Three women face their own fears and secrets in Baghdad as they navigate their lives under control of others. They become tied together, and must decide if they will choose the path of betrayal or trust when neither will come without sacrifice and pain.
This is a very slow pace of book, and I actually kind of loved it. It feels so perfectly fitting for the life the three women have in Baghdad. The dull slog through every day for Ally. The intolerable passing of time for Rania and Huda. The burn building just under the surface, while the face must remain impassive. Or more colloquially, like that saying about how a serenely gliding duck is paddling madly just under the surface of the water.
This brushed with some of the most painful things in life. It mentioned them, and moved on, because that’s the way the women must be if they want to keep their lives. The brusque attitude towards horrors, the horrified casualness in dismissing them… it sinks in deep.
Plot was solid. Progression was slow and steady, and then the last third of the book absolutely flew by for me. No romance, just pain and love of a different kind.
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.
Recommended: sure For a slightly altered YA version of Crazy Rich Asians, for a happy book where kindness takes control, for surprising pepperings of acting, art, history, and more that will keep you interested.
Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.
Admittedly better than I expected! There were conversations about art, Chinese history, belonging, racism, family, and so much more. They went a bit deeper than I expected them to, and cut to the heart of the matter without bogging down the story or losing it’s true thread. That’s a pretty impressive skill, to weave in ideas and commentary without taking over your characters. The central plot itself was also heartwarming in a lot of ways, since kindness takes precedence as the most important thing. So often, this is forgone in books for a more dramatic, cruel kind of pull. I’m not about that. I thought this was a wonderful balance.
I’ve only spent about a day and a half in New York City, despite living pretty close to it my whole life. I’ll probably go back some time, if only for the sheer number of libraries that I didn’t visit and absolutely should have. This is one of them:
The Morgan Library
This library in Manhattan started as a super rich financial mogul’s personal library, but was made public according to the guy’s will after he died. PS — dude was JP Morgan, of the company JP Morgan, if that rings any bells. SUPER RICH DUDE.
Since aforementioned dude was super rich, the library is ENORMOUS. It takes up about a half block of the city, and I’m not sure exactly how big that is, but it’s big.
They have some really cool items in the collection. Not only are there rare and first edition books (like Gutenberg Bibles and the draft of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), but they also have paintings, sculptures, and even notes and drafts from musicians.
I stumbled upon this gem of a bookstore (in searching online, not in real life, alas):
Behold! El Ateneo Grand Splendid!
This grand hall in Buenos Aires, Argentina started as a performance area for all kinds of events, like dancing and music. In the 1920s it was turned into a cinema, with seating installed. Then in 2000, a company leased the building, removed the seating, and turned it into a flagship bookstore for their publishing house. Pretty impressive history of artistic involvement in this building!
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 A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey. She’s a new author for me, but if this book is as good as I hope it will be, she’ll be a familiar author before long. 🥰 Expected release: November 10, 2020
Why wait on this one?
Multiculturalism is a constant delight. I love stories that allow people of all kinds to shine through, and sending a Cuban American girl from the lively culture of Miami to rainy small-town England is a combo I haven’t been able to experience yet. Seeing through someone else’s eyes is always a revelation, and I live for the moments of humour and wisdom that come with it.
I’m all about stories focusing on identity and finding yourself, especially when it happens by force when all your plans totally blow up in your face. Grace in those moments is a pleasure for me to see and read, and it sounds like Lila is definitely in that category.
ENGLAND! TRAVEL! I know, I know, I’ve been saying this about pretty much every book I’ve featured for months now. But I’m used to traveling to several new countries every year, and traveling is very much on hold for the forseeable future. So I take what I can get. And what I can get is England, shown to me on the arm of charming teashop boy Orion.
Summary: For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
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 Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch, which is another choice that should be no surprise to anyone who knows my reading habits. 😁 Expected release: November 10, 2020
Why wait on this one?
Alright, my first reason for wanting to read this is a simple one: I’ve read one of her past books in this “series” and loved it! Like Love & Gelato. I love both of those things, so how could I resist a book about it?? To be fair I don’t love olives, but I’m willing to overlook that fact for the sake of the book. ^.^
Now more than ever I’m aggressively pursuing sweet lighthearted stories that I just really need right now OKAY? And this story of Liv meeting her father basically for the first time in her life and trying to fit in her own image of herself and family and all the confusion that comes with identity struggles PLUS she’s in another country AND there’s this guy…
Remember that part above where she’s in another country? Liv goes to GREECE! This feels fitting, because the first trip abroad I took was to Italy & Greece, so this will complete the duo of my experiences with Welch’s books. And again, y’all, I usually travel so much. This year, I got one trip in before everything closed. I’m so grateful for that one trip, but now I”m trying to make up for the rest with books. So please, Mx. Welch, take me away to sunny, sandy, Santorini!!! 🤩
Summary: Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.
But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.
And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.
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!😊
–> 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.
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I use Fridays to look ahead to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi, and if you want something light and wholesome, here it is!! Expected Release: October 6, 2020
Why wait on this one?
I love going anywhere, and since I can only travel in books right now, I’m delighted to join Mimi on her trip to Pakistan to meet her long-distant grandparents. Having a main character who doesn’t know much about the country despite her ties there helps provide a bridge for me, since there’s a lot I wouldn’t know about living there either.
I’m a sucker for a nice happy story about friendship and learning to understand each other. Mimi x Sakina (love that name!) sounds like a friendship I can get behind. I already want to know them and see them succeed and work together and bond… and they’re just characters in a book. 😂
It might only be a small part, but there’s a language aspect to this book as Sakina is torn between learning English to go to school or staying at her job to help her family. I’m sure it will be a difficult situation, but I still can’t wait to see her work through it. Plus, language! Love it! I hope there are some delightful little mixups as they each learn. ^.^
Summary: Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.
The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.