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”
Posted in A Picture's Worth

A Picture’s Worth: Secrets & Truth

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.

Zahra’s Paradise

Ahhhh, this was one I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Zahra’s Paradise is published semi-anonymously, with only pen names to the title. The reason being exposure of corruption and evidence of coverups, hacking, stolen information, torture, and all sorts of horrific depressing crimes. It was originally written as an illustrated web series after the fraudulent elections in Iran in 2009. Protestors were arrested and vanished. The history included in the book is brilliantly helpful, but the emotion and the story is what really packs the punch.

Holding the book in front of the city streets reflects the spirit and nature of the story. Go out, fight, be heard. You CAN’T just stay in the comfort of home and take what’s given; you must brave the cold (snowy) reality outside.

Continue reading “A Picture’s Worth: Secrets & Truth”
Posted in Chatty

Craigslist Confessional might be too real for me

So I’ve been wanting to read Craigslist Confessional for a while, even before it came out. It’s a collection of anonymous stories as told to a woman who put out an offer on Craigslist to Lauren to people who needed it. Pain, abuse, depression, and so many struggles are captured in these stories, but also hope, generosity, love. It’s a sample of humanity in it’s entirety.

I finally got a copy from the library and started it. I read the first story, and damn did it play up my emotions. And this wasn’t even a sad story!! It just had a different kind of pain, and the scary unknown potential of loss.

I think I need to get my own copy of this book so I can read it slowly in pieces and take breaks when it gets really heavy. How do y’all deal with books like this, that just affect you really deeply and make them hard to read even when you want to read them?

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival (Hardcover)
by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommended: Absolutely
For people who want to be better people, for people who have never learned about the ethnic cleansing that took place in the 90s in Bosnia & Herzegovina, for a memoir of the extremes of emotion — highest hopes and bleakest depressions
Expected Release: September 8, 2020

Summary:
Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her friend said they couldn’t speak anymore because Amra was Muslim. Then refugees from other cities started arriving, fleeing Serbian persecution. When Serbian tanks rolled into Bihac, the life she knew disappeared—right as a stray cat followed her home. Her family didn’t have the money to keep a pet, but after the cat seemed to save her brother, how could they turn it away? Saving a life one time could be a coincidence, but then it happened again—and Amra and her family wondered just what this cat was. This is the story of a teen who, even in the brutality of war, never wavered in her determination to obtain education, maintain friendships, and even find a first love—and the cat that provided comfort, and maybe even served as a guardian spirit, in the darkest of times.

Thoughts:
The moment I saw this book was forthcoming, I knew I had to read it. I always seek to know more about people and the world and experiences that I cannot understand on my own. This memoir teaches facts through the descriptions of events, but can also teach much-needed empathy. The read is an experience in itself.

The summary and title promise that there will be a cat present throughout the story, and she does indeed weave through the pages. Simply called Maci (‘cat’), the cat who accompanies Amra’s family is a beacon of goodness. I believe every instance that happened with this cat, because they are too incredible to be invented. It gave me that kind of wondrous feeling of something more to this world that I don’t often feel. I’m grateful for so much that this book gave me, from knowledge to emotion.

Continue reading “Review: The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess”
Posted in Reviews

Mini Reviews from July

Hey y’all! I realized in July that I had shifted dramatically away from where I was at with this blog a year ago when I first started. Last year, I posted only book reviews, usually a couple each week. And now? I post so much more widely that book reviews have almost taken a back seat!

So last month I read 12 books and fully reviewed and posted for 6 of them, plus one review from a book I finished at the end of June. So… not exactly a terribly strong showing. 😂

While I’m glad I’ve been able to branch out into more diverse content, I do want to keep a record of my thoughts about what I’ve read, as was my original intent years ago when I first started a blog. Here’s to being better in August! Ever striving to improve. 😊

Fully reviewed books

Mini reviewed books below

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

  1. X by Ilyasah Shabazz
  2. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
  3. The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack
  4. The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
  5. Yes No Maybe So by Aisha Saeed & Becky Abertelli
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman

2 Sentence Summary
Malcolm X’s life growing up, before the X. How he grew up eating dandelion soup, found himself in a big city, and finally behind bars, all when he was barely even an adult.

This was a read for my alphabet challenge, and a very very good one at that! What luck that I found it. I know very little about Malcolm X, and getting some insight into the life behind the well known figure added some intrigue and humanity. Love that the book is coauthored by his daughter.

Continue reading “Mini Reviews from July”
Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

A punny poem

I was quite impressed

by all the puns Pollack made.

He could fillet book!

Oh, looks like he already has. 😁 This was a re-read for me, but I read it so long ago that I wanted to go through it again. It’s pretty expansive in how much it covers, and I knew I would have forgotten a lot of it. What a delight to revisit this one!

(I tried REALLY hard to think of a Pollack-fish pun 😂)