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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review 12 Trips in 12 Months by Jen Ruiz

    Jen Ruiz is a travel blogger like me, who I have followed online for the past couple of years. Jen’s travel story is much different than ours, mostly in that she is single and in her thirties. But the basis of her book is about how she set out to travel once a month during the year she was about to turn 30. She documents how she pulled it off and how it changed her life. Here is my book review 12 Trips in 12 Months by Jen Ruiz.

    As I Always Say

    As I always say, full time travel is not for everyone. We began our travel life after retirement in our late fifties. Jen, like many young professionals, was struggling with career, relationships and searching for something…she found it with travel.

    Success

    Our standards for women, even today, scrutinizes those who haven’t achieved success by being a wife and mother. Despite Jen being a successful attorney, she felt unfulfilled with this pressure of society. When another relationship failed, she was left holding plane tickets and decided to go for it. Without much thought, she found herself solo in Greece. And so it began.

    Learning Curve

    The travel life has a pretty steep learning curve…don’t I know it. And for Jen she was solo and female which presents additional challenges. But despite a few mistakes, her Greek adventure gave her the confidence to set out on 12 trips in 12 months as I way to finish off her final year of her twenties.

    And in fact, during that year she actually ended up taking 20 trips…using vacation, long weekends and most o her sick days. By the end of the year it was clear to Jen she wanted to walk away from her career and find a new life as a travel writer. And here she is today.

    Inspiring

    Jen’s journey may look different than what many people are searching for, but you can draw inspiration particularly in regards to the courage and introspection it takes to challenge yourself and live outside the box…something I have lived and loved successfully myself.

    Book Review 12 Trips in 12 Months by Jen Ruiz

    Thanks for reading this week’s book review 12 Trips in 12 Months by Jen Ruiz. Follow Jen @jenonajetplane

    See last week’s book review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

    What a story. Short, easy to read non-fiction, yet engrossing and feels like a true crime novel. I was captivated. Here is my Book Review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

    Birds of a Feather

    Since I fancy myself an amateur birdwatcher, this book really captivated me with some of the history of the fashion rage of the 1800’s that made many birds extinct or nearly. This part of the story will make me even more keenly aware, as we bird watch endangered aviary around the world. Johnson takes the reader through historical accounts from Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory’s to climate change and extinction. This, side by side with a remarkable tale of one man’s obsession with feathers, fly-tying and obtaining rare and illegal bird skins.

    Who is Edwin Rist

    This is a true story, but so absurd it is hard to believe. Much of this book reminded me of The Art Thief by Michael Finkle which is also a true story of a brilliant yet deranged young man named Stephane Breitwieser who gets away with stealing art from museums for years.

    Edwin Rist, the young man in the Feather Thief, is a brilliant, flutist and champion fly-tyer. Rist decides to break into the British Natural History Museum in Tring, where he single handedly steals nearly 300 birds from the rare and priceless bird collection. All in one night.

    Why Steal Dead Birds?

    Rist had become deeply engaged in the obsessive world of salmon fly-tyers, an industry of men who will pay significant dollars to obtain the feathers they covet for their art of fly-tying. Rist shamelessly steals the birds, sells the feathers and the skins of some of the rarest and oldest specimens on the planet. With no remorse.

    Kirk W. Johnson will himself become obsessed with Rist and the heist and the pursuit of justice. Johnson will spend years researching the files, looking for the missing birds and eventually interviewing Rist himself. The culmination will be this bizarre story of this shocking crime and the man with singular obsession with feathers who gets away with the crime.

    *****Five stars for The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

    See last week’s book review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

    In 1962, a family of Mi’kmaq Indigenous Canadians, on their annual summer trip from Nova Scotia to Maine to earn money picking berries, experience a family tragedy. The disappearance of the youngest child, four-year old Ruthie, will catapult the family and each member into a life of regret, sorry and hope. Here is my book review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters.

    No Trace

    A tiny girl disappears into thin air. Where has she gone? The search goes on for weeks. Distraught and losing hope, each member of the family handles the loss differently. They return to Nova Scotia, vowing never to work in Maine again.

    But as the years go by, some of Ruthie’s siblings believe she is still alive. While one brother, who can’t forgive himself for taking his eyes off of her for one minute, spirals out of control in sorrow, addiction and personal demons.

    Who Is Norma

    Norma is growing up in an affluent family in Maine with a ridiculously overprotective mother, who smothers her with love and guilt. Norma’s father is distant and refuses to help Norma get out from under her mother’s watchful eye. Only her aunt understands and tries to help Norma deal with her mother’s burdensome love.

    The Story Unfolds

    It’s easy to guess at what is going to happen in this missing person story that pits a poor indigenous family against affluent white Americans. Nearly fifty years pass in this story, with an ending that is less than satisfying, and a plot with many flawed and unrealistic details.

    Liked didn’t love though I learned some interesting things about the indigenous people of Nova Scotia. Thanks for reading my book review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters.

    ***Three stars for The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

    Read other Native American stories like my book review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger and book review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers

    See last week’s book review The Women by Kristin Hannah.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Women by Kristin Hannah

    Kristin Hannah has become a powerhouse of strong female character novels, and her latest, The Women continues that theme. I have both loved and liked her work over the years, but my favorites have not always been her top sellers. For instance, I didn’t love The Four Winds (a huge success for her), but I really liked The Great Alone, not as popular as The Four Winds or The Nightingale. But all that said – I have a new favorite. Here is my book review The Women by Kristin Hannah.

    1960’s

    Hannah places the reader in the idyllic California community of Coronado, where we meet Frankie (Frances). Frankie and her brother Finn have grown up with conservative parents, and a patriotic, traditionalist father. The family is so proud of Finn when he heads off to serve in Vietnam. Frankie finds herself at loose ends after Finn is gone…wondering what is next for her? Her mother is pushing Frankie towards marriage but Frankie can’t see herself in that role.

    At Finn’s going away party Frankie meets handsome Ry who ventures to say to Frankie a life changing sentence – “Women can be heroes too”.

    Vietnam

    Frankie impulsively joins the Army Nurse Corp. Her father is livid, her mother furious. And then, Finn is dead. The whole beautiful world comes tumbling down, and Frankie is off to Vietnam, not able to get out of her commitment; scarred, grief-stricken, naive.

    The Women

    This is a story about the women of Vietnam. The nameless, faceless heroes – forgotten. The nurses who made it possible for so many male soldiers to return home. The women who witnessed as much carnage, death, chaos and trauma as any man on the front. Hannah does a wonderful job pulling into focus this part of the Vietnam story that most people didn’t know then, and still don’t know today.

    The Women by Kristin Hannah follows the lives of not only Frankie, but her friends Ethel and Barb, as each deals in her own way with the country they return to after their tour of duty. A country torn in two by war, politics and lack of respect for those who served.

    Book Review The Women by Kristin Hannah

    I really enjoyed this book, learned a lot, felt great empathy for the characters and loved the story line. One of my favorite Kristin Hannah books to date. Thanks for reading my book review The Women by Kristin Hannah. By the way, the Afterwards by the author was also intriguing so don’t skip that.

    *****Five stars for The Women by Kristin Hannah. Read last week’s book review After Annie by Anna Quinland

    Want to read another great book about a different kind of female character navigating Vietnam in the early 60’s? I loved Absolution by Alice McDermott.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review After Annie by Anna Quindlen

    Sad but beautiful novel about grief and loss. Here is my book review After Annie by Anna Quindlen

    Suddenly

    Suddenly everything changed. Annie – wife, mother, friend, nurse. One day she is all of these things, and then she is gone. Annie’s sudden death from a brain aneurism will unravel those who loved and needed her most.

    Family & Friends

    A women like Annie, is the kind of person who you think will just always be there. Fierce and funny, despite an overbearing mother in law, Annie loves her husband Bill and her four children and the family is tight. Annie leaves behind oldest daughter Ali, whose own grief at the loss of her mom right in front of her eyes, is pushed aside as Ali struggles to care for her younger siblings, as her father unravels.

    Annie’s lifelong friend Annemarie, a recovering addict, also begins to unravel after the loss of her friend, her rock. Annie was Annemarie’s lifeline, keeping her sober after several near death experiences. But with Annie gone Annemarie begins to find her grief is forcing her back to old habits.

    Moving Forward

    Ali, Bill and Annemarie will all suffer excruciating grief as they learn to grapple with the loss of this immense figure in their lives. But as the clock slowly ticks each will begin to move forward, by realizing how much strength Annie herself has gifted them before her death. They will grow and endure, just as Annie would want them to.

    This is a story of hope, love, strength and finding understanding after profound change. This is what happened After Annie. ****Four stars for After Annie by Anna Quindlen.

    Thank you for reading my book review After Annie by Anna Quindlen. See last week’s book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Knife by Salman Rushdie

    I have only read two of Salman Rushdie’s books – Victory City and The Enchantress of Florence. And enjoyed them both. I have never read The Satanic Verses, but of course I know the story of the fatwa against Rushdie following the publication of that book. And I knew about the attack that nearly killed him in 2022. I was very happy to hear about his book, certainly part of the long therapy following the harrowing attack. Here is my book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

    Get Personal

    Rushdie gets very personal in this account of the attempt on his life August 12, 2022. It had been thirty years the the Ayatollah’s fatwa against him. Rushdie – no longer in hiding – was actually speaking at the Chataquah Institution on the topic of keeping writers safe. And that is when I man, dressed all in black came running down the aisle, onto the stage and tried to kill Rushdie.

    Here You Are

    Despite thirty years having passed, at the moment Rushdie thought – “So it’s you. Here you are.” This honest and intimate account of the attack, near death, and months in recovery is some of Rushdie’s best work. Brutally honest and deep, it’s a powerful first hand narrative of life, love, family, friends, mortality, healing and moving forward.

    Survivor

    Rushdie’s account of this near death experience is raw and real and worth a read. An easy read that brings to light how survival mode kicks in, even when everything around you is trying to kill you. I really enjoyed this book. Worth a read. Thanks for reading my book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

    Book Review Knife by Salman Rushdie

    ****Four stars for Knife by Salman Rushdie. See last week’s book review Loot by Sharon Waxman.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Loot: A Novel by Tania James

    Long listed for the National Book Award, this third novel by Tania James is one of the best books I have read this year. Here is my book review Loot: A Novel by Tania James

    Irresistible Historical Fiction

    I couldn’t put this book down. Several book reviews of James work use the word “spellbinding”. Indeed it was. I loved every page. James takes a real artifact from India, Tipu’s Tiger (currently a centerpiece in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and creates a fictional tale around it. Brilliant.

    18th Century India

    Young Abbas, a master wood carver at only 17 years, gains the attention of Sultan Tipu and his life will change forever. He is brought to the palace to build an automatron tiger, to be a gift for the Sultan’s son. Here he begins to work side by side with French clock maker Lucien du Leze to create the masterful Tiger. Along the way he meets the enchanting Jehanne, still a child herself but sparks fly.

    British Forces

    When Tipu’s palace is looted by British forces wanting to colonize India, the Tiger disappears. Abbas escapes and slowly makes his way to France in search of Lucien. But when he arrives Lucien had died, but he find Jehanne, living in Lucien’s house and posing as his daughter. The two will begin a partnership of clock repair and carving and eventually set out on a scheme to retrieve the stolen Tiger.

    Fifty Years

    Loot spans fifty years and multiple continents as war ravages and dynasties fall under colonialism. James has a remarkable talent for inventive storytelling. The reader is pulled into a story so visually rich you clearly see yourself in India, London, and on the high seas. It’s imaginative, original and a refreshing read.

    *****Five stars for Loot by Tania James

    Thank you for reading my book review Loot by Tania James. See last week’s book review A Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides.

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