Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Wrap Up: The Best of...

Hey everybody,
As I'm sure for many readers and fans of my blog, 2017 was a year of highs and lows. This is the time of year that many bloggers put up the best books they have read throughout the year. Since my blog is mostly focused on historical fiction and while there are good reads from contemporary, thriller and mysteries, I feel as if I should make one post wrapping up all awesome books I've read in 2017. Some of the books were published earlier than 2017, and that's okay; some reads are indies; and many others are from the big 5 publishers. Anyways, whatever you might be seeking, I hope you'll discover it in my post and enjoy. And yes, I will have honorable mentions in the next post. Without further ado, here are  my top 21 reads for 2017 from youngest to oldest publishing date: 

By Love Divided by Elizabeth St John (Indie historical fiction)

Why I chose it: Normally sequels tend to lag or are not as good as the first books in the series; however in this case, the author continues the sequel without lagging and I loved how neatly she lays out reasons for English civil war.

To be a Queen by Annie Whitehead (indie historical fiction)

Why I Chose it: Its rare to find a novel that features a woman of times and a woman caught up between duty and family. I also loved snippets of 9th  and 10th century England and watching Aethelflaed grow up.

Lucky boy by Shanthi Sekaran (contemporary multicultural read)

Why I Chose it: It's a very timely story and I hope that it might become a story people will go back to over and over to study our culture. As more and more people deal with infertility, and as more and more people deal with illegal immigration, its an amazing story that combines both sides in an explosion of unwanted answers.

Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole (historical fiction)

Why I chose it: First of all carpe diem, second of all a beautiful story of roads traveled and a diary of two women on a road trip. I also loved learning about the little piece of history when it came to prices and about the clock making of early 20th century.

The Quest for the crown of thorns by Cynthia Ripley Miller (Indie historical mystery)

Why I chose it: This is an amazing historical fiction mixed with mystery with awesome character and recreation of what travel and life was like in 5th century Italy.

Life Long by Ronald L Ruiz (indie contemporary multicultural)

Why I chose it: Umm, a guy of Latino origin suffering from schizophrenia, travel across Greyhound bus from California to Texas and a creepy feeling of not being sure what's real and what's not? Loved it!

The Luster of Lost Things by Sophia Chen-Keller (contemporary multicultural)

Why I Chose it: A beautiful story of the kindness of others and what's important in our lives as well as how we all matter no matter the disability or our past. Perfect for these divisive times.

The woman behind the waterfall by Leonora Meriel (indie contemporary)

Why I chose it: I loved how the story dealt with depression and showed the true side of motherhood, be it ugly or beautiful. I also loved the magical realism of the story and the fact it takes place in Ukraine.

Lili de Jong by Janet Benton (historical fiction)

Why I chose it: This seems to be the other half of motherhood; that of a single mother living in 1800s and doing her best to keep her daughter with her in a society that looks down on her. Its a heartbreaking story where the world is against simple mistakes,  and what will happen should the safety nets be pulled from women.

Woman no 17 by Edan Lepucki (contemporary)

Why I chose it: Another aspect of motherhood,  although this one is contemporary and seems to be more taboo. I also want to think of this book as what Jocasta thinks when she is with Oedipus due to a certain couple in the book. The characters are unforgettable and its designed to elicit emotions of love or hate.

Waiting for Aegina by Effie Kamenou (indie contemporary)

Why I chose it: I loved the author's previous book, Evanthia's Gift, and in this book as she continues the story of Sophia and her friends through early 2000s, doesn't disappoint. For friendship, Greek recipes and culture as well as something nostalgic, don't miss this book.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Historical fiction multicultural)

Why I chose it: Umm, Koreans living in Japan from 1930s up until 1980s. For someone who's into Korean culture, and who loves long and multigenerational stories this book was a dream come true. I also loved how she tackled on immigration and assimilation through Sunja's son and her grandsons.

The Last chance matinee by Mariah Stewart (contemporary women's issues)

Why I chose it: For a wonderful and a bit of a detailed read that examines the relationships between the sisters as well as that of a town and if you love The Chesapeake Diaries, check the book out. You won't regret it.

A Fine Year for Murder by Lauren Carr (indie mystery)

Why I chose it: I loved how the author characterized dogs and I also loved watching the teamwork between the husband and wife. Its definitely a book designed to hook the reader.

Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie (historical fiction)

Why I chose it: Definitely an amazing exploration between two women who are polar opposites but have one thing in common: to be recognized and loved by King Louis XV. This is definitely the author's masterpiece.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (contemporary mystery)

Why I chose it: For those wondering what summers are like in the south, check out the book. Also, the whole creepy vibe and the whole taboo issue of incest is too tantalizing to pass up.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction multicultural)

Why I chose it: Very beautifully written and another true masterpiece of African-American/African lives and how one single event affected families for generations.

The Chilbury Ladies' choir by Jennifer Ryan (historical fiction)

Why I chose it: In the dark stories of WWII, its rare to find a story about people who are trying to simply live lives. Its both comedic and warm and unforgettable.

Human Acts by Han Kang (contemporary multicultural)

Why I chose it: Very beatiful and brtual story of the worst of people as well as memory that is designed to hurt. Its a side we'd rather close our eyes, but must see and understand.

Illusions of magic by j.b. rivard (indie historical mystery)

Why I chose it: First of all, illustrations which are rare in books of today. Second of all, loved the story of second chances and the fact that the times are recreated very faithfully.

Which book are you most likely wanting to read or have read? 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

G946 The slave

Title of the book: The Slave

Author: Anand Dilvar

Publisher: Shelter Harbor Press

Publishing Date: 2005 (translated in 2017)

ISBN: 978-1-=62795-104-3


"The Slave is a compact self-help book with exceptional accessibility and a profundity that encourages repeat reads." - Foreword Reviews

A profound and paradigm-challenging book that guides readers through a transformative journey to personal freedom.

Trapped in a vegetative state, following a terrible accident that has paralyzed his whole body, the narrator is unable to communicate with those around him. Cut off from family and friends so begins an inner conversation with his spiritual guide, a conversation which takes him on a journey of self-realization, bringing him eventually to a new state of consciousness, and an understanding of his deepest self.

Written with an engaging simplicity, this is a truly profound book which can change your life. In fact to use the authors own words, it is designed to shake, shudder and wake us up. It is a book that has nothing to do with success, social recognition, with the accumulation of goods; but everything to do with joy, love and peace.

Author Info:
(From the book)

Anand Dilvar is founder of the Vision Quest Centre in Valle Bravo, Mexico, an OSHO Meditation Center, where for over fifteen years he has run conferences, retreates and seminars. With over 1.8 million copies of The Slave sold in Mexico, he is regularyl invited to appear on radio and TV to share his approach to what he calls the Revolution in Consciousness.

Personal Opinion:

I've rarely read such a profound and beautiful book about humanity and how we should take responsibilities for our actions. The book is short, the writing style is simple yet beautiful, and the story could be read in a day or so, although understanding it is another matter. Surprisingly, I also found myself outraged at a certain nurse and doctor towards the end. I'm really not sure if its a true story or not, but it is a story destined to change the world.

This was given to me for an honest review

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

G915 How to build a piano bench; Lessons for Success from a Red-Dirt Road in Alabama

Title of the book: How to build a piano bench; Lessons for Success from a Red-Dirt Road in Alabama

Author: Ruthi Postow Birch

Publisher: River Grove Books

Publishing Date: 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63299-108-9


A Humble Philosophy for Great Success
“Get an education, get off Petain Street, and amount to something.” These are the words that Ruthi Postow Birch’s father said to her when she was a little girl living on a red-dirt road in Pritchard, Alabama, a town that straddled the poverty line. And that is exactly what she did. How to Build a Piano Bench is Ruthi’s humorous and heart-warming story about growing up in southern Alabama, the life lessons she learned there, and how she applied that knowledge to build a successful business in Washington, DC. Full of anecdotes and advice on how to use both your strengths and weaknesses to work to your advantage, this wonderful story will inspire and delight anyone who has ever had a dream to be something bigger than what they are.

Author Info:
(From the book)

Ruthi Postow Birch is a successful business-woman, author, and speaker who has made people her life's work. In 2001, she founded Ruthi Postow Staffing, recruiting temporary and permanent employees for businesses in the DC area. She is mother of three boys and currently lives iN old Town Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Ron, their Wheaten terrier, Mr. Magoo, and a family of chimney swifts that return every spring to nest in their 18th century chimney.

Personal Opinion:

Both a memoir and a guide, How to build a Piano Bench is a story of common sense that dares to expose the author's vulnerable side to the public eye. The author leaves almost no stone turned in her path to become successful at her job and how she eventually arrived at that path. I really appreciated her personal anecdotes and that she wasn't afraid for the readers to see her as a human being. In the book there is also a lot of common-sense advice doled out from both parents and how her life shaped her, especially when she made the circumstances work for her instead of letting them dictate her life. For a memorable read with an amazing woman, this book is highly recommended.

This was given for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reading Goals for 2018

I'm probably doing this a little too early, but its never too early for hopes, goals and dreams. Few years ago I've began a few reading projects and goals: to read Dear America/My Name is America/Royal Diary series, at least to try to read all of them (about 34 left of Dear America; 19 left of My Name is America, and 16 left of Royal diaries), and, of course, read the first 56 Nancy Drew Mysteries (I've read 10 out of 56!) Some of the books have been with me for a very long time, I'm embarrassed to say, therefore here are a few books that I'm hoping to read in 2018. Can I do it? Will I make it? Stay tuned! Also, any of you have books/projects that you want to finish this year?


This is for my 7 Books around the World Project and its about Antarctica. It also doesn't help that the book sounds very intriguing...

This was a gift from my beautiful sister (I requested it) I also am a sucker for complicated relationships between family members that are very tangled.

Another fascinating read of lies and half-truths and messed up relationships. Seriously should read it...

Few years ago I began to read the trilogy, but then I stopped reading it, unfortunately. It was a good book as far as I remember, just the way I enjoy it. Really will have to read it and the other two to learn about the heroine.
Another awesome read that I started and then stopped others I should really read it and review it...
Umm yeah, same story as the previous books. In addition to this one, I'm crossing my fingers for reading the two sequels to the novel.
Multi-generational story, Texas and what sounds like extremely complex relationships. This one and its sequel should really be read.
Gorgeous cover and I got it as a surprise from the author. (I originally was requesting Dollface.) Yes, yes I don't need to say the obvious...
Immigration, Korea-town in New York, complicated bonds, and plus, I loved Pachinko from this author. 

5 Books in first half of year that might appear on my blog in 2018

In my last 5 Books that might appear on my blog in 2017, while I was lucky enough to have gotten all 5 of those books and more, I only managed to review 3 of them: Namely Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie, Human Acts by Han Kang, and The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George. While the sequel to Nero might come out in October of 2018, and another book will come out late in summer. here are some books I'm hoping I might get and might review.  In no particular order:

Brass by Xhenet Aliu


A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel and dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now, it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when Bashkim learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where his heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind. 

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

I have to say that the cover was the first thing that intrigued about the book, and the summary is a close second. I am grateful for the author to have sent me a copy of the book and therefore I hope sometime in the winter I will have a chance to read it.

The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart


Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father's estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz's challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.

As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.

I loved the first Hudson Sisters novel Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart therefore I'm hoping that soon I can get my hands on the sequel and to continue the story of the three sisters and their efforts to rebuild the town. Also, love the cover, so gorgeous! If I get a chance for a read, I think my little boy will be thrilled with the cover (doggie in particular :))

My Dear Hamilton by Laura Kamoie and Stephanie Dray


From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife...

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

Oh goodness, I've read America's First Daughter by the authors perhaps a month or so before my little boy arrived in the world, therefore I'm pretty excited to see their take on Hamilton's family and learn fascinating tidbits about Alexander Hamilton and his strong-willed wife Eliza.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 


A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

Who doesn't love stories of betrayal and backstabbing, especially when the summary says that its nothing as it seems, which makes it a very intriguing read.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao


A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.

When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima's father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn't feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India's underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them. 

In breathtaking prose, Shobha Rao tackles the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism. At once a propulsive page-turner and a heart-wrenching meditation on friendship, Rao's debut novel is a literary tour de force.

I've always enjoyed learning and reading about East/South/Southeast Asia,  and since one of the readers compared this book to Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi, which I've loved, I'm pretty excited to see how similar and different the two books are. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

G937 Book Review of slightly south of simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Name of Book: Slightly South of Simple

Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5805-6

Publisher: Gallery Books

Part of a Series: Peachtree Bluff

Type of book: Sisters, mothers, first love, secrets, debts, 9/11, widowhood, single parenting, pregnancy, relationships, bonds, Georgia, South, New York, summer/spring, season

Year it was published: 2017


From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.


Main characters include Ansley, Caroline, Sloane, Emerson, Carter, Jack and Ansley's mother. Ansley is best described as an independent woman who enjoys her children and grandchildren a lot. She is a designer and although she misses her husband she strikes me as a woman happy with her life and what she has made of it. Caroline is Ansley's oldest daughter. She is best described as vain, selfish and someone who is extremely passionate about New York and being a wealthy stay-at-home mother. Caroline is also obsessed with veneers and will do whatever she can to look her best. Recently her husband admitted that he has fallen out of love with her, therefore she goes back to Georgia to get her bearings straight. Sloane is Caroline's polar opposite. Sloane married a man devoted to military and she could care less how she looks or what she eats or where she is at. She is laid back and tries not to make a big deal that her husband isn't there to help raise her sons. Emerson is the youngest daughter and is beautiful and an actress. When she arrived it is thought she suffered from anorexia. She is focused more on career than relationships and out of the three sisters she is the mysterious one in my opinion. Carter is the girls' father who has perished in 9/11 and who also had secrets that haunt Ansley. Jack is Ansley's first love and is uncertain what he wanted from life when he and Ansley were younger. Ansley's mother, I believe, suffers from dementia (alzheimers) but she notices far more than she should.


Sisterhood is strong


The story is written in first person narrative from Caroline and Ansley's points of view. Perhaps like many other reviewers, I found Caroline hard to relate to, but at the same that made her all the more interesting. Most of the story is used to build up the background of Ansley and Caroline, although there are present moments of where sisters spend time together and how they are there for one another through thick and thin. Relationships between Ansley and her daughters as well as between the sisters is complex but at the same time its a relief that the sisters are close to one another. What I found a bit confusing is the passage of time because in beginning Caroline is almost 9 months when she returns to Peachtree Bluff, but at the end her child is about 3 or so months? I also was confused whether or not in one of the chapters she returns back to New York but then comes back to Peachtree Bluff (towards the end.)

Author Information:
(From the book)

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina and Lies and Other Acts of Love and the founder of Design Chic, a popular interior design blog. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Domino, Our State, Houzz, Salisbury Post and the New Bern Sun Journal. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. Visit Kristy at or n Instagram @kristywharvey.


This isn't the first Women's fiction/summer beach read I've read; I've read Women's fiction/summer beach read novels that focus on friendship, on family, and on romance. This novel is different from others I've read in that the point of view is of mother and daughter instead of sisters' or friends' or former lovers. What is also different is that the story acts as an intriguing set up for future books and it doesn't wrap up neatly. Also as well, romance plays a secondary role with the sisters and mother rather than the main one. And yes, this book features women who are mothers rather than 20 to 30 something old sex and the city type women. For me also, the story is of real life rather than something contrived where a lot of things conclude a little too neatly. I do hope to get a chance to read the sequel and learn more about Sloane and Ansley and see more of Caroline. For an interesting and unique read, I highly recommend Slightly South of Simple.

This was given for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Diverse Reads on my blog #12

Diverse Reads on my Blog #12

Whether you love or hate the current POTUS, this has been one long and extremely controversial year of real-life reality TV. While I'm relieved that the first year is over, one does wonder what will happen next year? Let's hope the worst case scenario doesn't occur and that I will still be able to blog about my reads. To 2018, may it be a better year than 2017 and 2016.

Now without further ado, here are some diverse reads for December of 2017

Blast from the Past

By the shores of silver lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Ingalls family had fared badly in Plum Creek, Minnesota. They were in debt. Mary was blind now. So Pa went West to work at a railroad camp in Dakota Territory where he could make as much as fifty dollars a month! Then he sent for his wife and four children, and they became the first settlers in the new town of De Smet. But the railroad brought hordes of land-hungry people from the East. Had Pa waited too long to file his homestead claim?

Why Its Diverse:

It seems odd to put a book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in there, but By the Shores of Silver Lake does have feature a blind character, Laura's older sister Mary.

Under His Spell by Kathy Lyons/Jade Lee

Nicky Taylor is a driven executive. A total control freak. And magician Jimmy Ray has loved her forever. When he spots her in the audience, he realizes he finally has a chance to fulfil his own lifelong fantasy. With a little help from Dr. Mesmer, that is...

Who'd have guessed that a little hypnotism would unleash Nicky's wildly sexual nature? Or that Jimmy's powers of persuasion would encourage her to burn up the bedsheets with him that night...and the nights after. She's the perfect woman.

Unfortunately Jimmy's pretty sure Nicky's still under his spell. And he has to change that. Because he's quickly falling under hers...

Why Its Diverse:

The author is of Chinese/American ancestry.

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee

Entering 7th grade is no big deal for Marley Sandelski: Same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic . . . from invisible to center stage.

Why its Diverse:

The author is of Chinese ancestry.

What I am Reading Now

Nothing, unfortunately

Future Reviews

How to Build a Piano Bench by Ruthi Postow Birch (author suffers from ADD)

A Humble Philosophy for Great Success
“Get an education, get off Petain Street, and amount to something.” These are the words that Ruthi Postow Birch’s father said to her when she was a little girl living on a red-dirt road in Pritchard, Alabama, a town that straddled the poverty line. And that is exactly what she did. How to Build a Piano Bench is Ruthi’s humorous and heart-warming story about growing up in southern Alabama, the life lessons she learned there, and how she applied that knowledge to build a successful business in Washington, DC. Full of anecdotes and advice on how to use both your strengths and weaknesses to work to your advantage, this wonderful story will inspire and delight anyone who has ever had a dream to be something bigger than what they are.

The Girls by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

The Spirit Catches you and you fall down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia's parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-fiction, Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be

Dawn by Elie Wisel

Elisha is a young Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine; John Dawson is the captured English officer he will murder at dawn in retribution for the British execution of a fellow freedom fighter. The night-long wait for morning and death provides Dawn, Elie Wiesel's ever more timely novel, with its harrowingly taut, hour-by-hour narrative. Caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present, Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits for the appointed hour and his act of assassination. Dawn is an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.

Day (The Accident) by Elie Wiesel

"Not since Albert Camus has there been such an eloquent spokesman for man." --The New York Times Book Review

The publication of Day restores Elie Wiesel's original title to the novel initially published in English as The Accident and clearly establishes it as the powerful conclusion to the author's classic trilogy of Holocaust literature, which includes his memoir Night and novel Dawn. "In Night it is the ‘I' who speaks," writes Wiesel. "In the other two, it is the ‘I' who listens and questions."

In its opening paragraphs, a successful journalist and Holocaust survivor steps off a New York City curb and into the path of an oncoming taxi. Consequently, most of Wiesel's masterful portrayal of one man's exploration of the historical tragedy that befell him, his family, and his people transpires in the thoughts, daydreams, and memories of the novel's narrator. Torn between choosing life or death, Day again and again returns to the guiding questions that inform Wiesel's trilogy: the meaning and worth of surviving the annihilation of a race, the effects of the Holocaust upon the modern character of the Jewish people, and the loss of one's religious faith in the face of mass murder and human extermination.

One half from the East by Nadia Hashimi

Internationally bestselling author Nadia Hashimi’s first novel for young readers is an emotional, beautiful, and riveting coming-of-age journey to modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh—a preteen girl dressed as a boy.

Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune.

Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room.

One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh.

Now Obayda is Obayd.

Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more.

But their transformation won’t last forever—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet by Jamie Ford

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history - the internment of American-Japanese families during World War II - Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us about forgiveness and the power of the human heart.

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite

Set in a small town in the Southwest, a soulful work of literary noir rife with violence, vengeance, and contrition from a fresh voice in fiction-the author of the highly acclaimed The Terror of Living

Life hasn't worked out the way Ray Lamar planned. A widower and father who has made some tragic mistakes, he's got one good thing going for him: he's calm, cool, and efficient under pressure, usually with a gun in his hand. A useful skill to have when you're paid to hurt people who stand in your boss's way.

But Ray isn't sure he wants to be that man anymore. He wants to go home to Coronado, New Mexico, to see the twelve-year-old son he hopes will recognize him. He wants to make a new life far from the violence of the last ten years. One last job will take him there. All he has to do is steal a rival's stash. Simple, easy, clean.

Ray knows there's no such thing as easy, and sure enough, the first day ends in a catastrophic mess. Now, the runners who have always moved quietly through this idyllic desert town on the Mexican border want answers. And revenge. Short on time, with no one to trust but himself, Ray must come up with a clever plan or Coronado's newly appointed lady sheriff will have a vicious bloodbath on her hands.

Relentlessly paced and beautifully orchestrated, with refreshingly real, vulnerable, and very human characters and a vivid sense of place, The Carrion Birds is an unsettling and indelible work of literary noir in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, and Dennis Lehane.

5 Books I planned on tackling this year:

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez, Megan McDowell

An arresting collection of short stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortazar, by an exciting new international talent.

Macabre, disturbing and exhilarating, Things We Lost in the Fire is a collection of twelve short stories that use fear and horror to explore multiple dimensions of life in contemporary Argentina. From women who set themselves on fire in protest of domestic violence to angst-ridden teenage girls, friends until death do they part, to street kids and social workers, young women bored of their husbands or boyfriends, to a nine-year-old serial killer of babies and a girl who pulls out her nails and eyelids in the classroom, to hikikomori, abandoned houses, black magic, northern Argentinean superstition, disappearances, crushes, heartbreak, regret and compassion. This is a strange, surreal and unforgettable collection by an astonishing new talent asking vital questions of the world as we know it.

Pages: 200 in my copy

The Republic of Užupis by Haïlji,  Bruce Fulton (Translator), Ju-Chan Fulton (Translator)

Uzupis (on the other side of the river) is, in reality, a neighborhood in Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius, which took the peculiar step of declaring itself an independent republic in 1997. In this novel, however, it is the lost homeland of a middle-aged man named Hal, who lands in Lithuania hoping to travel back to the town of his birth in order to bury his father's ashes there -- in a place that might not really exist. In a literary tradition dominated by social realism, The Republic of Uzupis is a unique work of melancholy, Murakami-esque whimsy.

Pages: 149

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Casey Han's four years at Princeton gave her many things, "But no job and a number of bad habits." Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them. As she navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives around her, culminating in a portrait of New York City and its world of haves and have-nots. FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES offers up a fresh exploration of the complex layers we inhabit both in society and within ourselves. Inspired by 19th century novels such as Vanity Fair and Middlemarch, Min Jin Lee examines maintaining one's identity within changing communities in what is her remarkably assured debut.

Pages: 560

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

When the Great Depression hits, Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn College for what appears to be a plum job in Moscow—and the promise of love and independence. But once in Russia, she quickly becomes entangled in a country she can’t escape. Many years later, Florence’s son, Julian, will make the opposite journey, immigrating back to the United States. His work in the oil industry takes him on frequent visits to Moscow, and when he learns that Florence’s KGB file has been opened, he arranges a business trip to uncover the truth about his mother, and to convince his son, Lenny, who is trying to make his fortune in the new Russia, to return home. What he discovers is both chilling and heartbreaking: an untold story of what happened to a generation of Americans abandoned by their country.

The Patriots is a riveting evocation of the Cold War years, told with brilliant insight and extraordinary skill. Alternating between Florence’s and Julian’s perspectives, it is at once a mother-son story and a tale of two countries bound in a dialectic dance; a love story and a spy story; both a grand, old-fashioned epic and a contemporary novel of ideas. Through the history of one family moving back and forth between continents over three generations, The Patriots is a poignant tale of the power of love, the rewards and risks of friendship, and the secrets parents and children keep from one another.

Pages: 542

Love, and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

A powerful novel about an orphan boy who is raffled off at Seattle’s 1909 World Fair, and the friends who teach him what it really means to have a family, from the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Inspired by a true story, this is the unforgettable story of a young boy named Ernest, set during the 1909 Seattle world’s fair called the Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo. It is a time when the magical wonders of technology on display at the expo future seems limitless. But for Ernest, a half-Chinese orphan who found his way to America through a last desperate act of his beloved mother, every door is closed. A charity student at a boarding school, he has never really had a place to call home. Then one day, his wealthy sponsor announces that if a home is what he wants, then that is what he will have: Ernest will be offered as a prize in the daily raffle at the fair, advertised as “Healthy boy to a good home for the winning ticket holder.” The woman who “wins” him is the madam of a notorious brothel who was famous for educating her girls. He becomes a houseboy in her brothel and is befriended by the daughter of the madam, as well as a Japanese girl who works in the kitchen. The friendship and love between these three form the first real family Ernest has ever known.

Pages: 304

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