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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

    Book Review Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I listened to this book on Audible. It’s the perfect kind of story for Audible. Colorful and unusual characters were brought to life in this independent, raucous, funny and sad story. A powerful story of hard-scrabble people living off the hard-scrabble land in Appalachia Ohio.

    Helen – young and naive, arrives with her boyfriend following his pie-in-the-sky plans to live off the grid despite the fact that neither he or Helen have any idea what they are doing. He abandons her soon after their arrival.

    Rudy – anti-government, loud and opinionated, Rudy takes Helen on in his lumber and nursery business.

    Karen and Lily – lesbians living on the Women’s Land Trust, they are expecting a child, which means they must leave the Land Trust and find another place to live. Karen is rough and hardworking wants to provide for Lily and the baby while Lily wants a happy and stable home to raise her impending babe.

    Perley – the baby Lily births grows up in a house of women; Mama L (Lily), Mama K (Karen) and “the mean Aunt” Helen. Perley’s imagination and world view as a toddler and a child is rich and wonderful and keeps the disjointed people together – the only family he has ever known.

    But then everything falls apart when Perley wants to go to school, and the makeshift family is exposed to the “system” which believes they are not fit to raise Perley.

    This story is beautifully heartbreaking and will make you stop in your tracks to consider your belief of the true meaning of family, the “well-meaning” of the American social services system, and the stereotype image of the backwoods Applachian people.

    I loved this debut novel by Madeline Ffitch.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Stay and Fight. Read last week’s review of The Alice Network.

    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 Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah

    I had heard a lot about this book over the past few years but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Until my mother-in-law gave it to my husband, with a stack of other wonderful books, as a birthday gift.

    I immediately picked it up before my husband could start it and began to read. Although Ishmael is not a brilliant writer, the story is so compelling and incredible you can’t put it down.

    Born in Sierra Leone in 1981, Ishmael’s young life is rocked at the age of 12 when Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war comes knocking on his door. Over the next five years Ishmael’s incredible story unfolds in the pages of A Long Way Gone as he fights for survival.

    Unlike many, he does survive, but the scars of his existence during the war will never heal. Loosing everybody he loved, Ishmael endures things no one, and certainly not a child, should ever need to endure.

    This extraordinary account of the life of children during bloody civil war should make us all pause and be grateful and then go out and try to make a difference in the world.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

    Read last week’s review of A Room with a View

    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