Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

It's the time of year when our local YMCA sells donated used books as a fundraiser so I stocked up. One of the books I picked up was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Ms. Kingsolver is a gifted writer who drops you into the story and surrounds you with sights and sounds. In The Poisonwood Bible, the setting is The African Congo in 1959.

From the cover:
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

My thoughts:
It's a wonder that anyone survived in Africa with the droughts, torrential rains, army of ants, lethal snakes, malaria and hook worms that bury into the soles of feet. During the late 1950s The Congo was struggling for independence from Belgium and the Price family, already struggling to survive in the jungle, were also affected by the battles that were going on around them. Fighting for control of rubber and diamonds, Europe was not willing to give away the land lightly. Sadly, they were willing to kill and murder to keep control. Even the CIA was involved in ousting a prime minister elected by the people. You can read more about the history here. Barbara Kingsolver gives us details of life and struggles of the family at the edge of the jungle, along with the day to day battles of the women with their domineering father who had no understanding of either his family or the village he was trying to baptize. It's a powerful book and would make a good book club read.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Blood on the River - James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone

If it wasn't for the first pioneers, we wouldn't be celebrating Thanksgiving in the "New World." In Blood on the RiverElisa Carbone writes a detailed story of the first settlers on the Virginia Shore, lead by Captain John Smith. What many people don't realize is that the first settlers in James Town colony were sent by The Virginia Company who expected goods and minerals to be sent back to England to be sold for profit. In addition to trying to survive and provide natural resources for the Virginia Company, they were also instructed by King James to let the Native Indians know that they were now his subjects (which obviously wasn't received well by the Indians).

Elisa Carbone is a gifted writer and gives us a glimpse into life in Jamestown through the eyes of a young boy, Samuel Collier, who is escaping poverty and life in the alleys of London to become Captain Smith's page.

Study guide here

Friday, November 18, 2016

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)  is well under way, but I chose not to participate this year as I've been working on my book on frugal living - A Penny Saved.
In order to accomplish writing 50,000 words by the end of November it takes just under 1,700 words a day, which for some of us, is in itself a task, but hop on over to Pat Wahler's blog to read about how many words some prolific writers amass.

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

Delicious by Ruth Reichl was a book club choice at our local library. I found it difficult to review this novel so instead I'll give you a brief overview of the book and leave it to the New York Times article to give you an in depth opinion.
Billie Breslin has moved from California to New York to work for a food magazine where she becomes immersed in the world of restaurants and food shops (she is immediately hired to work week-ends at a family only operated Italian deli). She instantly becomes friends with some of New York's top chefs along with most of the magazine staff, and discovers a hidden room in the magazine's library which leads to a hunt for mysterious letters from a twelve-year-old during WWII. Of course, there is some family tragedy thrown in.
I liked the camaraderie between restaurants and food stores that was reminiscent of my childhood in London before supermarkets and when shop owners knew your name. I always found it fun to visit the deli where, as a preschooler, they gave me a lump of cheese or buying my favorite sausages at the butchers. It's a shame that shopping is so impersonal these days.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

50 State Reading Challenge

I've completed the 50 State Reading Challenge I started in January. It was a fun project and it's pushed me into reading many books that I might not otherwise have picked up and looked more for the setting than the story when choosing a book.
Note: I've included Washington DC although it's not technically a state

AlabamaTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Delaware - The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Nebraska - The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin
NevadaThe Cat and the King of Clubs by Carole Nelson Douglas
North DakotaThe Beet Queen by Louise Erdich
OregonRamona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
Utah - To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton
Washington- Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Washington DC – The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
West Virginia - The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham gives us a behind the scenes glimpse into a large Washington D.C. law firm and compares it to the Street Lawyers who defend the homeless. Having worked for many law firms, big and small, I know first hand that greed isn't only for the big law firms. The lawyers at small ones have just as much disdain for those who work for them and the clients who pay their exorbitant bills with only billable hours being the top priority. One attorney told me if he thinks of a client/case while he's in the shower, he bills them!
What we don't hear about are the many lawyers, like Mordecai Green, who work tirelessly for little pay to help those less fortunate.

From the cover:
Michael Brock is billing the hours, making the money rushing relentlessly to the top of Drake & Sweeney, a giant D.C. law firm. One step away from partnership, Michael has it all. Then in an instant it all comes undone.
A homeless man takes nine lawyers hostage in the firm's plush offices. . . Rediscovering a conscience he lost long ago, Michael is leaving the big time for the streets where his attacker once lived - and where society's powerless need an advocate for justice. 

Although Washington D.C isn't technically a state, I added it to the end of my 50 State Reading Challenge.