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Reading wednesday

    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 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.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I took advantage of Amazon’s free book download a couple of months ago, in celebration of International Book Day.  As they did last year, Amazon offered up several books by international authors for free.  I downloaded about a dozen books, and The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia was the first one I read.

    You might think a free book would be bad.  Not.

    I really loved this book and this story by Mexican author Segovia.

    Segovia brings the reader to pre-revolution Mexico, where landowners and tenant farmers, corrupt politicians and revolutionaries are walking a fine line of survival and power in early 1900’s.

    The Morales family is a hard-working and upstanding family with generations of land ownership being handed down from father to son.  But their lives will be forever changed when anciently old Nana Reja discovers a newborn baby…a child with mysterious ways and the power to change everyone’s lives forever.

    Segovia’s talent for story telling and use of some third person chapters and some first person chapters creates a lovely rhythm to the book and you will find yourself lulled into the characters and their lives and in particular the peculiar and fascinating child named Simonopia.

    Like the swirling bees that follow Simonopia everywhere he goes, this book buzzes with the frenzy of the developing plot, believable characters, stunning narrative describing the rich and beautiful scenery and most of all the love and sacrifice of family.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five stars for The Murmur of Bees by Sophia Segovia.

    Read last week’s review of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Although I enjoyed this story, I expected a bit more, given how long I was on the wait list to get this book from the library.

    It’s good.  Just not great.  The best part for me was learning about a particular minority ethnic group in China I was not familiar with.

    The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See is a compelling story of the remote Akha mountain people of China.  The Akha in 1988 when the story begins, are still a very superstitious and traditional people, living a poor existence in their remote region with little food, power or plumbing.  Their traditions and tea farming life go back thousands of years and have changed little over the centuries.

    But slowly the modern world approaches and the long-established customs of these people are challenged in every way possible.  The book follows the life of Li-yan, a girl from a family of tea farmers.  It is her generation that will be directly affected by the challenges to the conventional and somewhat ignorant way of life, and the encroachment of the modern world.

    Li-yan faces scandal and gives up a baby girl, then leaves the village to go to college and eventually becomes a highly successful tea broker.  Back in the village life is changing dramatically as the cultivation of the now highly prized Pu’er tea is making all the village extremely wealthy.

    But Li-yan never forgets the daughter she abandoned and wonders about her always.

    It’s not too hard to come up with how this will end, and a few too many coincidences bring it all together in the end.

    But the book is interesting for the education I received about the very lucrative world of tea, the fascinating culture of the Akha, and the heart-tugging topic of the one-child society of China.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel, by Lisa See

    Read last week’s review of The Altruist.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Altruist: A Novel by Andrew Ridker

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    An engaging story of family and dysfunction with some lovely writing that includes occasional brilliant descriptive prose that took me by surprise and made me admire this writer.

    The story, Ridker’s debut novel, spans several continents and decades as it wanders through the life of Francine, her husband Arthur and their children Ethan and Maggie.

    Francine passes away of cancer and after her death the family learns that she has amassed a fortune in stock that even her husband knew nothing about.  But in her will she gives it to her children and leaves nothing for her Professor husband who has never gained tenure and has lived his entire life regretting choices he made in his youth.

    Ethan, gay and insecure, and Maggie, angry and dealing with an eating disorder, have zero relationship with their father following the funeral and thus the story unfolds as the author takes you through the inner thinkings, struggles and personalities as well as the mistakes and choices that have brought this family to where it is in this story; on the brink of disaster.

    I enjoyed this book very much.  I found this family sad, believable, pathetic, and endearing.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Altruist: A Novel by Andrew Ridker

    Read last week’s review of The Children of Blood and Bone.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Tattoosist of Auschwitz: A Novel by Heather Morris

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I have read dozens of Holocaust books, many of those just in the last few years as a glut of such stories have blanketed the market (Sarahs Key, Mischling, The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, The Book Thief etc.).  Although this story is interesting and shows the powerful will to survive during the worst possible circumstances, it falls flat for me.

    Perhaps because there have been so many brilliant novels with this theme that have come before, or perhaps because I found the writing clipped and rushed – I didn’t love this book.

    Based on a real person Lale Sokolov who spent three years as a prisoner in Auschiwitz during which time his job was the tattooist, tattooing the numbers on each arriving prisoner.  Behind the prison walls he meets and falls in love with Gida and their love for each other keeps them alive.  Lale’s positive personality is tested beyond its limits as he watches innocent men, women and children die all around him, but his one goal in life is to keep Gida alive so they can have a future together.

    The author admittedly writes that this story was originally a screenplay.  And it feels that way.  Perhaps I would like it better as a movie.  I don’t know.  Heartbreaking and interesting I can’t write it off completely, and if you love a novel about this time period and how love survives, it may be for you.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

    Read last week’s review of Asymmetry.