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.
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.
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
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.
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look ahead to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is If I Tell You The Truthby Jasmin Kaur, which has both a gorgeous premise and a gorgeous cover.
Why wait on this one?
Ahhhh, a good multi-generational women’s story. With the added element of immigration, this is basically everything I love in a story. We’ll hear from Kiran and her daughter Sahaara as they tackle together longstanding secrets and painful pasts.
….those secrets being not so secret to the reader, as we know that Sahaara was conceived when Kiran was raped. So that’s a pretty intense conversation for a mother and daughter to have, and the way they’ll each try to cope as well as finding their way together with this shared truth between them promises to be painful and (I hope) really really powerful with tentative hope in the face of despair.
Multigenre stories feel so rare. I absolutely adore books told in varying formats, or in nontraditional medium. This one is a blend of poetry, prose, and illustrations, and I can only imagine how well that will complement the story. Powerful and complex feelings sometimes need creative and non-linear forms of expression.
Told in prose, poetry, and illustration, this heartrending story weaves Kiran’s and Sahaara’s timelines together, showing a teenage Kiran and, later, her high school–aged daughter, Sahaara.
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.
Recommended: sure For a thoughtful introspective journey of self-discovery, for flawed characters who are painfully human, for an expansive intake on what it means to be human
Summary: Harold Fry is recently retired and hasn’t much moved since. When he gets a letter from an old colleague, Queenie, who is in hospice with cancer, he decides to send her a polite letter back. And then on the way to the postbox, he decides to keep going. And going. Until eventually, he’s just going to walk all the way across the country to see Queenie. Harold knows that as long as he walks, Queenie will stay alive; and so he sets off in his boat shoes and tie to walk 600 miles. Harold and his wife Maureen don’t have the best relationship, but when she’s left behind at home, she struggles to find some sort of peace of her own with their past and if they have a future together.
Thoughts: I suppose that, yet again, my expectations were not quite right for a book going into it. I heard “walking across England” but forgot the “by a sedentary retiree.” The pace of the book is as slow as Harold was, walking five miles a day on a ~600 mile journey. By halfway through the book, Harold had been walking for what felt like an eternity, and yet he was about a fifth of the way done with his journey. I admit, it did start to drag a little bit at times for me.
I found this book on StoryGraph and added it to a prompt for my onboarding challenge there. I would totally read it otherwise anyway though, because it sounds hella cute (and so far it is, even though I’m really early in). I seem to really enjoy stories of 65+ year olds going on some kind of unexpected journey. I learned this with Jonas Jonasson as well. And hey — if you know of more, please let me know! 🥰
Words I’ve Learned:
Lines that linger
Harold felt he had never come across such simple certainty, and in such a young person; she made it sound obvious.
It surprised Harold how fast and angry cars seemed when you were not in one.
Life was very different when you walked through it.
White Ivy by Susie Yang — Release Date November 3, 2020 Verdict: I was expecting something different than a slow burn character study of a compulsive liar, but if you go in knowing that’s what you’ll get then this is a fantastic read.
Special Note: this book currently has a Goodreads Giveaway going on! So if you’re interested, head on over and enter the giveaway! (Ends 10/7/20)
Recommended: to people who know what they’re getting For a psychological study of a woman who lacks empathy, for race and class reflections on a life lived, for a strangely compelling view of someone constantly on the edge of self destruction, for a very slow-paced read that focuses on the inner workings on one woman’s mind
Summary: Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates. Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate. Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Thoughts: This book was not what I expected. Instead of an explosive thriller watching a descent into madness fueled by racism and class striation, I got a character study of a person trapped in their own mind as they self destruct their happiness in lieu of what they see as The Good Life. By the end, I felt a little deflated. But hopefully, if I can set expectations correctly, you can read this book happily the whole way through and end it feeling quite satisfied with what you’ve had.
In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to upcoming releases I’m excited about! Today’s book is This is My America by Kim Johnson, which feels remarkably appropriate for the way society is here in the US right now. Expected release: July 28, 2020
Why wait on this one?
On the fiction side of this, we have the mystery at its heart. Why is Tracy’s brother being accused of murder? What role did he actually play in the event, if any? Will Tracy ever succeed in helping acquit her father as an innocent man?
On the more real side of this, we have the painful realism of how Black people in America are treated by law enforcement and the government in general. This book sounds like it will bluntly face the injustices and blatantly shitty things that are handed to Black people. I’m always trying to learn more about the reality of all people, and reading is one way I do so.
I fully expect this book to make me feel lots and lots of emotions. I know I will probably cry. And rage. And end feeling exhausted. But those are important things to feel, because for others (too many others) it’s their daily existence and not just a novel they can turn the last page on.
Summary: Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Summary: Iceland in the 1960s. Hekla is a budding female novelist who was born in the remote district of Dalir. After packing her few belongings, including James Joyces’s Ulysses and a Remington typewriter, she heads for Reykjavik with a manuscript buried in her bags. There, she intends to become a writer. Sharing an apartment with her childhood and queer friend Jón John, Hekla comes to learn that she will have to stand alone in a small male dominated community that would rather see her win a pageant than be a professional artist. As the two friends find themselves increasingly on the outside, their bond shapes and strengthens them artistically in the most moving of ways.
Recommended: sure for a different style of romance, for complex family betrayal and love, for a comforting quick read
Summary: Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
Thoughts: First things first: I don’t think I’d consider this a beach read. Those are usually fluffier and light with the main issue the old trope where the characters just don’t talk to each other and misunderstand something stupid. This book is not that. In fact, I was delighted that, for the most part, when they were hurt or angry or confused they did address it and talk to each other instead of letting idiocy fester. THANK YOU, EMILY HENRY.
The other day I stopped short went I noticed a ton of books with the words “a novel” tucked away on their cover design. I had no idea why some do this, and some don’t, despite them all being novels. Why even include it in the first place? I had to look into the mystery from my original post.
My confusion stemmed from the fact that it seems fairly obvious when a book is a novel. From the title, location we find it (shelved under fiction…), or just from the fact that novels are sort of the default in writing now, I could not figure out why this was included so irregularly.
I FOUND THE ANSWERS!
Or, at least, I found several possible reasons.
The first, original reason is historical. Novels haven’t actually been a thing for very long. Writing used to be primarily nonfiction: travelogues, letters, play manuscripts, essays. English stories that were not actually true (aka our good friend fiction) were not very common until the 17th century or so. At that point, authors had to tell readers that their book was a novel because otherwise they might get confused.