Saturday Reading Blog | August 8

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

So far my Saturday is going very slowly. I didn’t sleep too well last night, so after breakfast my morning consisted of scrolling through Instagram, and calling my family. Since Saturdays are meant for relaxing, it’s totally okay!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Uncorrected Digitlal Galley. Swoon Reads
Thank you Edelweiss+ and Swoon Reads for this copy of Cemetery Boys!

I also did some reading! I’m on Chapter 4 of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. It’s such an amazing read…Latinx characters with a supernatural theme. I love that Yadriel is determined to show his family that he can become a brujo. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I hope to finish Cemetery Boys by the end of the weekend, so then I can start my library book club selection The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book!

How is your weekend going? What books are you settling in with?

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Book Review: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 370 pages
Publisher: J.P. Putnam & Sons
Release Date: August 14, 2018

Synopsis:
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My Thoughts:
I received ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ through my local library, as their March book club selection. Sadly, the book club meeting is postponed, due to the library closing up (resulting from everyone social distancing/self-isolating). I can’t wait to discuss this story with the group though, since I greatly appreciated it!

Although I wasn’t completely blown away by ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’, I loved the setting of the North Carolina marshlands. I deeply appreciated the beauty of the natural environment that Kya was raised in. She learned to appreciate the stillness of nature, away from humanity’s distractions.

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ was set in two timelines. The first timeline takes us through solving the murder mystery of Chase Andrews in 1969, while the second guides us through the life of Kya Clark, otherwise known as the ‘Marsh Girl’. Owens paints a picture of Kya as one yearning to discover her purpose in life. She’s a resilient human being, surviving by her wits and the compassion of kindred spirits. Kya experiences heartbreaking treatment from her community when she tries to venture out of her marshland home, so she retreats to the comfort of the wild: vast and serene, no judgements.

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ was a lovely story about a girl coming of age within complicated circumstances. It’s a tale about discovering one’s true desires in the midst of complications. I very much appreciated this book!

Rating: 4/5 Stars


We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry/A Review

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Length: 362 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: March 3, 2020
ARC acquired through publisher

Synopsis:
It’s 1989, and the Danvers High School Women’s Field Hockey team is staring down another losing season. But things start to look up when the team’s goalie discovers a book that will change both the course of the season as well as each player’s life.
FACT: In 1692, a handful of young girls, interested in divining the nature of their futures, brought devastating consequences to what was then known as Salem Village. FACT: Three hundred years later, Salem Village is now the Town of Danvers, and these teen girls are just as wily and original as their ancestors. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then Boston’s north shore is about to discover what lengths eleven teen girls will go to win a state championship, uncovering their true selves and bucking convention along the way. We Ride Upon Sticks and Are There Presently presents a portrait of teen girl-dom in all its furious messiness, from big hair to Heathers to coming into one’s glorious own despite society’s stale notions of femininity.

My Thoughts:

When I first heard about We Ride Upon Sticks, I was immediately drawn towards the plot of a women’s hockey team thriving under the influence of supernatural power. The fact that the story is set right in the heart of a region rich in witchcraft added on to my interest in the tale. I’m so thankful for Pantheon Books for providing me with an ARC of this book!

We Ride Upon Sticks follows the lows and steady rise of the Danvers High School Falcons, an all-female hockey team suffering struggles until some supernatural help befalls on these women one summer. The triumphs the team experiences are sudden, but these women are also handling the pressures of senior year in high school. The friendships and dramas that befall girls approaching the crossroads of adulthood can bring about its own stresses. Each of the women described in We Ride Upon Sticks fit the mold of an ‘It Girl’, ‘The Leader’, ‘The Mousey-yet-assertive’ types that we’ve all seen in our high school days. Ushering in an extra dose of supernatural, ‘witchy’ abilities bring about unexpected surprises that takes us for a ride as the story progresses.

We Ride Upon Sticks is set in the 1980s, which I very much appreciated! I love reading historical fiction tales, and while I was just a child in the 80s, many of the references brought a smile to my face (I loved ‘The Bangles’ and ‘Duran Duran’ musical references, to name a few!). The tension in the story was also presented in the style reminiscent to 1980s storytelling (I can only describe it as events take place in a slow-but-steady pace, keeping me focused!

I enjoyed We Ride Upon Sticks, as it exemplifies the power of women coming together to survive and thrive while enduring the trials of adolescence, and having supernatural abilities on your side. If you love stories rich in female friendship with a hint of magic, then this is the book for you!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor/A Review

The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories by Gloria Naylor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Books
Length: 192 Pages
Format: Audiobook
Release Date: June 2, 1982

My Thoughts:

I read this book through Audible in one sitting. I was thoroughly captivated with the lives of the women residing in Brewster Place, since they represent a microcosm of society: a matriarch providing space and a helping hand when needed; a young revolutionary at odds with her mother’s definition of the true meaning of social justice; a young same-sex couple starting over after countless experiences of discrimination. Gloria Naylor writes an unflinching account of women surviving extremely emotional situations. Brewster Place has a group of women thriving despite the difficult circumstances they have. They turn to each other when moments become extremely difficult, a community of women turning to one another despite their hardships.

The Women of Brewster Place was a wonderful television special years ago. I recall watching the program admiring this strong group of women turning to each other when faced with violence and discrimination. The neighborhood that Brewster Place is situated in can be placed in many big cities throughout the country. There is always a community living in difficult financial standing, yet their community stays united, working to build a better life within the neighborhood. The Women of Brewster Place continues to hold as a powerful story about women surviving extreme difficulties while staying together.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

‘The Lost Girls of Paris’ by Pam Jenoff/A Review

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Genoff
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: January 29, 2019

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

1946, Manhattan

Gace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

My Review:
   
I discovered The Lost Girls of Paris fairly recently, at a book club held at my local library. Within the first couple chapters, I was swept up instantly.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff was inspired by true events during World War II, describing the pro-active role women played in order to take down Nazi Germany. We begin the story following Grace in post-war New York, a young war widow starting her life over in Hells Kitchen. While commuting to work, Grace discovers a suitcase with the photos of 12 women, and she goes on a search to discover the truth behind their origin. We are then taken back to 1944, following Eleanor (a secretary in charge of the women’s secret agent unit in London), and Marie (a recruit placed into Occupied France to conduct radio transmissions for the British). Throughout the book, we venture back and forth in time as Grace slowly discovers the truth behind these mysterious women’s origins, and during the period of the war, when Eleanor and Marie are faced with difficult choices in the extreme hardships.

     I found myself emotionally invested in each woman’s struggle, as they all found themselves having to make choices that would effect the lives of those around them. Marie and Eleanor had extremely difficult upbringings, which molded them later in life to hold great strength in the face of difficult circumstances. While Grace’s experiences in the story were those of a curious investigator (her timeline occurs roughly two years after the war ended), she is also faced with a choice that could effect the outcome of her life.

     The Lost Girls of Paris also takes place in a time where a woman’s role in the war was unheard of. Women were expected to wait for their men to return from the war, working just to simply bide their time. The thought of women leading and working in military roles was considered ridiculous and threatening to many. The act of women living and working independently was also highly discouraged. Grace, Eleanor and Marie were all living their lives in the face of extreme opposition (and this book described many harrowing details of wartime Europe), and they all made it a point to persevere within the struggles.

     I was thoroughly moved by The Lost Girls of Paris, as it was an intense novel describing women being resilient during the hardships of war. If you are someone who enjoys historical fiction while learning about World War II, then this book is for you!

Rating: 4/5 Stars  

My Library Haul

Last weekend I picked up some exciting reads from my local library! These titles are ones that I’ve been anxiously awaiting to start!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Back in my college years, I began reading Anna Karenina since I was intrigued by the love story. At the time I only knew that Tolstoy wrote War and Peace, so I was curious. Alas, I eventually placed the book to the side…not because I was disinterested, but my focus was placed toward my studies!
Let’s see how much I can absorb this time around!

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
Laurell K. Hamilton is known for her Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series,enthralling readers with Anita’s fearlessness and sexual escapades. A Kiss of Shadows follows the story of Meredith Gentry, a P.I. in Los Angeles whose true identity is Princess of the high court of Faerie. I’ve always been intrigued by this steamy world of the Fae, so I’m looking forward to reading it!

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
I received The Lost Girls of Paris yesterday at my local library’s monthly book club. It was my first meeting with this wonderful group, and although I didn’t have time to read up on the book club pick, I really wanted to attend. One of the club members was nice enough to lend me her copy of the book. I was very grateful!
This is a Historical Fiction novel, set around the time of World War II. Since Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres, I’m going to dive right in!

My Disneyathon/August TBR

Next month I’m trying my hand at the Disneyathon (Disney Reasathon) throughout the month of August. I don’t need to read Disney-related stories (but I am tempted in reading the Descendants stories!), but this readathon is divided into teams. I signed up for Team Mulan; I already own one of the group books, and I love Princess Mulan!

The following are the prompts for Team Mulan:

Read a book with at least 500 words

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I picked up Outlander a couple months ago, so I can’t wait to finally begin reading it! It’s well over 500 pages (almost 800!), and I haven’t watched the program (surprisingly), so it should be fun!

Synopsis:
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Read a book that features a ‘squad’

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

The moment I heard about Emily Duncan’s debut novel, I wanted to buy it right away! It has a dark premise that I appreciate in stories. Very excited to finally read this book!

Synopsis:

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.


Read a book with a strong female lead

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Prieto

I also received Crown of Feathers through OwlCrate. They put out great fantasy books! This is Nicki Pau Prieto’s debut novel.

Synopsis:
I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.

Read a YA Romance

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

Again, but Better is Christine Riccio’s debut novel. She is a well known Book Tube personality who took the plunge in writing her first book!

Synopsis:
Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?
Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.
Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.


Group Book

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Team Mulan has the option of reading either Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim or Circe by Madeleine Miller. Since I already have a copy of Spin the Dawn (thanks to OwlCrate), this will be my group book of choice!

Synopsis:
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.


Reading Rush Wrap-Up

During The Reading Rush, my goal was to read 4 books:
–The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
–Small Country
–The Tea Dragon Society
–Sorcery of Thorns

I will list each book below and which challenges I fulfilled:

For the challenge ‘Read a book with at least 5 words on the cover’:
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I found this story to be very touching and heartwarming. I’m currently on page 195 on this book. I love the historical facts that Lisa See weaves into her tale as she describes Li-Yan’s complicated life journey in China.

For the challenges ‘Read a book you meant to read last year’ and ‘Read an author’s debut novel’:
Small Country by Gael Faye. This was the first book I read during The Reading Rush. It was a tragic story detailing the life of Gaby, a 10 year old boy living in an expatriate community in Burundi. I loved every page of this riveting tale!

For the challenges ‘Read a book with a non-human main character’ and ‘Read a book in the same spot the entire time’
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill. This is a graphic novel that told the story about Greta, a goblin who learns about the value of adorable Tea Dragons. I read this story while sitting at my family’s kitchen table, and I didn’t want it to end!

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. I didn’t get a chance to read this story in time, but I look forward to when I’m finished with my Lisa See book.

‘Small Country’ by Gael Faye/A Review

Small Country by Gael Faye
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Publisher: Hogarth Press
Length: 185 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: June 2018

I got my hands on Small Country as a Book of the Month selection for the month of May 2018. I was immediately intrigued by the story: a story that details the tragic events of the Rwandan genocide of the mid 90s through the eyes of a child. I immediately wanted to read it, yet one thing led to another (busy work schedule, other reading interests, etc.), and I didn’t picked it up until this week, when The Reading Rush readathon began. Once I did begin the novel, I finished it in a day.

     Small Country follows the life of Gabriel (Gaby), a 10 year old child living in an expatriate neighborhood in Burundi. A child of a French father and an Rwandan mother, Gaby lives in an area that faces intense political climates and ethnic hostilities between the Hutu and Tutsi citizens. These factors rest in the background at the beginning of the story, as Gaby lives with the daily struggles that encompass most children: Daily school life, forming close friendships, and connecting with close family. All of this changes as the community takes part in their first act of democracy in 1993, electing their first president. What follows next details the horrific events of assassination and genocide, leaving Gaby and his family struggling to live their daily life in an undeclared war zone.

     Gael Faye writes Small Country from his experiences growing up in an expatriate neighborhood in Burundi himself during the 90s. He deftly writes this debut novel in such an unflinching voice. He described Gaby as a young man struggling to keep his child-like innocence alive while the childhood of his friend evolves into a brotherhood of struggle. Gaby has the love of his sister and other friends in the community to maintain his spirit, yet it falls constantly at odds with the ever changing political climate, the mindset of his social circle shifting with the times.

     Small Country also speaks of the effects Western countries have on Burundi and Rwanda. Gabe’s parents deal with the differences between life in Burundi and the more relaxed atmosphere of France. Burundi and Rwanda are heavily influenced by French control, yet many of the native citizens are held under servitude. While Gaby and his friends are sheltered from the topic of slavery, his mother (who is of Rwandan decent) frequently reminds her children that their comfortable living is an exception to the norm.  

     Indeed, this book was difficult to read as it handles the topic of death through genocide. As the book progresses, it shifts to a darker view of life as entire neighborhoods and communities are wiped out solely based on their ethnic background. It follows the slow, negative progression of one person in their community as they search for loved ones within a war-torn neighborhood. The mental anguish described as they venture deeper into the unknown is absolutely chilling.

      I found Small Country to be a very fulfilling read. When I was done reading this story, I sat with it for a bit a took a deep breath. It’s truly heartbreaking that people can be singled out and murdered because they are a different ethnicity. The fact that such crimes are still committed this present day are equally saddening. We can only stay aware of these tragedies and be thankful that there are places where their voices can be heard.     

Rating: 4/5 Stars

June Reading Wrap-Up

This wrap-up is very underwhelming, since I only completed two books this month. I very much wanted to read sooo much more (I was looking forward to reading Lisa See this month!), but June has been a stressful mess of job transitions and wedding planning. The drama of these two factors have not lessened by any means, so I’m thrilled that I completed reading anything! My poetry page was also pretty dismal this month. I can count the number of poems written this month on one hand. Stress really does a number on creativity!

I read one Children’s Literature book, and one Adult novel. Both books are fictional works. The genres were Middle Grade and Historical Fiction.

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 417 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Source: Kindle (via NetGalley)
Standalone novel

Published on June 11, 2019

I received Time After Time through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I loved reading this story centered within a slice of New York City life in the midst of tension and tragedy. Throughout the story, Joe and Nora navigate their relationship while enduring the effects of World War II. Since I enjoy reading anything involving New York City, I dove right in. Even though this novel was set in the 1930s, it brought back memories of me travelling through Manhattan and The Bronx while living there.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
On a clear December morning in 1937, at the famous gold clock in Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds, a hardworking railroad man from Queens, meets a vibrant young woman who seems mysteriously out of place. Nora Lansing is a Manhattan socialite whose flapper clothing, pearl earrings, and talk of the Roaring Twenties don’t seem to match the bleak mood of Depression-era New York. Captivated by Nora from her first electric touch, Joe despairs when he tries to walk her home and she disappears. Finding her again—and again—will become the focus of his love and his life.

Nora, an aspiring artist and fiercely independent, is shocked to find she’s somehow been trapped, her presence in the terminal governed by rules she cannot fathom. It isn’t until she meets Joe that she begins to understand the effect that time is having on her, and the possible connections to the workings of Grand Central and the solar phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge, when the sun rises or sets between the city’s skyscrapers, aligned perfectly with the streets below.

As thousands of visitors pass under the famous celestial blue ceiling each day, Joe and Nora create a life unlike any they could have imagined. With infinite love in a finite space, they take full advantage of the “Terminal City” within a city, dining at the Oyster Bar, visiting the Whispering Gallery, and making a home at the Biltmore Hotel. But when the construction of another landmark threatens their future, Nora and Joe are forced to test the limits of freedom and love.

Delving into Grand Central Terminal’s rich past, Lisa Grunwald crafts a masterful historical novel about a love affair that defies age, class, place, and even time.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Genre: Children’s Literature (Middle Grade)
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Length: 236 pages
Source: Acquired from HC Library (Flemington, NJ)
Standalone novel
Published on August 30, 2016

I fell in love with Wish the moment I viewed the cover. Who doesn’t love a deep bond between a child and her furry friend? In the novel, Charlie is struggling to come to terms with being removed from her dysfunctional family, living with her loving aunt and uncle in Colby, North Carolina. As Charlie reluctantly endures daily life within a quiet community, she slowly realizes that ‘Home’ can be discovered in the most unlikeliest of areas. This book also tackles the uncomfortable topic of neglect in a tasteful manner for younger audiences.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets
Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

Professional Reader