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    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday – My Year-End Review

    A Year End Review of Reading

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    A year end review of reading. I did it. I set a goal last July to read 75 books in a year. And I did it, I read 83 books. Nearly all these books I read on Kindle while we were traveling. A couple were on Audible and a few were good old fashioned paperbacks. I enjoy books in all three applications.

    Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve found it a bit difficult to stay focused on a book. My mind wanders a lot. But I still was able to meet my goal, and I also wrote one book review blog a week over the past year.

    Reading on Kindle

    I don’t think I’ll set a goal for next year. I’m just gonna read for the love of reading. We can see a year from now how that turned out.

    Reading Wednesday

    I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life. If I can inspire you to get lost in a book, my job is done here. And hopefully a year end review of reading can do just that.

    So since late July 2019 I have read 83 books, and I have written about many of them. You can find the entire book review collection in the Reading Wednesday section of this blog (just click).

    Reading a paperback

    Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 83. In fact in the list below are five that I can say are some of the best books I have ever read…and that is saying a lot.

    For a year end review of reading I’ve put those five at the top, and then below that the rest are listed randomly. I hope you can find a favorite of your own amongst this list and I thank you for your continuing support of Reading Wednesday and My Fab Fifties Life.

    (Note: I’m trying to build our email following.  Can you subscribe to our blog please?)

    Top Five of the Year

    1. The Immoralists by Chloe Benjamen – if you were told when you were a child the exact day you would die, how might it affect everything about your life? So is the question Benjamen explores in the brilliant and unique novel The Immoralists. I loved this story.
    2. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – Just after the end of WWII a young, unmarried and pregnant Charlie goes in search of her missing cousin in Europe. Her search will lead her to horror stories of the war and eventually to her true family and friends. I loved this book.
    3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King – I never read Stephen King so I was shocked to find that this story became one of my favorite reads ever. Not just about the assassination of JFK on 11/22/63, but an unequaled time travel book about the choices we might consider if we could go back and change history – would we do it and what would the consequences be. I loved this book.
    4. The Testaments – by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale continues to rank as one of my favorite books of all time, even after 30 years. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that I waited for the release of the sequel (finally). It was worth the wait. Every bit as compelling and incomparable, even pulling in some subtle nods to the politics of the USA in 2020. I loved this book.
    5. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd – Kidd’s bold re-telling of the story of Jesus once again shows her chutzpa as a writer, her creative ability and incomparable talent to take the reader on a well-worn journey with an absolutely fascinating new twist. I love Kidd’s work and The Book of Longings did not dissapoint. I loved this book.

    It was hard for me to only choose five for the list above. Because there were so many good ones this year. Here are 14 more of the very best from the 83 books I finished this year.

    14 More That Are Awesome

    The Huntress by Kate Quinn

    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

    Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

    The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

    My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman

    Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

    The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo

    The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

    City of Thieves by David Benioff

    Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

    The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

    Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

    American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

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    Photos by Canva

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

    Reading Wednesday

    From time to time I have moments that catch my breath when I think of a few near death experiences I have had in my life. The four moments that occasionally remind me of how lucky I am to still be kicking around. Three of these occurred in a car and one on a horse – inches and seconds from disaster.

    In her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, O’Farrell looks back on her own life where she can count 17 separate incidents of stepping too close to her own death. Several instances the reader can easily relate to, while others seem unfathomable to most of us.

    But the part of the book that caught me somewhat off guard was the story of O’Farrell’s adult life struggle to keep her own daughter alive. A day to day process that involves constant monitoring of every item her daughter eats, breaths, touches…as O’Farrell and her family deal with a child with severe immune-system disorder.

    This is the first time I have read O’Farrell’s work although she has numerous memoirs and novels. I enjoyed this story dispite it’s sometimes gut-wrenching detail.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Read last week’s review of Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

    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

    Book Review Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Wow. This book. I’m not usually one to go for a “thriller” book, but this story sucked me in and I was riveted.

    Similar to novels like Gone Girl (but not as good), Pieces of Her develops a plot of twists and turns, whodunnit and “who the heck are you”, as Andrea Olive struggles to determine the true identity of her mother.

    When Andrea and her mother Laura find themselves the witnesses to a horrific crime, a crime that leads Laura to kill the perpetrator at the scene before he can murder more people, Andrea’s world comes tumbling down.

    A video tape of the terrorist and his demise at Laura’s hands circulates on the news, and with it Laura’s secret life unravels and her enemies catch up to her after decades of being on the run.

    Andrea is thrust into this mystery as she runs from the danger, finding a trail of a woman, her mother, whom she never knew. Who is this woman and why has she spent her life in hiding? Andrea begins to put the puzzle together bit by bit, finding herself in danger but determined to uncover the identity her mother walked away from decades before.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Read last week’s review of The Birth of Venus.

    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