nana Reja discovers a newborn baby…a child with mysterious ways and the power to change everyone’s lives forever.

    Segovia’s talent for story telling and use of some third person chapters and some first person chapters creates a lovely rhythm to the book and you will find yourself lulled into the characters and their lives and in particular the peculiar and fascinating child named Simonopia.

    Like the swirling bees that follow Simonopia everywhere he goes, this book buzzes with the frenzy of the developing plot, believable characters, stunning narrative describing the rich and beautiful scenery and most of all the love and sacrifice of family.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five stars for The Murmur of Bees by Sophia Segovia.

    Read last week’s review of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Although I enjoyed this story, I expected a bit more, given how long I was on the wait list to get this book from the library.

    It’s good.  Just not great.  The best part for me was learning about a particular minority ethnic group in China I was not familiar with.

    The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See is a compelling story of the remote Akha mountain people of China.  The Akha in 1988 when the story begins, are still a very superstitious and traditional people, living a poor existence in their remote region with little food, power or plumbing.  Their traditions and tea farming life go back thousands of years and have changed little over the centuries.

    But slowly the modern world approaches and the long-established customs of these people are challenged in every way possible.  The book follows the life of Li-yan, a girl from a family of tea farmers.  It is her generation that will be directly affected by the challenges to the conventional and somewhat ignorant way of life, and the encroachment of the modern world.

    Li-yan faces scandal and gives up a baby girl, then leaves the village to go to college and eventually becomes a highly successful tea broker.  Back in the village life is changing dramatically as the cultivation of the now highly prized Pu’er tea is making all the village extremely wealthy.

    But Li-yan never forgets the daughter she abandoned and wonders about her always.

    It’s not too hard to come up with how this will end, and a few too many coincidences bring it all together in the end.

    But the book is interesting for the education I received about the very lucrative world of tea, the fascinating culture of the Akha, and the heart-tugging topic of the one-child society of China.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel, by Lisa See

    Read last week’s review of The Altruist.