LUCINDA’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019 (2)

Last year, 2018, I set my Goodreads reading challenge to 100 books. I only managed to achieve that by cramming in a couple of children’s books in December – well I wasn’t really cheating, was I? This year and last I read more than the totals as I could not include beta reading or other books that were not yet published.

In 2019 to take a little pressure off I lowered it to 80 books and that is a much easier target to reach, I’m already there.

I have traveled back in time, returned to Africa several times, lurked behind pillars in the Vatican, and again and racked my brains wondering ‘who done it’?

Here are the next three books I loved.

CONCLAVE  by Robert Harris 

conclave

I’m very curious about the Vatican with all its secrets, mysteries and the men who live there – those who are genuine in their beliefs and those who worship power more than God. I loved this book and read it in one day. The pope is dead, and behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours, one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth. I also learned much about the rituals involved when voting for a new pope and it was not as I had imagined. Why did I think they were all locked in one chapel for days on end? Why did I believe they might not be able to talk to outsiders in those days? This book explains a lot and the ending? While I was still debating – it had me fooled – as to who were the good guys – the ending was explosive and made me laugh out loud.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1784751839

THE DUNG BEETLES OF LIBERIA  by  Daniel V Meier JR

dung beetles

I loved this book for its sheer honesty especially in an age where so many people are just willing and waiting to criticize and contradict and pc speech is strangling our literature. This book set in Liberia in the 1970s cannot be questioned, it tells of a time period well before we could all immediately find out the ‘facts’ as they now appear on the world wide web.

The Dung Beetles of Liberia is the story of a young college undergraduate at Cornell who drops out of school to take a job flying planes in Liberia. He leaves behind his astonished family and his almost-fiancé in a bid to escape the demons that plague him over the death of his brother. He’s learned that Liberia is one of the richest countries in Africa and has high expectations of what he will find there. America had repatriated many slaves in the 1800s and established a democracy and infrastructure. What young Kenneth found was the true state of Africa with its own interpretation of life, morals, and ethics. It shocks him to the core. Life is cheap, the hierarchy is absolute, the poor are driven to the point of extinction and he finds himself rubbing shoulders with other hard-drinking, wild and unprincipled expatriates.
The book is based on a true account of life there at the time – which I suspect has changed very little. This is possibly the most honest tale of Africa I have ever read. It is not as politically correct as other books set in similar places, but the author brilliantly highlights the cheapness of life, the lack of compassion, the willingness of the poor and downtrodden to accept their lot in life. Many readers may simply not believe the tales told with such pathos and humour but I can assure them that life is as wild and undisciplined as they are recounted. Kenneth Verrier is a typical young American from a good family who is shocked to the core with what he encounters. Flying small planes delivering equipment to the mines – and a little diamond smuggling on the side – paying no attention to overloading, air traffic rules, non-existent runways and centre of gravity safety regulations. Little by little Kenneth learns to adapt but never loses his humanity. He is a likable hero, and tells his story simply, honestly and clearly. This book is one of the best I have read in a long, long time and find it difficult to believe the author did not spend most of his life in Africa as he has grasped the problems, the customs, and the mindset so truthfully. Highly recommend reading – in fact this should be on the prescribed reading list of every high school as a window on a continent with a different way of life and a different mindset. Welcome to the world of Africa.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1945448377

THE OPIUM LORD’S DAUGHTER  by  Robert Wang

THE OPIUM LORDS DAUGHTER

Moving continent to Asia, the author, now living in the United States, writes of a historical period in the land of his ancestors. In an east meets west scenario we meet the family of Lord Lee Shao Lin, his daughter Su-Mei and his number one son Lee da Ping during the time of the opium Wars between Britain and China. Many people may not know of the travesty of this unevenly fought war when the British navy attacked China to ensure uninterrupted trade in tea, porcelain, silks, and spices. Since China had no need to import anything from the west, the currency used to buy Chinese goods was Chinese silver which the British obtained by illegally importing opium into China. Everyone was involved, the Chinese merchants, the corrupt customs officials, the addicts who would do what it took to obtain more of the drug. But then the Emperor issued a decree to halt the trade and the troubles begin. At this time, Sue-Mei meets Travers Higgins from Yorkshire and falls in love – a cross-cultural affair unheard of and disapproved of in 1840. The stage is set for an explosive story in more ways than one.

The Opium Lord’s Daughter is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it in a day and a half and loved every bit of it. The characters leaped off the pages, I connected with Sue-Mei the heroine and the words flowed effortlessly. For the hours I was engrossed in this book I was living in the 1800s in China, surrounded by the sights and smells, the customs and the laughter and sorrow of the young couple and her family. The historical information was woven seamlessly into the story and I suspect the author researched the facts thoroughly, backed up by the pictures in the back of the book featuring many of the real characters mentioned at the time. A fairly balanced argument from both sides highlights the greed and avarice and arrogance of man which has not changed one iota in the last two thousand years. I highly recommend this book, and I shall file it away to read again in the future.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T2N4GK9/

Have you checked out my books? Memoirs, humour, action-adventure and my new psychological thriller. This link will take you to my Amazon author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

 

 

 

BOOK AWARDS 2019

I have been very quiet on my blog this year. Keeping up with social media on Facebook and Twitter, writing more books and (attempting to) market them plus the twice a week blogging wore me out. Life also gets in the way too, and I’ve even ventured out of the house a few times in between.

However, as I do every year, I could not ignore sharing my favourite books from 2019 with you.

In no particular order, over the next 4 weeks these are the reads that have blown me away over the last 12 months. The books I didn’t want to end, where I was in awe of the author’s skill, or, the story was simply amazing.

OF KNIGHTS AND DOGFIGHTS  Ellie Midwood

DOG FIGHTS

In 1938 four young men join the flying school at Schwechat near Vienna. From different backgrounds, they all share a love of flying for the freedom and the danger. We meet Johann and Willi, complete opposites, Rudi and Walt who is half Jewish. When war breaks out, they are sent out to fight for Germany in Europe, North Africa, and later on the Eastern Front. Not all of them survive the war, but long before it is over, they begin to question the reasons and rationale and whether they are fighting for the right side. They have doubts about the Nazi regime, the sanity of Hitler and the lies and propaganda they are expected to believe.
When I chose this book to review, I was not sure I would enjoy it as much as this author’s other novels. I am a great fan of Ellie’s work and this is one of her best. She did not disappoint. This is not a ‘man’s’ book despite its detailed description of the dog fights, the handling of the planes and the aerial tactics. Topics of friendship, beliefs, morals, and comradeship are all explored as these teenagers fly one mission after another. The slow dawning of what part these brave young men were being forced to play on the chessboard of an insane man’s dreams was masterful. In places I smiled, in others, my eyes filled with tears. Ms Midwood knows how to spin her words as she takes you to the desert in North Africa then to the frozen wastelands of Russia. She pulls no punches in describing the brutality, the gut-wrenching scenes against the backdrop of a shameful period in history. What made this book really special for me was the realization that while the Nazis / Germans have been vilified for the part they played in World War II there were many fine, upstanding people who did not share those beliefs and stuck to their values until the very end and even beyond. I was amazed to read that the two main characters were based on the lives of real people who flew for the Luftwaffe. I can’t praise this book highly enough. It stands head and shoulders above any other World War II novel I’ve ever read.    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KX56ZJK

AMONG THE MASAI  Juliet Cutler

among masai

Among the Masai by Juliet Cutler is a memoir recounting the two years the author spent living and teaching in Tanzania at the end of the 1990s. Arriving with preconceived ideas and expectations, nothing was as she had imagined. She describes her feelings of being ‘on show’ her white skin making her very conspicuous, the shock at the levels of poverty, the comparison with the society in which she had grown up. While there were mental challenges to adjust to there were also the practical problems too – shortage of water, no internet, lack of familiar foods and necessities, the dangers of the local wildlife. Traveling with her fiancé, Juliet was seconded to the first Secondary School for Girls catering to the Masai, a partly nomadic tribe spread across Kenya and Tanzania and viewed by other tribes in those countries as primitive. It had taken months of negotiations to set up and run a school.

Like many young people traveling overseas to third world countries to work among the disadvantaged, Juliet’s wish was to help educate and uplift the lives of the young girls she was employed to teach English. Fresh out of college, with little experience she had no idea what to expect. This book is beautifully written and should be on the prescribed reading list for all schools to create an understanding of a culture that is so often misunderstood. I could relate to her experiences, applaud her soul searching and her questioning of whether foreign aid is a blessing or a curse. She understands the fine balance between imposing an alien culture and gently easing young people into the modern world. Encountering practices such as FGM, child marriage and girls sold for a few cows were a culture shock and she shares her sorrow and triumphs with the young girls she grew to love. As she says, you will always have Africa inside you. A wonderful book, it made me laugh and cry as I feverishly turned the pages. A book written with love which showed great empathy.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L973RQM

THE LAST CALIPH  by T L Williams

last caliph

The Last Caliph is the fourth book in the Logan Alexander series and it takes the reader from the United States to Turkey and Syria as Logan goes undercover to track down the current Caliph who is continuing to run ISIS operations. While the President of the US has announced that ISIS has been defeated and is preparing to withdraw the American troops, Logan and his old allies at the CIA are not convinced. At great risk to himself, and despite strained relations between himself and his wife, Logan arrives in Turkey with the idea of crossing the border into Syria, with the help of a young Muslim woman who supports the extremist regime. The subplot involves Logan’s brother in law and adds an extra twist to the book. This is an excellent, on the edge of your seat story, the pace and action never let up. I was compelled to read this at almost one sitting. The book is crammed with technical details which only someone who was totally familiar with weaponry, aircraft and espionage techniques first hand could produce. This lends the book authenticity and takes it out of the realm of the usual run of the mill spy story. The author has created a believable character in Logan Alexander. While accomplishing his mission, he remains down to earth and human. There is no extraneous detail, just enough to inform the reader without slowing the story which gallops from beginning to end. I loved the realism, the possibility that the events could take place and all the loose ends were tied up and followed through.       https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P222SRH

If you would like to see the books I write, hop over to my web page and read all about them. I’m multi-genre so there is something for everyone.

https://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Three more books next week.