Miracle Creek: A Review

July 12, 2019

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek Review

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Murder Mystery, Crime Fiction, Courtroom Drama, Korean American

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Miracle Creek takes place in a small town in Virginia of the same name. In this town, there is a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions. As the story begins, the chamber explodes and two people die. Is this an accident or sabotage or insurance fraud? Through multiple perspectives, we become acquainted with the owners and surviving patients and learn about their secrets, their anguish, their frustrations, their best intentions, their misconceptions, and their rivalries. The story is rich in vivid details about the trial, parenting a special needs child, and the immigrant experience.

My Thoughts:

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1st Line/1st Paragraph: Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

 June 25, 2019

1st Line/1st Paragraph: Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

First Paragraph

I’m pleased to share the first line and first paragraph of Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok. If you appreciate family dynamics, diverse reads, and mystery, this may be a good read for you.

From Amazon:  A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears. A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Searching For Sylvie Lee

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Asian American, Family Life, Mystery

1st Line/1st (2) Paragraphs:

I am standing by the window of our small apartment in Queens, watching as Ma and Pa leave for their jobs. Half-hidden by the worn curtains Ma sewed herself, I see them walk side by side to the subway station down the street. At the entrance, they pause and look at each other for a moment. Here, I always hold my breath, waiting for Pa to touch Ma’s cheek, or for Ma to burst into tears, or for either of them to give some small sign of the truth of their relationship. Instead, Ma raises her hand in an awkward wave, the drape of her black shawl exposing her slender forearm, and Pa shuffles into the open mouth of the station as the morning traffic roars down our busy street. Then Ma ducks her head and continues her walk to the local dry cleaners where she works.

I sigh and step away from the window. I should be doing something more productive. Why am I still spying on my parents? Because I’m an adult living at home and have nothing better to do. If I don’t watch out, I’m going to turn into Ma. Timid, dutiful, toiling at a job that pays nothing. And yet, I’ve caught glimpses of another Ma and Pa over the years. The passion that flickers over her face as she reads Chinese romane novels in the night, the ones Pa scorns. The way Pa reaches for her elbow when he walks behind her, catches himself, and pulls back his hand. I pass by my closet of a bedroom, and the poster that hangs on the wall catches my eye–barely visible behind the teetering piles of papers and laundry. It’s a quote I’ve always loved from Willa Cather: “The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own.” I’m not sure I believe the sentiment but her words never fail to unsettle me.

Searching For Sylvie Lee finally reached the top of my library hold list. Not only is it on my 2019 Summer TBR, but Jenna (from The Today Show Book Club) selected it for the June read. Here’s a clip of Jenna and author Jean Kwok.

So far I’ve read five chapters and can report that it’s easy reading and quietly engaging as everyone begins to realize that Sylvie is missing. Have you read Searching For Sylvie Lee?



QOTD:

Do you enjoy reading hyped books or do you avoid them until the buzz dies down?

Most of the time I want to read them (so I can offer you reviews of recent releases), but there have been times when I ignore the buzz and later find out that the buzz was short lived and I decide to pass on it…..or as time passes, more honest reviews are published and I decide it’s not for me after all.



 Looking Ahead:

Friday, I’m publishing my list of favorite books so far this year.

Coming soon! A special collaboration post with twelve other bloggers as we each give our recommendation for ONE great summer book!

One Great Summer Read



Sharing is Caring

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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.

 

 

1st Line/1st Paragraph: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

June 25, 2019

1st Line/1st Paragraph: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

First Paragraph

I’m pleased to share the first line and first paragraph of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. If you appreciate family dynamics and courtroom drama, this may be a good read for you.

From Amazon:  How far will we go to protect our families―and our deepest secrets? Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Miracle Creek

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Courtroom Drama, Family Dynamics

1st Line/1st Paragraph:

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie. He probably didn’t even consider it a lie, and neither did I, at first. It was such a small thing, what he wanted. The police had just released the protesters, and while he stepped out to make sure they weren’t coming back, I was to sit in his chair. Cover for him, the way coworkers do as a matter of course, the way we ourselved used to at the gracery store, while I ate or he smoked. But as I took his seat, I bumped against the desk, and the certificate above it went slightly crooked as if to remind me that this wasn’t a regular business, that there was a reason he’d never left me in charge before.

My library hold on Miracle Creek just came in, and it’s timely because it’s on my 2019 Summer TBR.  Although this is not my usual genre, I’m looking forward to the read because I see it frequently promoted and reviewed and FOMO is real. So far, I’ve read the first chapter and the story is engaging from page one. Have you read it?



QOTD:

Do you enjoy reading hyped books or do you avoid them until the buzz dies down?

Most of the time I want to read them (so I can offer you reviews of recent releases), but there have been times when I ignore the buzz and later find out that the buzz was short lived and I decide to pass on it…..or as time passes, more honest reviews are published and I decide it’s not for me after all.



 Looking Ahead:

Friday, I’m publishing my review for Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini.

Resistance Women

Sunday, I’ll publish my June Wrap Up and I’m also working on a post which will highlight my favorite reads for the first half of 2019.

Coming soon! A special collaboration post with twelve other bloggers as we each give our recommendation for ONE great summer book!

One Great Summer Read



Sharing is Caring

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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.

 

 

On The Come Up: A Review

June 6, 2019

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up Review

Genre/Categories: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Homelessness, Poverty, Family Life, YA Music, Racism

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The daughter of a Garden Heights rap legend, sixteen-year-old Bri’s greatest desires include making it as a rapper, making enough money to take care of her mom and siblings, and moving out of the neighborhood. Bri is distracted at school by her rapping goals and neighborhood performances. At home, her mom has lost her job and the family is facing unpaid bills, shut off notices, an empty refrigerator, and the threat of homelessness. Suddenly, Bri not only wants to make it as a rapper, now she has to make it. Bri makes some impulsive decisions as she fights to make her dreams a reality. This is a story about fighting for your dreams against the odds as it portrays the realities of poor and working-class black families. Author Angie Thomas has experience in the art of rapping and her authentic voice fills all the spaces in this realistic story with vivid details of the Garden Heights community and its memorable characters. Although the story takes place in the same community and makes a reference to the shooting at the center of The Hate You Give, this is not a sequel to THUG and can be read as a stand-alone. Each book is a unique reading experience.

My Thoughts:

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We Hope For Better Things: A Review

March 8, 2019

We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels

We Hope for Better Things Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Civil War, Detroit Race Riots, Interracial Relationships, Prejudice, Racism, Domestic Life

Thanks to #NetGalley #Revell for my free copy of #WeHopeForBetterThings by @erinbartelswrites @ErinLBartels in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Readers of We Hope For Better Things are treated to three distinct stories about three white women who live at different times on the same farm in Michigan. The three women are from three different generations and experience war, civil unrest, and prejudice in their respective stories (Civil War/Underground Railroad, 1960s Detroit Riots, and present day). This engaging and multi layered story includes family drama, secrets, old pictures, a 150 year old farm house, locked rooms, a mysterious trunk, and interracial relationships.

My Thoughts:

Engaging. I like stories that capture my interest from page one, and I enjoyed the easy to follow and fast pace of this multi layered story told from three perspectives. I think the story lines from the past (Underground Railroad especially) were the most intriguing and offer the most opportunity for discussion.

Themes. In addition, I like how the themes were interwoven and connected the stories. Important themes include family conflict, tragic choices, racism, family history, resilience, and faith. We can certainly see that overt prejudice has shown improvement over time….and “we hope for better things” in our present day and future.

Plot. Even though the plot is fast paced and engaging and I liked how the stories intersected, I felt occasionally that the events might be a bit contrived to promote certain themes or move the story line along. This is a minor concern and falls under personal preference.

Diversity. I would like to read reviews of We Hope For Better Things from people of color and gain from your impressions and insights regarding the portrayals in this story (please leave your review link or thoughts in comments). I think I would have appreciated that one of the perspectives had been from a woman of color, but that’s probably difficult for a white author to write. As a reader, does it concern you that a white author writes about racism and prejudice from a white perspective? It might have been interesting for the author to have coauthored this with an author of color. The author candidly addresses the issue of writing this as a white author in her Author’s Note.

Recommended. I recommend We Hope For Better Things for readers who love historical fiction, for fans of family stories with likeable and strong main characters, and for those who desire to read more diversely to explore themes of prejudice and racism. This will make an excellent book club selection because of many discussion possibilities.

*possible trigger warning: still birth

My Rating: 4 Stars

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We Hope for Better Things

We Hope For Better Things

Meet the Author, Erin Bartels

Erin BartelsERIN BARTELS is a copywriter and freelance editor by day, a novelist by night, and a painter, seamstress, poet, and photographer in between. Her debut novel, WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, released in January 2019 and will be followed in September 2019 with THE WORDS BETWEEN US, the manuscript of which was a finalist for the 2015 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. Her poems have been published by The Lyric and The East Lansing Poetry Attack. A member of the Capital City Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine.

Erin lives in the beautiful, water-defined state of Michigan where she is never more than a ninety minute drive from one of the Great Lakes or six miles from an inland lake, river, or stream. She grew up in the Bay City area waiting for freighters and sailboats at drawbridges and watching the best 4th of July fireworks displays in the nation. She spent her college and young married years in Grand Rapids feeling decidedly not-Dutch. She currently lives with her husband and son in Lansing, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.

Find Erin Bartels on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, on Twitter @ErinLBartels, or on Instagram @erinbartelswrites. She blogs semi-regularly at http://www.erinbartels.com and her podcast, Your Face Is Crooked, drops Monday mornings. Find it on iTunes or at http://www.erinbartels.podbean.com.



Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy multiple perspective and/or multiple timeline stories?

If you are a person of color and have read or reviewed this, I would love to hear your thoughts or read your reviews (leave thoughts or links in 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

“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:

Look for a post about 10 Books That Need a Sequel for next week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a post for Women’s History Month soon, and a review of Sold on a Monday next Friday.

Sold On a Monday



Winter TBR Update

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. I have three more quick reads to check off the list before spring! So check back often!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow. Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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.

Black History Month: 10 Reading Ideas

February 4, 2019

10 Reading Ideas for Black History Month

black history month

Image from Canva

I hope you are inspired by reading ideas for Black History Month! Have you read any of these titles? Please add your recommendations in the comments.

Books are listed in no particular order. Titles are Amazon affiliate links and you will find some links to reviews (most I read before I began the blog). *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

just mercy

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Memoir, Non Fiction, Racial Tension and Injustice). 4 Stars. Full Review Here.

Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (historical fiction, abolitionist movement)
A favorite read over the past several years. 5 Stars. Review Here.

Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction, family multi generational saga)
This book is ambitious in its structure and memorable in its story telling….it hasn’t received enough attention! 5 Stars.

The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (combination of history and narrative nonfiction). Ambitious history of black migration across the U.S. from post Civil War to the 1970s. 4 Stars (heavy on history….the three personal stories are memorable and heartfelt). A must read.

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (contemporary fiction, racial tensions, YA)
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. 5 Stars. Full Review Here.

The Kitchen House

Glory Over Everything

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (historical fiction, slavery) and the sequel Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom  (historical fiction, passing as white). Both 5 Stars.

small great things

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (contemporary fiction, racial tension). 4 Stars. Brief Review in This Post Here.

An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Women’s Fiction, Family Life). 4.5 Stars. Full Review Here.

dreamland burning

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (historical fiction, YA). 5 Stars. Brief Review in This Post Here.

Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M Draper (middle grade historical fiction, racial tension). 4 Stars.


Runners Up:

The Mothers

The Mothers by Brit Bennett  4 Stars. My Brief Goodreads Review Here.

The Gilded Years

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe (historical fiction, biographical, first black woman to attend Vassar). 4 Stars. Review Here.

We Beat the Street

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis  (middle grade, biography/memoir). 4 Stars.



Did you find a book to add to your TBR?

Share your own recommendations in comments!



 

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

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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.

 

 

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 works determinedly and 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 it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are complex for me, I am 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 support. Sometimes when I read, I look through a mirror and other times I look through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

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 are challenged by 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.

Your Voice. I’d like reviewers to leave your review link in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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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.

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: The Map of Salt and Stars

August 31, 2018

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

The Map of Salt and Stars 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Folk Tale, Magical Realism, Coming of Age, Syrian

Summary:

The Map of Salt and Stars is really two stories. One story is contemporary and the other is a mythological folk tale that takes place 800 years earlier. In the contemporary story, Nour’s mother, a Syrian-American, a cartographer and painter of beautiful maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria after the death of Nour’s father. The mother feels a strong desire to live closer to her family. After they arrive in Syria, they experience effects of the civil war evidenced by protests and shelling in their quiet neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s home and neighborhood, she and her family and a close family friend of her father’s are forced to flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety.

The story within the story is a favorite folk tale that Nour’s father told her over and over again as a young girl. Nour loves the main character in the folk tale, Rawiya, who becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the region. Rawiya follows al-Idrisi on a journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where they encounter a mythical beast and fight epic battles.

There are strong connections between the two stories as Nour and her family are forced from their home to travel the identical route that Rawiya traveled eight hundred years earlier. Throughout the journey, Nour remembers and is inspired by the heroine of her favorite folktale as she faces similar challenges and fears.

Early Amazon Rating (August): 4.5

My Thoughts:

There’s a lot to like about this story!

Favorite Quote: “[King Roger] explained that he often came to the library at night. He motioned to the shelves of books, their spines polished gold, tawny brown, and russet leather. ‘Anyone who wants company and knowledge will find what they seek here,’ he said. ‘We are among friends.’ ”

Connections. Throughout the larger story, the two separate stories are connected in several ways. A few examples:

  • The characters in each story take a journey, have adventures, experience heartache, redefine the meaning of family, and hold out hope for ‘home.’
  • Both characters disguise themselves as boys.
  • Both girls grieve over the loss of a beloved father.
  • Nour’s mother is a map maker and painter while Rawiya is an apprentice to a map maker.
  • Both girls leave home and face grief on their journey.
  • The stories have some similar plot devices (one example among many is that Nour leads her family to safety [remembering the way to her father’s friend’s house] after their neighborhood was bombed and Rawiya saves her small expedition from a huge white attacking bird).

Themes. The story is filled with poignant themes including grief, beloved fathers, dangerous journeys, the comfort of stars, faith, and the search for home.

The Writing. Beautiful descriptive writing and sensory details fill every page of this story creating a memorable sense of place. Readers who appreciate figurative language will enjoy creative and descriptive phrases including fresh and unique similes, metaphors, and personification. The symbolism of salt and stars also encourages thoughtful reflection.

compelling character

Each month I designate the most compelling character of the month, and in August I’m honoring Nour and Rawiya  from The Map of Salt and Stars as this month’s most memorable characters. ***Link Up below

Meet Nour and Rawiya

Both main protagonists in The Map of Salt and Stars are young girls (coming of age). Nour and Rawiya are strong females with leadership qualities and are compelling characters (Cooler reviewers than me would call them “badass girls.”)

  • Nour is a bit melancholy, seriously reflective and thoughtful, has color Synesthesia, appears to have a photographic memory, exhibits leadership abilities, and is brave and daring.
  • Rawiya is fearlessly confident. She is best described in the following quotes:

When Khaldun (a young man) doubts that he can throw a stone high enough to kill Roc, the giant white mythological bird, Rawiya quietly and confidently says, “Perhaps I can.”

When she was discovered as a girl, she challenged her critics, “You once said I had courage, heart. That heart still beats. The body that cradles it is no large matter.”

…and my favorite….

I am a woman and a warrior,” Rawiya said, her blade cutting into his club. “If you think I can’t be both, you’ve been lied to.

Recommended. I highly recommend The Map of Salt and Stars for readers who appreciate historical fiction and stories set in diverse cultures, for those who seek stories of strong, independent, confident girls, for readers who would like an ambitious blending of a contemporary and a mythological story (with a bit of magical realism added to the mix), and definitely for readers with Syrian heritage. Even though this story is categorized adult fiction, I think mature middle grade girls and young adults who are looking for literary role models would be engaged by this story and be inspired by the female protagonists.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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map of salt and stars

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

Jennifer Zeynab JoukhadarJennifer Zeynab Joukhadar is a Syrian American author. Originally from New York City, Jennifer was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. She is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and of American Mensa. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon ReviewThe Saturday Evening PostPANK MagazineMizna, and elsewhere. Jennifer is a 2017-2020 Montalvo Arts Center Lucas Artists Program Literary Arts Fellow and an alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net.



Link Up for August’s Most Compelling Character

(Please share your most memorable character from your August reading by Linking Up a blog post or 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

“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

Do you enjoy TV and/or a Netflix binge as well as reading? Do you have a favorite series or favorite episodes? I thought this was a great link to explore to see if the episodes listed match yours! 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century



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 good portion of the list (crossing off one more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

Over the weekend, look for my August Wrap Up post.

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance.

clock dance

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 enjoy the story within a story structure?  One book I read with this same story within a story structure was Fredrik Backman’s And My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She Was Sorry. 

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



***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

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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.