Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Summer’s Novel (and not-so-novel) Destinations

The morning sunrise seems softer and the green leaves are showing hints of red and gold – both sure signs that August is leading us into an early autumn in our corner of the Pacific Northwest. It is the time of lazy afternoons on the deck soaking up the last of summer  ~ a time of travel to novel, and not-so-novel, destinations without leaving the chaise lounge.

Armchair, or deck chair, travelers, this post is for you. No packing or security pre-check required. Sit back as we are off to. . .

Jerusalem. . .

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Jerusalem, Israel
“Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgment Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to the 21st century, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism, and coexistence.”opening line of Amazon’s description of this book


We visited Jerusalem on one of those one-day-see-everything-you-can cruise ship tours last year. It was the one city of all the magical places we’d visited that didn’t ‘grab’ us.  Perhaps we’d seen too much before arriving there, perhaps the crowds were too enormous, perhaps any number of things caused us to be less than ‘wow’ed’ by this place. 

The glimpse we had - though hasty - of its historical places left us wanting to know more about it: the conflicts that make up its history, how that ‘real’ history meshes with the Biblical version. . .we needed to fill in some blanks and answer some questions.

And one of the best books we’ve found to do that, is the book pictured to the right by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

At 704-pages it is not a light read in any sense of the phrase. But it is an easy read and a fascinating journey.

Middle East. . .

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Wadi Rum - Jordan
She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. – Amazon books


Our fascination with the Middle East continues, even now, months after our introduction to it on that Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise last year. 

While images of Lawrence of Arabia came to mind while we traveled there, it wasn't until this year that we read about Gertrude Bell. I have to admit that it was not until I was channel surfing for movies aboard a transatlantic flight a few months ago, and landed on one called,“Queen of the Desert” starring Robert Pattison and Nicole Kidman, released in 2015, had I ever heard of Gertrude Bell and her mark on history.

After reading this book, I don't think the movie does  justice to this woman’s amazing adventures and contributions! Before she conquered the desert she climbed a few mountains. Too bad they didn’t have ‘blogs’ back then – hers would have had millions of followers.



Egypt. . .

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Diwa Bookstore - Cairo, Egypt - a must for visitors
I know many of you swear by your Kindles and electronic books, but for us there is nothing better than discovering a bookstore in a new city and spending a good deal of time there looking at covers, flipping through pages.  That was the case with Diwa Bookstore in the Zamelik district of Cairo.  We couldn’t resist buying three of the oh, so many, titles that tempted. . .many by writers of whom we’d never heard of before but whom we've since found on Amazon (so you don't need to go to Cairo to find the book).

This sweeping novel depicts the intertwined lives of an assortment of Egyptians--Muslims and Copts, northerners and southerners, men and women--as they begin to settle in Egypt's great second city, and explores how the Second World War, starting in supposedly faraway Europe, comes crashing down on them, affecting their lives in fateful ways.

Central to the novel is the story of a striking friendship between Sheikh Magd al-Din, a devout Muslim with peasant roots in northern Egypt, and Dimyan, a Copt with roots in southern Egypt, in their journey of survival and self-discovery.  - Amazon books

This book may have been one of the best ‘reads’ we’ve had this year.  The other two books, not novels, pictured above, were also excellent.  On the left, ‘The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Cairo to the New World” (2008) is written by Lucette Lagnado about her family’s relocation to the United States from Cairo. An amazing tale.

“Six Days: How the 1967 War Shaped the Middle East” is an almost hour-by-hour look at the six day war that took place way back when we were too young to understand war or how it would shape the Middle East. Written by Jeremy Bowen, who from 1995 – 2000 was the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent, the book is a must for anyone trying to understand what has led to today’s conflicts there. It doesn't provide all the answers, but it certainly puts them in perspective.

Australia. . .

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Sydney Opera House from our cruise ship deck
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.                    – Amazon Books

To tell you much more about this novel than the summary by Amazon would simply tell you too much about the plot. A friend loaned this to me while we were in Greece and I am ever so glad she did.

 This has to be one of the most powerful, and yet dark, books – a look at love and at human nature; good versus bad – that I’ve read in a long time. A bit of a tear-jerker as well.

One of the most unusual narratives and the setting so remote. . .you actually could feel the loneliness. . .










Seattle. . .

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Seattle as seen from a ferry on Puget Sound
Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt's island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara's life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before.  -- Amazon books


This book has a 4.5 star out of 5 rating on Amazon with more than 600 reviews, so don’t just take our word for how good this first-novel by Seattle writer, Kelli Estes, is!  Another friend gave me this book for Christmas and again I am so glad she did.

Amazon’s review doesn’t do justice to the book that tells an amazing love story based on real life tragedies in this city’s past.  Just as Jamie Ford’s “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” told of the injustices committed her against the Japanese in Seattle during World War II, Estes tells of the treatment of the Chinese immigrants through a narrative that bounces between the present and the late 1800's.






Greece. . .

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Entryway at our Stone House on the Hill
Sofia’s love life has ended in disaster. Having lost her London home, she now lives with and cares for her Greek grandmother, matriarch of the family, astute business woman, and widow of an English man. Sofia hears stories from the past, of her grandparents’ meeting and life in the remote coastal village of Galini on the Greek island of Tritinos. When her grandmother dies, she bequeaths to Sofia the family house in Galini, with one condition attached.   -- Amazon Books

Sofia's House by [Gordon, William]
Now you didn't think I could leave out Greece, did you?

Long-time readers of Travelnwrite will remember the English writer and his editor wife, Bill and Val Kitson, who we met by chance several years ago on Crete’s southern coast in a tiny village called Loutro. We’ve stayed in touch and since the initial meeting have rendezvoused in that village to celebrate Greek Easter a short time ago.

While Bill has any number of novels to his Bill Kitson name, he also writes as William Gordon. And some of those 'pen name' novels are set in Greece, like Watering the Olives. Late last year were honored to have him select a photo of mine of our Stone House on the Hill to be the cover photo of his Greek novel, Sofia’s House.

If you just need a bit of romance on a Greek island -- with a plot twist or two thrown in -- this is the book for you!



That’s a bit of our ‘summer arm chair travels'. How about you?  Any good novel – or not-so-novel – destinations to recommend to others?  Send us an email with the name of the book, the author (where and how to buy it) and why you recommend it. If I get enough responses, I’ll do another post featuring your recommendations for arm chair travels.

Again, we appreciate the time you spend with us. Thanks for sharing our posts on FB!  Hope your summer is going well and that your travels continue to be healthy and safe.  See you next week – bring some friends and family with you!

Disclaimer:  In the beginning I displayed books to purchase from Amazon on this site, then I realized I was simply taking up valuable blog space. I am technically still an Amazon Associate - however, I've never sold a book thus never earned a dime. So I am recommending these books because they are good reads in our opinion - not because I am trying to make a few pennies off a sale of a book.

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

51 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, I've added a few of them to my TBR list.

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    1. If you have a book to recommend, please send me the information and I'll do a post with recommendations and link back to your blog.

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  2. Thank you so much for these recommendations--particularly Jerusalem. We absolutely LOVED Jerusalem, and I hope you'll have an opportunity to visit it with more time to wander. (Ken got very nervous when I was wandering in the Arab section and some soldiers suddenly came rushing through!) I'm really looking forward to reading the book.

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    1. I think you will really find it of interest. It was depressing, reading of all the fighting that has taken place here over the centuries, but it certainly puts 'today's world' in perspective.

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  3. Thanks for the suggestions. I am looking for a destination for my next backpacking :-)

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    1. The book on Gertrude Bell has both mountains and deserts, which might give you some ideas. Enjoy!

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  4. I LOVE this post...thanks for taking us along...
    and I am so super excited that YOUR photo of your Stone House on The Hill was chosen for a book cover...Congratulations, dearest one...

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    1. Well, I am glad you enjoyed this one BJ. I so wish you lived closer and could visit that Stone House on the Hill as I am certain with your eye for color you could help me take my little 'playhouse' to a whole new level! Hugs to you!

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  5. You've just added to my pile of summer reading.

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    1. If I were better at construction, I could build a house out of those stacks of 'to read' I have created throughout the house. Glad I've helped yours grow.

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  6. Hi Jackie I've enjoyed this blog as much as the others you have written - well maybe a bit more as I'm a huge book fan.
    I will definitely be getting two of your recommendations - the book about Gertrude Bell and Sophie's House - to start.
    Btw Gertrude Bell grew up in my part of the world and I've known about her since studying for my History degree, her being a local girl and all.
    Carry on writing so I can live vicariously until I decide enough is enough and take off with a backpack and passport! Lol x

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    1. Oh I am so glad that you enjoyed this post. I heard from another person that she also has lived in the area of Gertrude Bell and I am envious of you who have known of her for so long. I guess we do get focused on local history (for us it would be Lewis and Clark, who discovered our Pacific Northwest, I guess) and miss others along the way. I'll keep the posts coming and you get that backpack and passport ready to use! xx

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  7. Thank you for these summer armchair travels. I've read The Light Between Oceans. In someways it had parts of our Cape Leeuwin woven in I think. Congratulations on having one of your pics on the cover of Sophias House. What a thrill! I must look out for it. Happy summer reading.

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    1. Oh I was so taken by that book, Jill. It was such a different story line and the setting that the author used was so hauntingly isolated that I could almost feel the loneliness each time that boat pulled away.

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  8. Jackie, what an honour it is to have one of your beautiful photos of your Stone House on the Hill grace the cover of a novel! Kudos to you! Of course, you and the Scout could easily pen your own novel, a Greek version of the famous 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. But, until then, we are lucky to have your wonderful posts right here! Thanks for sharing!

    Poppy

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    1. Thank you Poppy - both for the visit and the lovely words! It was an honor to have someone be as taken with a bit of our Stone House on the Hill as we were and want to use that photo. Wishes for a good week ahead ~ Jackie

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  9. Hello, thanks for sharing your list of great reads. I see a few I will put on my list. I do enjoy reading ebooks on my ipad. It is very cool your pretty Stone House photo was used for the cover of a novel.
    Happy Sunday, enjoy your new week ahead!

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    1. Thanks Eileen, both for the visit and the kind words about the cover of the book. Happy travels to you~

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  10. Thanks for introducing all these good books. This month my laptop was not working for a whole week and I finished a whole book in that week. Maybe I should turn off the Internet more often.
    So glad you will be making another swing by our coast. Please tell me more about it.

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    1. Never sure if these replies are seen by the person they are intended for Dina so I sent you an email. Also a question mark as to whether it ever reaches the person it is sent to: we overnight in Ashdod which gives us two full days to explore and then sail north to Haifa for another day of exploration -- we hope to avoid the ship's 'herds' this time and set out on our own. If you have some must see suggestions, please let me know.

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    2. Shalom Jackie, I just emailed you, to the msn.

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  11. I enjoyed this post. I don't think it was your intention, but it got me dreaming about a lot of different things as I read each plot. :)

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    1. Whatever works, Jan, just glad you enjoyed it!!

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  12. I've been to several of these destinations but Jerusalem and Egypt have escaped me. They are on my list, though.

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    1. Rhonda, you'll enjoy them both when you get there! Thanks for stopping by~~

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  13. What a play on words. You should write a book! And I envy your reading appetite. I do what both you and Joel do and my husband does all the readings. So I have recommended a few from this list to him, especially The Girl Who Wrote in Silk since he loved the Hotel n the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Hope to see you in the first week of September!

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    1. Joel is a far more voracious reader than I am - he'd rather read than eat. So he should be writing these novel destination posts, not me. Think we are going to miss in September as we just squeezed in a trip the first week of September to Utah so I am afraid instead of overlapping here - we are going to just miss. Next time. . .somewhere, sometime. . .

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  14. Great pun! We love our travel adventures but we also love good books and all of these look like interesting armchair adventures. I've never heard of Gertrude Bell, so I'm downloading the book to my Kindle as I'm writing my comment. Can't wait to start it and it will be fun to read during our plane, train and automobile visit to the US that we've just started.

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    1. Glad to hear you'd never heard of Gertrude either. What a woman she was. . .and several responses from those in England have been that they studied her in school and here in the US I don't think we heard of anyone but Lawrence of Arabia. Enjoy your US tour!

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  15. Some great recommendations here. I've got Lawrence of Arabia waiting to be read but it looks as if I'll have to add Gertrude Bell as well.

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    1. She was quite an amazing woman and to think how famous Lawrence is in history and some of us - based on the comments which means I am not alone - had never heard of her! Thanks for stopping by Karen.

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  16. What a great idea to post the books with the related areas for travel. I love to read a fiction book about an area I visited or intend to visit. I read only one of these that you mention - A light between the Oceans, and we are planning to go to Australia in 2017. I will be posting about our travels on http://adventurousretirement.com/blog/

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    1. I'll look forward to reading of your Australia adventures! Thanks for the visit, Wendy.

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  17. This looks like a good selection of books. I've not read any of these so now have a few more titles to add to my "want to read" list. I love to read novels and non-fiction books about places I travel to - before, during and after the visit.

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    1. Oh Donna I have so many stacks of books and notes of others to add to the stack that I know I won't get to them all before I die, but I will make a valiant effort to conquer as many as possible.

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  18. Great roundup of books to read. A friend told me about "The Light Between Oceans" and I'm definitely going to pick it up for my upcoming LONG journey. I've started to enjoy books more when they are NOT ebooks. There's something about actually holding a book and turning the pages that makes reading so much more enjoyable.

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    1. I love the 'feel' of a book in my hand, turning the pages and peeking ahead to the next chapter or end . . .the ebook just doesn't do it for me. Thanks for taking time to comment Janice.

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    1. Thanks much for stopping by, Carole! Happy summer travels to you~

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  20. Great idea for a post. We love when we can connect a book to a destination. Thanks!

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    1. We pretty much only read books these days - novel and not-so-novel -- that we can connect to a destination. Love learning about the history if even through a fictitious story. Happy reading and travels ~

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  21. You are heading into autumn and we are heading into spring. Almost time to grab a book and sit by the pool. The lighthouse keeper book looks really interesting.

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    1. I envy you Lyn as we really never 'had' a summer this year. Hot weather in spring and then a cold, wet summer. Two days of 90+ and now back to heavy clothes. . .always a season though for a good book. Thanks for stopping by.

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  22. Ahh, Jackie, thank you! Thank you! I've not read a book all summer. I have a list. I do, of about 10 books, that I still need to read - I'll be adding a few of these to the list. I'm also daydreaming - of places I want to visit.
    Thanks again!

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    1. Oh Marcia, I can so relate. I should have done a post on the half dozen books I have started and are in varying stages of finishing! Keep on daydreaming, you can't do it if you don't dream it first! xxx

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  23. What a wonderful selection to add to my travel reading bucket list, thank you!

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    1. Thanks Jo - I bet you've had time on sea days to do some reading on your exciting adventure! Smooth sailing ~

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  24. Marvelous! I hope to visit myself soon!
    Thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/08/along-eno-river.html

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  25. Hi Jackie! What a great list. There are quite a few here that I will add to my "must read" list. "Light Between Oceans" is at the top. Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday

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  26. Yes, good books make wonderful travel companions!

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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