Book Review: West With The Night

West-with-the-NightTitle: West with the Night
Author: Beryl Markham
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: 1942
Pages: 294
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: June 21, 2020

Goodreads Description: West with the Night is the story of Beryl Markham–aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty–and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and ’30s.

My Review: I heard about this book via Jeff O’Neal on the Book Riot Podcast. Based on his description, I thought it would be an interesting travelogue. The goodreads description, as you can see above, can hardly be considered a comprehensive description. I really did not know what to expect with this book. I just really wanted to read something set in a different part of the world. Plus, Jeff O’Neal mentioned that this book was given high praise from none other than Ernest Hemingway.

I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of Beryl Markham. I have definitely been missing out. Her life was absolutely fascinating! She lived a free life, yet maybe at times a bit lonely. West With The Night has everything you could think of: descriptions of the Maasai culture, a lion attack, horse racing, malaria, World War 1, colonialism, fascism, and aviation by only maps, protractors and compasses (no navigational or radio systems).

Plus, Hemingway was absolutely correct. Beryl Markham was a beautiful writer. Her descriptions put you in another time and place beyond what may be imaginable. This book was a truly a remarkable and memorable reading experience. I highly recommend it!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

“Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday. Still I look at my yesterdays from months passed and find them as good a lot of yesterdays as anybody might want. I sit there in the firelight and see them all.”

Book Club Pick: Into Thin Air

1898Title: Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Nonfiction Adventure
Publisher: Villard Books
Publication Date: May 1, 1997
Pages: 368
Format Read: Paperback book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Unknown
Date finished reading: May 11, 2020

Goodreads Description: A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

My Review: When my book club voted for this book, I was thrilled to read an adventure story about Everest, especially since travel is so limited in the world right now. I had been wanting to read Jon Krakauer for a while. What better place to start than by reading about the highest point in the world from the comfort of my couch.

This story started off as an article in Outsider magazine. However, after some harsh criticism, Jon Krakauer decided to dive further into his and others’ experiences on Everest during that tragic May expedition in 1996. His interviews led to the realization that some of his memories from his time on and near the Everest summit had been inaccruate – most likely from the lack of oxygen.

Whatever the reason for writing this book, whether it be survivor’s guilt or trying to make sense of this event that costs the lives of his fellow hikers, Jon Krakauer wrote one hell of a great story. This book included a historical introduction to Everest and expeditions on Everest. The descriptions of Everest and mountaineering on Everest made you feel like you were right there with the hikers. An expedition on Everest is so much more involved that I could have ever imagined. A hiker spends days/weeks on this expedition. Much of that time is spent acclimating to the high elevation, and then the hiker gets one shot at reaching the summit, as one should not spend an extended time at that elevation.

By the time the final summit hike for Krakauer and the hikers came, I was very invested in them and their trek. That made this story even more heartbreaking. It was thrilling and terrifying. There were twists and turns and lot of moments that surprised me. The book club found lots to discuss.

Of course, we had to discuss mountaineering first and one’s motivation to climb Everest. Then we discussed the sherpas that risk their lives to pave the path for the hikers and assist them on their journey for very little money. I think Jon Krakauer tried to bring to light the mistreatment of sherpas.

Finally we discussed the actual tragic events that took place on May 10th and the following days in 1996. We debated on whether this was a natural disaster or a man-made disaster. We discussed the decisions made by everyone during the summit trek, when the storm hit, and the days afterwards.

Not only did every member of the book club read this book, but for days we have been sending each other links related to Everest. We have not run out of things to talk about when it comes to this expedition and Everest. It is surprising, based on this excitement, that everyone rated this the highest rating of all our previous reads. I personally am looking forward to reading more by Jon Krakauer.

The book club unanimously loves Beck Weathers! ♥♥♥

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Book Club Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

My Top 20 Favorite Podcasts

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When I moved back to the United States, I realized that I had missed the beginning of a big podcast movement. However, I quickly rectified that situation. At first it was a way to entertain myself during my commute to and from work, and now it is a great distraction during this time of social distancing.

Books:

1. What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel
2. The Bookstore by Awkwardly Social Media
3. Reading Women by Reading Women
4. Book Riot – The Podcast by Book Riot
5. All the Books! by Book Riot

Comedy:

6. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend by Team Coco & Earwolf
7. Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! by NPR
8. My Dad Wrote a Porno by My Dad Wrote a Porno

News:

9. Up First by NPR

Self-Help:

10. Happier with Gretchen Rubin by Gretchen Rubin/The Onward Project
11. Productivity Podcast by Tonya Dalton of InkWELL Press
12. By The Book by Stitcher & Jolenta Greenberg, Kristen Meinzer

True Crime:

13. My Favorite Murder by Exactly Right
14. Murder Minute by Murder Minute
15. This Podcast Will Kill You by Exactly Right
16. Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad by Exactly Right
17. And That’s Why We Drink by And That’s Why We Drink & AudioBoom

Travel:

18. Extra Pack of Peanuts Travel Podcast by Travis Sherry
19. Women Who Travel by Condé Nast Traveler
20. Zero to Travel Podcast by Jason Moore

Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorite podcasts? Please share the podcasts you listen to in the comments below.

WWW Wednesdays – November 27, 2019

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What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Time for another WWW Wednesdays, which is brought to you by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. If you too want to participate, answer the above questions and post that link on Sam’s page.

I am currently preparing my house to host our annual Thanksgiving dinner with both my family and my husband’s family. It’ll be a crazy day tomorrow. If it gets to be too much, I have a place in my house I can hide with my book for a bit. 🙂

Currently Reading

Recently Finished

Focus on Authors Challenge: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

*Click on the book title for a full review. All Neil Gaiman titles will be reviewed as on full review at the beginning of December.*

Reading Next

What are y’all reading? Please leave a comment and/or your WWW link below in the comment section.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

A Day on St. Kitts – January 2019

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St. Kitts was our 5th and final port stop on our Caribbean Cruise. After a pretty chaotic experience on Barbados, we decided to take it easy on St. Kitts. We wanted to just find a beach where we could soak up some sun and breathe in some fresh air, while on solid ground, as we would be sailing nonstop for a few days after this.

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After disembarking from our ship, we found an information desk right inside the port entrance. Everyone was so helpful, and we easily found transportation to Cockleshell Beach. This beach was on the other side of the island, so we had a nice drive around the island. I was pleased to find that the beach had a restaurant attached to it, so we immediately decided to eat and have a few drinks at the Reggae Beach Bar before lounging on the beach. This was our first time eating conch, and we both agreed that conch is not for us, but we are happy we tried it.

After we finished eating, we took our bucket of beers and went to go claim some loungers on the beach. The beach staff was super helpful and got us hooked up with an umbrella. We would relax here for most of the afternoon, and it was glorious. Secretly, we may regret not taking advantage of the jet skis and having some water fun. There is always next time.

This may not have been the most exciting part of our vacation, but it was a nice and relaxing way to end it. Plus, the beach and water was beautiful!

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Until next trip….HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

 

A Day on Barbados – January 2019

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Barbados was our 4th port stop on our Caribbean Cruise. All we really wanted to experience on Barbados was to snorkel near shipwrecks. We decided that booking an excursion with our cruise line would be the easiest way to achieve this activity.

We believe that possibly our lack of experience with cruising almost led us to miss our excursion bus on Barbados. On St. Lucia, our excursion starting point was a three-minute walk off of the ship. However, on Barbados, it took us 20 minutes from the time we got off the ship to get to our connecting bus, which alone was not easy to find. It was a pretty long walk that we did not necessarily allocate time for. We did catch the bus, which took us to Pirate’s Cove on Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown. We got to spend some time lounging on the beautiful beach (see picture above and at the bottom of this post).

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After a good amount of time on the beach, many individuals in our excursion group were getting antsy to get on the snorkel boat, which turned out to be delayed by more than a half hour. On top of this delay, we had to walk a half mile into town (see picture above) to catch the boat that was suppose to have docked right by the beach we were on. This was not happy news for a few individuals who had mobility concerns (they were on this excursion for the glass bottom boat option). Both were poor planning issues by the tour company. While we did not personally mind the walk, it was another delay that took away time from our snorkeling adventure, that we had been most looking forward to. The boat was equipped with the necessary snorkel gear, drinks and a slide to get into the water. After a few minutes, we got to the first destination – the shipwrecks.

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The view of the shipwrecks was crazy stunning! Our boat was literally parked on top of them, so we didn’t have to snorkel far at all. The pictures above are a bit grainy, because I pulled it from an underwater video that we took. However, while we enjoyed snorkeling around the shipwrecks, it was nearly impossible to view this amazing sight and simultaneously avoid swimming into another snorkeler. It turns out that there were many many excursions to this sight at that time (see picture below). Even with the craziness of all the people, I would have still liked a bit more time to explore the shipwrecks, but when you have all those boats in one place, you become a bit nervous that yours will take off without you, so we remained close by.

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Our next stop, was to see sea turtles or in our case sea turtle. I don’t believe I ever snorkeled with a sea turtle before and this one was much larger than I expected.20190102_125939 However, there was one of them and like twenty of us snorkelers following/chasing it. It was an odd experience, and we don’t feel like it was a positive one. Again, our snorkel time was too short, and we were back on the boat, heading toward the beach. If we were feeling a bit disappointed by this excursion at this time, that disappointment increase a lot by how we disembarked from the boat. The boat landed on the beach, which was fine. However, the waves were rocking the boat so much that it became very dangerous to disembark and people exiting the boat were falling. Some fell pretty badly. I feel like we definitely earned ourselves a cold beverage on the beach after that. (See picture on the right.)

Note: While the cruise line did reimburse us some of our excursion money for this not so positive experience, we will definitely think twice before booking another excursion through a cruise line.

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Hometown Adventure-Milwaukee-July 2019

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There is nothing like being a tourist in the city that you grew up in! My parents still live in Milwaukee and actually embraced our Milwaukee adventures during my short visit with my husband.

DAY ONE:

Summer is my favorite time to visit Milwaukee, and it is not just because I am soooo overMilwaukee_Summerfest_logo snow, but I love all the outdoor festivals, especially Summerfest – the largest outdoor music festival in the world. While I did not have an opportunity to attend Summerfest on the lakefront this year, I did manage to head to the lakefront for Milwaukee’s 3rd of July Fireworks. This has been a tradition in my family for years. Some families even camp out on the lake for days prior to the fireworks. We always head down in the afternoon with our cooler full of food/drinks, blankets/chairs, and games/books, where we will have a few hours to enjoy some fresh air and family time. We had an interesting experience this year, where we had perfect weather until about an hour before the fireworks when a wall of fog moved in. After a few test fireworks, we all realized we couldn’t see anything, so we packed up and started to walk to the car. We were actually on higher ground when the fireworks started, and we managed to see them afterall.

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DAY TWO:

My dad took my husband and I to the Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward. This is a great place to meet friends for food or drinks. There is free Wi-Fi and plenty of seating options. Sticking with my objective to be a tourist, we spent a majority of our market time at the cheese stand, but we also visited the spice stand and had to buy a 4th of July decorated treat.

From the Public Market, my husband and I walked along the Milwaukee River. We were blessed with perfect weather – see the picture at the top of this post. As we got near the theater district, we had to stop and say “Aaayy” to Henry Winkler’s Happy Days statue. At this point we opted to take a mini lunch break on the riverside patio of the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery.

20190801_091013Then we met my parents at the Lakefront Brewery for a brewery tour. Definitely, try their appetizers. We enjoyed their pretzels and fried cheese curds so much. The tour and beer were outstanding. This is a must visit!

We decided to keep with the brewery theme and had dinner at the Water Street Brewery. This is a great place for a social dinner.

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DAY THREE:

20190801_090439We traveled around a lot more. I didn’t get to experience the new public transit called The Hop, but I saw it. We walked around the20190801_091301 Historic Third Ward again, where you will see a lot of boutique stores, art galleries, and even a speakeasy or two. I love the fact that Milwaukee now has bike rental stands, but I especially enjoyed that the rental bikes are called Bublr. You will understand why that is humorous if you are from Wisconsin. After learning a bit more about the history of the Third Ward district in Milwaukee, we saw another 20190704_194521historic landmark – Trinity Lutheran Church.

Trinity Lutheran Church has been around since 1878. My grandmother actually got married there. Unfortunately, less than one year before the horrific fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Trinity Lutheran Church also caught fire and had extensive damage, but at least it still stands, and I hope that they can repair the damage.

My parents then indulged my love of books and took me to an independent bookstore in Milwaukee called Boswell Books. It is large with perfect spaces to lounge with a good book. Actually it would be a great place to host a book club too.

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Down the street from the bookstore, we had a nice dinner. One beer I always like to have when I visit Wisconsin is Spotted Cow from New Glarius. It is one of my favorites. Even my mom ordered that, so that is a good recommendation right there.

No dinner is complete without the best Wisconsin dessert – frozen custard. While Kopps is a favorite custard stand in Milwaukee, and I enjoy them as well, my family has been going to Gillies Frozen Custard stand for years. I can’t visit Milwaukee without going there at least once. They have added a lot more outdoor seating too.

SIDE EXCURSION:

While there is still so many things to do in Milwaukee, my parents and I decided to take a20190731_151550 trip up north to visit some family. Some times it is nice to explore rural Wisconsin for a bit. We visited a small town just outside of Oshkosh, which is not just known for its kids clothing brand – OshKosh B’Gosh – but is also home to the EAA Aviation Center. The yearly airshow, which brings people from all over the country, was just this last weekend. Just outside of Oshkosh is the dairy farm my dad grew up on. It still has its beautiful red barn.

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There is something to be said for going back to the city you grew up in and just being a tourist. When you live in a place, you often don’t experience all it has to offer. For example, I love books and have for years, and yet I don’t think I ever stopped by one of Milwaukee’s largest independent bookstores. It’s nice to be able to go back and truly appreciate where you grew up. I hope to go back soon and experience a whole new list of what Milwaukee has to offer, and, of course, try some more beer…

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St. Lucia – January 2019

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What better way to start the new year than by spending a day having adventures around sunny St. Lucia. St. Lucia was the third port on our Princess Cruise in the Caribbean.

While it may be scary to book an excursion outside of your cruise line (for fear that the excursion won’t get you back to your port in time for departure), we are so glad we did, as it was the best time of our trip! We managed to do just a little research before leaving for the Caribbean and found a wonderful excursion option suggested by Excursion Everywhere. This excursion was hosted by Cosol Tours and was an adventurous way to see so much of St. Lucia in a day. We were given clear instructions on a meeting point near where our ship docked. Here we met up with our guide, Cassius. He was fantastic! Here are some highlights from our day:

Banana Plantation: Cassius gave a tutorial on the production of bananas on St. Lucia, which is the second highest source of income for the island. Here we also got to try banana ketchup, banana bbq, and banana spiced rum.

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Fishing Village of Anse La Raye (see picture on the right)

Brunch: Multiple tables full of local cuisine

Overlook of the Twin Pitons (see picture at top of page)

Sugar Beach: We gook a water taxi to a beach located between the Twin Pitons, where we had plenty of time to relax on the beach, swim and snorkel.

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Soufriere Volcano & Sulphur Spring Park: We drove into the volcano, the world’s only drive-in volcano, and then took a mud bath in the hot 20190112_211452springs. (see picture on the far right)

Toraille Waterfall: We of course did not get all the mud off from the hot springs, but a quick soak under a rapid waterfall helped with that problem. (see picture on the right)

Another meal: We worked up quite an appetite after all those wonderful water activities. We were fed delicious bread and cheese and enjoyed some local beer.

They certainly filled our day with lots of adventures and got us back to our ship with plenty of time to wander around the port a bit, though to be honest, we were pretty exhausted. It was the best $75 per person we spent on this trip!

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A Day in Antigua – December 2018

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Our second port on our Caribbean cruise brought us to Antigua. We again did not have a plan of what to do or see in Antigua. I guess you could just say that we were winging this trip. Luckily after disembarking from the cruise ship, one of the first buildings on the main street was an information office. We stopped in there to try to see if we could arrange a zip-lining excursion, but we were unable to get others to join, which would have made the excursion affordable, so we opted to take the free self-guided walking tour of St. John’s that was included in the map that they gave us.

Here are some of the highlights of that self-guided walk:20181231_113858

  • St. John’s Cathedral – a focal point of St. John’s landscape was originally built in 1681 but destroyed twice by earthquakes. The current structure, built in 1848, is located on a hill overlooking much of the city.
  • The Government House – official office of the Governor General, a position created after Antigua and Barbuda became independent in November of 1981.20181231_105616
  • The Antigua Recreation Grounds – hosts premier football, international cricket matches and the annual Carnival festival.20190204_105630

We had worked up an appetite from the walk around the city and stopped at the Antigua Habour Cafe and Restaurant that overlooks the harbor for a relaxing lunch and tasty fruity drinks. After lunch, we found a cab just one block over. We wanted to visit one of the forts on the island and maybe go to a beach. The cab driver recommended Fort20181231_160614 James, which turned out to be right next to Fort James beach. We got two great options and only had to spend $25 (solely for the roundtrip cab ride), plus the cab driver waited for us and took us back to the ship when we were done. We walked around the fort for about 45 minutes, enjoyed the beautiful and secluded beach and then decided to have a beer at Beachlimerz, which is a high-rated bar and restaurant. Overall, it was a very affordable and convenient excursion.

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However, our day wasn’t without a little stress and excitement. We are going to share our little embarrassing story just as an example that even if you travel frequently like we do, you can still make mistakes. After paying and exiting our taxi, we started walking over to an outdoor market, when my husband realized that he didn’t have our backpack. We had either left it in the cab or at restaurant. While we had our money and identification on our bodies, we still didn’t want to lose the items we had in our bag. Unfortunately, our cab had driven away. We remembered what our cab looked like and who our driver was and, by nothing short of a miracle, found she hadn’t driven very far due to the busy traffic on the main road. Our bag was not in the cab, and she agreed to take us back to Beachlimerz to see if we left it there. She was super nice about it and chatted with us during the ride, which eased our stress a bit. Luckily, the bag was still sitting where we left it at the bar.

We met a lot of nice people that day, but our cab driver was the best! It is her kindness, generosity and selflessness that I will remember most from our time in Antigua.

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A Day on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands – December 2018

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We took a Caribbean cruise that left from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We disembarked at our first port, which was St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. After two days on the ship, we were very ready to be on solid ground.

We docked right outside Havensight Mall, which is a great location to do a little shopping. We did not have an excursion planned and really did not need one. St. Thomas was very easy to navigate. Plus, there was an Information office right next to Havensight Mall, which provided free maps and free wifi.

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20190115_142911Since it was a beautiful morning and the skies were clear, we decided to take the Skyride to Paradise Point for some amazing panoramic views before going to the beach. The skyride lift does cost $21 per person, but it is worth it for the views, and there is a restaurant at the top where you can stop and get some food and/or drinks. Their specialty drink is the Bailey’s Bushwacker.

After having some lunch at Paradise Point, we descended back to Havensight Mall to pick up a taxi to take us to Magen’s Bay beach. There are convenient taxi signs everywhere. The key to taking a taxi in most places in the Caribbean is that it costs less the more people you have riding with you. We were fortunate to be in a taxi with 8 other people, so we only paid $4 per person for the ride to Magen’s Bay. I believe we only paid $10 per person roundtrip. The beach was wonderful. However, it is a popular tourist destination, so it was a bit crowded. You can rent loungers and umbrellas. We did end up renting an umbrella. We then spent hours relaxing on the beach, reading and occasionally going for a swim. We even had drinks brought to us. It was all perfectly relaxing.

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IMG_20181230_112841_610We made it back to the port with plenty of time to grab food before getting back on the ship. While there was free food awaiting us on the ship, we felt that it is always more important to invest in businesses and restaurants on the islands and indulge in local cuisine, especially on the US Virgin Islands, which were devastated by a series of hurricanes in 2017. Some businesses have still not reopened. If you are an avid golfer, USVI is known for its golf courses – many of which were completely destroyed as well. St. Thomas was a beautiful island that warrants a visit. Although, I warn you: you may never want to leave.

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