Posted in Reviews

Review: Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor

Recommended: I don’t think so?
Because I ended it feeling like I didn’t really get much out of it, and it’s low-key depressing. Go for it if you like sprawling stories that cover decades and multiple characters, with a tale that weaves between everyone it touches


This is the age of vice, where money, pleasure, and power are everything,and the family ties that bind can also kill.New Delhi, 3 a.m. A speeding Mercedes jumps the curb and in the blink of an eye, five people are dead. It’s a rich man’s car, but when the dust settles there is no rich man at all, just a shell-shocked servant who cannot explain the strange series of events that led to this crime. Nor can he foresee the dark drama that is about to unfold.Deftly shifting through time and perspective in contemporary India, Age of Vice is an epic, action-packed story propelled by the seductive wealth, startling corruption, and bloodthirsty violence of the Wadia family — loved by some, loathed by others, feared by all.In the shadow of lavish estates, extravagant parties, predatory business deals and calculated political influence, three lives become dangerously intertwined: Ajay is the watchful servant, born into poverty, who rises through the family’s ranks. Sunny is the playboy heir who dreams of outshining his father, whatever the cost. And Neda is the curious journalist caught between morality and desire. Against a sweeping plot fueled by loss, pleasure, greed, yearning, violence and revenge, will these characters’ connections become a path to escape, or a trigger of further destruction?


If you ask me what this book is about I would probably have a bit of a hard time explaining. It’s strangely complex, one of those stories where every character you meet is involved with all of the others in some obscure way. While that can have a pretty cool effect, in this one it left me a bit unsure of why things mattered. And when it came to the very end, I genuinely had no idea what happened, let alone why it happened.

My biggest struggle with this book is that everything in it is terrible. Nothing good happens, basically ever. If you think something good has just happened, know that you’re probably wrong and it will be later revealed to actually be a terrible thing. Everyone is unhappy, even the people who are “supposed” to be happy because they’re rich, or in control, or whatever it may be. This was just such a tale of misery that it was really hard to witness it all.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: The Dark Queens:The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak (nonfiction!)

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak

Recommended: yup!
For a detailed narrative nonfiction about those crazy Merovingians, for insight into history not often taught that you have to intentionally seek out, for an impressively well-researched piece of writing


Brunhild was a Spanish princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet—in the 6th-century Merovingian Empire, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport—these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms for decades, changing the face of Europe.

The two queens commanded armies and negotiated with kings and popes. They formed coalitions and broke them, mothered children and lost them. They fought a years-long civil war—against each other. With ingenuity and skill, they battled to stay alive in the game of statecraft, and in the process laid the foundations of what would one day be Charlemagne’s empire. Yet after Brunhild and Fredegund’s deaths—one gentle, the other horrific—their stories were rewritten, their names consigned to slander and legend.

In The Dark Queens, award-winning writer Shelley Puhak sets the record straight. She resurrects two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture’s stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.


Y’all this book is impressive as shit. It is so incredibly annotated and footnoted and it’s like every other sentence has a point of reference. That doesn’t distract or take away from the reading, and you can look at them after if you want and just sink into the narrative without pulling away to check out the notes, but boy was I impressed every time I saw the density of them on the page. The author and their cohort really did their work on this and it shows. Brunhild and Fredegund are absolutely incredible to read about and every new scene was compelling.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

Recommended: sure
For a life inside the Troubles in Northern Ireland, for an almost slice-of-life story of one girl just trying to live her life, for a lot of irish-y slang and words that you fall into the rhythm of


It’s the summer of 1994, and all smart-mouthed Maeve Murray wants are good final exam results so she can earn her ticket out of the wee Northern Irish town she has grown up in during the Troubles. She hopes she will soon be in London studying journalism—away from her crowded home, the silence and sadness surrounding her sister’s death, and most of all, away from the violence of her divided community.

As a first step, Maeve’s taken a job in a shirt factory working alongside Protestants with her best friends. But getting the right exam results is only part of Maeve’s problem—she’s got to survive a tit-for-tat paramilitary campaign, iron 100 shirts an hour all day every day, and deal with the attentions of Handy Andy Strawbridge, her slick and untrustworthy English boss. Then, as the British loyalist marching season raises tensions among the Catholic and Protestant workforce, Maeve realizes something is going on behind the scenes at the factory. What seems to be a great opportunity to earn money turns out to be a crucible in which Maeve faces the test of a lifetime. Seeking justice for herself and her fellow workers may just be Maeve’s one-way ticket out of town.


I enjoyed reading this every time I picked it up, but now that I’ve finished it I’m left thinking, wait what was the plot of this? What was the resolution? WAS there one? It’s kind of a weird feeling, because it was kind of a weird ending. It felt very abrupt to me, like even a cop out epilogue that was like “five years later…” would have helped. Still, it was decent overall. There was a lot of historical context that I’ve never learned much about, so this was wildly educational for me in a way, too.

Since it’s set in Northern Ireland in 1994, there’s of course lots of Irish English words (and sometimes just Irish Irish words!) like craic and biccies and boke. Luckily I knew a few of these (craic is fun, a good time, interesting shit, and sounds like crack) and could figure others out through context (the biccies they have with tea are probably biscuits). Some took me a while though, like boke, which I didn’t figure out contextually until probably 70% of the way through after many examples. xD There were others I really didn’t get at all, but was able to just move on and get the gist of a sentence of thought from the rest of it.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Pachinko by Lee Min-jin

Pachinko by Lee Min-jin

Recommended: for some people
For folks who like character studies and want to know about every person who pops up in the book, for folks who want a historical slice-of-life from Koreans in Japan in the 1900s. Not for folks looking for a solid plot or driving force through the story,


Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.


What. A. Slog. If the question in this review is “is this a well done book” then my answer is yes, absolutely. But if the question is, as I expect it to be, “did I enjoy this book” the answer is noooooooo. Or a generous “not really.” It wasn’t bad, but boy was it a slow journey through five generations. Sometimes I like generational stories, but this was too much for me. If I hadn’t been already 82% in I would have just DNFd it.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

Recommended: sure
For a long journey with characters you’ll fall in love with, for a narrative that places you more as an observer than an active participant


It is 1938 in China and, as a young wife, Meilin’s future is bright. But with the Japanese army approaching, Meilin and her four year old son, Renshu, are forced to flee their home. Relying on little but their wits and a beautifully illustrated hand scroll, filled with ancient fables that offer solace and wisdom, they must travel through a ravaged country, seeking refuge.

Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. Though his daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down? Yet how can Lily learn who she is if she can never know her family’s story?

Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the haunting question: What would it mean to finally be home?


My note in my book at the end:
“The last words are the title and it’s so perfect and fitting it brought a tear to my eye.”

The title fable was gently included throughout, referenced in various situations. Along with other folktales, this book had so many smaller stories within it that resonated with me a surprising amount. Those were the moments I was most entrance by this story: when they unrolled the scroll, ran their fingers over the silken strands, and fully envisioned each scene before sinking into the tale. I was right there with them in those moments.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: On a Night of a Thousand Stars, 3/1/22

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 On A Night of a Thousand Stars by Andrea Yaryura Clark!
Expected Release: March 1, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • The setting of this one is an obvious draw for me. At least partially set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I’m excited to travel to South America. I don’t often read books set there, so this is a nice chance to break out of that box a bit.
  • Similarly, since I don’t read about South America much, my historical knowledge of the continent is limited mostly to what I learned in high school Spanish classes. Which admittedly, is something at least, but I think there’s a lot more I can dive into with this historical novel.
  • As the main character, college-student Paloma, learns about her father’s history as well as Argentina’s history, I’ll be able to ride along with her. The character’s lens mirrors my own knowledge well, so I think it will gently carry me along. I say gently, but the topic is also pretty painful and grim, as Paloma will dive into the past dangers of the country and put herself in fresh new danger of her own.


New York, 1998. Santiago Larrea, a wealthy Argentine diplomat, is holding court alongside his wife, Lila, and their daughter, Paloma, a college student and budding jewelry designer, at their annual summer polo match and soiree. All seems perfect in the Larreas’ world—until an unexpected party guest from Santiago’s university days shakes his usually unflappable demeanor. The woman’s cryptic comments spark Paloma’s curiosity about her father’s past, of which she knows little.
When the family travels to Buenos Aires for Santiago’s UN ambassadorial appointment, Paloma is determined to learn more about his life in the years leading up to the military dictatorship of 1976. With the help of a local university student, Franco Bonetti, an activist member of H.I.J.O.S.—a group whose members are the children of the desaparecidos, or the “disappeared,” men and women who were forcibly disappeared by the state during Argentina’s “Dirty War”—Paloma unleashes a chain of events that not only leads her to question her family and her identity, but also puts her life in danger.

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Verdict: come on, y’all, it’s RUTA SEPETYS. You know it’s good.
Expected Release Date: February 1, 2022

Recommended: yes, it’s Ruta
For Ruta’s trademark history that’s ignored by American schools (mine at least…), for a story of true events told in one possible existing story, for revolution and oppression and determination and risk, for a bite-history of Romania’s not-so-distant past of becoming their own country again


Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?


As are all of Ruta’s young adult historical novels, this is very thoroughly researched in many different ways, from conversations with people who lived during the time to artifacts from it to written works about it and so much more. It really shows in the details of the story how Ruta learned about Romanian’s lives. After finishing reading this, I really appreciated the notes at the back with details about references within the book. I was so curious about the woman who dubbed so many western films, and found a name to start my own research into her some more.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

Recommended: sure
For others who forget that immigrants are not always American nor coming to America; for a culture blend of India, Uganda, and England; for a story of characters who are flawed and human, for unclear answers to legitimate problems. It’ll make you think, y’all.


1960s UGANDA. Hasan struggles to keep his family business afloat following the sudden death of his wife. As he begins to put his shattered life back together piece by piece, 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 heritage he never knew.

Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is an immensely resonant novel that explores racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong.


Well I had to wait a month to get a copy of this book from across the country, and I’m glad it felt like it was worth the effort. There was so much in this. It’s roughly two parts, separated by geography or time depending on how you look at it.

What surprised me the most was how about a hundred pages in I realized I didn’t particularly like any of the main characters. They all carried traits that were hard to empathize about: ungrateful; uncompromising; unforgiving. And yet none were uninteresting! This is a story of flawed characters who are extraordinarily human.

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Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim!

Hey y’all! Just a reminder that Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim published today! Check out the full review here or grab a copy of your own!

Recommended: yesssss
For a literary story that’s still easy to read, for characters who draw you in whether you like them or not, for a dramatic and complex history of a tiny country that has seen unbelievable change very quickly


In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.

In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

Posted in Book Talk

Where can I read We Are All Birds of Uganda?

Hey y’all!

I’ve run into a surprising issue recently. There’s a book I had wanted to read so much I even featured in in a Fast Forward Friday post a while back: We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan. Now that I’m finally getting around to it, I figured I’d track down a library copy to borrow or put on hold!

Oddly, neither library I’m a member of has a digital or physical copy. It’s not that they don’t have it available, they just straight up don’t have it! Both are ample state libraries, so I’m really surprised that there are no copies, since I thought this was a fairly popular and well-received title.

I even tried finding a way to request it via inter-library loan, but it weirdly looks like my main library doesn’t have it as an option! I had to email them and am waiting to hear back on if the librarians have any ideas. In the meantime, I checked Barnes & Noble to see what they had it listed for.

oh…. okay…

Apparently B&N doesn’t have it either, which is stunning because they even have Let’s Play volumes. I originally checked but they ALSO DON’T HAVE IT! Why is this book so hard to find?? I did eventually find a copy on Book Depository but now I’m waiting to hear back from the librarians… I hope this book is fabulous by the time I get it. 🤣