Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Replenishing the Sea of Galilee by Wagih Abu-Rish

Replenishing the Sea of Galilee: A Family Saga across Ethnicity, Place, and Religion: A Novel by Wagih Abu-Rish
Release Date: August 17, 2021

Recommended: yup!!
For folks interested in historical Palestine, for a novel about embracing female sexuality and equality, for sparse language that says a lot

Summary

Replenishing the Sea of Galilee: A Family Saga across Ethnicity, Place, and Religion: A Novel

Replenishing the Sea of Galilee is a sweeping story of love, loss and the power of loyalty in the face of conflicting ideologies and religious beliefs. The story begins in 1940s Palestine where twins Rasheed and Rasheeda Dinar work in their family inns. Educated by a Jesuit priest about the essence of his own Muslim religion, relative to love and sex, Rasheed follows closely the teachings of his mentor and includes Rasheeda, so that she learns those teachings as well.

When Rasheed falls in love with Natalia, a Jewish woman, he is able to apply what he learned from the priest to his budding relationship. However, it is the 1940s, and relations between Arabs and Jews are tense. Before long, those tensions come to a breaking point. Natalia mysteriously disappears, and Rasheed and Rasheeda are chased out of Palestine to Beirut, Lebanon.

Years pass, and though Rasheed continues to miss his beloved Natalia, he gets word of a surprising visitor—someone he didn’t even know existed. Rasheed’s life is upended, but in the most wonderful way.

As the Dinar family expands and enters the 1970s, their convictions are tested. In a dramatic final scene, the family reunites and proves once again that the thin line separating people because of their differences is powerless against the strength of family, love, and loyalty.

Thoughts:

Attracted by the historical aspect that I don’t know much about, and made all the more relevant by the forever present conflict between Palestine and Israel, I grabbed this book right up. I worried that it might be a little too literary and highbrow for me, but that was not the case. It’s a thoughtful story that spans a long period of time. I got to know the characters so so well, and I cared so much about all of them.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Replenishing the Sea of Galilee by Wagih Abu-Rish”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Where the Rhythm Takes You, 5/11/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass!
Expected Release: May 11, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • TOBAGO! That is a place I have never been in real life or in a book, and that is guaranteed to attract me to a story. While this story will primarily take place at a resort, I’m hoping I can learn some about the country and people.
  • A resort, a crazy successful DJ, and first-lost love. Also inspired by Jane Austen’s persuasion apparently? I haven’t read Persuasion, but Where The Rhythm Takes You sounds like it will blend grief and love and growing up and taking risks and moving on and all kinds of strong and difficult themes of LIFE together. The plot basically sounds really strong and like if it’s done well, it will be utterly captivating.
  • And, oooooooh I feel like this might also have some really delicious tropes to enjoy in the romance-y part of it! It’s a fancy resort? On a tropical island? And they have HISTORY TOGETHER? Yup, if there’s not some kind of accidental-falling-on-each-other moment, or getting caught in the rain, or the double take when they realize how close they’re standing, I’ll be surprised. The rest can be deliciously original. I just want a few! ^.^

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago, the Plumeria. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden – her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything – left the island to pursue his music dreams. Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.

And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life – as a VIP guest at the resort.

Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal – the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…

PS: here’s a map for anyone who has no idea where Tobago is. Learn something new every day! 😀

Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: The Fox and Little Tanuki Vol. 3!

Hey y’all! Just a reminder that The Fox & Little Tanuki, Volume 3 by Mi Tagawa published today! Check out the full review here or grab your own copy. 🙂

Recommended: always
If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, if you’re looking for a lovely lighthearted story, if you’re interested in Japanese bakemono-animals, if you like to have a little laugh 🙂
Expected Release: March 23, 2021

Summary

Legends say that Senzou the Black Fox is one of the most vicious and powerful supernatural beasts to ever roam the land. At least, he used to be. Now, 300 years after he was imprisoned by the Sun Goddess for his bad behavior, Senzou is back — in the form of a small black fox with no powers! Tasked with protecting a young tanuki called Manpachi as he fulfills various tasks for the gods, Senzou must earn his powers back by learning how to be a good guardian to the energetic little pup. Though Senzou is a grumpy and reluctant companion at first, even a hard-hearted fox can be tamed by cuteness… and the little tanuki quickly learns there are some family ties that aren’t decided by blood.

In the third volume, Senzou, Manpachi, and the wolf clan are among humans and investigating a string of missing bakemono. The wolf Hagiri takes this chance to find a small cat spirit he has a bond with, but he can’t ask his clan for help looking for a cat! Hagiri and Senzou make an unlikely duo, but they collide in the search as they discover everything may be more connected than they realized.

Posted in Reviews

2 Second Review: When The Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson

2 sentence summary

Three women face their own fears and secrets in Baghdad as they navigate their lives under control of others. They become tied together, and must decide if they will choose the path of betrayal or trust when neither will come without sacrifice and pain.

Thoughts

This is a very slow pace of book, and I actually kind of loved it. It feels so perfectly fitting for the life the three women have in Baghdad. The dull slog through every day for Ally. The intolerable passing of time for Rania and Huda. The burn building just under the surface, while the face must remain impassive. Or more colloquially, like that saying about how a serenely gliding duck is paddling madly just under the surface of the water.

This brushed with some of the most painful things in life. It mentioned them, and moved on, because that’s the way the women must be if they want to keep their lives. The brusque attitude towards horrors, the horrified casualness in dismissing them… it sinks in deep.

Plot was solid. Progression was slow and steady, and then the last third of the book absolutely flew by for me. No romance, just pain and love of a different kind.

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: The Fox & Little Tanuki, Volume 3 by Mi Tagawa

The Fox & Little Tanuki, Volume 3 by Mi Tagawa
Verdict: a fun continuation of the series that’s a little less strong than the previous installations, but still full of humour and heartwarming moments

Recommended: always
If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, if you’re looking for a lovely lighthearted story, if you’re interested in Japanese bakemono-animals, if you like to have a little laugh 🙂
Expected Release: March 23, 2021

Summary

Legends say that Senzou the Black Fox is one of the most vicious and powerful supernatural beasts to ever roam the land. At least, he used to be. Now, 300 years after he was imprisoned by the Sun Goddess for his bad behavior, Senzou is back — in the form of a small black fox with no powers! Tasked with protecting a young tanuki called Manpachi as he fulfills various tasks for the gods, Senzou must earn his powers back by learning how to be a good guardian to the energetic little pup. Though Senzou is a grumpy and reluctant companion at first, even a hard-hearted fox can be tamed by cuteness… and the little tanuki quickly learns there are some family ties that aren’t decided by blood.

In the third volume, Senzou, Manpachi, and the wolf clan are among humans and investigating a string of missing bakemono. The wolf Hagiri takes this chance to find a small cat spirit he has a bond with, but he can’t ask his clan for help looking for a cat! Hagiri and Senzou make an unlikely duo, but they collide in the search as they discover everything may be more connected than they realized.

Thoughts

This is a strong continuation of the series for sure. In the first installation, we met Manpachi and Senzou and saw their relationship develop. In the second, we learned more about some of the other bakemono they deal with, particularly the wolves. In this one, they’re out of the forest and stuck dealing with some problems around humans. Every book has had a unique plot or element to it, and I hope to see that continue as the world grows more robust.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Fox & Little Tanuki, Volume 3 by Mi Tagawa”
Posted in Reviews

Review: If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

Recommended: yup
For an intersectional story, for a well done blend of poetry and prose, for a fictional-but-way-too-real look at how sexual assault affects not only the person attacked but so many others around them

Summary

Kiran is a young Punjabi Sikh woman who becomes pregnant after being sexually assaulted by her fiancé’s brother. When her fiancé and family don’t believe her, she flees her home in India to Canada, where she plans to raise the child as a single mother. For Kiran, living undocumented means constant anxiety over finances, work, safety, and whether she’ll be deported back to the dangers that await her in Punjab. Eighteen years later, Kiran’s daughter, Sahaara, is desperate to help her mother, who has been arrested and is facing deportation. In the aftermath, Kiran reveals the truth about Sahaara’s conception. Horrified, Sahaara encourages Kiran to speak out against the man who raped her—who’s now a popular political figure in Punjab. Sahaara must find the best way to support her mother while also dealing with the revelation about her parents.

Thoughts:
I didn’t expect this to begin with Kiran as a kiddo, but that’s just what happened. What we get is a quite robust look at a life, from young Kiran to young adult Kiran to older Kiran as a mother. It switches to her daughter, Sahaara, as she grows up as well. I particularly loved the way Sahaara’s sections grew in stylistic complexity as she grew in age. In her early poetry entries, it’s simple rhyming couplets. It grows more complex, utilized different techniques and the abstract, and eventually turns to lengthier prose entries as well.

Continue reading “Review: If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: We Are All Birds of Uganda, 1/28/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! and even when it’s actually not Friday, I still want to shout about it. this one in particular, because We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hofsa Zayyan is one I’ve already been recommending to people. 😅

Expected release: January 28, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • I am forever interested in reading about places I’m not familiar with, and Uganda in the 1960s is certainly one of them. For me, the setting alone was enough to interest me from the start. Historical Uganda in the midst of a regime change is enough of a plot to hold me on its own.
  • Adding a present day timeline for Sameer learning about his own family past for the first time as he travels home from London only sweetens the deal. Learning about your roots as well as the blending of two cultures are two storylines I usually love.
  • So of course I’m in it for the drama! The drama of a regime change. The drama of discovering who you are and what life you want to live. The drama of current versus past.
  • Plus a little bonus point: if the writing is as gorgeous as the title, I expect this will be like a refreshing stream of poetic prose with lush imagery abounding.

Summary

1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.

Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew.

Posted in Reviews

2 Second Review: A Wife in Bangkok by Iris Mitlin Lav

2 Sentence Summary:

Crystal obediently follows her husband Brian to his new job in Thailand, but she is sick of taking care of everything he decides without input. In Thailand, the kids settle in but Brian is rarely home and Crystal’s isolation and exhaustion push her to the brink

Thoughts?

This book is all plot. The writing is somewhat stiff and formal, even in moments of extreme emotion. Because of that, I didn’t connect very much with the characters. I was primarily interested in the view of Thailand in the 1970s given, and that is what I ended up focusing on and enjoying the most. It’s amazing how many of the problems Crystal faces would be pretty much non-existent now due to advances like mobile phones and the internet.

One thing I appreciated was the deep dive into Crystal’s mental health and the options she had. I didn’t think mental health care was really a thing then, so that surprised me a bit. Overall the book was one I was able to get through, and fairly quickly, but it didn’t stand out to me for much besides the setting. The way characters spoke to each other felt unrealistic, and prevented me from getting a sense of reality at any point.

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

The astonishing half-block library in NYC

I’ve only spent about a day and a half in New York City, despite living pretty close to it my whole life. I’ll probably go back some time, if only for the sheer number of libraries that I didn’t visit and absolutely should have. This is one of them:

The Morgan Library

LOOOOOK AT IT!!!! 😍 Image courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler

This library in Manhattan started as a super rich financial mogul’s personal library, but was made public according to the guy’s will after he died. PS — dude was JP Morgan, of the company JP Morgan, if that rings any bells. SUPER RICH DUDE.

Since aforementioned dude was super rich, the library is ENORMOUS. It takes up about a half block of the city, and I’m not sure exactly how big that is, but it’s big.

They have some really cool items in the collection. Not only are there rare and first edition books (like Gutenberg Bibles and the draft of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), but they also have paintings, sculptures, and even notes and drafts from musicians.

Always remember to look up!!! Courtesy of wikimedia commons
I legitimately cannot fathom how enormous the tapestry covering the left wall is.
the poshest sitting room ever. SO. MUCH. VELVET.
Posted in Reviews

Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Verdict: Probably a better read for everyone else than it was for me. My experience was somewhat dull, but I have no doubt this will be a hit with most other readers if they think they would like it!

Recommended: eh
For a glimpse into 1920s Shanghai, for a historical fantasy gangster story (not a common combo I think), for flavors of Romeo & Juliet but ultimately its own standing story

Summary

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal. But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Thoughts:

Look, I know. This book has everything. Shanghai in 1920s, one of my favorite place-time combos. A basis in Shakespeare. A fantasy element of monsters. A touch of brutality and gore to darken the story.

So why didn’t I love it???

I’m a bit baffled, honestly. I’ve tried to pinpoint what kept me from falling in love with this book, as I should have by all rights. I think my issue was partly that I wasn’t expecting it to be intertwined with magic and I wasn’t really in the mood for that — and obviously that’s a personal issue, nothing with the book. But the bigger issue I faced was that I just didn’t really care about either of the main characters.

Continue reading “Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong”