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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review 11/22/63 by Stephen King

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    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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    Book Review Stephen King's 11/23/63
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I need to preface this review with two things before I can tell you how I feel about this novel;

    First – Gilbert. If you have only read her work Eat Pray Love then in my opinion you don’t really know her work. I HATED Eat Pray Love. Yeah, yeah I know….everybody loved it. I did not. HOWEVER her novel The Signature of All Things is one of the best pieces of fiction I have ever read. And so I know that Gilbert is a talented writer.

    Second – City of Girls is about Sex. A lot of sex. In fact this book is about a woman who LOVES sex. However there is really only one sexual encounter in the story that is descibed in “detail”. Otherwise, the main character in City of Girls just has sex – and a lot of it. If you can’t get past that you won’t like this book. I could get past it and see through it to a character that was lost and searching for love and fulfillment in a period in America where women rarely got both. Gilbert writes the emotions of this story brilliantly. I listened to this book on Audible and it is one of my favorites this year.

    So, Book Review City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her third novel and her fourth book (EAT is a memoir not a novel). In this story we meet Vivian, a very old lady looking back at her life and telling the story of it. We aren’t sure who she is telling the story to, until very late in the book.

    Vivian’s story begins when she is 19 years old in the early 1940’s, has just flunked out of Vassar and her parents have sent her off to her Aunt in New York City, as they have no idea what else to do with her.

    And thus Vivian’s life adventures begin as she is swept up into the theatrical world surrounding the Lily Playhouse run by her Aunt. In the company of risque theater people, actors, actresses, dancers, rich New York patrons she finds herself basically unchaperoned, and living a life she never could have dreamed of.

    Quickly she looses her virginity, falls hard for an actor, betrays a close friend and scandal ensues. She is a survivor however and finds her way back, although never all the way back to some of the people she loved the most but who cannot forgive her.

    In the end, Vivian has a full life, sexual partners too many to count, and is a successful business woman in a very unique way for a women of the time period. And in the end, her life has meaning in an unexpected way as she finds true love, but to a man she can never have sex with or even touch. A lesson here? Definitely.

    I enjoyed the characters, the story and Gilbert’s writing. The plot so completely different than The Signature of All Things, yet similar only in the strong female character busting out of the constraints of the era they were born into.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. Read last week’s review of The Invisible Woman.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    We all know of the life and work of Charles Dickens, in fact two of my all time favorite novels Great Expectations and David Copperfield are the works of Dickens, born in 1812 in England.

    Through out his very public life Dickens carefully crafted his persona as a gentile man of the Victorian era with a wife, family and a marvelous talent to create fictional characters and stories that would endure.

    “Dickens is remembered as one of the most important and influential writers of the 19th century. Among his accomplishments, he has been lauded for providing a stark portrait of the Victorian-era underclass, helping to bring about social change.” – Biography.com

    Front and center during his entire life as a man of virtue – Dickens was leading a double life for more than a decade, as he had a love affair with Ellen “Nelly” Ternen for the last thirteen years of his life.

    With tenacious persistence Dickens and those closest to him managed to efface Nelly Ternen from public record and most all association with Dickens.

    But talented biographer Claire Tomalin sleuths the facts like a well-heeled detective and brings convincing evidence to light about Nelly Ternen’s life, Dickens’ deception and how their affair managed to escape the public’s notice for decades.

    A remarkable tale of both Victorian life for men and women as well as a brilliant story of research and persistence.

    Four stars for The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin. Read last week’s review of A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett.

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    Book Review The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Huntress by Kate Quinn

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    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.

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    Book Review The Huntress by Kate Quinn
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Spectacular novel by very young yet brilliant author Benjamin – her second effort and she really hit it out of the ballpark with The Immortalists.

    I get giddy with bookie happiness when I find a novel with a unique and fresh plot – and that is decidedly what you get with The Immortalists.

    If you were told when you were a child the exact date you would die, how might that information change the way you live? This is the theme of this brilliant family story…a story of children who carry the weight of this knowledge, a story of families with a burden to bare, and a story of a prophecy that will haunt the lives of four siblings for decades.

    Sweeping in both scope and and ambition, Benjamin creates lovable characters, heartfelt and passionate human beings whose lives carry forward trailblazing the deep powerful prediction and what to do with this cognizance.

    The Immortalists core question focuses on the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, religion and afterlife and most of all, family and aging.

    I loved this novel and look forward to reading more by Chloe Benjamin.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Immortalist. Read last week’s review of Pieces of Her.

    Reading Wednesday

    The Birth of Venus (novel) by Sarah Durant

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    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.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    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.

    Read last week’s review of Fall of the Giants