Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: I Named My Dog Pushkin by Margarita Gokun Silver, 7/29

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 I Named My Dog Pushkin by Margarita Gokun Silver
Expected Release: July 29, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • The simplest thing that drew my attention is that it’s nonfiction. There’s certain nonfiction that I really love when I find it, and I’m hoping this will be one to add to the list.
  • I think I’ll love it because it’s a story of immigration and learning new cultures. I always go for those as I love hearing perspective’s different than my own, and Margarita’s perspective of a young adult in the 1980s is already pretty different. Then add in that she’s attempting to leave Soviet Russia with her family and get to America, and that’s quite a different story than my own. It’s one I’m definitely interested in hearing, as I haven’t read much by Russian immigrants and am not super familiar with the time.
  • 3 I have to assume from the title and blurb that Margarita is telling her story with a bit of humour. There’s always some humour when you’re learning a whole new culture, and I appreciate when folks can slip some in around the colder difficulties that also come with immigration. I’m happy to learn and empathize, but I also do love a cheeky laugh at the harmless miscommunications and discoveries!

Summary

Fake an exit visa, fool the Soviet authorities, pack enough sausage to last through immigration, buy a one-way Aeroflot ticket, and the rest will sort itself out. That was the gist of every Soviet-Jewish immigrant’s plan in the 1980s, Margarita’s included. Despite her father’s protestations that they’d get caught and thrown into a gulag, she convinced her family to follow that plan.

When they arrived in the US, Margarita had a clearly defined objective – become fully American as soon as possible, and leave her Soviet past behind. But she soon learned that finding her new voice was harder than escaping the Soviet secret police.

She finds herself changing her name to fit in, disappointing her parents who expect her to become a doctor, a lawyer, an investment banker and a classical pianist – all at the same time, learning to date without hang-ups (there is no sex in the Soviet Union), parenting her own daughter ‘while too Russian’, and not being able to let go of old habits (never, ever throw anything away because you might use it again). Most importantly, she finds that no matter how hard you try not to become your parents, you end up just like them anyway.

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

JERICHO HAS ARRIVED!

Hey y’all! I have some very exciting news (for me, at least!) to share:

The Complete List of Jericho has finally arrived!

Chris Jericho is a wildly successful wrestler who just celebrated his 30th year in his career. As part of that milestone, he released a book based on notes he’s kept since his very first match that detail who and where he fought, how much he got paid, and his rating of his own performance. It also includes anecdotes, photos, and other lists. Top 10 places to wrestle, top 10 lucha matches, top 10 wrestlers who influenced him, etc.

For a while, one of his character gimmicks was adding people who pissed him off to a list, presumably of people on whom he was now seeking vengeance. xD His character was always very dramatic and hilarious, but he’s also an incredibly talented performer (both in the sense of his skills in the ring as well as in promos!).

I have been SO looking forward to this book, and it’s finally finally here! I’m probably going to be diving into watching some of these matches of his and enjoying them while knowing his commentary for them. 🥰

PS – I also bought his champagne to have my own little bit of the bubbly. It was delish! 😊

Posted in Book Talk

An email to Amy: 5 of the best books I’ve read since 2019

You know to be honest, I haven’t ready many new books this year that I really LOVED. Either I’m harder to please, or just picking duds lol. But here are a few from the past year or so that stuck with me:

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin –  a dark YA witchy Macbeth-themed book about a girl getting revenge on the group of boys who raped her (and have raped many others). The style of writing is really lyrical and it ALWAYS makes me want to read Macbeth right after because it’s so, so good. Not exactly a light read though

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa – adult contemp translated from Japanese, the focus is very much on characters and you hear people’s stories. The way it’s told at times from the cat’s POV can be really sweet and funny, and is an awesome counterpoint to some of the heavier aspects of the book. Even though I knew early on what was coming, I bawled at the end nonetheless.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert – a historical fiction novel about a Hawaian girl who gets leprosy and is sent to the leper colony island in Hawai’i. She sees a lot of events of the time through her lens there, and has a lot of interesting insight into growing up with leprosy, around others with it, and in that strange isolation yet specific kind of community. It’s a slow paced read with a lot packed in. I read this one by a pool in Cancun.

The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic El-Rayess. BEST BOOK I’VE READ IN A REALLY LONG TIME. It’s nonfiction that reads like fiction, except for when you remember it’s 100% real. By a Bosnian woman during the genocide from the Serbians, this is a war book and hopeful and distressing and just truly unbelievable. Might be a good one to read with older students, or select chapters from or something.

Invisible Women by Caroline Creado Perez. Nonfic. You’ll be angry and baffled after reading this, because it’s absolutely JUST INSANE how women are ignored and threatened daily from shitty research, or research that deliberately leaves us out because our hormones make tests difficult. EVEN WHEN ITS A PRODUCT FOR WOMEN. My god. Perez never once does any “blame the men” and in fact keeps a remarkably impressive angle of working together globally to solve the issue, more than finger pointing about who sucks the most. I listened to the audio book, but I just bought a copy so I can thumb through and find some of the ridiculous studies and aspects she goes into detail on.

Two of mine are somehow related to cats. xD I guess I sense a theme there. These are all books that are so good that I read them digitally and bought a physical copy to have, because I either already have or definitely will re-read all of these. Foul is Fair is at least once a year a re-read, when it gets to October and I want some witchy stuff.

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

A- Z Challenge 2020 Complete!

Hey y’all! I know it’s almost the end of January, and that 2020-related posts are practically passe by now (I guess?), but I still have a fab one left for you. Yay! 😁 In 2020, not only did I read a totally bonkers amount of books by my standards, but I also successfully tackled the A-Z title challenge, or the alphabet challenge, or whatever you want to call it! Meaning for each letter of the English alphabet, I read a book with a title that started with that letter.

“But wait!” you cry. “What about those crazy end letters, like V and X and – my god – Z?!

Yep, I got those covered too. Actually, one of my last letters I got was P, and I was surprised by how many options there were for Y and Q. Who knew? X’s are still an untapped market though. Come on, authors, take your cue!

Anyway, I did manage to do it! Below is a lovely little gallery of 26+ covers from books I read spanning the alphabet. There are some letters that have more than 1 book listed because I just couldn’t choose. Some books felt too important to my overall reading experience of the year to leave them out! You’ll find a little about each book after the gallery listing, too, in case you’re curious. I’m confident there will be titles that few people have read or heard of, so get excited! 🎉

The gallery of A-Z

Continue reading “A- Z Challenge 2020 Complete!”
Posted in Reviews

2 Second Review: Librarian Tales by William Ottens

2 Sentence Summary

A guy who found his way into being a librarian shares his path there and some of the joys and pains of the job. Disclaimer for those who think otherwise: it’s not all reading quietly during work. 😂

Thoughts

A cute little read about one guy’s journey to being a library person. I super appreciated all the points he makes about the misconceptions people have about working in a library, or about librarian science. There’s a crap ton that goes into managing all of that information, and good luck to anyone who thinks they can just walk in and do it. Or the poor misguided fools who think they can just read all day if they work at a library. 😂 It is, essentially, a service job in many ways. And I think it’s widely known that service jobs tend to really suck sometimes. This is more of his story than it is a collection of anecdotes. I expected the latter, but wasn’t disappointed to get the former. There are a lot of disclaimers and lessons learned throughout, which I appreciated as a way to see how he’s grown.
Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

In progress with DOWN UNDER

Progress: page 239/394 (60%)

Take me on a trip to somewhere new and warm. ^.^

Why did I start reading it?

I quite adore Bill Bryson from some of his other travel and language books I’ve read. When I saw this at my favorite used bookstore, I had to grab it up! I can’t very well travel right now, so I’m embracing it in books even more than I usually do. Bryson is a delightful tour guide who constantly cracks me up and fascinates me with interesting history and observations. Who knew that rabbits were such a deadly scourge in Australia? NOW I DO!😊

Where have I gone?

Interesting History I’ve Learned:

–> THE UNKNOWN NUCLEAR EXPLOSION
in 1993, there was a huge unexplained explosion, that for years no one could explain or find. In 1995, it was discovered that a Japanese terrorist group had performed a test nuclear explosion in Australia’s vast desert in some land the organization owned — and no one knew about it until 2 years after.

–> THE MAN WHO NAMED AUSTRALIA
Lachlan Macquarie, a Scottish governor of the original colonies, is the one who made the name Australia take root. Before, it was just called New South Wales or Botany Bay without any real discrimination. He also has a TON of stuff named after him, either first or last name.

–> THE SECRET MENACE OF RABBITS
Early in the colonization, some fancy to-do aristocrat brought some rabbits with him to put in his garden and enjoy watching them. But then they escaped, and mated like rabbits as they swarmed to continent, absolutely devouring and destroying tons of the scrub and low brush of the land. It’s still a problem, and this is one organization trying to deal with it.

–> THE WHITE AUSTRALIAN POLICY
When people were first immigrating to Australia (by choice, not as prisoners), there were some official policies in place that allowed officials to test anyone entering on any European language and kick them out if they fail. The discrimination towards non-whites was pretty clear with this policy in place. Who’s going to pass a literacy test in Scottish Gaelic??

–> GOLD AUSTRALIA
Australia was desperately poor for a long time after being colonized, as is maybe not terribly surprising in a continent that’s mostly desert and has lots of really intense weather. What turned all that around was the discovery that Australia also had a TON of gold. People started panning, or drilling, or mining, or however you get gold out of the earth, and suddenly they were a pretty well-to-do corner of the world.

Lines that linger

Put in the crudest terms, Australia was slightly more important to Americans in 1997 than bananas, but not nearly as important as ice cream.

It is a fact little notes that the Aborigines have the oldest continuously maintained culture on earth, and their art goes back to the very roots of it. Imagine if there were some people in France who could take you to the caves at Lascaux and explain in detail the significance of the paintings — because it as fresh and sensible to them as if it were done yesterday.

In 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, and 1998 Nyngan was devastated by torrential flash floods. For five years during this same period, while Nyngan was being repeatedly inundated, the town of Cobar, just eighty miles to the west, recorded not a drop of rain. This is, if I haven’t made it clear already, one tough country.

Posted in Reviews

Mini Reviews from August

I drafted this post ready to go on September 3rd, and then didn’t finish it until September 17th. That feels about right for the flow of time these days. 😂 Two weeks feels like a few days at most! Anyway, here are the books from August that I didn’t get around to fully reviewing and some others that I posted for last month. 🙂

Fully reviewed books

Mini reviewed books below

All book covers link to the Goodreads page for the book with the blurb & additional info!

  1. Memoirs of a Teenage Insomniac by Gabrielle Zevin
  2. Heartsongs by Matti TJ Stepanek
  3. Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer
  4. Nothing Special by Katie Cook
  5. Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala
  6. Let’s Play, Season 2 by Mongie
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesia by Gabrielle Zevin

2 Sentence Summary:
Naomi hits her head hard enough to forget the last 6-ish years of her life. Now she has to re-learn her boyfriend, her best friend, her family, her studies… and herself.

This book was decent, but I feel like it tried to be too many things at one time. The plot took a wild left turn halfway through, and then softly ended where I expected it to head all along. The overall experience was a bit jarring because of that. I didn’t much like Elsewhere either, so maybe this author’s style just isn’t my fav.

Heartsongs by Mattie JT Stepanek

2 Sentence Summary:
Poetry by a child, mostly about things children know about. Also God.

As I mentioned in my monthly wrap up, I 100% did not realize this was by an actual 5 year old child. My mistake; and my disappointment. Good for elementary school or KCC, less good for an adult seeking quality, moving poetry.

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer

2 Sentence Summary:
Twilight, but from Edward’s point of view. Bella is more interesting, but Edward is still pretty creepy.

Frankly the reason I didn’t review this is because Angelica from The Book Cover Girls already wrote everything I would have said, and more eloquently than I could have said it. Just go read her review.

If I had to recommend between reading Twilight or this one for the story, I’d say read this one.

Nothing Special by Katie Cook

2 Sentence Summary:
A half-demon girl goes on a search in a dangerous magical land for her abruptly missing father. Her boy-who’s-a-friend from the human world comes with her, and they discover he’s also half-something-not-human as well.

I don’t know how I found this but I’m thankful as heck that I did. It’s a perfect read for feeling hopeful and sweet while still getting that excitement f adventure and a rich new world. Also there are ghost plants, and it’s the cutest damn thing ever.

Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala

2 Sentence Summary:
A woman puts her standard career on hold to listen to people’s stories full time. It’s amazing how people just need to have someone really hear them.

I thought it would be too much for me, but I did finish this Fast Forward Friday book! It was every bit as emotional and affecting as I anticipated. If you’ll notice, the two reads before and after this one were lighthearted webcomics for a reason.

Let's Play, Season 2 by Mongi

2 Sentence Summary:
A game developer and avid player works her way through attempted romances and finding her confidence. Her friends and coworkers (and trusty loyal pup) are all by her side.

This story is great because you care about all the characters in it. When there are some episodes about Marshall, or about Link, you are just as excited to read them as the ones about Sam. It’s all excellent! Funny, sweet, honest, steamy… it’s got it all! (Plus, GAMING!)

Alright y’all, I’m off to continue reading!

Sometimes it’s hard to decide which to do: read, or write about reading! Today I feel like the decision is easy though, as I have a few great books I’m in the middle of. Have a lovely day!

PS – thanks to Yu Siang Teo on Unsplash for the photo featured in the cover!

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

September TBR: whatever comes my way!

Hey y’all!

My September tbr is kind of all over the place, and largely structured by chance. I’ve just been taking whatever shows up at my door and planning on reading that this month. It’s sort of a pleasant month with only gentle obligations that I’m more than happy to fulfill.

So if I had to give a theme for this month, it would be “it dropped into my lap.” 😁

The plan

My friend & book buddy Elise sent me a generous package of books, that I’ve already been digging into! Of these we have: BRILLIANT x5 because I’m not writing that out five times every time by Joel Golby; and THE TURN OF THE KEY by Ruth Ware that I’ve been wanting to read since way before it came out and then it finally came out and I had moved on to pining for other books and so never actually read it — until now. Thank Elise!! More from her are in next month’s batch. 🥰


DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OK is from the Kellogg’s feeding reading program, which I adore (both the book and the program!). This book showed up on my doorstep right when I needed it on a sad day, and I promptly devoured it. Then a day later I got an email that the book had shipped. 😅

I snagged a copy of I’M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT from the library, so of course I have to read it while I can. Some books just show up and you’re like, “Oh, right, I forgot I requested that” because it took for-ev-er to be available and get checked out. But now I’m excited all over again.

And, as always, my trusty journey through the stars, courtesy of Bookishfirst 💙 I don’t want it to be over, because TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS is so good! (Pub on sep 15!!)

And these ones are a little more scheduled, but still just loose and floated into my TBR this month. Like GIRL, SERPENT, THORN that I featured in a Fast Forward Friday and then — again — did not immediately read. But now one of my book clubs is reading it this month, and so I shall too!

Plus I always need to sneek some nonfiction into my palate, and lately that’s been turning a lot towards travel reading. Probably no surprise considering I usually go to a few new countries a year and this year I got one in (Mexico) before the world shut down. So I’m heading to Australia with trusty Bill Bryson as my guide in DOWN UNDER, which I snagged at my favorite ever used book shop, More Than Words.

I’m almost complete on my goal to read the alphabet, and this month I’m tackling V with VERITY by Colleen Hoover. This is a weird book, where every time I read what it’s about or hear someone mention it, I’m interested, but then I immediately forget what it was about. So this time I’m just going to stop reading the caption and trust that I’ll like it; and it’s on my list for the month.

And then, finally, a possibly little gem of a request from an author: MARILIA, THE WARLORD by Morgan Cole. I can always use some more epic fantasy / badass females in my reading!


Also, I did not plan it this way, but I just realized that the amount of pictures in this post is structured to be 2, then 3, then 4. And that quite pleases me. 😁

Posted in Reviews

Review: Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil

Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: yes
For learning about the fraudulent 2009 Iranian elections and the fallout of them, for a heartwrenching story of love and loss, for exquisitely detailed art to tell the story

Summary:
Set in the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra’s Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone. What’s keeping his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of his mother, who refuses to surrender her son to fate, and the tenacity of his brother, a blogger, who fuses tradition and technology to explore and explode the void in which Mehdi has vanished. Zahra’s Paradise weaves together fiction and real people and events. As the world witnessed the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections, through YouTube videos, on Twitter, and in blogs, this story came into being. The global response to this gripping tale has been passionate—an echo of the global outcry during the political upheaval of the summer of 2009.

Thoughts:
This was originally published online as a serial installment, and the collection into this published volume is giving a fitting physical weight to the heavy content it addresses. The author and illustrator stayed anonymous because of the repercussions they could face in their country.

I knew nothing about the Iranian elections, partially because I was pretty young at the time and definitely had no interest in political or world events. If you’re like me and have no idea what I’m referring to, have no fear: they account for that in the book. There are sections at the back with terms, and historical background, and other context that makes everything fit a little more smoothly. It’s also woven into the narrative itself, but goes into a deeper explanation after as well.

Continue reading “Review: Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil”