Sunday Sentence: March 29

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’.

“When you’re young you think you’ve got all the time in the world,” she says. “And then suddenly you turn around and you’re old and one of you isn’t there anymore and you wonder how the years went so fast”.

Source: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

Sunday Sentence: November 10

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’.

‘Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserves some tolerance’.

Source: ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama

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.

‘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

My OwlCrate for June 2019: Libraries of Wonder

This month’s OwlCrate theme for June is ‘Libraries of Wonder’. I couldn’t wait to see what this box reveals for me, and I absolutely love my items:

OwlCrate Libraries of Wonder spoiler card
Coffee provided by Book Beau, inspired by Beauty and the Beast
Tote bag designed by Stella Bookish Art, inspired by Strange the Dreamer
Two metal bookends designed by Hey Atlas Creative, inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia
Team Owl Crate key gel pen
Coaster set designed by KDP Letters
A closer look of the KDP Letters coaster set, along with the Team OwlCrate Key Gel Pen
June enamel pin designed by Brio and Brandish, inspired by Sorcery of Thorns
OwlCrate exclusive book for June, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, signed by the author herself
Letter from Margaret Roberson, along with a sticker decal

Mid Year Book Freakout Tag

It’s amazing that 2019 is halfway through! I’ve been seeing this tag circulate throughout June, and I’m glad that I’m finally taking part in it. I see this as a way to relieve wedding planning stress lol!
I came across this book tag through Adventures of a Bibliophile‘s page.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2019
I really enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I read the audiobook version of this story, and it was absolutely amazing. It felt like I was listening to an actual band’s rise and fall in history. The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faraqi was a close second in favorite reads thus far.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2019
I haven’t really read through a sequel yet! I’m currently in progress of reading Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. So far I’m enjoying it!

Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half of the Year
I can’t wait to read A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney. I really love reading Alice in Wonderland reboots, and A Blade So Black was a lovely modern take on a classic story. The book features a strong, African-American character as Alice, which is very empowering.

Biggest Disappointment
I wasn’t particularly into Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. As much as it was refreshing to discover Nikolai, I found the story as mostly filler.

Biggest Surprise
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. I was pleasantly surprised in discovering how good this story was! The message of female empowerment in the face of a patriarchal society came through clearly.

Newest Fictional Crush
I would say that Joe Reynolds from Time After Time was very intriguing to learn about! He was hard-working and passionate at the same time, and that always wins me over.

Newest Favorite Character
Addison Hatta in A Blade So Black. He was a super cool individual!

Book That Made You Cry
Daisy Jones and the Six. The last hour of the story was heartbreaking!

Book That Made You Happy
Wish by Barbara O’Connor. It was so endearing, and the dog/child bond was adorable!

Favorite Book to Film Adaptation
Honestly, I haven’t watched too many book to film programs this year. I heard that Good Omens is amazing to watch on Amazon Prime, so I should catch an episode of that series.

Favorite Post You Have Done This Year
I would say that the post about ‘The First Book Series I Read’ was one that I really liked writing about. I love all the posts I’ve worked on, but I enjoyed looking back on what I read when I was younger!

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau-Preto. I received it through OwlCrate a couple months ago.

What Books Do You Need To Read By the End of the Year
Definitely A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney, and Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan. I’m looking forward to reading The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See as well.

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald/A Review

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Source: Acquired from NetGalley
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Series or Standalone: Standalone

**I received Time After Time through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review**

I really enjoy stories that focus on New York City in earlier times. When I came across ‘Time After Time’ on Net Galley, I was so happy to learn that this tale focuses on New York between the 20s and 40s.
Time After Time begins during the mid 1930s in Grand Central Terminal. It follows a man named Joe Reynolds, a hard working leverman who ensures that the trains in the terminal run smoothly. Joe encounters a young woman named Nora Lansing, who appears strikingly out of place in her demeanor and appearance, in a lovely way. Joe is taken by her immediately, yet when he tries to walk her home in Turtle Bay, she mysteriously disappears. Their encounters are similar in several occasions, which occur on the same time of year.
After some investigating, Joe learns about a chaotic subway accident in the 1920s that hold strong significance in Nora’s life. The story then goes into Nora’s earlier years in Paris before returning to New York City, as well her life over the 30s and 40s with Joe, as they navigate their new life with one another. Their desire for each other is tempered, as the reality of America’s involvement in World War II makes Joe and Nora realize that change is constant, and a normal part of life.
Grunwald also creates a active tapestry of life in Grand Central Terminal. She vividly portrays the ‘city within a city’, with Joe and Nora frequenting the shops, restaurants and lodgings that’s a stone’s throw away from commuter life. My memories of Grand Central Terminal still walk through my mind regularly, although I moved out of the area a few years ago. I recall how busy the terminal was each and every day, as well as the beauty of the star-lit ceiling, and the famous clock in the center. Grunwald also describes the changing landscape of terminal as the war enters the American landscape, as many men and families enter the metropolis, entering a major point in their lives.
Time After Time is equally moving and intense, as this story follows two people coming to grips with their identity within a changing world. I really appreciated this window of a reimagined New York City life, and the love two people share within it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

New Poetry Group, and Good Stories/June 9 Reading Blog

After work on Friday, Andy and I traveled to Frenchtown, NJ so I can take part of First Friday Poetry. I attended this poetry event last month when it at The Book Garden, and it was very memorable. I had the courage to share one of my poems from my blog Poetic Threading, and it was received warmly.

While this month’s poetry event was being held in a space more public to the neighborhood, I was looking forward to gather and meet others who were also into poetry. I didn’t know what to expect, and while that would ordinarily make me very nervous, I was perfectly fine with being at one with everything around me.

The event was at an small art studio, with a DJ playing a eclectic mix of classic rock and 90s hip hop. The outdoor space was filled with several acres of grass to roam freely, a bonfire, and a mulberry tree where some children happily shook branches, eagerly partaking in sweet prizes. When I arrived I didn’t recognize anyone I knew from last month, so I did what any poet would do when surrounded by rich greenery and lovely music: I sat down near the bonfire and wrote a poem!

After about 10 minutes, a couple people from last month arrived at the location. It was decided that it would be a public, open-mic style reading. There was a decent sized crowd to watch the event, and a beautiful sunset served as a lovely backdrop as the poetry reading came to a close. First Friday Poetry will be held at the same location next month, and I’m looking forward to it!

Along with attending the poetry event, I read more of Lisa Grunwald’s ‘Time After Time’. I’m about nearly halfway through the story. It’s such a touch love story, as Joe and Nora learn a bit more about one another as the years pass. The story of Nora’s predicament comes to light near the closing of Part One. I also enjoy to immerse myself in Grand Central Terminal lore, as well as life in NYC during the height of the Great Depression.

Professional Reader

My Thoughts on ‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor

‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor
Length: 227 pgs.
Genre: Children (Middle Grade)
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Standalone or Series: Standalone

I discovered ‘Wish’ while searching for another story at a local department store. When I walk into this location, the first stop I always head to is the large table of books that’s on display. It’s usually a mix of new releases and titles that have been out for a while. I didn’t come across what I was searching for, but my eyes fell on a cover with a young girl with an adorable dog. Being a dog lover, I immediately fell in love with the book cover! I made a note of the title, and reserved a copy at the library.
‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor is about a young girl named Charlie, reluctantly placed to live with her aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus in Colby, North Carolina. Charlie feels very bitter and resentful about being removed from her home in Raleigh, despite the fact that her father is incarcerated and her mother was deemed unfit to care for both her and her sister Jackie. The peaceful, countryside surroundings is a world away from Raleigh’s city life, yet Bertha and Gus go to great lengths to make Charlie’s life as comfortable as possible. She also reluctantly befriends a classmate named Howard, a studious child who gets ridiculed due to his manner of walking, yet never lets that interfere with his life.
The story describes Charlie’s journey in socializing with new friends and community members while experiencing the internal struggle of missing her family. She goes to great lengths to make wishes whenever she comes upon a treasured color, a certain animal, or the first star in a twilight sky. Charlie hides her pain with anger, yet Howard expertly finds a bridge to communicate her fears so clearly by describing a ‘clothesline of troubles’ that everyone tends to in life. O’Connor refers to this phrase frequently in this story as Charlie learns how to trust Bertha and Gus, Howard and his family.
Charlie also discovers a stray dog near her home that she names Wishbone. Like Charlie, Wishbone also endures a journey to trust Charlie and her loved ones. Over time, Wishbone and Charlie experience the joys of good company, while uplifting one another. The story of Wishbone is a small piece of Charlie’s journey in her growth, yet the family and friends in her Colby community teach her that a loving home is not a distant dream.
‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor is a Middle Grade children’s book (appropriate for children ages 8-12), so if you’re seeking a story for children about community, strength through struggles, and loving animals, then this book is for you. It was a very endearing read!

Rating: 4/5 Stars