Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen!

Just a reminder that The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen (🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟) published today! Check out the full review here or grab a copy from Barnes & Noble!

Recommended: yes
For a fantastic story, for a fictional story about real issues, for a way to reinforce lessons on or teach about racism and the Black experience that would work well for younger students in particular (but definitely adults, too)

Summary:
It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t―open, kind, and full of acceptance. Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Expected Release: June 16, 2020

Recommended: yes
For a fantastic story, for a fictional story about real issues, for a way to reinforce lessons on or teach about racism and the Black experience that would work well for younger students in particular (but definitely adults, too)

Summary:
It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t―open, kind, and full of acceptance. Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.

Thoughts:
Honestly, I thought it was weird at first that the white girl’s name was on the cover of the black boy’s story. I worried about what message that gave before even beginning the book. I’m still not sure about that, but Juniper brought light and honesty and bravery to Ethan’s life — so maybe it makes sense that she was featured so prominently on his cover. I never quite understood why the other town kids made fun of her and said she was crazy, so either I missed something or it was simply because she wasn’t as racist as the rest of them.

Continue reading “Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen”
Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

In Progress with The Japanese Lover

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Progress: page 202/323 (61%)

Okay.. I realize that’s kind of a weird (and possibly misleading) title for this post. My lover is not Japanese, but I am currently reading The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. Here’s how it’s going so far!

Why did I start reading it?

I’m so close to having completed the A-Z title challenge for 2020. I only need a few more letters, and one of them was J! This book was also one on my TBR that I’ve been wanting to include for a few months, plus one of my bingo prompts this month is a title that begins with J. The fates simply aligned!

Words I’ve Learned:

Lines that linger

In itself age doesn’t make anyone better or wiser, but only accentuates what they have always been.

There are a lot of good people, Irina, but they keep quiet about it. It’s the bad ones who make a lot of noise, and that’s why they get noticed.

Happiness is not exuberant or noise, like pleasure or joy; it’s silent, tranquil, and gentle; it’s a feeling of satisfaction inside that begins with self-love.

Posted in A Picture's Worth

A Picture’s Worth: Yugoslavian Trains & Hawaiian Islands

Words have always carried more weight with me than images – give me a book over its movie any day – but I do love to see the beautiful images other people create when they’re in love with a book. That’s not my strength, but I can certainly appreciate it in others! So here’s a few of my faves based on what I’ve been reading recently.


Murder on the Orient Express

Remember that time I said I was going to read this book? Well I am, and I don’t regret it. Plus, my god, there so many gorgeous photos since it’s been around forever. The resurgence in popularity when a movie was made semi-recently didn’t hurt either. It also made me realize I definitely have to do a cover roulette for this title!!

Perfectly capturing the feel of the story!!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9lFZZsgvLj/hidecaption=true

I love the original covers from old stories

Continue reading “A Picture’s Worth: Yugoslavian Trains & Hawaiian Islands”
Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain!

Reminder that Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (⭐⭐⭐⭐) released today! Check out the review here, and find a Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy!

Recommended: yup!
For fans of dual narrative, for fans of social-intrigue kind of mysteries, for a well-done blend of then-and-now story-lines that weave together. Must be able to suspend disbelief for one serious plot hole, and be aware the romance is weakly developed.

Then-and-now cover

Summary:
2018: Morgan Christopher is delivered a bizarre twist of fate when she’s offered an escape from her wrongful prison sentence. With her incomplete art degree, she must restore an old mural with a tight timeline. As she rushes to uncover the mural, she learns of the artist’s descent into madness.

1940: Anna Dale desperately accepts the job states away from her own hometown. With prejudices and secrets thriving under the glamour of Southern charm, more lines are crossed than just the Mason-Dixon. This mural will steal her peace, and possibly her life.

Posted in Reviews

Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir – ⭐⭐
Two stars, largely due to general confusion throughout. I feel like I have to think more about this one and see if things come to make sense… or if this is just a confusing jumble.
Expected Release: June 16, 2020

Recommended: not really
Stay away if you want a point to the story, if you want clear reactions and reasons for things, if you want more than rambling conversations. Take it on if you have a group of people to discuss it with, maybe with one who’s from Iceland, or if you want to have a kind of literary puzzle to decipher.

It’s much more somber than the cover implies

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. 


Thoughts:
I went into this with and entirely different expectation of what I would find, which jarred me a bit in the first few pages. Going through this, my overall impression is that the writing itself is beautiful despite being quite sparse, and I felt like it really reflected the mood and reality of Iceland. (I went to Iceland, and specifically Reykjavik, last December, so I was able to link places and issues they were talking about with my experience.) That more than anything is what kept me going through it: it was just somehow lovely in the words themselves. This is getting two stars because I feel that a critical aspect of this is just out of reach from what I read, but perhaps with discussion around it, that remaining piece would fall into place. I could see this being a favorite book for others, particularly perhaps with a book club or buddy reads.

Continue reading “Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir”
Posted in Reviews

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Release Date: January 14, 2020

A+ mystery, F romance, and one huge plot hole that I’m willing to ignore because the rest was so good.

Recommended: yup!
For fans of dual narrative, for fans of social-intrigue kind of mysteries, for a well-done blend of then-and-now storylines that weave together. Must be able to suspend disbelief for one serious plot hole, and be aware the romance is weakly developed.

Then-and-now cover

Summary:
2018: Morgan Christopher is delivered a bizarre twist of fate when she’s offered an escape from her wrongful prison sentence. With her incomplete art degree, she must restore an old mural with a tight timeline. As she rushes to uncover the mural, she learns of the artist’s descent into madness.

1940: Anna Dale desperately accepts the job states away from her own hometown. With prejudices and secrets thriving under the glamour of Southern charm, more lines are crossed than just the Mason-Dixon. This mural will steal her peace, and possibly her life.

Thoughts:
The feeling of doom that hung over this was critical in its success. You don’t know what happened to Anna, but you have a feeling the answer is nothing good. Without that foreknowledge of her insanity, the first half of this book would read as though nothing was really happening. For some, that may still be the case, but trust me: once you’re about halfway, events start happening quite quickly and with significant urgency.

Continue reading “Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain”
Posted in Reviews

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce – ⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: Sure
For those who can handle brutal heartbreak, for those who understand old-timey British phrases and slang (or have a convenient British friend to translate)

Summary:
Emmy is doing her bit to help the community as a Fire Services operator during bombings in 1940 London. When she gets a chance at her real dream job of being a war correspondent, she can’t help but jump at it. Unfortunately a mix-up finds her as a women’s issues columnist, with strict orders not to answer anything Unpleasant. Emmy can’t hold herself back when reading the Real Issues that these women have and desperately need advice on, so in between bombings, she poses as Mrs. Bird and responds as she can. All the time, she’s trying to have a life between the threats of losing her job and being caught in a bombing raid by the Germans.

Thoughts:
If the letter-writing aspect of this is what’s drawing you in, be aware that a lot of the story is focused on how they manage to live their lives under constant threat of war and danger and death. There’s love, and friendship, and insecurity, but there’s also near-deaths, and bombings, and hatred. You just have to be ready to take both, as they had to at the time.

Continue reading “Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce”
Posted in Reviews

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Saints by Gene Luen Yang – ⭐⭐⭐
Definitely more of a foil to Bao in Boxers, full review to come.

Recommended: only if you particularly liked Boxers
This one is less impactful, I think, and serves as more of a foil to Little Bao’s story. It was also far less exciting (for me) and more focused on building the cultural feeling at the time

Would YOU guess that both characters are female?

Summary:
China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family when she’s born. She finds friendship–and a name, Vibiana–in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie…and whether she is willing to die for her faith. 

Thoughts:
My expectations for this one were wrong. I didn’t realize the narrator, our MC, was a girl, from the cover. I also didn’t realize the golden knight on the cover was ALSO a girl. Furthermore, I didn’t see the connection between Four Girl and Joan as much as I did with Little Bao and his god counterpart. Joan’s whole line sort of baffled me, and I must admit, I’m not super sure what I was intended to take away from that. Perhaps the peace and salvation faith brings, and that being what Vibiana ended up not understanding and missing in the end? Like she totally misinterpreted what Joan was supposed to be teaching her.

Continue reading “Saints by Gene Luen Yang”
Posted in Reviews

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: Unexpectedly, yes.
At the start I thought maybe for younger grades, now I’m thinking late middle or later. For a look at a history unknown in American public schools, for the whiplash turns of laughing to stunned silent darkness.

Bright bold colors, you just know there’s a match somewhere

Summary, from Goodreads:
China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers–commoners trained in kung fu–who fight to free China from “foreign devils.” Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils”–Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

One of many funny moments in a deep and moving story xD
Continue reading “Boxers by Gene Luen Yang”