The Henna Artist: (The Jaipur Trilogy Book 1) by Alka Joshi – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Goodreads Choice Award nominee

Book Blurb:

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still, she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

“Captivated me from the first chapter to the final page.”—Reese Witherspoon 

My Review:

I grabbed at the opportunity to borrow this audiobook from my local library as I remembered it being a Reese Witherspoon book club pick when I was looking at celebrity book clubs. For one thing, it takes place in 1950’s India, and I could certainly relate to the moral ambiguities. There is the immersion into Indian society in that decade and, of course, an introduction to the kind of literature that Reese Witherspoon will be choosing for her book club picks. (I feel like I’ve come to know her in her Instagram stories–she really is adorable.)

The Henna Artist by Alka JoshiLakshmi flees from an abusive marriage at seventeen to establish herself in Jaipur. Years later she has not only become a renowned Henna artist of some stature, but quietly cares for many of her upper-class (female) clients with herbal remedies that allow them a certain additional “freedom.”

She counts heavily on her ability to be trusted with confidences and carefully contrives to build sufficient funds to build her own home. She is so close and her successful reputation will secure her dream.

That is, until her ex catches up with her with a thirteen-year-old girl in tow—a sister. Well, THAT’S a surprise! At first the high-spirited girl is reserved, unhappy. Neither has an easy job getting to know each other. It’s strained and puts a damper on the house in progress.

The problem is, the sister lacks the fierce drive Lakshmi has or interest in her trade, she is rough around the edges and doesn’t really care if she is trained in refinement or not.

And then a shock.

Mercy, what a problem! The 50s or choose the decade, teenagers can be difficult and control is tenuous. For the most part, I didn’t care for Radha’s character. She doesn’t seem to care one whit if she is ruining the seasoned relationships her older sister has cultivated—in fact—it appears she is purposefully trying to sink it.

“A reputation once lost is seldom retrieved.”

Lakshmi has gripped reader interest and as she struggles with losing her business(es—both of them), her character wields some sympathy. But, of course, as the old saying goes, “when one door closes…”

“Only a fool lives in water and remains an enemy of the crocodile.”

Lakshmi is nothing if not resourceful. The tale weaves through then family traditions, divulging secrets, and the tenacity of family. There is a myriad of characters, the women more empathetic, the men powerful, and it is fun to peek into the culture. I always enjoy the discussions of herbal remedies, some eons old (although these veered into sensitive areas), and eventually there is a blending of “modern” medicine with the ancient.

Lakshmi manages a brilliant maneuver and I was quite satisfied with the conclusion. An ending you probably wished for as well and brought a smile. The narrator does a great job of smoothing difficult words I’d have stumbled over often and definitely enhances the enjoyment of the tale. You may wish to choose the audiobook as well.

Book Details:

Genre: World Literature, Cultural Heritage Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin Audio
ASIN: B07XVNLH7P
Listening Length: 10 hrs 56 minsNarrator: Sneha Mathan
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Henna Artist [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Alka Joshi - authorThe Author: Alka Joshi was born in the desert state of Rajasthan in India. In 1967, her family immigrated to America. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts in San Francisco. Prior to writing The Henna Artist, Alka ran an advertising and marketing agency for 30 years. She has spent time in France and Italy and currently lives with her husband on the Northern California Coast.

Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPflbk14yjY&t=2s

More at: https://www.instagram.com/thealkajoshi/

©2022 – V Williams V Williams

#throwbackthursday

Deep South (Anna Pigeon #8) by Nevada Barr – An #Audiobook Review – Cultural Heritage Fiction -#ThrowbackThursday

“You stick your finger in the water and you pull it out, and that is how much of a hole you leave when you’re gone.” (Finger in the water test–Multiple sources)

Deep South by Nevada Barr

Book Blurb:

Nevada Barr‘s ever-popular Anna Pigeon series is consistently praised as “exceptional” (Denver Post), “stunning” (Seattle Times), and “superb” (New York Times Book Review). In Deep South, Park Ranger Anna Pigeon heads to Mississippi, only to encounter terrible secrets in the heart of the south…

Anna Pigeon finally gives in to her bureaucratic clock-and signs on for a promotion. Next thing she knows, she’s knee-deep in mud and Mississippi. Not exactly what she had in mind. Almost immediately, as the new district ranger on the Natchez Trace, Anna discovers the body of a young prom queen near a country cemetery, a sheet around her head, a noose around her neck. It’s a bizarre twist on a best-forgotten past of frightening racial undertones. As fast as the ever-encroaching kudzu vines of the region, the roots of this story run deep-and threaten to suffocate anyone in the way, including Anna…

My Review:

My second book by Nevada Barr in her Anna Pigeon, US National Park Service series and I enjoyed this one possibly even more than my first, Hunting Season. While we are working through the trope of the lone female in a normally male bastion, the park service, I greatly appreciate the strong, independent woman portrayed as Anna Pigeon.

Deep South by Nevada BarrWilling to tackle just about anything (while admitting in some circumstances fear), she still plows through as if being a female doesn’t matter. In this case, a white woman and a Yankee in a new promotion as District Ranger on the Natchez Trace of Mississippi. Oh, and new to the south as well, she has several strikes against her before she even begins.

It’s apparent immediately she isn’t wanted, welcome, or tolerated. Still, before she can really settle into the new position or thoroughly meet her subordinates, she encounters the murder of a sixteen year old girl. The girl’s body is left with racial implications.

Dealing with the investigation, the road blocks thrown up by her deputies, and confronting an attraction for one of the men, she manages each confrontation with calm and intelligence and is making headway in the mystery.

I love the information regarding the historic area of Mississippi, the Natchez Trace being an ambitious trail from Natchez to Nashville, some 444 miles and three states. Underlying the Trace information is the Civil War stories that permeate the area in general and the Trace in particular.

Anna is well developed, we can see who she is without having read the seven prior to this entry, and in this episode, strong interpersonal relationships are borne of the circumstances that create engaging support characters.

These narratives set an early hook, reel you in, and don’t let go. It is a well-plotted and fast paced storyline that keeps you reading (in this instance—listening) and hard to pause.

Hard push into the explosive conclusion and the calming collective following. An oldie but a goodie that rallies interest in the remaining books of the series—nineteen in all. A good mystery with culture cues. The narrator does an excellent, even superb job of narrative—forcing the pace, either faster or that ease into another discovery, or possible perp. Who was it killed that girl? I won’t tell.

Book Details:

Genre: Cultural Heritage Fiction, World Literature, Women Sleuth Mysteries 
Publisher:  Recorded Books
ASIN: B0002QUWQY
Listening Length: 12 hrs 8 mins
Narrator:  Barbara Rosenblat
Publication Date: July 22, 2004
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Deep South [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Nevada Barr - authorThe Author: Nevada [Barr] was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.
Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in Acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For eighteen years she worked on stage, in commercials, industrial training films and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers — Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.
Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bitterweet was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada’s experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995 Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons.
The rest is, shall we say, HISTORY! Nevada’s books and accomplishments have become numerous and the presses continue to roll, so in the interest of NOT having to update this page, books, awards, status on the New York Times Best Seller List — and more — will be enumerated with the relevant books else where on this website.

Barbara Rosenblat - narratorThe Narrator:  [Barbara Rosenblat] has recorded over 600 audiobooks in a distinguished career that has garnered 8 Audie Awards, 50 plus Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine for exceptional recordings and numerous  accolades over the years. She has been inducted into the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame. One critic wrote, ‘Barbara is to audiobooks what Meryl Streep is to film’. Her book, ‘Audiobook Narrator- The Art of Recording Audiobooks’ provides personal guidance for those pursuing this avenue of art and is a direct result of answering many questions at personal appearances and at her masterclasses about the craft.

Barbara has also done a lot of animation, anime, and video games as well as documentaries and commercials. (Bio and pic from Hasty Book List.)

©2021 V Williams

The Image Seeker by Amanda Hughes – a #BookReview #bestselling author

Five Stars Five stars

The Image Seeker by Amanda HughesTitle: The Image Seeker (Bold Women of the 20th Century Book 2) by Amanda Hughes

Genre: US Historical Fiction, Cultural Heritage Fiction

  • ASIN: B07SQ5GGDQ

Print Length: 328 pages

Publication Date: HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY-June 20, 2019!

Source: Author request

Title Link: The Image Seeker

Book Blurb:

The Dust Bowl 1936-Battered and near death, Billie Bassett gazes up at the stars from the door of a boxcar wondering if she can go on. Yet, in spite of the violence and privation riding the rails, she endures and becomes one of the finest photojournalists in the nation.
From humble beginnings in an Indian boarding school in Minnesota to high society in New York City, Billie experiences it all. Her pioneering camera work attracts the attention of a group of elite New York journalists who catapult Billie to fame and fortune, but it comes at a price. Her talents are required in the war effort, and she must travel undercover, deep into Nazi Germany as a courier. By her side is the charismatic and acclaimed journalist, Max Rothman, Billie’s harshest critic and dearest friend. But Max does not reveal to her his own clandestine and dangerous agenda.
The Image Seeker is a tale of lost youth, strength, and rebirth set in one of our country’s most tragic eras, The Great Depression and in the cauldron of hatred that was Nazi Germany.

My Review:

The Image Seeker by Amanda HughesRest assured, you need look no further than author Amanda Hughes for an authentic, historically accurate, and poignant historical fiction novel. They consistently touch all the right buttons!

The female protagonists in the Bold Women series do not try to project a super-hero feminist. They are vulnerable but persevering, subtle but daring, quiet but strong, using their native intelligence and quick-witted response to the given situation. I love that they could also be you–or me. This is the second in the Twentieth Century series, but each of these books can be read as a standalone.

Billie Bassett is separated from her family in Minnesota at age 5 and sent to an Indian boarding school to integrate her into (white) society. Not allowed to speak her native language, she is fed, sheltered, and educated–until a tragic occurrence forces her decision to escape. She has been lucky in that during several summers she was welcomed into a German farm family exchanging domestic help for another kind of education. And something else–love and support. It is through the encouragement and generosity of this couple she will further her new and growing interest in photography.

The storyline grips from the first page, grabs your attention, and does not let go. Much of what I thought I knew of this period in our history is opened up, laid out, examined in intensity I’d yet to visualize. Billie is instructed in the ways of life on the rails–teaching her the signs and symbols of hobo communication, the “jungles,” protection, hunger. It’s an amazing lesson and combined with the languages she’s learned by immersion, invaluable.

But there are always forks in the road and each that the talented Billie has boldly chosen or fought for has led inexorably to the path that would lead to achievement, independence, even a wealth of sorts–dollars no less than those of connections. The connections lead to a dangerous mission for her country at the 1936 Games of the XI Olympiad in Berlin, witnessing the rise of Nazi Germany, and while she steadfastly refuses romance in her life, it finds her, unbidden.

The well-plotted narrative builds upon itself, leading you to cringe more than once over what will happen next, and scared that you think you might know. Dialogue is natural and the storyline easy to follow, though trust me that there will be a few unexpected twists along the way. The conclusion is carefully drawn pulling in threads after a harrowing escape, smoothing out the ripples, allowing the adrenaline to settle back down.

I received the ebook download from the author for a read and review and the review is my own and independent opinion. I’m a big fan of this award-winning and bestselling author. (Read my interview with Amanda here.) I thoroughly enjoyed The Image Seeker and found SOO many parallels in my life–as well as I’m quite sure you might as well. (My paternal grandmother born on a Chippewa reservation and maternal grandmother in Minnesota.) The Depression generation suffered through some horrible deprivation and saw many of those ingrained habits handed down to succeeding generations. (Save everything! Rugs out of old nylons–oh yeah.) Many rode the rails and we have a legacy of country/folk music to prove it. Trains have always held a fascination hard to deny–the power of the behemoths–and the legacy they spin. So many stories. Whether or not you are a historical fiction buff, you’ll love this fascinating narrative. Highly recommended!

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Amanda Hughes authorThe Author: Bestselling and award-winning author, Amanda Hughes is a “Walter Mitty”, spending more time in heroic daydreams than the real world. At last, she found an outlet writing adventures about bold women through the centuries. Well known for her genre-busting books, she is the winner of the Gems National Medal for Writing, featured in USA Today and is nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Book Award. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and when she isn’t off tilting windmills, she lives and writes in Minnesota. Don’t miss these page-turning novels for readers who like historical fiction with a just bit of a love story. All of her books are stand-alone and can be read in any order.

The Bold Women of the 17th Century: The Firefly Witch Book 1

The Bold Women Series of the 18th Century: Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry Book 1 The Pride of the King Book 2 The Sword of the Banshee Book 3

The Bold Women Series of the 19th Century: The Grand Masquerade Book 1 Vagabond Wind Book 2 The House of Five Fortunes Book 3

The Bold Women Series of the 20th Century: The Looking Glass Goddess Book 1

Interested in her new books or a free novelette? Go to http://www.amandahughesauthor.com

©2019 V Williams Blog author

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