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book review

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

    Such a surprising novel. Published more than 15 years ago, I’m not sure how I have never read this amazing novel. Here is my book review The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

    Non-Fiction or Fantasy?

    A sprawling novel that covers centuries, Kostova’s debut novel was a culmination of a decade of research. Her childhood fantasies about Dracula through stories from her father, compelled her to re-imagine the tales of Vlad the Impaler in this epic novel.

    My friend Merry suggested this book to me, she and I often enjoy the same novels and she was right about this one. Although this story is very long (more than 700 pages) I devoured it and couldn’t put it down.

    Drakulya (Vlad the Impaler)

    Kostova takes the reader through generations as we follow the story of Drakulya; Prince, Warrior, Legend and Vampire. Traversing the globe from the USA to Oxford, throughout Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey and more. This tale follows the handful of characters who find themselves thrust into the duty of lives focused on killing that illusive vampire.

    Honestly if anyone else had told me about this book I probably would have thought it was what “B’ rated movies are made of. But I trust Merry’s review of a book, and so I plunged ahead with this novel. It’s brilliant. The tremendous research that Kostova did makes this fictional tale feel like non-fiction as you are engrossed in this decades long search for the illusive. Her characters are also incredible, and believable, even the character of Vlad himself…who at one point in the story I actually felt sorry for. Kostova is an excellent writing talent, adept at suspense and thrills while creating an exhilarating and intoxicating narrative that spans generations. I loved it.

    Surely I will go in search of more of Kostova’s work in the future. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

    ***** Five Stars for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

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    Read last week’s review A Life Without Water by Marci Bold

    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

    After listening to a few books on Audible about Greek Gods, the Trojan War and a lot bravado…I was in search of something a bit softer. And I definitely found in in the sweet, sad and funny book, a debut novel. Here is my book review The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman.

    The Garden of Small Beginnings

    Although I am a writer, I do not write humor. Writing funny is hard. And it takes a very special talent. And Waxman nailed it in this sad story. This, her debut novel, is not about a funny plot…but she excels at dialogue that brings the reader right into the moment with hilarious quips and chatter. A big shout out too for the Audible reader Emily Rankin. She was a great.

    Lilian is a widow, a young mother with two small girls and a talented illustrator. For the past three years she has struggled to regain her footing in life after she witnesses the death of her husband in a car accident. She doesn’t believe she has the right to ever be happy again. She sees any future happiness as a slight to her husband Dan’s memory.

    New Beginnings

    But when Lilian’s employer asks her to take a gardening class in preparation to illustrate a vegetable gardening book, Lilian is thrust back into the social setting she has abhorred for three years. Here she meets an eclectic group of individuals each with their own mysteries and compassion, talents and foibles. The diverse group soon becomes close friends as they plant and bloom, and Lilian becomes even closer friends with the instructor, Edward Bloem. Edward’s family owns the European Bloem Seed Company the company Libby is illustrating the book for.

    Well of course there are many twists and turns, happy and sad moments and lots of plants and flowers as the gardening class individually and as a group all find their passions and small beginnings.

    I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it on Audible too. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. I look forward to what she does next.

    *****Five Stars for The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

    See last week’s review of Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker.

    My current read The Descendents

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker

    This book was written by a local author in the town where I live. I was asked to read this book, which sometimes can be a little tricky…but not this time. I really enjoyed this unique story. Here is my book review Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker.

    Location

    I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and on the Kitsap Peninsula. And, as you probably know, I also LOVE Hawaii and spend as much time there as possible. So when I realized this story was based in these two locations I quickly was intrigued.

    Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods

    Walker creates a well-developed cast of characters who befriend Eve Sorenson on the island of Oahu when she arrives to care for her dying aunt. Aunt Meg has lived on Oahu for thirty years. Her seventy-year-old body is failing her, and she asks Eve to care for her in her end of life. But Meg is no push-over…she calls the shots and Eve who adores her is up to the task, including writing her aunt’s memoir.

    But Eve has left a complicated list of catastrophes behind back home on the Kitsap Peninsula when she answers her aunt’s call to come to Hawaii. Everything from an accusation from a student, a 15-year old son with usual 15-year old problems, a jerk ex-husband and a deep sadness for the recent loss of her father and the family home she grew up in.

    Spirits and Ghost Gods

    On Eve’s first day in Oahu she goes to the Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii where she encounters a white dog. The dog leads her to a man who has fallen into a ravine and is injured and near death. After the rescue the dog has disappeared. Was the dog real? Or a spirit to help her find the man? Are the dancing lights around the man Hawaiian spirits? Are the tiny Menehuna forest people present and involved in the rescue? And why does Eve keep seeing her father’s eyes in the man’s face.

    This encounter will build the plot of this book that explores the Hawaiian myths and legends; the idea that our paths and choices may not always be our own; and how finding family and friends in the most unexpected places can change our lives forever.

    Healing

    The well researched and written Hawaiian historical and cultural information in the book meld beautifully into the plot of this story. I particularly liked how the book discussed life and death, afterlife and how different cultures view passing differently. I also enjoyed the healing nature of both Meg’s end of life journey and Eve’s emotional one with her beloved aunt and her son.

    An overriding theme in the book is the role flora plays in both the Hawaiian and the Pacific Northwest lifestyle.

    Surprise

    You won’t find this book on Reese Witherspoon’s list of the Oprah Book Club…but don’t let that put you off. Like the characters in this book the unexpected things we find when we aren’t even searching are sometimes the best. That is the way with Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods.

    I hope you enjoyed my book review Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker.

    ****Four stars for Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker

    See last week’s review of Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

    My current read The Women in Black

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

    This is a really great book, especially for me growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where when I was a child logging was still very much a way of life. Here is my book review Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson.

    The year is 1977, the place Damnation Grove, California, where for generations fathers and sons have cut the Redwood timber for the Sanderson Timber Company. Rich Gunderson and his wife Colleen eek out a living but Rich wants more for his wife and young son.

    Colleen, who has experienced eight miscarriages also is searching for more…another baby, and better communication with her husband. Colleen’s unconventional sister Enid seems to drop out a baby everytime she turns around and Colleen finds the unfairness of it all stiffling.

    Daniel, a former boyfriend of Colleen’s arrives in town to research how the decades of herbicide spraying is contaminating the soil, the water and the people. Loggers and their families scoff at the research, saying if the herbicides were dangerous the government wouldn’t allow them to be sprayed.

    But when bees die, children are born malformed, cancer runs amuck and Colleen has another miscarriage, she begins to believe in the message Daniel is trying to spread.

    Set amidst a changing time in the lumber industry and in our country, Damnation Spring is a story of a vanishing way of life, family and tradition, big money and bribery and of course, the beginnings of the EPA. Told through the eyes of Rich, Colleen and Chub in believable and beautifully written chapters, Damnation Spring is a book you won’t be able to put down.

    *****Five stars for Davidson’s debut novel, Damnation Spring. I hope you enjoyed my book review Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson.

    Read last week’s review Run by Ann Patchett

    My current read The Warmth of Other Suns

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Run by Ann Patchett

    This is one of Patchett’s older novels, published in 2007. It’s another gem I found in my neighborhood’s “little library”. Although not my favorite of Patchett’s work, I did enjoy this family story. Here is my book review Run by Ann Patchett.

    There is a lot going on in this book. Beginning with a statue of the Virgin Mary, a family heirloom cherished for it’s family resemblance. But is the story behind this family piece true?

    Bernard Doyle is the former Mayor of Boston. He has one biological son, who has been in and out of trouble, and two adopted sons who are brothers. They are also black.

    Four years after adopting Tip and Teddy, Doyle’s wife Bernadette dies. He is left to raise the three boys. Sixteen years later, on a cold snowy night, Tip is nearly killed when he steps out into the path of an oncoming vehicle. He is saved by a bystander who pushes him out of harms way. The black women named Tennessee, is seemingly a stranger. But as the story develops we learn she has much to do with this family, and knows everything about them.

    Tennessee’s daughter Kenya is taken in by the Doyle’s while her mother is in the hospital. And it becomes clear that Kenya and Tennessee are family to Tip and Teddy. How will this tale come together? A few unique twists at the end I did not see coming, but in true Patchett fashion she weaves a story of family and faith, race and politics and particularly how close the have’s and the have-not’s live in a world of invisible people. I hope you enjoyed my book review Run by Ann Patchett.

    ****Four stars for Run by Ann Patchett

    Read last week’s review of A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

    My current read Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

    There are conflicted readers about this book. But I am not one of those. I absolutely loved this tale and recommend it to everyone. Here is my book review A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes.

    For some reason, I have been on a bit of a Trojan War kick….unplanned but nonetheless. Of the three Trojan War books I have tackled in the past few months (this one plus The Iliad and The Song of Achilles), A Thousand Ships was my favorite and had me riveted.

    I was not familiar with Haynes, who is a British journalist, comedian and classicist. No matter, I am now very familiar with her work, and this another retelling of that age-old story of the Trojan War. Haynes however takes a fictional look at the women in this war….those who are never mentioned in the Iliad, but who fight, suffer and defend their husbands, families, cities and way of life.

    The story of the Trojan War begins with three goddesses competing with each other…creating the consequences that lead to this war. This war of men fighting for a women, Helen, who most soldiers don’t know or never will know. The women we meet in this story and who’s stories are told are everyone from the Queen of Troy to slaves and concubines. Penelope the wife of Odysseus to the nymph Oenone. And of course the goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, Athena and more.

    This great war through the eyes of the women who lived and died through it. A fabulous retelling. I hope you enjoyed my book review A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes.

    *****Five Stars for A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

    Read last week’s review of The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

    My current read The Warmth of Other Suns

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

    I’ve had this book in my to-be-read pile for months. I finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. Tan is a wonderful writer. The Bonesetter’s Daughter isn’t as fabulous as The Joy Luck Club, but it is really a wonderful story. Here is my book review The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan.

    I recently reviewed a book called What We Carry that explored a mother daughter relationship as the mother spirals into the Alzehiemers abyss. Without even realizing it when I purchased this book, The Bonesetter’s Daughter has a similar theme.

    The story unfolds as Ruth Young as an adult women continues to deal with a difficult relationship she has always had with her widowed mother LuLing. Her mother gives her some writings about her life in China that she wants Ruth to read. But the writings are in Chinese and she doesn’t get around to interpreting them for several years.

    But Ruth begins to realize that her mother’s health is precarious, and that she has memory problems and possible dementia. While Ruth also deals with a difficult personal relationship with her partner, she begins to unravel stories about her mother’s past in China that she never knew. The writings open up an entire world of life in the village of Immortal Heart, a life of hardship, betrayal and a curse.

    Through these writings Ruth discovers a women in her mother that she never knew existed. She learns about the true paternity of her mother, and also about the Chinese myths her mother uses to explain everything in daily life. LuLing is The Bonesetter’s Daughter and her heartbreaking story and the story of the human spirit must be told. And it is, in The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

    ****Four Stars for The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

    I hope you enjoyed my Book Review The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

    Read last week’s review of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

    My current read Damnation Springs

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