Sunday Sentence: September 29, 2019

I’m participating in David Abrams’s ‘Sunday Sentence‘ project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, ‘out of context and without commentary’.

‘Her reflection gazed back at her, but not like how you look at yourself in the mirror’.

Source: ‘A Dream So Dark’, by L.L. McKinney

Books to Knit and Crochet By

Crocheting is something I’ve enjoyed for quite a while! I taught myself how to crochet while I was a grad school student, back in 2010. I became very good at it, making hats and scarves for friends and family. About two years ago, I had a wrist joint injury and needed to take time off from crocheting.

This was EXTREMELY hard for me! Next to writing, crocheting is something I’m passionate for! Thanks to a very good orthopedist and OT sessions, I’m beginning to crochet again. The process is slow (three rows a day), but paired with my hand exercises, there’s no pain!

My love of yarn crafting made me look up some books that feature people who both Knit and Crochet!

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

The Shop on Blossom Street is the 1st novel of the Blossom Street series. Macomber brings together a group of women in varying circumstances: a delinquent ordered to fulfill community service, a woman trying to call a truce with her daughter-in-law, and a young woman symbolizing her blanket project as a beacon of hope for her marriage. The common goal: bonding over a knitting project. Debbie Macomber beautifully tells the story of these three women as they learn how to be present for each other in the face of hardships.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

When I first read ‘The Friday Night Knitting Club’, the yarn shop immediately made me think of The Yarn Company. This was a cute little shop for Knitters and Crocheters in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I would regularly head there on my way to class to pick up the necessary tools needed for my projects. Sadly, the shop is now closed, but there are still many other locations in New York City to fulfill your yarn crafting needs!
Everything in The Friday Night Knitting Club was so heartwarming. It taught about the power of female friendships when one of their circle faces huge struggle. The mother-daughter relationship in the story was also very endearing.

So far these are the only ‘yarn-centered’ stories I’ve read, but I vow to read more on this topic! I’m definitely going to crochet some rows tonight!

Note: I crocheted the lovely bunny by following Susan Morishita’s ‘Bunny Cakes‘ pattern!

My ‘Half Price Books’ Haul

Before August wrapped up, I visited ‘Half Price Books’ for the first time. I’ve always heard many positive things about this affordable bookshop, but there are none over in New Jersey. When my husband and I traveled to Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago, we happened to see a couple ‘Half Price Books’ locations in the area. We immediately made it a mission to check it out!

‘Half Price Books’ was filled with endless rows of books from every genre. They sell music as well, but they are well known for selling books are very reasonable prices. They also buy back books from the general public.

I went to search for the first book in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series, ‘A Kiss of Shadows’, but I couldn’t locate it. I still managed to walk away with (just!) two books, because…books! Believe me, I wanted to leave witb sooo much more, but I do have a budget to maintain!

Here are the books I picked up at Half Price Books:

Little Bee’ by Chris Cleave

When ‘Little Bee’ first came out, I went to hear Chris Cleave speak at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. It was such a fun talk, but I haven’t gotten around to purchase his novel until now!

What Happened to Interracial Love’ Stories by Kathleen Collins

This book holds sixteen thought-provoking short stories that involves the social dynamic of race, class and sexuality in everyday life.

August Reading Wrap-Up

When August began, I had a huge goal. I was going to read FOUR books for the month! Sure, I needed to plan for a major life event, but I didn’t care! I WOULD get to those books!

Well…it’s the end of August…and I didn’t get to my goal. I only read half of the books I wanted this month. They’re as follows:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I adore Historical Fiction novels, and I heard rave reviews about the Outlander series from many of my friends. It’s a huge read (over 800 pages), but I wanted to take it on.

Outlander is set in Scotland, between the 1940s and 18th century. It follows the story of Claire Randall, a woman who finds herself trapped between two different time periods, and swept away by two starkly different men!

There’s so many steamy moments in this story, combined with the rich historical content between the Scottish clans and British ‘lobsterbacks’ as they entwine themselves in war. I may read the next installment in this series in the near future, but I thoroughly enjoyed this first installment in the series!

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz

I read ‘Color Me In‘ as part of a partnership with Random House, Netgalley, and Sazon Book Tours. That’s right, I took part part in my very first Blog Tour! I will always be grateful for this opportunity, and to review such a wonderful book.

Color Me In‘ by Natasha Diaz tells the story of Neveah Levitz, a teenager from an interracial family going through divorce. She and her mother move to Harlem, her mother’s childhood home, and Neveah is struggles with her identity as she navigates the issues of race and class through her community.

I enjoyed ‘Color Me In‘ since this is spoken in a voice that all readers need to absorb. There are many in Neveah’s position who struggle to find her sense of self, after living a seemingly flawless life. She learns to seek outward in order to find herself within.

So that’s it!

I hope to read more books next month, especially with the arrivals of two stories that I’m eagerly anticipating!

Professional Reader

‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’ by Lisa See/a Review

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
by Lisa See
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scribner Books
Release Date: March 2017
Source: Paperback

     The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane offers a snapshot of life among the Akha minority tribe in China. The story opens in the late 1980s, following the lives of Li-yan and her family in Spring Well Village. The Akha community heavily rely on tea production, and work in laborious tasks year after year in order to provide families with the food and necessities required to survive the long months. Each member of the Akha people also rely on spirit work and dream interpretation in order to foster abundance and keep away bad omens. ‘Every story, every dream, every waking minute of our lives is filled with one coincidence after another’ states Li-yan’s mother, using her storied wisdom to work as a powerful midwife. It is through dreams that a young Li-yan foresees a negative omen among her people: a dog standing on a roof. What follows afterward are a series of events that paints Li-yan’s perspectives on taking her mother’s place  in the future, while struggling to deal with the reality of set traditions against her true interests in life.

     Li-yan’s journey is peppered with the pitfalls and suffering that were largely known among women living in China. She has a relationship with a man that her family doesn’t approve of, and becomes pregnant. While Akha tradition dictates that Li-yan is giving birth to a ‘bad omen’, with the help of her A-ma (mother), she gives birth to a daughter and gives her up for adoption. Li-yan feels crushed upon sending her daughter away, and while her life journey takes some significant turns, she never stops thinking about ‘what could have been’.

     Throughout the book, Lisa See beautifully describes the relationship between mothers and daughters. She reveals the strict yet loving bond between Li-yan and her a-ma, as she advises her to move forward with her life despite the pitfalls she already experienced in her young life. ‘You cannot let memories of what happened in the past turn you into someone you wouldn’t recognize’. Li-yan’s mother becomes the guiding light in her story, as she moves on to become a strong business woman with her mother’s blessing.

     Simultaneously, we learn about the journey of her daughter with her new family, as the story takes into account her yearning to learn about the roots of her heritage. From her tough beginnings before her adoptive parents came into the picture, through the struggles she faced while learning about her roots, to discovering the life-changing abilities of Pu’er while studying in higher education. Li-yan’s daughter takes the initiative in learning about her origins, and her personal journey takes a surprising turn as a result. Reading this parallel journey between mother and daughter was a refreshing take on the quest in both women discovering their love for one another.

     Lisa See always paints a vivid picture of life in different regions in China, taking the reader back in time to experience what the community experienced. In this case, the region is a hidden tribe within Yunnan beginning in the late 80s. Life among the Akha is extremely primitive, even during a time when most people in the modern world live with creature comforts of lights and automobiles. Their cloistered living radically shifts with the arrival of a tea connoisseur, introducing the concept of Pu’er, a raw form of tea extracted from older trees. It is the concept of Pu’er, and learning how to harvest and produce such a sacred nutrient, that shifts the path of Li-yan’s (and her daughter’s) life permanently. Li-yan uses the guidance of her Akha upbringing to foster a deep rooted respect in producing tea, and keeping this same spirit symbolism and dream interpretation to provide a healthy outlook in seeking out her daughter. It is this thread that keeps Li-yan and the other women in her family on a strong path to empowerment and survival.

     I purchased The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane very recently, and I was so excited. I always enjoy reading Lisa See’s work, since her writing style infuses me with wisdom as she travels to different regions in China. With a break finally presenting itself in my professional life, I savored this story and was very thankful. Although I’m very late in reading this book, I’m glad to share that it was worth the wait!

Rating: 5/5 Stars  

Sunday Sentence: July 28

I’m participating in David Abrams’s ‘Sunday Sentence‘ project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, ‘out of context and without commentary’.

‘You cannot let memories of what happened in the past turn you into someone you wouldn’t recognize’.

Source: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Two Engaging Reads, and Baby Goats! / June Reading Blog #1

The first weekend of June brought some unexpected stress, some cuteness, and some welcomed reading!

The stressful part was due to wedding planning. I’m getting married in August, and communicating with family members (especially ones in the wedding party) can be a challenge. I picked up one of the items I needed for the big day though, so that alleviated some aggravation!

I relieved some of the stress by attending the Buffalo Watch in Readington, NJ. There was a hayride to view the bison and calves, and some baby goats. I got to hold one of these goats yesterday. He was 3-4 weeks old!

My reading for the first week of June consists of two stories that aren’t on my TBR list (of course)! One is an eARC, and the other is an adorable library read.

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Random House Publishing Group


The first book is called ‘Time After Time’ by Lisa Grunwald. It’s set in New York City in the 1930, in Grand Central Terminal. It follows the lives of Joe and Nora. A love story of sorts, following their paths once a year. It’s quite interesting how the author lays out the inner society Grand Central Terminal contains. I received this eARC through NetGalley. This book will come out on June 11, so I’ll make sure to have my review ready. I really love what I’ve read so far!

Wish by Barbara O’ Connor
Genre: Children’s Lit (Middle Grade)
Farrar Straus Giroux

‘Wish’ is pictured on right. I intend on reading ‘Crenshaw’ later in the month!
My Little Snoopy is always with me!

I’m also reading an endearing story called ‘Wish’ by Barbara O’Connor. ‘Wish’ is a Children’s story (Middle Grade), following the life of Charlie. She is 11 years old, sent to live with her Aunt Bertha and uncle Gus in Colby, North Carolina. Charlie’s home life is unstable (her father currently in jail, while her mother is unfit to raise her two daughters on her own). Charlie feels very displeased and resentful about being displaced from her home, yet her aunt and uncle, and other kindred spirits, teach Charlie toward the virtue of patience. From what I’ve read so far, it’s a very uphill struggle!

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back in a couple days with my progress. Happy reading!

Professional Reader

‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi/A Review

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
(pictured without dust jacket)
Wednesday Books
Length: 388 pgs
Series or Standalone: Book 1
Genre: YA
Received through OwlCrate

I read ‘The Gilded Wolves’ as part of May’s Asian Readathon. After completing this book, I sat with it for quite a bit. There was so much thought-provoking content with regards to the world building and cultural context in 19th century Europe, so I want to make sure my words came through clearly.

‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi takes place in Paris in the year 1889. It is a world influenced by magic, its rules heavily monitored through the Order of Babel. Four Houses (groups) exist within France, with one group rendered into inactivity. The story begins with a theft, a powerful House leader left without her treasured piece of jewelry. It is up to Severin, a wealthy hotel atelier, to gather his group of close companions to regain this treasure. Severin was once guaranteed his inheritance into the inactive House Vanth, and his work in regaining this piece will guarantee his lineage.

One thing that I really appreciated from reading ‘The Gilded Wolves’ was that all of the main characters reflected different regions of the world. Chokshi painted a lovely picture of the supporting characters, each representing a different region of the world. She also describes the discrimination each character faced in their path to success One member faced hardship due to racism, while another battled her struggles in social settings. Although it wasn’t stated, her condition was strikingly similar to one living with autism. It was refreshing to see a character represented in such a positive way.

The world building was very extensive in ‘The Gilded Wolves’, and this was contributed towards the magical system. Everything was ruled under Forgery (solid and liquid objects manipulated into the creator’s liking), and Chokshi illustrates both the positive uses of Forgery, and implementing it to break a person’s will (I still cringe when thinking about the Phoebus Helmet!). While these guidelines were many, I loved learning about this magical system, and how it relates to the Houses working in harmony.

‘The Gilded Wolves’ was a very thought-provoking read, and it lead me to truly care about the characters as they went deeper into their adventure. It makes me curious as to what their next excursion will bring in the sequel!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

June 2019 TBR list

For the month of June, I’m going to continue reading Asian themed novels. I received two new books as I was taking on the Asian , and just never got to them in time! My reading pace is just THAT slow, lol!

These are the books I’m planning on reading during June. I may add on as the month progresses:

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Length: 480 pgs
Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA

Synopsis:
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler
Penguin Press
480 pgs
Genre: Non-Fiction/History

Synopsis:
Drawn by a fascination with Egypt’s rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo’s neighborhoods, and visit the legendary archaeological digs of Upper Egypt. After his years of covering China for The New Yorker, friends warned him Egypt would be a much quieter place. But not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring had begun, and now the country was in chaos.

In the midst of the revolution, Hessler often traveled to digs at Amarna and Abydos, where locals live beside the tombs of kings and courtiers, a landscape that they call simply al-Madfuna “the Buried.” He and his wife set out to master Arabic, striking up a friendship with their instructor, a cynical political sophisticate. They also befriended Peter’s translator, a gay man struggling to find happiness in Egypt’s homophobic culture. A different kind of friendship was formed with the neighborhood garbage collector, an illiterate but highly perceptive man named Sayyid, whose access to the trash of Cairo would be its own kind of archaeological excavation. Hessler also met a family of Chinese small-business owners in the lingerie trade; their view of the country proved a bracing counterpoint to the West’s conventional wisdom.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Scribner Books
384 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:
In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a bad match—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins, and across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.

Some June 2019 Book Releases

Summer is right around the corner!

What better way to enjoy the care-free beach days and long, relaxing nights than curling up with a favorite book! Here are some new titles coming your way for the month of June.

The following descriptions are from Simonandschuster.com:

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Atria Books
Length: 480 pgs
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Release Date: June 11, 2019

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker
Gallery Books
Genre: Suspense
Length: 304 pgs
Release Date: June 11, 2019

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.

Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani Larocca
Simon & Schuster Books
Length: 352 pgs
Genre: Middle Grade
Release Date: June 11, 2019

Can Mimi undo the mayhem caused by her baking in this contemporary-fantasy retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Eleven-year-old Mimi Mackson comes from a big Indian American family: Dad’s a renowned food writer, Mom’s a successful businesswoman, and her three older siblings all have their own respective accomplishments. It’s easy to feel invisible in such an impressive family, but Mimi’s dream of proving she’s not the least-talented member of her family seems possible when she discovers a contest at the new bakery in town. Plus, it’ll start her on the path to becoming a celebrity chef like her culinary idol, Puffy Fay.

But when Mimi’s dad returns from a business trip, he’s mysteriously lost his highly honed sense of taste. Without his help, Mimi will never be able to bake something impressive enough to propel her to gastronomic fame.

Drawn into the woods behind her house by a strangely familiar song, Mimi meets Vik, a boy who brings her to parts of the forest she’s never seen. Who knew there were banyan trees and wild boars in Massachusetts? Together they discover exotic ingredients and bake them into delectable and enchanting treats.

But as her dad acts stranger every day, and her siblings’ romantic entanglements cause trouble in their town, Mimi begins to wonder whether the ingredients she and Vik found are somehow the cause of it all. She needs to use her skills, deductive and epicurean, to uncover what’s happened. In the process, she learns that in life, as in baking, not everything is sweet. . . .

The following titles are from penguinrandomhouse.com

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 480 pgs
Riverhead Books

Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. “At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” she muses. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh
Book #3 of the Psy Changeling Trinity series
Berkeley Publishing
Length: 400 pgs
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Release Date: June 4, 2019

The end of Silence was supposed to create a better world for future generations. But trust is broken, and the alliance between Psy, Changeling, and human is thin. The problems that led to Silence are back in full force. Because Silence fixed nothing, just hid the problems.

This time, the Psy have to find a real answer to their problems–if one exists. Or their race will soon go extinct in a cascade of violence. The answer begins with an empath who is attuned to monsters–and who is going to charm a wolf into loving her despite his own demons.

Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly
Yearling Books
Genre: Children’s (Middle Grade)
Length: 256 pgs
Release Date: June 4, 2019

Brooklyn middle-schooler MaKayla can only think about one thing–taking her double Dutch team all the way to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden. That is, until her mother breaks the news. Kayla has to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in North Carolina while her parents work out their problems . . . or decide to call it quits.

Kayla does not feel at home in the South, and she certainly doesn’t get along with her snooty cousin Sally. It looks like her Jump-off dreams are over.

Hold the phone! Turns out, double Dutch is huge in the South. She and Sally just need to find two more kids for a team. And a routine. And the confidence to stand up to the double Dutch divas who used to be Sally’s BFFs. Time to show those Southern belles some Brooklyn attitude!