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book review

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

    Wow. Just wow. I am ignorant in the history of the Central Europe country of Georgia, even though my husband and I have it on our travel list soon. But this book, really opened my eyes to the former Soviet country, and the difficult transition it made after communism. Here is my book review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili.

    Tbilisi Georgia

    Vardiashvili’s first novel is not a biography, although he, like the novels protagonist, fled Georgia in the early 1990’s for London as a young boy. The novel introduces us to Saba, his brother Sandro and his father Irakli, who fled Georgia together leaving their mother behind. The plan was to get the mother out as soon as enough money could be saved for her counterfeit papers to be bought.

    But that never happens. London is harder than Irakli can manage. Barely earning enough to keep a roof over the heads of himself and his two boys. Years go by. Decades. Irakli threatens many times he is going back to get her. He never does. But then, he steps on the plane.


    Irakli disappears. The last communication the boys get is “don’t follow.” Sandro flies to Tbilisi and also disappears. This leaves Saba, guilt ridden and afraid, in London. He has no one he can turn to in either London or Georgia. He takes the plunge, despite getting a warning at the airport from a stranger not to get on the plane, he does anyway.

    Danger at Every Turn

    Saba’s passport is confiscated at the airport. The first sign that he is being watched. Saba, exhausted with no plan, gets a taxi where he meets Nodar. Nodar will become his local guide, friend, and ultimately sacrifice himself for the cause of Saba and the corrupt and violent Georgia.

    The novel is violent yet humorous. It keeps you on your toes throughout as Saba searches for his brother and his father and tries to understand this country that he fled. Most everyone he left behind is dead, but he encounters a few old “friends”, follows a poetic and cryptic trail of clues left by his brother, meets quietly supportive new friends who help him dodge police and harm.

    In the end, he is left with unexpected results and feelings about Georgia and his life back in London.

    Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

    I thought this was a great story. Intense. Raw. But I loved the commitment this young man has for his family. He grows in this book. I liked that. It’s not an easy book. It certainly made me even more interested in seeing and learning about Georgia in the near future.

    *****Five stars for Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili. See last week’s book review Northwoods by Daniel Mason. We love it when you comment, pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review James by Percival Everett

    If you read Huckleberry Finn when you were a child, or even as an adult, you may have thought of the slave Jim as a rather minor character. Percival Everett sees it differently, writing an amazing novel of the Huckleberry Finn story but his time, from the viewpoint of Jim. Here is my book review James by Percival Everett.

    Mark Twain

    I think Twain would approve of this incredible retake on Huckleberry Finn through the eyes and voice of slave Jim (James). Considering Twain’s book Huckleberry Finn was written in 140 ago in 1884, Twain would surely see the genius of Everett’s modern-day twist.


    When Slave Jim learns he is about to be sold, he lets out to hide and becomes a wanted runaway. When Huckleberry Finn fakes his own murder Jim becomes a suspect. And of course if you know the Huck Finn story the two will make their way down the Mississippi River and engage in a variety of dangerous adventures.

    Bringing the story around to Jim’s view, we are presented with a multitude of new ideas about James and slaves in general, during this period just prior to the Civil War. Everett creates a deep and intelligent human in Jim’s story, so different to the quiet and stupid character portrayed by Twain. As James tries to make his way to freedom, and to free his family as well, the character brims with compassion and anger, reason and fear, creativity and empathy. And most of all bravery.

    Book Review James by Percival Everett

    This new release and Pulitzer Prize finalist is bound to become an American classic. You must read James by Percival Everett. *****Five stars for James by Percival Everett.

    See last week’s book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thanks for reading my book review James by Percival Everett for this week’s Reading Wednesday.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    The Story of One Man’s Personal Pandemic Battle

    Throughout the world, each person’s individual experience with the global pandemic was different. Many people felt anger, fear, helpless. Others dug in for a long haul and tried to stay positive. Children and young adults suffered sadness and loss. This debut novel by Rustin Thompson is one man’s story of desperation. It is raw and will resonate with many. Here is my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Covid in 2072

    Thompson starts the novel in 2072. More than fifty years have passed since Covid One and the planet is now under the siege of Covid Four. The pandemic has never really gone away, and tens of millions have died, mostly those unvaccinated. This world fifty years in the future was partially foretold by writers after the 2020 Pandemic. But at the time, these writers could not find a publisher. No one wanted to read about what they had just lived through. But fifty years on, one man’s story is told. The story of little known author Richard Duvall.

    Covid in 2020

    Richard Duvall finds his life in limbo, feeling unconnected, immaterial and depressed. Suicide has crossed his mind. The pandemic has really hit home in Seattle and Richard and his wife Beth are feeling the pinch. Already suffering malaise as a sixty-something man battling a sense of irrelevance, the pandemic brings Richard to the brink.

    Richard’s tiny bubble of family, a handful of friends and a couple of neighbors is what keeps him going while political stupidity flows like a river through the United States.

    Covid and Mental Health

    It’s no secret how many people throughout the drama of the pandemic had similar feelings as our protagonist Richard. Even four years on, mental health issues related to the pandemic persist. As do ongoing staffing issues, economic issues and supply issues. Hard Times in Babylon made me think more deeply about my own personal experiences of the Pandemic. Though I never felt suicidal I certainly had fears. I feared for the collapse of my country. I feared for the collapse of the banking system and supply chain. And I definitely feared for my children and their futures. Addressing these fears and acknowledging that other people suffered similarly is a good tool to healing.

    History Repeats

    For thousands of years plagues of all kinds have taken entire populations. And yet, life goes on. Books like Cloud Cuckoo Land and Station Eleven, two of my favorites, look at how past and future generations deal with fear, hunger, violence, plague, anarchy and life expectancy. Despite Covid and our current unstable political situation, we still are living in some of the best of times. What comes next? Thompson ends his book in 2072 with a frightening speculative scenario about Covid Four. But will Richard Duvall survive Covid One as he teeters on the edge of depression and personal tormoil? His story in 2020 ends with a hopeful phrase;

    So much life. All around us. So much life.

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    Thank you for reading my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thompson is a Seattle based author and has self-published this first novel. I have known him and his wife for many years. Getting published is a difficult task and I congratulate him on his efforts.

    *****Five stars for Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Read last week’s book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. We love it when you comment, share and pin our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay

    Like many novels, Reay creates two separate story timeliness to propel this Cold War story forward; one that begins in 1954 and one that begins in 1980. Here is my book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay.

    Vienna after the War

    Ingrid Bauer has lost everything and everyone she loves. Her beloved Vienna is in shambles. And so she agrees to a brief courtship and marriage to a Soviet embassy worker and they move back to Moscow where he accepts a promotion.

    But timid Ingrid finds everything about the Soviet regime difficult. Including her husband who she now suspects is working for the KGB. When she gives birth to a daughter, she realizes this secretive Soviet world is not what she wants for this darling little baby to grow up with. And so she secretly reaches out to the British embassy, where she was secretly born, and begins a life as a spy.

    Moscow at the Height of the Cold War

    Anya, a bright and aspiring student from the Soviet Union, has spent four years in the coveted Foreign Studies Initiative at Georgetown University. During her time in the USA she has pretended to be German, because the USSR and the USA are definitely not friends. She has also fallen in love with an American, although she knows she must cut the relationship off, as her time to return to the Soviet Union approaches.

    Anya struggles after she returns, and begins to question the oppressive regime. When her best friend is murdered by the KGB, Anya vows revenge and becomes a spy for the United States.

    On a Collision Course

    As these two stories unfold, it’s clear these two remarkable women are headed for a collision course. But what does that mean? When a act of treachery in Eastern Europe puts them both in extreme danger, something, or someone will make a decision that will change everyone’s lives forever.

    Book Review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay

    I really loved this book. I enjoyed a novel about the Cold War era…a topic not often explored. The writing is very good and I was intrigued throughout. *****Five stars for A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay.

    Thanks for reading my book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. See last week’s book review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger here.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    I have enjoyed three other books by William Kent Krueger; Lightning Strike and Ordinary Grace as well as one of my all time favorite reads This Tender Land. Today I present his latest – here is my book review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    Murder in a Small Town

    The theme of a murder in a small town isn’t a new one, but Krueger manages to capture the small town feeling so eloquently in this novel. It’s 1958 and the story begins when the body of the towns wealthy, arrogant and mostly disliked Jimmy Quinn is found in the Alabaster River. But Quinn didn’t drown, he was shot.


    Sherriff Brody Dern begins the investigation, as he deals with his own emotional scars from his time in the war. But he is focused and sees clearly that the murder scene has been set up. But by who? The small town has a surprisingly large cast of characters, given how just about everyone disliked Quinn.

    At the top of the suspect list, at least to most of the racist folks in town, is Noah Bluestone, a WWII Veteran and Native American. Bluestone’s Japanese wife, who is also discriminated against in the post-war era is also a suspect.

    Throughout the investigation Brody is assisted by a former deputy, an eccentric attorney, and a newspaper editor, each dealing with their own demons and life tragedies. Quinn’s family is also suspect, none of them seeming overly grief stricken about the murder of Jimmy Quinn.


    Can this highly charged murder get a fair trial in a small town such as Jewell Minnisota? Only a few level headed townspeople as well as two teenage boys can keep an open mind as the investigation comes to a violent end.

    Book Review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    Although not my favorite Krueger novel, this book captured by attention and was easy to read. Five stars for A River We Remember. See last week’s book review Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer

    Thanks for reading my book review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger. We love it when you comment, pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers

    This is a powerful telling of three generations of Yanktonai Dakota Native American Women over multiple generations. Disturbing but also important, like other books about the horrific treatment of Native peoples during the early years of USA expansion. Here is my book review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers.


    Powers using dolls to tell this story…three dolls that belonged to three different generations of women. Each doll propelling the story forward of the anguish and heartache of these women and their life and loves.

    First we meet Sissy in the early 1960’s as she tries to make her mother love her. Sissy wants to feel secure and safe, but her mother is battling her own demons. Sissy’s doll Ethel might save her life.

    Next we meet Lillian, who has witnessed the unthinkable at the hands of a nun in an Indian School in the 1920’s far from her family she loves. Lillian will lose two people she loves the most, and her doll Mae will try to ease the pain.

    And finally we meet Cora, born in 1888 her life will be upended at the end of the Indian Wars when she is transferred to an Indian School. On arrival her most precious items will be taken from her and burned, including her doll Winona. The spirit of Winona will guide Cora through the tragedies that will come.

    This is a powerful story of the generations of grief and pain that will forever haunt the people who witnessed the massacre of a people at the hands of white run, Christian boarding schools that have still to this day not apologized or provided restitution for the damage and death that was dealt.

    *****Five stars for The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers.

    Thank you for reading my book review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers. See last week’s book review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim.

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

    Parts of this book I loved, in particular the focus on a family with a disabled child who doesn’t speak. But other parts of it I just didn’t love, in particular the portrayal of police detective as dishonest and a few too many coincidences to keep the plot moving forward. But you will need to decide for yourself. Here is my book review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim.


    The book is placed during the pandemic when Mia and her family are on lockdown in their home. Mia, home from college, and her twin brother John, have returned to the family home where their bi-racial parents (Mom Hannah Korean and Dad Adam Caucasian) live with their disabled brother Eugene. The family has dealt with eleven -year- old Eugene’s severe disability of Angelman Syndrome and Autism. Eurgene does not speak. This is the families biggest crisis to date – the constant care of Eugene. And then there is a little thing called the Pandemic. But what happens next is the biggest crisis of all.


    Mia’s father is missing. How long do you wait to call the police when someone is missing? Hindsight is always helpful, but on the day this particular crisis began Mia doesn’t think there is really anything unusual about the fact her father is not home.

    But as the hours and days drag on, clearly this is a major crisis. The last person to see dad Adam was Eugene. But Eugene is unable to communicate. Or is he really? Did Adam know something about communicating with Eugene? Does Eugene’s so called “violent” outbursts mean he is a suspect? Did Eugene attack a police officer or was he trying to communicate?

    Where is Adam?

    The heart of the book is this family and the crisis they are thrust into when Adam does not return home from a day in the park with Eugene. Decisions, or lack of in the first few hours as well as discoveries on Adam’s computer and voice mail will send the family spiraling as they try to understand what has happened to the man they love. Could he possibly have been unfaithful? Disappeared on purpose? Or has he been injured or killed? Where is he?

    This missing person drama is written with an interesting collection of footnotes and multiple genre styles that are unique and propel the reader forward in the story. Kim has a race element and uses the pandemic as part of the plot. As I said before I liked this book, and praise Kim’s research of the subject of Angelman Syndrome. I learned a lot about that. But I just didn’t love the story. Good but not great.

    Four stars for Happiness Falls by Angie Kim.

    Thanks for reading my book review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim. See last week’s book review The Samurais Garden by Gail Tsukiyama.

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