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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Five Presidents by Clint Hill

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This story is truly incredible.  But so is the way I stumbled onto this book.

    I follow Mike Rowe on Facebook…you know the funny “Dirty Jobs” guy in the baseball hat.  A month or more ago I saw a post from Mike Rowe about meeting a guy in a bar.  An older gentleman who ordered a drink called a “Clint”.  When the bartender was puzzled, the man pulled a card from his pocket, on one side was his name and information and on the other, the recipe for his favorite and personal drink the “Clint”.

    Of course Mike Rowe was intrigued and they struck up a conversation.  I don’t know how long the spoke but I do know Rowe was flabbergasted to find that he was sitting next to a man who had first hand experience at some of our countries most poignant and sorrowful moments.  Mr. Clint Hill, who served five Presidents in the Secret Service.  Mr. Clint Hill, who infamously is the agent clinging to the back of the convertible while Jackie Kennedy reaches across the trunk of that car to collect pieces of her husbands brain.

    Yes that man.  He ordered a “Clint”.

    Rowe later writes about his meeting Hill on his Facebook page, and suddenly sales of his book “Five Presidents” rockets on Amazon.  I am one of those people who purchased the book for my Kindle and I learn that Hill has also written two other best sellers “Five Days in November” and “Me and Mrs.Kennedy”.

    So that is how I came to find this book.  And once I started it I couldn’t put it down.  Writing with the help of author Lisa McCubbin, Hill describes his incredible life as a secret service agent, beginning with President Eisenhower and ending with President Ford…through some of this nations most turbulent times; assasinations, civil rights, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Watergate and so much more – Clint Hill had a front row seat to it all.

    It’s funny because I never really thought that much about what these men (and now women) sacrifice in the line of duty.  Hill admittedly left the service when the unnamed (at the time) post traumatic stress disorder drove him to alcohol.  He sacrificed seeing his children grow as he traveled all over the world.  He slept little and gave 110% every day of his long career.

    And it all is spelled-out in the fascinating book about a fascinating man and his fascinating journey.

    Five stars for Five Presidents.  A remarkable read.

    Read last week’s review of Nectar in a Sieve

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    (Note – following the tragic fire yesterday at the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, I am compelled to share this blog again.  Ken Follett’s Book Pillars of the Earth, although based in England, is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, focused on cathedral building in the Middle Ages. This brilliant story is what I thought of all day yesterday as Notre Dame burned – thinking about the people who created this and other majestic structural wonders during the  period.

    Today I mourn the loss of historic structure and art while saluting those humans whose perseverance created it all. Who deserve our thanks and reverence.  We can be confident it will rise again.)

    The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    A Saga.  A Gripping historical novel from contemporary writer Ken Follett.  Published in 1989, how is it that I have waited so long to read this masterpiece?  I absolutely love The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

    As a full time traveler, I have been witness to some of the most remarkable cathedrals in the world.  And I have often felt flabbergasted at the thought of how these monstrous but beautiful buildings could possibly been constructed in an age with no machinery, electricity, power or technology.  These monuments to God are truly a wonder.

    Little did I know all this time that Ken Follett had in the 1970’s felt the same, and over a decade of time he wrote his brilliant masterpiece The Pillars of the Earth.  I am so glad I found this book.  My eyes have been opened and my appreciation will be far greater still, when next I stand in front of one of these masterpiece architectural wonders.

    The Pillars of the Earth is set in 12th century England, a time of anarchy and war, brutal famine and poverty, royal power and catholic corruption.  The story follows a memorable cast of characters who you grow to love as they struggle in their own existence, as well as a brutal cast of characters – power hungry and evil, who you despise.  Follett’s ability to bring together this believable group of people, set against real historical events and characters in a time of medieval anarchy is a masterful work of fiction.  The author builds the story alongside the building of the magnificent Kingsbrige Cathedral, despite fire and pillaging, death and destruction, backstabbing and power grabbing at every corner.

    The Pillars of the Earth is ambitious to say the least.  Masterful at its best.  And written with compassion for the everyday people of the time – just trying to survive in a world where any day could bring disaster.

    Spectacular classical reading at its best. 

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    Read what Wikipedia has to say about Pillars of the Earth here.

    Read last week’s review of The Keeper of Lost Things.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is a depressing story. A very real look at the incredibly difficult life of many people in India. This book was first published in 1954, and although there has been much improvement in the lives of people in India, there are still people like Rukmani.

    Rukmani tells the story of her life from child bride to widow.  The very difficult life of a serf farmer, a mother of several sons and a daughter during a turbulent and changing time, and a woman just trying to hold her family together and survive day-to-day.

    I have read several books over the years with similar themes.  One of the best books I have ever read follows the plight of a young man in India.  I highly recommend A Fine Balance, a book that remains one of my favorites of all time.  And though Nectar in a Sieve is not as good, it is still a sad and helpless tale – one that most of us cannot possible ever fully comprehend. And for that exact reason you should read it.

    The book reminded me of the classic The Good Earth by Pearl S.Buck.  However The Good Earth has a slightly happier ending.  Nectar in a Sieve does not end happily.  In fact, there is very few happy moments in the entire book.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for Nectar in a Sieve by Kamal Markandaya

    Read last week’s review of The Pecan Man

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck.

    Easy to read, engaging story and irresistible characters, I really loved this story of race and the meaning of family.

    Based in Florida in 1976, a time when racism still ruled in the south, though often hidden away and unspoken.  It was still there and Ora Lee Beckworth, a recently widowed white woman lives her life working against it and shaming those who practice it.

    Ora hires a homeless black man to do yard work for her.  The neighborhood children call him The Pee-can man.  Ora sees something in this lonely man and knows she can help him.  Even Ora’s housekeeper Blanche, a black woman, questions Ora’s decision to hire the Pecan Man.

    The lives of these people are forever changed when the unthinkable happens to Blanche’s youngest daughter Grace.  Justice will not be served however, when this crime is known to have been carried out by the sheriff’s son – a white boy.

    But when the Sherriff’s son turns up dead and The Pecan Man is arrested for murder, the test of wills begins.  Who will tell the whole truth?  Who will sacrifice themselves for those they love? And who will believe, even in 1976, that a black man could be innocent?

    A beautiful and haunting story of sorrow and loss, love and discrimination, regret and friendship.  And the true meaning of family.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

    Read last week’s review of Where the Crawdads Sing

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Chances are you’ve already read this book.  But if you haven’t you should go do it now.  Clearly it will be a movie before the next Oscars.  I’m torn who I imagine in main character roles.

    Haunting and sad, this is a story of loneliness at the most fundamental level. But it’s also a story of perseverance and survival, love and heartbreak, all while being a murder mystery and alluring narrative of the natural beauty of the marshlands of North Carolina.

    How can it be all these things?  It’s a beautifully written effort by Owens, almost written as a screenplay with vividly created characters that jump off the pages.

    In particular the intelligent and sensitive Kya, who endures a painful childhood and abandonment at age six.  The young girl survives alone in the North Carolina marsh, dubbed the Marsh Girl by the towns people and shunned for her mysterious existence.

    A survivor at heart Kya will endure, grow and find passion, only to become the prime suspect in a town murder mystery.

    Can she endure this ultimate test of survival?

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Where the Crawdads Sing

    Read last week’s review of The Tao of Pooh

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Tao of Pooh by Ben Hoff

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Hoff is a follower of Taoism and in 1982 he wrote The Tao of Pooh as a way to introduce the Eastern belief system to the Western reader.  Using the beloved A.A. Milne characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh series, Hoff tells the simple story of Tao.

    I found this book in our room at the Yoga studio in El Salvador.  I picked it up, and read it easily in a few hours.  Even though the story was published more than 35 years ago, it actually is very timely by today’s standards.  In our current state of egotistical leaders, selfish and fast-paced lives, and sometimes frightening world – looking at the Taoism beliefs through the simple mind of Pooh is brilliant.

    “Hoff uses many of Milne’s characters to symbolize ideas that differ from or accentuate Taoist tenets. Winnie-the-Pooh himself, for example, personifies the principles of wei wu wei, the Taoist concept of “effortless doing,” and pu, the concept of being open to, but unburdened by, experience, and it is also a metaphor for natural human nature. In contrast, characters like Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion, and Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be. Hoff regards Pooh’s simpleminded nature, unsophisticated worldview and instinctive problem-solving methods as conveniently representative of the Taoist philosophical foundation. The book also incorporates translated excerpts from various prominent Taoist texts, from authors such as Laozi and Zhuangzi.” (taken from Wikipedia).

    A simple and easy read for a lazy Sunday in the hammock.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for the Tao of Pooh by Ben Hoff

    Read last week’s review of The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Powerful.  This story is powerful.  These women are powerful. The history is powerful.  The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman is one of the most powerful books I have read in a very long time.

    I actually know very little about the history of Israel, Jerusalem and the legend of Masada – the last stronghold of the Jews during the Roman siege in 73 AD.  After reading this novel however, I am so intrigued to learn more about the plight of these people – a struggle that has continued for thousands of years.

    A beautifully written tale weaving fact and fiction together, Hoffman creates four remarkable women who lead the reader through this turbulent, magical, bloody, faithful and powerful period of history.  Each of these powerful women bring a different strength, different background, different loss and different love to Masada.  The author uses Biblical history and the historical chronicle by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish rebel leader captured by the Romans.  Through her meticulous research she captures the magic of the era and creates these characters, developing the story through their lives, as they each find themselves in Masada by different paths. Each women carries with her secrets and strengths that come to play in the final days of the bloody siege that will ultimately take the lives of more than 1000 men, women and children, and change the course of history.

    Who survives in this amazing fictional tale of a real-life event?  You must read The Dovekeepers to find out.  Read it today.  A fascinating and powerful novel.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for the The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Read last week’s review of Twenty-Five Years in Provence