Review: Amal Unbound

December 21, 2018

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound 2

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction, Pakistan

Summary:

Amal, living with her loving family in a quiet Pakistani village, dreams of becoming a teacher. Her educational goals are temporarily disrupted when her parents require Amal to stay home to care for her siblings while Mom recovers from childbirth. Amal is determined to keep learning despite the setback. However, events spiral out of control when Amal must work as a family servant for a corrupt landlord to pay off the family debt. Although Amal faces difficult challenges in her new and restricted life, she learns to work with others and is brave enough to take risks to affect change.

Amazon Early Rating (December): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Part of the purpose of this blog is to read diversely and to support women authors, so I’m thrilled to bring you this review.

Themes. This riveting story of a brave girl adapting to and affecting change in her circumstances is an inspiring story for all middle grade students and adults alike, and it serves as an introduction to the topic of indentured servitude as we experience forced labor through Amal’s circumstances. Nothing accomplishes building compassion and promoting understanding better than quality literature. Other themes include class structure, sexism, poverty, and the limitations that come from being born female.

Education. One reason this is an important book is for children to realize how important education is in a girl’s life and that not every girl in the world has this access. Even during Amal’s time working as an indentured servant, she didn’t give up hope of an education. In fact, the meaning of Amal in Arabic is “hope.” The author points out that millions of young girls fight for their right to an education. We may be most familiar with the popular and well-known Malala, and Amal represents all the lesser known brave girls everywhere.

Why read children’s literature? The story may seem idealistic and simplistic to an adult, but reading it as if you were the target audience (4th grade and up) will enable you to appreciate the introduction of a difficult and troubling topic to a young audience. In addition, I feel it’s important that children from every culture are able to find themselves in stories (realizing that Amal is only an example of one girl, from one family, and she is not a stereotypical representation of all girls from Pakistan culture). If we are buying these stories, publishers will take notice and more diverse literature will find its way into bookstores and classrooms. Finally, adult readers might want to make recommendations or buy gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Great literature can be enjoyed by every age, and this is a great example of a book to read with your children to generate important discussions.

Amal. Our strong-willed protagonist is a likeable and memorable character who is brave, smart, realistic, determined, smart, kind, inspirational, and a fighter. We read about her in honor of brave girls everywhere. A great companion read for this would be I Am Malala.

Recommended. I’m highly recommending this book for readers 4th grade and up, for readers who appreciate compelling stories, for fans of diverse reads, and for those looking for a strong female heroine. It will be on my best of 2018 list and it’s one I will widely and enthusiastically recommend.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-starhalf twinkle-twinkle-little-star

Amal Unbound

(Isn’t this a striking cover?!)

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Aisha Saeed

Aisha SaeedAisha Saeed (aishasaeed.com) is a Pakistani American writer, teacher, and attorney. Her writings have appeared in publications including The Orlando Sentinel, Muslim Girl magazine, and BlogHer. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping to change the conversation about diversity in literature. She is also a contributing author to the highly acclaimed Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

To finish out 2018, the last posts I’m planning include one focusing on goals and challenges, one analyzing end of year numbers, a December Wrap up, and one featuring my best reads of 2018.



Links

Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

Books are wonderful last minute gifts.

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you read Middle Grade or Young Adult literature?

Do you enjoy reading diversely about other cultures?

Are you finding time to read in December?!

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

 

Advertisements

Review: The Colors of All the Cattle

November 16, 2018

Where are my faithful readers of this series?!

the color of all the cattle 2

The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith

Genre/Categories: Gentle Mystery, Amateur Sleuths, Botswana

Summary:

The Colors of All the Cattle is the nineteenth installment of this charming, easy reading series. All the usual characters are present, reflecting on life, drinking tea, embracing tradition, and investigating human nature in sunny Botswana. In the newest story, Mma Ramotswe reluctantly runs for political office, battling long-time adversary Violet Sephotho. Using the honest slogan, “I can’t promise anything–but I shall do my best,” Precious Ramotswe is torn between wanting to do her duty, not disappointing her supporters and friends, and being in the public spotlight. In this story, we find Charlie becoming more mature, and we experience again the wisdom, graciousness, honesty, good humor, kindness, and thoughtfulness that is exemplified in the main character, Precious Ramotswe.  Along with the unfolding of this story and interactions between beloved characters, we are treated to beautiful descriptions of Botswana.

My Thoughts:

cup of tea

“Tea, thought Mma Ramotswe–no matter what was happening, no matter how difficult things became, there was always the tea break–that still moment, that unchangeable ritual, that survived everything, made normal the abnormal, renewed one’s ability to cope with whatever the world laid before one. Tea.”

Series Overview. In the most soothing of ways, this story is predictable to the other stories in the series: readers grow to appreciate the beauty of Africa (Botswana is almost a character in the story); there’s always time for a cup of tea at work or at home; and the characters are likable, quirky, and warmly drawn. Mma Ramotswe, founder and owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, is a “traditionally built woman,” gentle, honest, inclusive, compassionate, full of common sense, thoughtful, gracious, and wise. In fact, she always chooses kindness and forgiveness as her response and never revenge. Idealistically, she believes that people are good and kind and want to enjoy themselves and take care of each other. She is a proponent of the old Botswana morality and the traditional ways (especially the old way of greeting others and breaks for tea). The focus of her work at the Ladies’ Detective Agency is on righting small injustices. The books in this series need to be read when you’re in the mood for a slow-paced, character driven story with an abundance of reflection and description. It could be classified as a gentle, cozy mystery and a true comfort read. It seems that we always feel like we can be better people after spending time with Precious Ramotswe.

Loyal Fan. Once I begin a beloved series, it’s difficult for me to let it go. So, I’m still reading the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series nineteen years later! Who’s still reading this series with me?

Beloved Characters. Throughout the series, the same familiar characters appear in each book, so reading a story is like a visit with old friends. We are able to appreciate the ways in which the characters mature and how relationships deepen. In this story, Charlie emerges and we get to know him a bit better. The safety that he experiences when Mma Ramotswe takes him into her home helps us infer a lot about his childhood.

Diversity. One of the aspects I appreciate most about the series is the glimpse into the beauty and culture of every day life in Botswana. Alexander McCall Smith was born in Africa and lived and worked in Botswana for a time, and this enables him to write and make observations with an informed, nuanced, and authentic voice.

Plot. Most of the stories in the series are character driven. For me, the ones with a bit more plot (e.g. #18) are the most enjoyable. Even though the stories are heavily character driven, there is a mystery to be solved in each story, and in that respect the stories can be read as stand alones.

Themes. Important common themes appear throughout all the stories in the series, and they include compassion, kindness, graciousness, reflection, good manners, forgiveness, and inclusiveness. Readers also hear the author’s voice as he provides gentle commentary on universal issues. In this story, he offers thoughtful reflections on politics.

Recommended. I think these books can be read as stand alones (but, of course, they are richer with all the context gained from earlier stories). I can recommend The Colors of All The Cattle for fans of the series, for readers who might be looking for a character driven, gentle, relaxing, uplifting, clean read (no violence, offensive language, sex, etc.), and for those who are looking for a cultural reading experience featuring Botswana. Alexander McCall Smith does what he sets out to do really well. My recommendation comes with one qualification: I did enjoy #18 more than #19 because it was more plot driven. If you haven’t read any of the series and want to try one, I’d recommend #18 over this one. Find my 4 star review here: The House of Unexpected Sisters. If you’re looking for an intense, suspense filled thriller and unputdownable page turner, this might not be the series for you.

My Star Rating: 3 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

all the colors of the cattle

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

 



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

If you’ve read My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie and provide a review on social media or Amazon, you can fill out this form to receive FREE bonus content!

Have you voted in the 2018 Goodreads Awards?  Final voting is Nov 13-26. To vote, follow this link. Honestly, I’m discouraged with this year’s voting because my favorites of the year didn’t make it to the final cut in most categories. Did yours?

Have you seen The Hate U Give movie? Here’s the THUG trailer. 
I’ve read positive reviews with some saying it could be one of the best movies of the year. Of course, the movie is never as good as the book so don’t miss this important read.



Looking Ahead in “Nonfiction November”

What do you have on your TBR for “Nonfiction November”?

One title that I’m seriously considering is In Pieces by Sally Field. Beginning with The Flying Nun, Sally Field has played a lifelong prominent role in my entertainment life! I’ve heard though that it’s a gritty read in places. I’m on a six month hold for this at the library, so I’m deciding whether or not I want to buy it.

In Pieces

Another consideration is the new release by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership: In Turbulent Times. I’m almost certain that this is what my hubs will be reading for “Nonfiction November” as Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of his “auto buy” authors!

leadership in turbulent times



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
So far I’ve read nine, and today’s review makes ten, out of my twelve titles (two more to go!).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Are you a Mma Ramotswe fan (No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series)?  I’d love to hear if you’ve read the early books in this series.

I’d love to hear updates on your November reading! Do you plan to read a nonfiction selection? If I’m going to accomplish this goal, I need to decide on a read this week!

In addition to nonfiction, I’m certainly looking forward to the new Louise Penny release on November 27! So many books, so little time!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: Just Mercy

September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

just mercy 2

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Sciences

Summary:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that I love to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings went over my head, I was mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and cheer him on.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciated the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who enjoy reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

just-mercy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read all but three on the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman and Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (author of Peace Like a River). I’m planning an extra blog post soon highlighting three recently read ARCS.

lieutenant's nurse

virgil wander



A Link I Love

Are you a fan of the Enneagram types or Winnie the Pooh? Check out this post that explores the Enneagram type of each character in the Hundred Acre Wood:  Kendra Nicole: My World In Reviews: The Enneagram in the Hundred Acre Wood.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy issue-centered, thought-provoking memoirs? Have you read Just Mercy?
(kind and considerate comments are appreciated….others will be deleted or not approved)

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you next Tuesday for Top Ten Tuesday!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

 

 

 

The Boat People

August 10, 2018

Refugee or terrorist?

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

Boat People

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Refugee Crisis, Canada, Legal, Cultural Heritage, Sri Lanka, Family Life

Summary:

Refugees or Terrorists? This is the urgent question that faces Canadian officials when a rusty cargo ship carrying five hundred refugees from Sri Lanka appears on Vancouver’s shores. As the “boat people” are thrown into a detention center, rumors circulate that terrorists might be posing as refugees and could create a threat to Canada’s national security. This complex, compelling, and heartfelt story, loosely based on true events from 2010, is told fairly from three perspectives: Mahindan (a refugee), Priya (a lawyer and second generation Sri Lankan Canadian), and Grace (an adjudicator and third generation Japanese Canadian).

My Thoughts:

Relevant, compelling, compassionate, and fair.

What’s at stake: refugees looking for a safe place to start over versus the safety of current citizens. In order to gain asylum, refugees need to prove that their lives are in danger in their home country as well as satisfy the new country that they are not a safety threat. In The Boat People we become acquainted with one refugee, Mahindan, his lawyer, Priya, and an adjudicator, Grace. The adjudicator is torn between compassion and the fear that a refugee (posing as a terrorist) might harm the citizens of Canada. How can one determine if Mahindan is lying or telling the truth? Readers grow to understand and appreciate Grace’s dilemma and wonder about her final ruling in Mahindan’s case.

Mahindan. In this timely story, I think there might be a third choice in labeling Mahindan as a refugee or terrorist, and that would be as a “victim.” Mahindan and his young son are refugees but as their story unfolds, we see that they are also victims of circumstance and war. Mahindan had to make unfortunate choices in Sri Lanka to ensure his survival which come back to haunt him now during the Canadian interrogations. Consider this scenario: if, as a Sri Lankan mechanic, you are forced to service the vehicle of a terrorist who uses that vehicle in a terrorist attack, does this make you a terrorist by association? Mahindan’s life is complicated by war, hunger, fear, violence, desperate people, and uncertainty, and he has to make tragic choices to protect his family. Will he be granted asylum? As a further complication, Mahindan is separated from his young six-year-old son at the detention center, and the story explores the consequences and implications of this decision.

What I liked. I appreciated the opportunity to read this refugee/immigration story from multiple perspectives, and I thought all sides were presented fairly. It’s sobering to consider what refugees are willing to sacrifice as they hang on to hope for a better future. Even though this is fiction, much of it reads like narrative nonfiction as we learn a great deal about the government process of granting asylum. It is certainly an informative,  thought provoking, and timely read in which it’s apparent that immigration issues aren’t as black and white as readers imagine. This is a story that builds empathy, understanding, and compassion.

What could have been better. Although it’s well researched, a compelling read, and a compassionate look at world-wide current events, I thought the author might have attempted to cover too much.  In addition, I would have liked a better resolved ending. Last, I was a bit distracted by the lack of punctuation for dialogue. Is this a new trend? If a reader is reading at a fast rate, it’s difficult to discern the difference between the narrative and a character’s direct words. In fairness, others have read it and reported that they hadn’t even noticed. So consider the punctuation critique as coming from a former 5th grade teacher who tortured children to learn proper punctuation of dialogue and file it under “personal preferences.”

Recommended. I highly recommend The Boat People for fans of compelling historical fiction, for readers who appreciate an in-depth look at a relevant issue in an easily accessed fiction format, and for those who desire to read more diversely. (and for those avant-garde readers who don’t worry about quotations marks!)

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

the boat people

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sharon Bala

sharon BalaSharon Bala’s bestselling debut novel, The Boat People, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2018 and the 2018 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. Published in January 2018, it is available worldwide with forthcoming translations in French, Arabic, and Turkish. The unpublished manuscript won the Percy Janes First Novel Award (May 2015) and was short listed for the Fresh Fish Award (October 2015).

In 2017, Sharon won the Journey Prize and had a second story long-listed in the anthology. A three-time recipient of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Arts and Letters award, she has stories published in Hazlitt, Grain, Maisonneuve, The Dalhousie Review, Riddle Fence, Room, Prism international, The New Quarterly, and in an anthology called Racket: New Writing From Newfoundland (Breakwater Books, Fall 2015).

Sharon was born in Dubai, raised in Ontario, and now lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland with her husband, the mathemagician Tom Baird.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society releases on Netflix today!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read more than half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 Needing a change of pace, this week I’m reading Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan and I am eager to bring you a review next Friday.

Tell Me More

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy reading diversely?

If you’ve read The Boat People, how did you feel about the ending? Has reading The Boat People changed your thoughts about the refugee crisis?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

 

An American Marriage

August 3, 2018

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage 2

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, African-American, Cultural Heritage, Family Life

Summary:

Celestial and Roy are newlyweds living in the New South. While Celestial is an aspiring artist, Roy is a young executive. Early in their marriage, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime he didn’t commit. Can their marriage survive the tragic circumstances and the separation? Soon after incarceration, Celestial begins to accept comfort and companionship from Andre, her childhood friend and Roy’s best man at their wedding. When Roy is released from prison five years later, he expects to pick up his life where he’s left off, but a great deal has changed. This is a thoughtful and heartfelt story of love, marriage, family, and friendship, of hope and heartbreak, of loss and starting over.  Amazon Rating (August): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

At first I was reluctant to read an Oprah Book Club selection because of the hype and I was concerned that it might be primarily an issues driven book. However, when my IRL book club chose it for our August read and after reading some positive reviews from respected bloggers, I became more interested. An American Marriage is probably the most surprising good read of the year for me …… I’ve been disappointed before by books that don’t live up to their hype. This one has likely earned a spot on my favorites of the year list.

Themes. If you’ve followed my reviews, you know that one element that endears me to a book is its themes. An American Marriage is filled with relevant themes such as the importance of fathers (absent or present), sustaining marriage through difficult times, troubling incarceration rates of young African Americans, women setting aside traditional roles, stigmas attached to women whose husbands are incarcerated, educated middle class young African Americans and their views of community and family, southern traditions, etc. Issues are presented in this story, but it’s not an issue centered read. I appreciate what the author says about her writing:

“My mentor used to tell me, ‘Write about people and their problems. Don’t write about problems and their people.'”

This is what I loved about this story….it’s about people and their problems and not simply a vehicle for the author to promote opinions or agendas.

Characters. This is not a story filled with all likeable characters. Yet they are authentic, realistic, and well developed. We see their positive and negative attributes and understand their motivations as the story progresses. Throughout the reading, I was unable to predict how this story would resolve and this kept me engaged until the last page.

Recommended. I highly recommend this easy reading, engaging, realistic, and heartfelt story for readers who are looking for a contemporary, diverse read with relevant and timely issues. An American Marriage would make an excellent book club selection and I’m eager to hear what my IRL book club thinks next week.

 My Rating: 4.5 Stars.

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-starhalf twinkle-twinkle-little-star

An American Marriage

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Tayari Jones

Tayari JonesTayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, she is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

Counting the days until Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society releases on Netflix! August 10!

People who read books live longer!



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read more than half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 This week I’m reading The Boat People from my Summer TBR and I am eager to bring you a review on Friday.

the boat people

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy reading diversely?

If you’ve read An American Marriage, how did you feel about the ending?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Widows of Malabar Hill

July 20, 2018

Perveen Mistry and a challenging case…

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

the widows of malabar hill 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Detective, Bombay

Summary:

In this recent release set in 1920s Bombay, India, Preveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected family, joins her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Educated at Oxford, Perveen has a tragic personal history that causes her to be extra vigilant on her new case so that the widows of Malabar Hill are treated fairly after the death of their husband.  As she examines the paperwork, she discovers that the widows who are living in purdah (strict seclusion) have signed over their inheritance to a charity, raising suspicions that they’re being taken advantage of by their guardian. Tensions build and a murder occurs. Because the widows feel uncomfortable speaking with male investigators, Perveen takes responsibility and great personal risk to determine what really happened on Malabar Hill. Throughout the story, readers are also filled in on Perveen’s back story as readers are introduced to her family and friends and learn about her education. Amazon Early Rating (July): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

What I liked:

  • Diversity: I love reading stories from other cultures, and the setting of 1920s Bombay, India is vastly different from my own experiences. In addition, I gained more understanding and awareness of women who live in Purdah.
  • A woman and her dream: Perveen’s professional goal is to work as a lawyer, and although she is allowed to work as a solicitor in her father’s law office she is not allowed to present in court. This part of the story is historical fiction and based on the real experiences of the first woman to practice law in Bombay, India. In the investigation of the Malabar Hill murder, Perveen can speak directly to the widows who live in Purdah more effectively than the male investigators on the case. Because of her past, she’s passionate about protecting the rights of women and children and is determined to help the widows of Malabar Hill, putting her own life at risk in the process.
  • The protagonist: Perveen, an ambitious woman who courageously works toward paving the way for women in the legal profession, is feisty, smart, independent, determined, brave, thoughtful, resourceful, and respectful of her culture. I adore the character of Perveen and rooted for her to solve the murder and to protect the widows’ rights. Furthermore, she is an encouragement for women who are not willing to accept an abusive relationship (not even one time).
  • Father/daughter relationship: This is one of my favorite parts of the story! Perveen has an excellent, trusting, and loving relationship with her father (and her mother). I appreciate reading about great fathers in literature, and it was especially pleasing that the author chose to include him in the context of this male dominated culture.  He respects her personhood and as a solicitor in his practice; he supports and believes in her. At the same time he helps Perveen accomplish her goals, he is also able to respect their culture and operate within cultural and religious expectations. As well as being brilliant in her defense when she seeks a divorce, her father respects her views and passions. He is her biggest cheerleader.
  • Culture: The author creates wonderful visual images of the culture in 1920s Bombay, India, from food to religious groups to family traditions to descriptions of the city itself….so much to enjoy and learn!
  • Favorite Quote:

“The boundaries communities drew around themselves seemed to narrow their lives–whether it was women and men, Hindus and Muslims, or Parsis and everyone else.”

What I’d like you to know:

Although I enjoyed almost all aspects of the story, there is one element that affected my rating:

  • Slow buildup: The mystery in the story appears at about the 50% mark, and the pace of the story picks up at about the 75% point. It’s categorized as a mystery, so I waited somewhat impatiently. The character development, the relationships, and setting descriptions help keep the reader engaged during the early part of the story. Despite the slow build up, I wanted to stick with the story because of the uniqueness and because of some high reviews it has received from trusted reviewers. Some readers who love the story were not affected by the slow build up. Elements like that are certainly subjective. It’s a story I’m glad I read even though the mystery was a small part of the multi faceted story and the beginning was slow-paced. It’s still a solid read. My Rating: 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 stars on Goodreads).

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-starhalf twinkle-twinkle-little-star

Recommended:

This story is recommended for readers who love historical fiction, for those who appreciate a strong, determined, independent, clever, and ambitious female protagonist, for readers who want to immerse themselves in a different culture and expand the diversity of their reading, and for fans of a little mystery and intrigue. Although this is the first book in a series, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone.

the widows of malabar hill

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sujata Massey

sujata masseySujata Massey is an award-winning author of historical and mystery fiction set in Asia.
However, her personal story begins in England, where she was born to parents from India and Germany who began reading to her shortly after her birth. Sujata kept on reading as she grew up mostly in the United States (California, Pennsylvania and Minnesota) and earned her BA from the Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program. Her first job was as a reporter at the Baltimore Evening Sun newspaper, where she wrote stories about fashion, food and culture. Although she loved her work, she left when she got married to a young naval officer posted to Japan.

Sujata and her husband lived in the Tokyo-Yokohama area which forms most of the settings of her Rei Shimura mysteries. The eleven novel series has collected many mystery award nominations, including the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark awards, and even won a few: the Agatha and Macavity prizes for traditional mystery fiction. The Rei Shimura mysteries are published in 18 countries. The first book in the series is THE SALARYMAN’S WIFE, and the eleventh is THE KIZUNA COAST which was listed as the most-borrowed ebook is the Self-E Library reads borrowing program for 2016. Rei Shimura mystery short stories are in MURDER MOST CRAFTY, MALICE DOMESTIC 10, AND MURDER MOST CRAFTY.

In 2013, Sujata began writing about India. THE SLEEPING DICTiONARY is a historic espionage novel set in 1930s-40s Calcutta told from a young Bengali woman’s point of view. It’s also out as a Dreamworks audiobook, and is published in India, Italy and Turkey under different titles. This was followed by INDIA GRAY HISTORIC FICTION, an ebook and paperback collection of stories and novellas featuring strong Asian women heroines throughout history. Included is a story featuring Kamala from THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY and a prequel novelette featuring Perveen Mistry. A Perveen story is included in THE USUAL SANTAS, a story anthology to be published in October 2017.

Sujata’s next book is THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL, a historical mystery set in 1920s Bombay that comes out in January 2018 from Soho Press in the US. It also releases as THE MALABAR HILL MYSTERY in February 2018 from Penguin/Random India. The first in the new Perveen Mistry series, it’s an exciting story about Bombay’s first woman lawyer. Perveen, the 23-year-old daughter of a distinguished Parsi family, is convinced her clients–three widows and four children–are in danger. Can she use the law to save them, or will it take more action?




Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read about half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 I look forward to providing a July wrap up, choosing the most compelling character from July reading, and also anticipating my first blogiversary with a give away (next Friday). My next read will be An American Marriage (I’ve read mixed reviews of this Oprah Book Club selection so we’ll see how it goes).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Do you enjoy or seek out diverse reads?

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

A Place For Us

July 13, 2018

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

a place for us 2

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Muslim, Family Life, Cultural Heritage

Summary:

A Place For Us shares the story of an Indian-American Muslim family whom we meet as they gather to celebrate a family wedding. Through flashbacks, readers are filled in on the family dynamics, family history, and become acquainted with the parents, Rafiq and Layla, and their three children, Hadia, Huda, and Amar. Told mostly from the perspectives of Layla, Hadia, and Amar, readers begin to appreciate the complexity of family relationships, understand the bonds that draw the family together, and become acquainted with the personalities along with the insecurities and rivalries that cause conflict. In light of the parents’ conservative Muslim faith and living in California, the children must find their way in reconciling the faith of their parents and their traditional ways with the reality of day-to-day lives, and individual hopes and dreams. At the wedding of the oldest daughter, which breaks with tradition and is a union of love and not arranged by parents, Amar, the prodigal son, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. The last part of the story is told from the father’s heartfelt perspective. This is a story of love, identity, parenting, coming of age, faith, and belonging. Amazon Rating (July early reviews): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

This is by far the best story I’ve read this year! It shattered my 5 star rating scale! In addition to being a favorite this year, it will likely end up on my list of lifetime favorites. A Place For Us includes all the elements I really love in a great story; however, I know reading is personal and you may not feel the same.

Why all the love?

  • Two of the elements I love best in a great story are important themes and well drawn characters. This story features well-developed characters, complicated family dynamics, complex relationships, issues of faith, parenting woes and joys, diversity, moral dilemmas, regrets, compassion, grace, loyalty, finding one’s voice, etc. I love that at the end of conflict, misunderstanding, best intentions, and brokenness, there is grace and mercy and love.

What about the themes?

When I first considered the book, I wondered what I would have in common with a Muslim family and ended the read filled with compassion, empathy, and understanding…and thinking that we have more similarities than differences.  Here are some of the themes that were the most thought provoking:

  • Conservative religious values: I was raised in a conservative religious home and I relate to some of the concerns the children experience when reconciling the strict expectation of the parents with the secular culture in which they are growing up.
  • Parenting: worrying about each child for different reasons, striving to make things fair while meeting individual needs, trying one’s best (having good intentions) and still making mistakes, failure, heartache and grief if there’s estrangement, etc.
  • A woman’s independence and voice in a male dominated culture.
  • Parents that are broken by regret and grief.
  • Children seeking parental approval and blessing.
  • Sibling competition, achievement, support, loyalty.
  • A parent’s helplessness and concern over a struggling child.
  • A young adult’s need to differentiate from the family.
  • Fathers that are broken by regret and grief.
  • Traditions.
  • Faith
  • Prodigal son.
  • The immigrant experience causes me to consider what my great grandparents faced as immigrants.

What did I appreciate?

I appreciate the multi faceted, multi layered, kind, insightful, compassionate, and gentle look at family and faith. I find it refreshing that it wasn’t a dysfunctional family….just a real one with authentic and relatable problems. At the end, though, it seems like it’s the son’s story (Amar), and I’d love a sequel!

Favorite Quote:

“Of all my mistakes the greatest, the most dangerous, was not emphasizing the mercy of God.”  ~Rafiq

Recommended:

I highly recommend A Place For Us for readers who love well written, thoughtful, and poignant family drama, for those who desire more diversity in their reading life or for those who are in a Muslim family, and for readers who don’t want to miss out on one of the most talked about and highly rated books of the year.

What I’d like you to know, though, is that the author’s use of flashbacks makes the reader work hard in the beginning to construct understanding as the flashbacks move swiftly from character to character and hop between time periods; one reviewer remarks that it is like looking through a kaleidoscope and every time it turns we see the story change, creating a new picture that allows readers to see different facets that provide a deeper understanding. It was my experience that as the story progressed and I became more comfortable with the author’s style and became better acquainted with the characters, the reading became easier.

My Rating: 5+ Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

a place for us

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Fatima Farheen Mirza

fatima farheen mirza

Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.

 

 



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a handful, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Two Links I Love:

Castle of Water, a favorite read from last year, as been picked up for a movie!

The Novel Endeavor: Summer Reading Guide For Families: Adoption Stories



Looking Ahead:

 For the remainder of July I’m expecting to review The Widows of Malabar Hill, provide a July wrap up, choose the most compelling character from July reading, and also anticipate my first blogiversary with a give away (tbd).

the widows of malabar hill

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

What are some of the most memorable family stories that you’ve read? Do you enjoy or seek out diverse reads?

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

 

 

The Convenience Store Woman

June 22, 2018

Quirky character…Japanese culture…finding your niche……conformity…

The Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata

convenience store woman

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Japanese Culture, Conformity, Short Fiction

Summary:

Keiko Furukura grows up labeled a “strange child,” and her parents worry about her ability to function in the real world and about her future success.  While at university, Keiko begins a job at a local convenience store. After eighteen years, her parents and friends worry that she doesn’t have a real career and has never had a boyfriend. Even though Keiko is successful as a convenience store worker and enjoys her job, she feels the pressure to live up to her parents’ expectations. What will she do?

In addition to an interesting character study, the story also provides readers a glimpse into the Japanese popular convenience store culture.

Pressure to conform versus self fulfillment is a strong theme in this short fiction work.

My Thoughts:

“What does society do with people who live on the edges who don’t pursue what others have declared as acceptable? Who don’t live according to the unwritten manual? Are they disposable and useless?”

Quirky characters striving to live their best lives interest me, and Keiko captured my heart. As we get to know Keiko as a convenience store worker, readers learn a bit about convenience stores (konbinis) in Japanese culture as a bonus. Different from U. S. 7-Eleven Stores, well-stocked Japanese convenience stores (konbinis) offer healthier prepared food, pride themselves on excellent customer service, and offer services not offered by U.S. 7-Elevens. Here’s one link you can follow to find out more.

Despite being labeled as a strange child, Keiko feels secure and safe at work, and she loves that all the workers are equal when they’re in their uniforms. The routine tasks of the store help her feel normal. She buys most of her meals at the convenience store and doesn’t know how to be normal outside of her work environment. Keiko is dedicated to her job and the sounds of the store comfort and calm her and become the soundtrack of her life.

It occurrs to me that Keiko might fall on the autism spectrum (undiagnosed and not mentioned as a possibility in the story). Keiko knows she’s not “normal” and copies clothing styles, mannerisms, and speech patterns of her peers in smart, valiant, and courageous attempts to gain acceptance. Keiko loves her job as a convenience store worker and excels in the position (organization, stocking, customer service, selling, etc). Her job is everything to her. After eighteen years, her family and friends think she should get a real career or at least get married. Keiko earnestly and bravely attempts to meet their expectations. Will she find happiness outside the comfort and security of the convenience store?

The only part of the story I am less than thrilled with is a certain male character (former employee in the convenience store) whom she “adopts.” I’m certain he’s an important symbol that we’d all have a great time discussing in a lit class! He goes beyond quirky and in my opinion is creepy, a manipulator, and an opportunist. I’d love to hear the author expound on why she chose this character for her story.

Overall, I love Keiko and admire her self awareness and determination. Days after reading the last page, I still think about her and wish her the best.

Recommended for readers who have lived in or are from Japan, for those who love quirky characters fighting against the odds, and for readers who might be looking for a short fiction read set in another culture.

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

convenience store women

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Sayaka Murata

sayaka MurataSayaka Murata is one of Japan’s most exciting contemporary writers. She still works part time in a convenience store, which was the inspiration to write Convenience Store Woman, her English-language debut and winner of one of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Akutagawa Prize. She was named a Freeman’s “Future of New Writing” author, and her work has appeared in Granta and elsewhere. In 2016, Vogue Japan selected her as a Woman of the Year.

 



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a handful, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Links I Love:

SAVE THE DATE: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie is releasing on Netflix August 10!!!

This might be fun for summer: SnapShop Kids: Online Photography Class For Kids (and the entire family!)

More about summer reading for children in this link: The Ardent Biblio: How to Design a Summer Reading Program For Your Kids

In case you missed it: my post highlighting some diverse reading recommendations for MG children here.

If you are a fan of the Louise Penny “Inspector Gamache” series, here’s a new interview with the author who has a new installment in the series coming out in November.

This is an interesting podcast featuring an interview with Gail Honeyman, author of “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.”



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be revealing my most memorable and compelling character from my June reading. Link Up opportunity available.

Also, I hope to be reading The Ensemble and reviewing it soon. I’ve been #1 on the library hold list for at least 3 weeks, so it should be coming in any day.

ensemble.

***Cover Love***

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Do you like reading about quirky characters? My recent favs are Eleanor (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Ginny (Ginny Moon), Ove (A Man Called Ove), Britt-Marie (Britt-Marie Was Here), and Frank (The Music Shop). Who are yours?

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

African-American History Month Reading Recommendations

February 2, 2018

As the calendar reveals February’s focus on African-American History Month, I’m eager to recommend some thematic reading! 

Linking up today with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit February.

The Gilded Years
by Karin Tanabe

Gilded Years

Genre: historical fiction

One title that I read a few years ago that might not be on your radar is The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe.

Summary: This story shares the important and compelling experiences of Anita Hemmings and her dream of attending an exclusive school for women, Vassar College, in the late 1890s. To accomplish this extraordinary feat and pursue her chance for a better life, Anita must pass for white. It is interesting to me how her family and community support her in the implementation of her decision and work to protect her as she lives it out. At first, Anita maintains a distance from her college peers. However, as the years pass and Anita becomes friends with her socialite roommate from a prominent family in New York, the risk of discovery grows greater. Can she maintain her assumed identify? Will she graduate?

The choice: For me, the most interesting part of the story is the tension that develops between Anita and one of her dear friends who decides to live fully as an African-American, embrace her ethnic identity and heritage, and openly fight for equal rights. Which one of the young women has chosen the best path? Both decisions are difficult in their own ways and filled with sacrifices and joys. Through their two stories, the reader is presented with two viewpoints and experiences. What would you or I have done given that choice? Which choice helped further equal treatment for African-Americans? Was Anita’s choice a set back for African Americans? Or did she have every right to think of her own life first? Did her success as a student help the African-American cause by proving that an African-American can compete equally at Vassar?

Bottom Line: Although the story is compelling and emotional, the writing could be better and was the weakest part of my reading experience. For me, a lack of beautiful writing is easily overlooked for a captivating story that addresses strong themes of hope, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, family, taking risks, life choices, and friendship. It’s an important, inspiring, and memorable read. It would generate an excellent book club discussion and make a great movie!

Recommended? Highly recommended for readers looking for an inspirational and  interesting read in celebration of African-American History Month, for readers who enjoy compelling stories about strong, brave, independent women, for book clubs, and for readers who enjoy diverse reads and stories written from a different perspective.

Amazon Rating (February): 4.2 Stars

My Rating: 4 stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

Gilded Years

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Karin Tanabe

Karen TanabeKarin Tanabe is a fiction writer and former Politico reporter whose writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post among many other publications. Before turning to fiction, Karin worked as a journalist covering politics and celebrities. She has made frequent appearances on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and CNN. A graduate of Vassar College, she lives in Washington D.C.

 

 



Additional Reading Recommendations

(links will take you to further information)

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (historical fiction, YA)

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (historical fiction)

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom  (historical fiction)
*This is an interesting story as it also deals with the main character passing as white.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction, family saga)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (historical fiction)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (contemporary fiction, YA)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (contemporary fiction)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M Draper (middle grade historical fiction selection)

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (nonfiction)

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis  (middle grade, biography/memoir)

There are so many titles; these are a few that I’ve read and can highly recommend. Can you add to these recommendations in the comments?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I’m planning a review of this next week:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI 
by David Grann

Amazon information here

I’m also continuing to read an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety by Michelle Balge. (review on 2/16)

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

Also, I’m anticipating that I’ll start Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR) some time in the next two weeks.

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here



My TBR and the BUZZ

I’m noticing lots of buzz (great reviews) lately about two books (both Book of the Month Club selections for February): The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (author of The Nightingale). I’m adding them to the top of my TBR, so look for a review soon!

Do you belong to Book of the Month Club?

I also just heard that Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) will be releasing a new installment in November of this year! (no title or cover yet)
#meetmeinthreepines #threepinesgeek
available for preorder

What are you reading this week?



Links

Modern Mrs Darcy published a list of  25 Must-Read Classics for Women.
How many have you read?

I appreciated this post from The Ardent Biblio: Why It’s Important to Read Diverse Books
Please check it out.

Do you plan to reread Wrinkle in Time before the movie release on March 9?
Will you be seeing the movie?



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

If you were an African-American, would you have made the decision to pass as white to take advantage of a path to help you pursue your dreams? If you are an African American, would you  have passed as white in the late 1890s? What do you think of individuals who made this choice?

Will you be seeking out a certain book to read during African-American History Month? Or do you have recommendations?

What are you reading this week?

January’s Compelling Character Link Up

January 26, 2018

January Compelling Character

Link up with me today and share a post about your favorite character from your January reading! I’m hoping there will be enough interest to make this a regular last Friday of the month feature and link up opportunity. If you do not have a blog, please share your favorite character from your January reading in the comment section!

Meet Kavita


Secret Daughter

by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter 2

Genre/categories: adoption, cultural heritage, family life, mothers/daughters, Asian American

Meet Kavita, a young, poor mother in India traveling on foot to an orphanage in Mumbai and making a heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. Her husband, who is hoping for a son, killed the first-born daughter, and Kavita is determined to save her second daughter’s life. She makes a difficult decision and risks everything to give the only gift she can give her daughter, a chance to live.

This is a compelling story of adoption from three perspectives: Kavita, the mother who gives up her newborn daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai in hopes of saving her daughter’s life; Somer, a heartbroken, newly married physician in San Francisco who, upon hearing the news she cannot have children, decides to adopt; and Asha, Somer’s adopted daughter from Mumbai, India.

Kavita

Although there is an abundance of strong women in this story, I couldn’t stop thinking about Kavita and the hardships she faced and the bravery and determination needed to put the daring plan of saving her newborn daughter into action. She risked her life, and then was faced with living with that decision for the rest of her life, wondering if she had done the right thing. What would any of us have done in similar circumstances? Giving up her infant daughter was only one of the hardships Kavita faced in her life as she struggled to care for her family and trust her husband with their future.

Grandmother

Honorable mention for incredible and admirable women in this story goes to Asha’s gracious grandmother from India who worked tirelessly to welcome and embrace Asha, to unite the family, and to help Asha appreciate and understand her birth culture. She reminded me of the important and endearing role that grandparents can play in a family.

This engaging and heartfelt story is similar in themes to Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and highly recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational stories of strong women, for readers whose lives have been touched by adoption and would benefit from exploring it from different perspectives, for readers who appreciate how reading about a different culture can add to our understanding of the world and build compassion for the hardships that women around the world might face, and for those who are looking for a compelling page turner. This would make an excellent book club selection for its various discussion possibilities.

Amazon Rating (January): 4.5 Stars

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Shilpi GowdaShilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, SECRET DAUGHTER. Shilpi holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She has served on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She lives in California with her husband and children.

SECRET DAUGHTER, Shilpi’s debut novel published in 2010, has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide in over 30 countries and languages. It was a New York Times bestseller, #1 International bestseller, and the screen rights have been optioned.

THE GOLDEN SON, her second novel, is a Target Book Club Pick and #1 International bestseller, being published around the world in 2016-17. The screen rights have been optioned to Conquering Lion Pictures.

http://www.shilpigowda.com



Link Up

Link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your January reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up…it’s the first one I’ve attempted)



 Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Update:

I indicated last week that I’d be reading Library at the Edge of the World (from my 2018 TBR list). I decided not to highlight it this week because I was a bit underwhelmed with the reading experience. I’ll provide a brief review here.

Library at the Edge of the World

Readers who love a character driven story with a lovely sense of place, will likely enjoy this read. I prefer a bit more plot with my reading and I found myself becoming bored and impatient by 60% with minimal plot development. I stuck with it because the writer is talented and the characters are well developed and interesting. By the end of the book, the plot picked up a bit and I was glad I stayed with it. This might be a good read if you’re looking for a gentle read for a time when you want minimal stress in your reading material….I also think readers from Ireland or those who have spent time in Ireland might enjoy this read. I do appreciate the strong themes of a community coming together for a purpose and of a woman rebuilding her life after a divorce and finding her voice. If you read and enjoy this story, there are two more books in the series. Amazon Rating (January): 4.0 

My Rating: 3 Stars.

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

In the spirit of fairness, please consider these reviews from two bloggers whom I greatly respect that enjoyed the book a great deal more than me. Check out their reviews before making your reading choice.
The Loud Library Lady’s review of Library at the Edge of the World
Top Shelf Text’s review of Library at the Edge of the World

Amazon Information Here



Looking Ahead:

My library hold (since November) has finally come in, and I’ll be dropping everything this week to buddy read (with my husband) the nonfiction selection:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Amazon information here

I’m also reading an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety.

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

What are your reactions to hearing about a woman who plans to give up her newborn daughter to save her life?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature different cultures and address difficult topics such as adoption?

What are you reading this week?

If you haven’t joined the link up, I’d love to hear in a comment about the most compelling character from your January reading.