Books of September

I don’t know if it’s just imagination induced because Halloween goods and pumpkin spice everything are in every store or if I actually feel a difference in the air. I’ve noticed a change that feels suspiciously like fall.

September reading has been slow. I feel like I haven’t finished a single thing.

I’ve been listening to the audio book for The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff. It’s noted accounts from the differing perspectives of people on 9/11. It’s incredibly sad, but also a learning experience. Hearing first hand what people saw, heard, and felt can be a bit unnerving. The point of views range from students from a near by school in New York to air traffic controllers who first realized the planes were hijacked to those at Ground Zero. What really has me intrigued are the thoughts of the Air Force pilots given the harrowing task of bringing down Flight 93. It was essentially their own suicide mission to save others on the ground.  Those brave pilots took to the skies that day willing to do anything to prevent another attack. In the end, the heroes on Flight 93 lost their lives trying to reclaim the plane from the hijackers but saved countless others. It has a full cast of narrators that do a great job. I recommend the audio book because I think it might be hard to follow otherwise. It’s really a stunning book.

 

When The Only Plane in the Sky gets to be too much, and I have to take a breather, I’ve also been listening to What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. It’s historical fiction with a bit of time travel and romance set in Ireland. Visiting Ireland is at the top of my bucket list so selecting this one was easy. There are a lot of quotes by the poet Yeats. I’d forgotten how much I’d loved his words. The writer herself has no shortage of lovely lines in this book.  The narrators compliment each other, and I love the accents.

I’m also still reading The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson. Time has been an issue lately. It seems like life is picking back up after a lazy summer.

Our latest bookclub pick is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I’m excited about this one. I watched the movie on Netflix before I even knew there was a book.

I have a few other prospects on my radar. As always, I love recommendations.

Happy reading, folks.

 

The Storyteller’s Secret

The Storyteller's Secret

No spoilers. Read on.

I love stories. That was my favorite part of playing pretend as a child. Creating an entirely different life for myself in a different place was wonderful. I still play pretend in my mind while reading.

For most of this book, the setting is India. I was transported there as I listened to the audio book. In my mind, I was there for the Holi festival with the smells of spicy food and children’s laughter coloring the air. I felt the emotions of the characters.

The story is sad and lovely. It is emotional and left me holding my breath on several occasions. Although there is some romance, the majority of the story is about life, it’s struggles, the precious moments, and how unfair it can be.

The story begins with Jaya, a writer, who goes to India to “find herself” and explore her heritage. She finds Ravi. He was a servant to her grandmother. He tells her the story of Amisha, her grandmother. Amisha lives both upholding India’s traditions as well as pushing against them. As she goes through life and wades through all it’s seasons, she lives, loves, fails, and perseveres.

The story that Ravi tells Jaya is the best kind of story: one that has love, trial, and triumph. This story will be with me for a while.

I hope to read more by this author. Her writing is very descriptive and makes you feel what she is trying to convey. It has been some time since a story has captivated me in the way that this one did.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“My power became dependent on the height of my achievements.”

“When we reach, we always chance a fall.”

“But laws are slow to change what is in people’s hearts.”

 

 

Spoilers ahead.

 

 

 

 

I identified with the two women in this book in different ways.

Jaya stuggled with infertility. After three miscarriages, she needed to figure out who she was outside of being a mother. She went to India for her mother, to see her childhood home in hopes that it would explain her mother’s reserved nature and sometimes odd behavior. In finding out the truths of her mother’s life, I think it helped to heal Jaya. She explored destiny versus decision.

Amisha was a weaver of words. She invented a different life for herself in her imagination and spun stories to teach and entertain. She spoke to my heart and reminded me what a good character can be. She made the best of a not so great life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

 

Books of August

This summer I wanted to read more. I wanted to open physical books and feel their pages, listen to them and what they had to say, or see their words on my phone and tablet. I got my first free Audible book and remembered what I love about listening. Since, I’ve spent hours engulfed in audio. Realizing that my Kindle Unlimited allowed me to listen to audio books of several of the books in my list has upped my game.

I’ve had a craving for stories. Not just fiction but nonfiction and stories in all their forms. I’ve started a few books only to determine that now is not their time for me or they don’t catch my interest. I’ve set them aside for later. However, as far as reading goes, August has been successful.

Jurassic Park

I finally finished Jurassic Park in August even though I started in July. In my humble opinion, it was so good. I finished the last fifteen chapters in two days. I enjoyed it so much and found the movie to be lacking afterward. Every reader knows that the book is always better.

I loved the kids in the book. I loved that Ellie was so fearless. I would have liked to have seen her have a little more adventure. The descriptions of the dinosaurs were great. I did have to Google a few names to get a better visual in my mind.

Jurassic Park is the first movie I remember seeing in theaters. I remember clutching my popcorn and being on the edge of my seat, pointing and exclaiming. I was 6 or 7 at the time. Once my brother was a little older, I passed on my love of dinosaurs to him. He got his dinosaur fix with the Land Before Time movies. I still like watching Jurassic Park from time to time. It was innovative at the time of its release. It “spared no expense.”

 

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler cover

 

I also finished listening to The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. It was good, and I liked it. However my fears of it being very chick lit were confirmed, I still enjoyed it. I love the idea of an overworked mom getting a #momspringa.  I appreciated the relationships. I liked how the main character, Amy, dealt with things and her children. I loved that she was a librarian, teacher, and bibliophile. There was just something about the book that I couldn’t love even though I wanted to. I would still recommend it to my chick lit loving friends.

 

 

 

 

I listened to the audio book of I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan. This one I also almost loved, but not quite. I enjoyed it, liked it, and would recommend it to ladies I know like this kind of book. Life is the bad guy and stomps around making life miserable for the protagonist. It had one twist that I didn’t see coming, but after that is pretty predictable. It also came across as very chick lit as well. It reminded me a lot of  The Overdue Life of Amy Byler in that there was a New York trip and was also narrated by Amy McFadden.

 

 

I’m currently listening to The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani. I’m not quite half way through and am already sure this is one I’m going to love. The story is flowing well, the narrator does a nice job, and I’m really getting attached to the characters. The story is looking to be one that is both sad and sweet. Set in India, it is about a woman who travels there to find out more about her heritage. It has a “finding myself” as well as “self healing” feel. The writing is beautifully descriptive. I’ve had to stop several times to highlight a line that really jumped out at me. I’ll update more when I finish.

I’m also just starting to read The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson on Kindle Unlimited. One of my all time favorite books is Gods in Alabama. This book is already very Joshilyn Jackson. Her characters always have certain quirks that makes them more believable. That’s one reason she’s a great author.

I could learn a lot from her, I think.

I’m reading more and feeling more like my old self. I’m going hardcore with my nutrition so that helps. Life has been flowing these past few weeks. I’m just riding the current.

Happy Reading.

 

Summer Reading Update

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I haven’t gotten to see this view this year, but I’ve been staring at this photo I took several years ago and dreaming.

I’m realizing that I don’t stick to my reading lists. It’s much the same as buying a book that I’m excited to read and getting distracted by another book before I even begin the first. I am notorious for this.

I began reading Jurassic Park a few weeks ago. I’ve been thinking it would go better as an actual book read rather than ebook. I’ll probably check in with the library to see if they have it. I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to read it other than it caught my attention while scrolling through books. I loved the movie as a kid, and I’ve been looking to read outside my box. I’m really enjoying it. I like Sci Fi movies, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read much of it. Recommendations are appreciated.

This is me rectifying my reading sins.

After Where the Crawdads Sing, I’ve began listening to The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. When I first started it, I was worried because it came across as very chick lit. There’s nothing wrong with chick lit, but I just don’t tend to enjoy it. However, the humor caught me. I think I’m beginning to appreciate chick lit more as I get older as long as it’s funny or smart. The voices the narrator uses has me chuckling. It seems like what I call a good palate cleanser. It’s something fun and refreshing after a heavy read.  I’ll update more when I finish or at least get further along.

Let me just say that all Mississippians have been offended by the heat. We are fed up and over it. Even for Mississippi, this is ridiculous.

I haven’t been doing as much writing in recent weeks. I’ve been focusing on reading more. Most writers agree that a lot of reading makes for a better writer.

I’ve got several books on my radar. Some of which I am looking forward to listening to on Audible. Maybe if I read books set during the fall of the year, I can convince myself that I’ll get to experience it soon.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Read on. No spoilers.

I’m rediscovering audiobooks. My first true experience with them was in 2013 when I listened to The Hunger Games series. I enjoyed it so much because I was driving a good bit. It’s definitely different than just sitting down with a book and easier to manage on the go. Then, I drifted back to the wonderful world of bound pages and digital.

I listened to Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens this week. A friend told me it was terrific, one of my bookclub friends loved it, and Amazon kept recommending it to me. Finally, it was Audible that caused me to give in. WtCS became my first Audible book, and it was free.

It took me about a week to finish. I listened in the shower, quiet mornings at home, on the drive to work and home again, and even during the slower moments at work. I sat at my desk with one earbud perched in my ear, the other ear listening for the phone or customers.

I was captivated by Ms. Owens’ descriptions of the marsh land where the book is set as well as her explanation of the local animals. I love a good story, but I love it even more when I learn something.

The main character, Kya, really touched me. Her circumstances were so undeserved with her kind, tender heart. She reminded me of myself in ways. It brought back my childhood spent running through pastures, playing in the garden, and wading in the creek. She liked being alone and on her own. I get it completely.

The book begins with her childhood in the 1940’s. The characters are well thought out. The story is mountains and valleys of highs and lows. This quiet, outcast girl educates herself and lives a life that the rest of her town does not comprehend. I loved that about this book.

The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, does such a great job. I love that her voice changes for each character. I love that she conveys the emotions and reactions so well. I was pleased to find that she does a lot of narrating. I’ll for sure be listening to more from her.

I would recommend this book. It was an easy read although the conflicts in Kya’s life had me holding my breath. The coming of age aspect of this book is broken and beautiful. Kya’s story is imperfect and kept me absorbed from beginning to end.

Talk on Indolence

“Well I’ve been lockin’ myself up in my house for sometime now
Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’
And searching for reasons and missing the seasons.
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow.
The record will stop and the record will go.
Latches latched the windows down,
The dog coming in and the dog going out.
Up with caffeine and down with a shot.
Constantly worried about what I’ve got.
Distracting my work but I can’t make a stop
And my confidence on and my confidence off.
And I sink to the bottom and rise to the top
And I think to myself that I do this a lot.
World outside just goes
It goes it goes it goes it goes it goes”
– The Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence
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As of late, I’ve recognized so much with the lyrics above. I’ve been a level 368 introvert, and I’ve been loving it. I enjoy seeing family and friends, but lately I’ve been enjoying my own company. I’ve worked hard at convincing myself that it’s perfectly fine for me to do so.
The older I get the more that I find myself getting overstimulated around people. I’ve always been one to shy away from touch. Now, voices, smells, and loud laughter seem to grate on my sensitive nerves. The anxiety really gets to me.
Earlier in the summer, I made a list of books I wanted to read over the slow months of debilitating Mississippi heat. I am half way through the first on my list, and done with one that I found because of a song. I found my favorite band, The Avett Brothers, through a book. I found a book that I was really sucked into because of a song. I’ll get to that shortly.
I’ve barely noticed the last two months slipping by. Suddenly it’s August, and I realize that the second half of the year is upon us. The second half is always my favorite. In Mississippi, we have summer and then extended summer before about a week of fall. I live for that week. I become what my book club girls call “basic” during the last half of the year.
I’ve been really indolent lately. I’ve been doing exactly what the song says, “readin and writin and readin and thinkin”
I finished Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher. I’ve heard of her several times in the same circles as Colleen Hoover. I put her in the Rolodex in the back of my mind to read one day. Although I confess, I thought she wrote romance, and she does, but not like I was thinking. I found Mud Vein while looking up the song Landscape by Florence + the Machine. That’s when I saw comments about people finding this song because of the book. When I checked out the book, I read the summary and thought it might be interesting.
Let me just say that this is not a read for you if you are a sucker for happy endings. Also, not if you enjoy likable characters. If you like unusual stories about broken people struggling to get by and exist in this messed up thing we call life under almost unbearable circumstances, this might be for you. The protagonist is a writer that keeps her own company. I know a little something about that. It’s a dark read.
I’ve been reading a lot of those lately.
All in all, the first half of 2019 has not been kind. Being a recluse is a coping mechanism. Reading and writing and reading and thinking are survival tools. Everyone has their own way of finding their peace, and these are mine.

What I’m Reading

In my recent days as a shut-in, I have to say that my reading life has improved. I’ve been reverting to a time when I could have four reads going at once and not miss a lick. It’s been a bit all over the place. Last year, my book club selection was out of my comfort zone, and it very much paid off. I’m hoping with the new things I’m interested in, I might find myself more than a step out and go all in. Recommendations would be nice.

What I’ve Read Recently:

Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter

Honeysuckle Girls

I don’t know a single lady from the South who doesn’t appreciate a book set there. This book was one I found free with my Kindle Unlimited. I’ve had it in my list for months without starting it. Once I did, I knew it was one of those I could read in a day. It’s about a young woman with issues who digs into her family’s troubled past where secrets might destroy her and everything she knows. She realizes that most everything she’s been told is a lie and goes on a quest for the truth that leads her down a dark path fraught with pain. If you’re looking for a happy ending, this one might not be for you.

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Verity

This book in a word is incredible. Twists and turns for days. I read this one in no time at all. The only time I put it down was to catch my breath. It brought out so many emotions in me that I had to pause to vent. It is dark and twisted. It was completely different than anything else I’ve read from this author. It has abundant secrets, and the writer in me loves that. Since reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, I’ve been looking for something along those lines that could shock me. This is the one.

It’s about a writer recruited to finish a series of books for another author, Verity. She’s invited to Verity’s home to work in the office where Verity’s notes and plot lines are handy. What she finds is more than she could have imagined. As she gets to know Verity’s family, she finds herself in a more than difficult situation. A hidden manuscript of Verity’s reveals some shocking secrets. Things are not what they seem in Verity’s home. Verity is not what she seems.

What I’m Reading:

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

This is one of our book club selections and is proving to be a good read. I’m enjoying it but taking my time to read it. It’s dredged up a few memories for me. It’s Tara’s tale of growing up with a family led by a father who believes the world is out to get them, particularly the government. There are moments where your heart aches for her, especially her childhood years. I would recommend this book even though I haven’t finished it.

I have several books that I’m planning to read over the summer. In true book girl fashion, my TBR pile is ridiculous. Just a few on my agenda are:

Until the Day I Die by Emily Carpenter

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Shrill by Lindy West

I’m enjoying summer. I’m looking forward to how the world slows down during the summer. Sometimes because school is out, and sometimes because Mississippi heat is just offensive. I’ve been trying to soak up a little sun, baby my tomato plants and my flowers, and let go of the things I can’t change. I think the majority of us take life so seriously that we find it impossible to unwind and let be. This is something I’m learning. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Our book club has always been a great group of girls. Our newest member, Kim, is proving to be a wonderful addition. She came in at the perfect time. We’d just finished a full rotation of each existing member choosing a book. When Kim chose The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead for us to read, I knew in that moment that she’d fit right in.  

I am of the belief that everyone should diversify their reading with stories of other times and other cultures. Kim really brought this to the table.

The Underground Railroad was a hard read for me. Being of an empathic nature, the treatment of slaves described in the book really got to me. I’d read for a while and have to put down the book to cry a bit.

The book is based from different point of views. The main ones are of a slave named Cora, a slave catcher named Ridgeway, and a slave named Caesar. There are others throughout the book that feed the storyline and give better understanding to the inner workings of the characters. Cora was born a slave. Her mother and grandmother were slaves on the Randal plantation. The Randal brothers are a hateful duo. The most despicable brother takes over the plantation with all slaves included at his brother’s death. He makes an example of the slaves, subjecting them to horrifying methods of torture. To make matters worse, if a friend or family member of the tortured slave shows any sort of emotion, they are beaten along with their loved one. All members of our club agreed that this was how a slave owner would discourage relationships among slaves so that they would not band together and/or plot runaway attempts.

We discussed how the slaves in the book almost had a social hierarchy among them. There was social standing as well as survival of the fittest. The weakest links were sent to live in their own house called the Hob.

When Cora witnesses an especially vicious beating of a slave, she decides she’s had enough. Caesar had come to her before and asked her to leave with him. At the time, it seemed ludicrous. However, the more she mulls it over, the more sense it makes. When she was a child, Cora’s mother escaped the plantation and was the only slave so far to successfully to do so.

As Cora and Caesar make their escape, another slave named Lovey tags along. A series of unfortunate events leads to Lovey being taken and an even bigger man hunt gets underway for the escapees.

Cora and Caesar make it to South Carolina using The Underground Railroad. This brings a bit of the fantastical to the book in that the railroad is an actual railroad that moves through tunnels from location to location.  

Under assumed identities, they are allowed to learn and hold jobs. While everything seems to be going great, an unseen storm is brewing on the horizon.

In a turn of events, Cora has to flee and is unsure about the fate of her friend Caesar. Just as she is unsure about the fate of Lovey and her mother.

Ridgeway is a slave catcher. The only slave thus far to ever evade him is Cora’s mother, Mabel. It has been his humiliation and what has kept him up at night. This makes him all the more determined to catch Cora and her running mate. He and his men catch up with Cora and have her in their grips when things shift from their favor. The author does a nice job of switching perspectives and seeing things, however wrong, from Ridgeway’s point of view.

This book is ripe with nail biting scenarios. You find yourself rooting for Cora and hoping that her life has some semblance of happiness. Her story and the supporting stories in the book are some that everyone in our book club agreed will stick with you. It is a raw, honest view of slavery and what those in that time period lived with.

Learning the fates of Mabel, Caesar, and Lovey bring suspence and some closure to the book while others leave your heart in turmoil.

It is a great group of stories that intertwine  to make up a powerful book. History books tell us about the evils of slavery and the horrors endured by those who lived it. Seeing it from the perspective of a slave leaves necessary wounds on your heart and helps tie what African Americans have dealt with in their ongoing quest for equality. The Underground Railroad makes you think, makes you feel, and while not to be undertaken lightly, is an important read. 

Quotes:

Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood.

The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters, just as the freemen had fled theirs. But the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others.

The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give was recommended to me by a friend who has recently read it. When I read the summary on B&N, I was intrigued and knew it was a book that would hook me. I followed the author, Angie Thomas, to find out more about her. She’s from Mississippi, guys. I was wrapped up through the summer with my book club read and had a hectic few months. When I finally was able to start the book, it definitely took me for an emotional ride.

The story is told from the point of view of Starr Carter, an African American teenager torn between two different worlds. Although she lives in a neighborhood with drugs and gang violence, her parents pay dearly to send her to a prep school. She is the Starr from the hood at home. She’s laid back, uses slang, and speaks her mind. Starr at her prep school seems more uptight, uses proper English, and has a white boyfriend. She is hassled by peers from her neighborhood about her new school.

Her father owns a store in their neighborhood and is an reformed drug dealer. When his children were born, he changed his ways and although he was not always there to be the best father, he does the best he can for his kids now. Maverick, or Big Mav, has a gift for saying the right thing in the right moment. I envy him that. He makes no qualms about his belief system and how he sees the world. That made him one of my favorite characters.

Starr’s mother is a strong woman who expects a high moral standard from her children. She’s a nurse so nurturing comes natural, and she has backbone to spare. Her relationship with Maverick has a not so great history, but it has persevered.

Starr is no stranger to gun violence. She lost a friend at the tender age of ten to a drive by shooting. This makes it all the more painful when she sees her friend gunned down by a police officer. While he’s driving her home, they fall victim to racial profiling that leads to her friend, Khalil, being shot multiple times. He dies in the street with her by his side.

The next weeks are very taxing for Starr. She has many decisions to make as to what to say to the police, the DA, and to the media. While she tries to defend her deceased friend who can no longer defend himself, she also has to go up against the word of the officer and local gang members who want to keep her quiet. She blooms from a terrified teenager who wants to hide from what happened to a revolutionary activist.

This is the debut book by Angie Thomas. I am inspired. I appreciated her way with dialogue and the dynamics between characters. One minute, I was ugly crying about the injustice of racial America, and the next giggling at Starr’s humor. I can’t wait to see how Angie Thomas evolves over time. There is a wind of change blowing through YA, and Ms. Thomas is a part of that. I am very proud to see it.

I loved that Starr had a boyfriend, but it wasn’t a together forever kind of relationship that is dominant in YA. They had a regular, healthy relationship. Starr was somewhat rebellious like a normal teen but had consequences to face. She finally realized that her two worlds could come together. This is the unity we need in America right now. Starr was brave and in my opinion, is a modern day hero. 

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

My experience with Ken Follett has shown him to be one of my favorite writers. His descriptions of people and things and even of the dark side of the world are beautiful. Fall of Giants did not disappoint.

There are many characters involved in this book. Many lives intersect and move in different directions. There are those from different countries with strong differences in opinions, both political and otherwise. Sometimes, it takes focus to keep up with the direction things move in, but in the end is definitely worth the extra attention.

This book made for a great discussion with the club. We all wished there had been more to Katerina’s story. Maybe if her past had been a bit more discussed, she might have been a more likeable character. All enjoyed the emphasis on women’s suffrage and the dynamics of relationships because of it. How we saw the lives of everyday people made us better understand the war and how people on all sides were changed for good and bad. Everyone felt like we came away from the book with more knowledge about WWI and the politics of that time.

This book better taught us how war changed countries, molded them, and ultimately decimated some of them. In Russia during the war and revolution, they had hardly any bread. People starved to death or resorted to prostitution to feed their families. Germans lost homes to the war to be used for housing soldiers or weapons. German soldiers near the front line received very little food. When the Germans would take a British trench, they realized how much better the British were eating. They were so hungry that they would forget to be a soldier and become almost childlike over food.

The love aspects of the book add to the plot but are not a centralized part of the plot. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of the lives of the characters and what they thought about life, war, and politics.

The character of Ethel Williams seemed to be the book club favorite as she is a strong female and tends to think outside the box. Grigori was another favorite with his superhero complex and kind heart. Gus Dewar is also one of my favorite characters. I did not realize it until I began working on my plot summary. He interacts with almost every character in some way.

Would I recommend this book? It depends on the reader. If you love epic, historical, or war stories, absolutely. If you’re a romance or young adult reader, I would caution you that while there are love stories, they are not the focal points and following the story may not appeal you as much. However, the historical aspect is well worth it.


The following is a summary of the plot that does involve spoilers. If you intend to read the book, I suggest you stop at this point.

We begin with Billy who is just becoming a man and his concerns with what that means. He and his sister live with their parents and grandpa in Aberowen, a Welsh town. Billy has just finished with school and is off to work in the mines. Ethel, his sister, works at a wealthy family’s estate nearby.

Ethel works for an earl who is married to a Russian princess. The princess, Bea, is a hot and cold bride. Sometimes she welcomes her husband, but most often she is cold to him in the way of marital relations. The Earl Fitzherbert, or Fitz, is very fond of his liberal sister, Maud. Her political opinions are almost the complete opposite of his. Maud is fond of Ethel who is a maid turned housekeeper. Her brother is attracted to Ethel, and the feeling becomes mutual. The attraction leads to an affair and then a baby. Ethel is offered by the Earl’s lawyer to be paid off which she promptly refuses. She leaves everything she knows and sets off for London after her father rejects her because of her pregnancy. She finds work and starts making a life for herself. She runs into her old friend, Maud. Maud takes her under her wing. They both become active in politics and women’s suffrage. Toward the end of Fall of Giants, they have a disagreement and part ways. Ethel marries Bernie Leckwith, he adopts her son, Lloyd, and they make a life together. Their first issue is that Ethel is nominated for a political position that Bernie wants for himself. Ethel declines the nomination as she is pregnant. Ethel is a strong woman who knows her own mind and makes the best out of her situation. Although she made some decisions that were not ideal, she does not expect handouts from anyone and stands on her own two feet. She seemed to be a favorite with the book club and myself.

During this time, Billy is learning about the mines and getting better. There is a mining explosion where he earns respect and becomes somewhat of a local hero. Instead of running away from the danger, he faces it and helps others. He soon realizes that the safety precautions and emergency management of the mines is not up to par. He and his father take on local leaders to get this corrected to prevent future loss of life. The leaders also evict the families of the miners who died during the explosion. This leads to a strike from the local miners. Soon, almost everyone is evicted. The struggle to survive goes on.

The King plans to visit Aberowen after the explosion. He is invited into the house of Edward “Fitz” Fitzherbert, Earl Fitzherbert. Fitz is a very conservative politician and when rumors of war begin, he is for it. His sister, Maud, is the complete opposite. She desires peace and is considered liberal, to her brother’s chagrin. They have something akin to a house party while the king is visiting and Maud finds herself attracted to her brother’s German schoolmate, Walter von Ulrich. The attraction is mutual. After spending time together, they find themselves sneaking off for stolen kisses. They both try to deny their feelings at first then realize that they are very much in love despite the tension between their countries. Because of this, they have to keep their relationship a secret. As a war builds between all countries involved, they marry in secret and as Walter becomes a German soldier in the war, they are separated for five years. Their love endures and eventually, they are reunited. By the end of the book, Maud and Walter make their home in war ravaged Germany and start a family.

We also have the story of Russian brothers, Lev and Grigori Peshkov. Grigori works in a local factory and is saving to go to America. Since the death of their mother, Grigori has taken care of Lev. While their lifestyle is meager, Lev has become a bit spoiled with his brother always getting him out of tight situations. Once in America, Grigori plans to save for Lev’s ticket to America.

One night on his way home from work, Grigori comes across a woman being accosted by the police. He knows some of the local officers are crooked. He steps in to try and help her and ends up fighting the officers involved. An American, Gus Dewar, is passing by when he notices what is going on. He stops to assist. Everyone parts ways, but not without a warning that the officers would get revenge. The woman’s name is Katerina. Grigori is stunned by her beauty and offers her a place to stay. She has reservations but not much of a choice. She goes home with Grigori and stays with his female neighbors.

Once Lev sets eyes on Katerina, he makes her his next conquest. Grigori is dismayed and knows that it won’t end well. He feels some resentment toward his brother because he is able to attract Katerina in a way that Grigori is not. Lev and Katerina begin seeing each other. Soon, Lev finds himself in trouble once again. To keep him from being arrested, Grigori gives Lev his ticket to America that he finally acquired. Grigori sees him off and goes to find Katerina. Once, they talk, Grigori finds that she is expecting. After cursing his brother, he gives in to his feelings for Katerina and in true Grigori fashion, resolves to take care of her and his brother’s baby.

The beginning of The Revolution starts in Russia. Grigori is excited to see it and participates in protests.

Once the war begins, he’s off to fight it. When higher officers than he make bad decisions that lead to unnecessary loss of life, Grigori defies orders to keep his men safe. During the revolution, he becomes an official himself. He and Katerina move into a nice home and have a baby girl.

Lev is not sent to America as he thinks he, but to Aberowen where the miner strike is taking place. He is told to work the mines in place of those on strike. He sticks to his rogue ways and is soon cheating other miners at cards. From his ill gotten winnings and with the rush of finding himself in trouble, he is finally able to go to America.

He begins working for someone akin to a mob boss, finds himself attracted to the daughter of the boss, and is once again in trouble. When it comes about that she is expecting, he is forced into marriage and into the “family business” running a club. Still, he looks for trouble. Grigori is no longer his bail out, and so his father in law sends him into the military and off to war.

Strangely, he finds himself captured and comes face to face with his brother. Grigori listens to his tale, and fills in Lev on what’s gone on in his absence. When Lev offers his brother the money to travel to America, Grigori refuses, saying he has important work to do in Russia.

The only person Lev cares enough about to return to is his daughter, Daisy, in America. He goes home and finds that his mistress is also pregnant. His wife and her mob boss father finds out. The father demands a fight and when the fight is done, Lev’s father in law is dead, presumably of a heart attack. He flees to Canada, and then comes home to take his place in business.

Gus Dewar is an important advisor to the president. He has worked his way up and is a big man about town. Unfortunately, he has bad taste in women. He finds himself with a married woman who promises, as they all do, to leave her husband. She finally comes to Gus, and tells him that her husband has been given a promotion that will move them away. She is going with him. Gus is heartbroken and focuses on work for sometime. Soon, he finds himself taken with Olga, who happens to be the daughter of the mob boss. Her father approves the match because he wants a good life for his girl. Of course, since her father approves, Olga finds him boring. Olga and Gus are all but engaged when it comes out that she is pregnant with her father’s employees baby. Gus is once again on his own. With the war beginning and America possibly getting involved, he is too wrapped up to think of dating. He travels to Germany and finds Walter. Walter asks Gus for a favor. Since Gus is headed next to England, he asks Gus to deliver a message to Maud. Gus is in Paris with President Wilson when he runs into his friend, Rosa. She is a tough, brassy journalist with a lovely exterior. After spending more and more time with her, Gus finds himself taken with Rosa. He thinks about how she told him he was a fool when he sought to marry Olga. He and Rosa fall for one another, and finally, Gus finds happiness.