The Downstairs Girl [Book Review]

February 19, 2021

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (author) Image: a teenage Asian girl wearing a fancy hat in an 1890 style

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Asian-American, Prejudice, Racism, Coming of Age

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

The Downstairs Girl is set in 1890s Atlanta where a Chinese-American girl having no voice challenges racial and gender issues. Let go from her job at a milliner’s shop because she was a “saucebox,” seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan now works as a lady’s maid for the cruel and spoiled daughter of a wealthy man. Jo and Old Gin (affectionately thought of as “grandfather”) have always lived secretly in the basement below a newspaper man’s family. Jo loves WORDS and writing and so one day, Jo has the idea to write a column for the newspaper in order to help them build their readership and compete with the other newspaper in town. At night, she writes the column and drops her submissions in their mailbox. Her column, Dear Miss Sweetie, becomes popular for its modern and controversial opinions and the talk of the town. Meanwhile in her day life, Jo struggles to survive her ordeals as a lady’s maid and also plans a dangerous investigation to find her biological father who had abandoned her as a baby.

My Thoughts:

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Love Is a Revolution [Book Review]

veFebruary 16, 2021

Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson

Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson (cover) Image: a plus size Black girl is centered....4 smaller images of the same girl and her boyfriend sound her

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction, African-American, Coming of Age

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Nala Robertson meets a cute boy, Tye Brown, at open mic night. They experience an instant attraction but Nala is worried because they have very different interests….Tye is an activist, a vegetarian, and a community organizer while Nala would rather stay home and watch movies and enjoy a juicy, fully-loaded hamburger. Nala finds herself lying to Tye to foster a foundation of common interests and to encourage him to keep asking her out. As much as this is a cute romance on the surface, the story is more substantially about loving others as well as yourself, discovering the things that are truly important to you, and embracing your authentic self.

My Thoughts:

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New-To-Me Authors in 2020 #TopTenTuesday

January 26, 2021

New-To-Me Authors in 2020

New-To-Me Authors in 2020 (image: an open laptop, a cup of coffee, and a potted plant with pink flowers)

Top Ten Tuesday (meme)

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors in 2020.

Most of these are not debut authors, but they are authors I have read for the first time in 2020.

1.

William Kent Kreuger

Kreuger is the author of the popular and well-loved Cork O’Connor mystery series (I have not read any books in this series). In 2020 I read This Tender Land. After I read it, many readers commented and asked whether I had read Ordinary Grace. I had not, so I read that, too. I think I liked it even more than This Tender Land. Have you read any of Kreuger’s work? If not, I suggest starting with Ordinary Grace.

2.

Meg Waite Clayton

In 2020, I read my first Meg Waite Clayton book, The Last Train to London. It was one of my favorite reads of the year, so I would be thrilled to read more work by this author! Have you read it?

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite CLayton (cover)

3.

Jenny Lecoate

In 2020, I read an ARC of The Girl From the Channel Islands by debut novelist Jenny Lecoate (review coming 2.2.2021). I enjoyed it, and I look forward to her next book.

The Girl From the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat (cover) Image: a young woman stands next to a bicycle in a field overlooking a small village as airplanes fly overhead

4.

Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland is a popular author, but I’ve never read her books. In 2020, I suffered from pandemic brain and craved lighter reads. When I came across reviews for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, I knew I should give it a try. Soon after that, I requested an ARC of her next book, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow. Redland offers thoughtful themes in the chick-lit/”uplit”/romance genres. I’m eager to read the next in the Hedgehog Hollow series this year.

5.

Sheila Roberts

Sheila Roberts is a prolific author of light women’s fiction (romance, chick-lit), but I’ve never read one of her books (I didn’t realize she has written so many!). Still suffering from pandemic brain (as noted above), I craved lighter reads. I came across a review for #4 in her Moonlight Harbor series, Beachside Beginnings. After I read it, I knew I wanted to read #1-#3 in the series, too. I’m looking forward to continuing the series now that I know the characters. Because she writes in the romance genre I don’t typically read, I don’t think I’ll read her backlist. However, some predictable, HEA, chick-lit is appealing to me during the pandemic.

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor by Sheila Roberts (image: wooden steps lead down to a beach)

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The Water Dancer: A Review

October 17, 2019

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Water Dancer review.jpg

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, African-American, Slavery, Underground Railroad

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The Water Dancer tells the engaging and powerful story of Hiram Walker who is born into slavery and who has a mysterious and magical power. He is compelled to leave his home and adopted mother as he follows his rebellious spirit and searches for freedom. Hiram connects with the Underground Railroad, masters his mysterious power, and seeks to return home on his own terms to rescue his adopted mother and his love interest.

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

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Hum If You Don’t Know the Words: A Review

August 2, 2019

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Hum if You Don't Know the Words Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Apartheid, South Africa

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The Soweto Uprising of 1976 in South Africa brings together our two protagonists: nine-year-old Robin Conrad living in Johannesburg and Beauty Mbali living in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei. In Apartheid South Africa, these characters should never have met. Robin is living a comfortable life with her parents while Beauty struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. After the Soweto Uprising, Robin’s parents are dead and Beauty’s daughter is missing. Extraordinary circumstances bring them together and as they grieve their losses, they form a bond. This complex and heartfelt story is told through alternating perspectives.

Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

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The Gown: A Review

April 26. 2019

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Royal Wedding, 1940s England

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The Gown is, in part, a behind-the-scenes story of the making of Princess (Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding gown. As the people of England endure a harsh winter and post war shortages and rationing, news of a Royal wedding brightens the country’s spirit. Told from two perspectives, we hear the imagined story of two young women who work for the famous fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Although the girls are accustomed to working on exclusive gowns for high profile clients and the Royal family, the newest assignment of a wedding gown for Princess (Queen) Elizabeth brings extraordinary pressure and excitement. A third perspective and modern timeline follows one of their granddaughters who travels to London a half century later to unravel her grandmother’s mysterious and secret past. There’s more to the story than the dress as the author gives us an idea of what life was like in 1940s London, and explores themes of friendship, family, and love.

Amazon Rating:  4.6 Stars

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Meet Me at the Museum: A Review

*this post contains affiliate links

January 18, 2019

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

What is the chance that a letter to a stranger will lead to a deep friendship?

meet me at the museum cover

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction, Epistolary, Friendship, England, Denmark, Archeology

Summary:

Told in epistolary form, the story in Meet Me at the Museum unfolds from alternating viewpoints as we meet the two main characters through their letters. Tina is a hard-working, loyal, and duty bound English farmer’s wife, mother, and grandmother, and she is also grieving the recent loss of her best friend, Bella. In thinking of the past, she remembers the promise that she and Bella made to each other to visit the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark to see the mummified Tolland Man from the Iron Age. Life intervened and now Tina is in her 60s and her friend is gone. She is inspired to write to Professor Glob, author of The Bog People, who mentions school children in the dedication of his book (our fictional Tina is one of the school children). Tina isn’t aware that Glob has died, so quiet, kind, and introspective Anders, curator of the Denmark museum, writes back to Tina. Tina and Anders begin a thoughtful and heartfelt correspondence. Anders is grieving the recent loss of his wife and through letters, Anders and Tina share intimate details of their lives with each other and express thoughts that they have difficulty sharing with anyone else. As they discuss archeology, the Tolland Man, their philosophies of life, grief, and their families, they develop an endearing and unique friendship that could possibly lead to more.

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

Letter writing: “holding onto the softness and elegance” of the old ways.

I happen to love epistolary novels and Meet Me at the Museum is in the tradition of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 84, Charing Cross Road, and Last Christmas in Paris with the tenderness of finding a soul mate later in life as in Our Souls at Night. Even though the story unfolds in letters, we become interested and invested in their lives as they each navigate an unexpected crisis.

Youngson’s writing is poignant, beautiful, reflective, and thoughtful. Meet Me at the Museum is character driven and meant to be savored. The depth of friendship (hope of love?) that develops through old-fashioned letter writing is heartwarming and inspirational. The author does an exemplary job of reminding us of the traditional joys and art of letter writing and how it serves a purpose that can’t be replaced by email or text messages.

As a bonus, I also learned a great deal about The Tolland Man from the Iron Age.

tolland man

 

Themes. Meet Me at the Museum has some thoughtful themes including: sacrifice, choices, regret, meaning and purpose, grief, loneliness, second chances, friendship, listening, encouragement, gentle advice, and “holding onto the softness and elegance” of the old ways. Book clubs might enjoy discussion topics such as:

  • Do you think everyone finds a soul mate?
  • Does a biological father have a right to know about the birth of a child?
  • Is it ever too late to pursue a lifelong dream?
  • Do you believe in second chances?
  • In what ways have you experienced the beautiful craft of letter writing?
  • What can be learned from older characters (60+)?
  • How would you apply the raspberry metaphor to your life?
  • Realistically, what is the likelihood of two strangers who have never seen each other and live hundreds of miles apart finding comfort, understanding, and friendship solely through the written word?

Recommended. Fans of character driven stories, literary fiction, and reflective writing will find Meet Me at the Museum an enjoyable read. Book clubs might find some thoughtful discussion topics, and, of course, if you enjoy the art of letter writing this is a must read. If you’re looking for a fast paced, page turner filled with suspense and lots of action or if you know you don’t enjoy epistolary format, you might want to skip this one. Meet Me at the Museum is more than the ‘women’s fiction’ category suggests. I tend to associate women’s fiction with ‘chick lit,’ and I assure you it’s not that. It’s a read that grew on me and one that I enjoyed more and more as I delved deeper into the story, their lives, and their relationship. It’s a quiet story and perfect for reading in front of the fire on a winter night or on a porch swing on a lazy summer day.

An interview with the author, Anne Youngson.

Host Tip: Book Clubs will want to serve raspberries for dessert!

My Rating: 4 Stars

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

meet me at the museum

Meet Me at the Museum

Meet the Author, Anne Youngson

anne youngson

Anne Youngson had a long and successful career in the motor industry after finishing a degree in English from Birmingham. Now, Anne Youngson is retired, lives in Oxfordshire, and is studying for a PhD at Oxford Brookes. She has two children and three grandchildren to date. Meet Me at the Museum is her first novel and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.

 

*It brings me the greatest joy to read, review, and support debut authors!



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:

Next week, I’ll post a review of a lighter book, The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller.

late bloomers club

I’m also reading Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (a work in progress and review date TBD)

leadership in turbulent times



Links

A beautifully written piece on Black Coffee With White Friends: Black and Lovely

This is important! Why getting lost in a book is so good for you according to science!

Check out Hillsdale College Free Online Courses

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!

Don’t miss my Most Memorable Reads of 2018 post here.



In Movie News….

For Fredrik Backman fans, Britt-Marie Was Here will be a movie!

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 four books on your ‘want 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

I’m curious….are you a fan of the epistolary format? If yes, which have been your favorites?



***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.

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.

A Place For Us [Book Review]

July 13, 2018

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (cover) Image: black text over a white moon behind a house in silhouette

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

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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:

A Place For Us 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. A Place For Us 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 A Place For Us, 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.

A child's brightly colored kaleidoscope

A brightly colored Kaleidoscope pattern

My Rating: 5+ Stars

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

a place for us

A Place For Us Information 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.



 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?



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)



A Link I Love:

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



Let’s Get Social!

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***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.

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 (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017

January 2, 2018

Do you have a few favorite authors?

I’m linking up today with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017.

Top Ten Tuesday

Throughout 2017, I discovered a handful of authors who are new to me and whose work I would read automatically without checking out the reviews first. While a couple of these authors are well published (but new on my radar), the majority are new authors as well as being new to me. I’m adding these authors to recently discovered new authors such as Fredrik Backman whose work I trust and admire.

I would happily accept an ARC from any of these authors and promote their work. (*shameless hint)

In alphabetical order:

Jane Harper

The DryEven though detective/mystery is not my usual genre, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dry. I’m eager to read the sequel that releases in February, and I anticipate that it will be equally well written and highly engaging.

The Dry Review and Amazon Information

 

 



Nadia Hashimi

Pearl That Broke its ShellEven though I read this at the beginning of 2017, The Pearl That Broke its Shell is a story that I have continued to think about all year. The author gives the reader thoughtful insight into Afghan culture for women and challenges us to think about women’s rights. I always want to support women writing about strong, independent, and courageous women, and I hope she continues to write about her culture.

The Pearl That Broke its Shell Review and Amazon Information

 



Gail Honeyman

Eleanor OliphantIn her amazing debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, this author is definitely on my watch list! I’m certainly curious about her next work and I’m hoping for a sequel!

Eleanor Oliphant Review and Amazon Information 

 

 



Elise Hooper

The Other Alcott 2

Author of The Other Alcott, her extensive research and well written debut work depicting the lives of the Alcott sisters earned this new author a lot of credibility with me. I hope she’s working on something new for readers!

The Other Alcott Review and Amazon Information

 



Dane Hucklebridge

castle of water 2

 

Author of Castle of Water, I enjoy his beautiful, engaging, and creative writing and eagerly await his next release!

Castle of Water Review and Amazon Information

 

 



Paulette Jiles

News of the World

My husband and I both enjoyed this beautifully written western historical fiction novel. Even though she has other published works, this is the first I’ve read. I’d love to choose one of her other works to read this year. If you’ve read this author, do you have a recommendation for me?

News of the World Review and Amazon Information

 



Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again is a beautiful story told in free verse and an “authentic voice.” This author has my heart and I would enthusiastically check out her new releases. (By the way, this story is perfect for older elementary readers but thoroughly appreciated by adults).

Inside Out and Back Again review in this post as well as Amazon Information

 



Jennifer Latham

dreamland burningDreamland Burning is one of my most memorable reads and most recommended historical fiction selections of the year. This author’s engaging and thoughtful writing would definitely cause me to check out her next work.

Dreamland Burning Review and Amazon Information

 

 



Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

Between Shades of Gray

Author of a couple of my favorite hisfic selections, Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray, I admire her careful research and beautiful writing.

Salt to the Sea Review and Amazon Information

Between Shades of Gray Amazon Information

 

 

 



 

 

Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

I appreciated reading about Starr and her experiences in The Hate U Give from an “authentic voice.” I’ll look forward to more from this author because I feel it’s so important to listen well.

The Hate U Give Review and Amazon Information

 



 

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 read a wonderful book between Christmas and New Years
and I can’t wait to review it on Friday!

last christmas in paris

Amazon Information Here

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!

Did you discover any new authors in 2017?

Who are your favorite authors?

What are you reading this week?