Friday, December 28, 2018

A Month of Faves: This Is How We Read and Blog

I had lofty plans for his month, specifically for A Month of Faves. I was going to read and blog prolifically. But it was December. So I have posted exactly two reviews and you can find me this weekend at home under a blanket, desperately trying to read the five books I need to finish to reach my Goodreads goal.

However, I am here right now and ready to jump into A Month of Faves with this post about reading and blogging.

A Month of Favorites

As of this minute, I have read 125 books this year. I read a lot of literary fiction, although I am open to reading anything. This year, I've read romance (The Wedding Date), memoir (All the Lives We've Ever Lived, Old in Art School), short stories (What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, The Sadness of Beautiful Things), YA (Puddin', When Dimple Met Rishi), mysteries (Flavia de Luce, Cormoran Strike, and Perveen Mistry), graphic novels (Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, Giant Days), nonfiction (In the Garden of Beasts, The Displaced) and sci-fi/fantasy (The Lunar Chronicles, Every Heart a Doorway). 

I read everywhere and anywhere, although I can be found reading in bed before I go to sleep every night, I often read in the rocking chair in my daughter's room while she's falling asleep after storytime, and I am quite comfy these days reading on the sofa in front of our faux fireplace. Most of the books I read are from my local library. I read some ebooks (mostly ARCs from Netgalley) and I've listened to eight audiobooks this year.

While I'm pretty happy with my reading, my blogging has not gone quite as well. Since I'm a few years into blogging. I don't feel the pull anymore to review every book I read. But I haven't reviewed nearly as many books I would have liked to review this year. Sometimes I sit down to write a review or muse about the reading life and the words seem to pour out. Other times, I schedule posts but can't seem to find the time or inspiration to actually get them done. On the plus side, I started to branch out from my own site and had my review of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby published over at Literary Mama.

In this next year, I think I would like to schedule some time into my week that is specifically for blogging/writing and see how that works. I don't think I need to read more books, but I want to continue really diverse reading, from the genres I read to the authors who write the stories. It would be nice to blog a little more regularly in 2019, but we will see how that goes!

What worked well for you with reading and blogging in 2018? What changes will you be making in the new year?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review: The Golden State

Daphne is on the brink of a breakdown. Her husband isn't allowed back in the country and she feels some responsibility for the accidental death of a young woman overseas. One morning, she simply leaves her office, picks up her daughter from daycare, and drives away from her life. Daphne finds solace in an isolated trailer left to her by her grandparents in eastern California, but the boredom of being alone all day with her toddler and her uncertainty about what to do next soon compel her to go into town. She cautiously befriends Cindy, a neighbor who is part of a secessionist movement, and Alice, an elderly woman who feels a little bit like family. Over ten days, the women's lives intersect in surprising ways as Daphne decides where her life will go from here.

I have to confess that it took me a long time to pick this book up. I had read some rave reviews, but the description just didn't compel me to pick it up. I am mature enough to confess I was very wrong and Lydia Kiesling's debut is a haunting, thoughtful story about the bonds of connection and the consequences of loneliness. She excels at capturing the overwhelming feelings of new motherhood, as Daphne alternates between wondering what she is supposed to be doing with this small child all day to rejoicing over a miraculous milestone to considering all of the terrible things that could happen in the single moment that she looks away. As a working mother, she is not used to having to account for every moment of her daughter's life and finds it equally terrifying and exhilarating (depending on the moment). Kiesling rarely uses commas, which means it takes readers a few chapters to adjust to reading her prose. But it wonderfully captures the endless lists that run through the heads of parents as we struggle to remember everything that we need to do while keeping a little one safe and happy.

The Golden State is also a look at what it means to be or feel like the other. Daphne's husband is stuck in Turkey after a visa snafu separated their family. She feels stuck between cultures because she herself is not Turkish, but she speaks enough of the language and knows enough about the country and its people to be offended when people start calling Middle Eastern people terrorists. With no immediate family around her, she feels isolated as a mother without anyone to mother her or teach her about being a parent. She hopes to capture some of the magic of her childhood by going back to her grandparent's hometown, however, she is familiar enough to warrant a polite greeting but not a true daughter of that town.

This is a travel story, it's a motherhood story, it is an everywoman story for the person who feels like they don't quite fit in and for the person who senses the slow simmer of fear and anger in current events and in their own life. Kiesling is a very talented writer with a distinct voice and and I look forward to going on other journeys with her characters.

The Golden State
By Lydia Kiesling
MCD September 2018
304 pages
From the library

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: Washington Black

George Washington Black is an 11-year-old slave on a Barbados plantation. His life changes drastically when his new master's brother takes him under his wing as an assistant for his scientific endeavors. Instead of working in the fields, Wash now spends his days seeing the world through Titch's eyes, as well as learning to read and develop his talent for drawing. But he never feels entirely comfortable; the relationship between the two is certainly unconventional and destined to fall apart sooner or later. That day comes when a man is killed and Wash is blamed. Titch and Wash flee in Titch's hot air balloon and set off on an adventure that will take them around the world to London, Antarctica, and Morocco.

There were parts of this book that reminded me of Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things because both books follow a person who was not expected to pursue science in their time. Wash learns about weather and creatures all over the world and later uses his knowledge to sketch and paint the wildlife and even collaborates with making the first aquariums. But there is always that feeling of uncertainty--even in places that are supposedly friendly to free black people, one wrong word or careless moment could mean the end of Wash's life. His relationship with Titch is the thing that took him away from the horrors of slavery, but it also haunts Wash as he wonders if it is possible for his mentor and father figure to think of him as anything other than a worthy cause.

Washington Black is a sprawling adventure that takes readers around the world. Edugyan renders time and place with beautiful specificity and the reader feels as if they could journey up the hill to Titch's balloon and watch the plantation below or see the endless expanse of Arctic snow for the first time. But the thread that runs throughout the entire story is that there is no safe place to be a black person in the 19th century--you can never truly be seen as just a neighbor, a friend, a lover, a scientist, or an artist because of the color of your skin.

Also by Esi Edugyan: Half Blood Blues 

Washington Black
By Esi Edugyan
Knopf Publishing Group September 2018
339 pages
From the library
Man Booker Award Finalist

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Nonfiction mini-reviews: Bored and Brilliant and A Forever Family

Manoush Zomorodi is the host of popular radio show and podcast about technology and its effects. When she had time to think about her plans for the future and really look at her surroundings when she was home with her baby, she found herself inundated with ideas. Conversely, when she was back at work and filling every possible second, the ideas seemed to disappear. Wondering if there was a correlation between empty moments and productivity, she challenged her listeners and herself to take on a week of challenges. Readers are asked to delete an app they love, relearn how to observe their surroundings, and ensure that there is quiet time in each day.

The issues examined in this book will be all too familiar to most of us. We wonder about the effects of video games on our kids and find ourselves scrolling through social media whenever we have a spare five seconds. The information that Zamorodi compiles is fascinating, and she has plenty of statistics and interviews throughout the book. Ultimately though, the result of reading this book is about the same as the results of her challenge: people didn't see a huge change, but they were more aware of their habits. After reading Bored and Brilliant, I do find myself considering before picking up my phone and instead asking my kids about their day, reading a few pages of my book, or even enjoying a moment or two of boredom.

Bored and Brilliant
How Spacing Out Can Unlock
Your Most Productive and Creative Self
By Manoush Zomorodi
St. Martin's Press September 2017
208 pages
From the library

Rob Scheer grew up moving from one terrible situation to the next, from his abusive father to living in his car after a foster family kicked him out of their home. As an adult, he felt moved to help children in similar circumstances and he and his husband became foster parents. Scheer doesn't paint a rosy picture; instead, he writes about the difficulties of two white gay men trying to adopt black children and the moments when the ghosts from his own past show up in his parenting. Some of the hardest moments to read about are the small ones--the difficulty of using someone else's soap in a strange new house or Rob and his husband Reece's realization that their foster daughter is hoarding food because she doesn't feel secure yet.

Scheer's story is heartbreaking and I am glad he found the courage to share it. For me, I'm not sure it warranted an entire book; it would have been an excellent article showing how his painful childhood led to his becoming a foster dad, adopting his children, and starting Comfort Cases, an organization that gives backpacks with a book, blanket, and hygiene items to foster kids. But if Scheer's story can make anyone understand the need for foster parents and support for children in need, then it is an important one.

A Forever Family
Fostering Change One Child at a Time
By Rob Scheer with Jon Sternfeld
Gallery/Jeter Publishing November 2018
320 pages
Read via Netgalley

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review: Old in Art School

After decades of teaching history at Chapel Hill and Princeton University, Nell Painter left teaching to become a student again. She pursued and completed a BFA and MFA in painting because she loved art and because her mother had proven to her that you are never too old to start over again. As the oldest student in all of her classes and often the only black student, she faced unique challenges. 

With Old in Art School, Painter attempts to accomplish many things. At its face, this is a memoir about a woman starting an entirely new career at an age when some people think about retirement. It's also a primer on the experience of going to art school, what it means to be an artist today, and an invitation to go down the internet rabbit hole of artists and their work. One of the most interesting facets is Painter's effort to find a middle road between the big picture of her background in history and focusing on the immediacy of a single image. Ultimately, she finds she does not have to choose: a single figure in a piece of art can be indicative of an entire era or the story of an entire people or nation.

The most universal part of this book is Painter's realization that once again, she has to find her own way and her own people. The crits (feedback) from her professors and peers are unhelpful, so she finds people outside of the classroom to comment on her work. The art world seems uninterested in anything happening outside of New York City, but Painter finds her first residency after graduation in her beloved hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

Perhaps Painter is too old to care about such things, but she is not always a likable narrator. She says exactly what she thinks and feels without worrying about how it makes her look or how you will perceive her. She confesses that she wished her depressed father had died before her inspiring mother and she spares no one's feelings when she calls out the racist or ageist behaviors of fellow students or teachers. Whether or not you agree with her on every page, Old in Art School is an interesting look at an older black woman playing a young white man's game and the difficulties and discoveries of starting a new chapter of life. 

Old In Art School
A Memoir of Starting Over
By Nell Painter
Counterpoint June 2018
331 pages
From the library

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

When Linda Kay Klein was in high school, she broke up with her boyfriend, convinced that God had asked this of her. Her church had very strict rules about dating and clothing choices and she was often criticized for "tempting boys" with her curvy figure. She left her church after learning that her youth pastor had been charged with child enticement and he had done this at other churches without consequence. As a grownup with a boyfriend, she found herself paralyzed by shame, fear, and anxiety, so she went back home and tracked down her friends from youth group to find out how purity culture affected their lives and relationships.

This book is very, very in my lane. In fact, I had one of the purity rings that Klein describes. I am the daughter of a pastor and remember sitting in True Love Waits classes with the other teens in the church. Today, my sisters and I often talk about finding another way for churches to talk about sex and relationships that informs without shaming.

I think this is what I missed from Pure. Linda Kay Klein does a thorough job of outlining the experiences that she and her peers had as they grew from young girls who had been told sex would ruin them to women who wanted to have sex with their spouses or partners. She doesn't do a lot of embellishing; she records experiences, often without additional insight. But I wanted more--I wanted to know her thoughts, after talking to all of these people, on ways that parents and leaders in the church can talk about sex with our children. I almost felt like this was part one and we are desperately in need of a second part, that will help us to raise kids within the church who know that they are loved by God and by their community, whether or not they have sex.

Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement
That Shamed a Generation of Young Women
And How I Broke Free
By Linda Kay Klein
Touchstone September 2018
353 pages
Read via Netgalley

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Readers Imbibing Peril Mini Reviews

Hello. Yes, I am ridiculously late with my Readers Imbibing Peril books. I did read them during September and October, but I've been in a bit of a blogging slump lately. Now that I'm getting back in the groove of writing about books here, I wanted to tell you about the books that would be perfect picks for spooky reading next year and the ones you can leave languishing on their library shelves.

Career of Evil is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series featuring the titular detective and his assistant Robin Ellacott. In this story, Robin is shocked and sickened when she opens a package at work and finds a severed leg. Cormoran has some ideas about who might have sent it, but the police won't listen to him so it is up to the intrepid duo to figure out who is targeting them and what their end game is. I think this was my least favorite of the series so far. The will they/won't they dynamic between Cormoran and Robin goes to some weird and frustrating places and it feels like the whole purpose of this case is to fill in backstory for the main characters as Cormoran muses about which figure from his past might send them a severed leg. This book also features the point of view of the perpetrator, so we get way too many pages of violent fantasy about assault to women.

Recommend for RIP? Meh.

Jane McKeene worries she will never be good at remembering proper etiquette or keeping her dress clean. But that is only part of her training--the rest of her classes at Miss Preston's School are about combat and defending wealthy white women from the zombies that rose up from the battlefields of the Civil War. But Jane's future as an attendant may never come to pass when she starts investigating the disappearance of local families and finds out that the zombie uprising is much more complicated than it appears. Dread Nation is a book where I loved the premise and the main character, but had a hard time sticking with the story the way that the author laid it out.

Recommend for RIP? Meh.

               Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)     Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)

A man returns home for a funeral and decides to go visit the family that lived down the road. Once there, he starts to remember the incredible and impossible things that happened the year that he turned seven. This is one of those books best entered not knowing too much about the plot; I didn't really know what it was about and I was thrilled to enter into this melancholy little book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is magical and atmospheric and captures the feeling of being a child who feels unseen and misunderstood by adults, while also understanding the distance and beauty of memory. This reads almost like a parable or fairy tale, where there is no wasted information and anything is possible. If somehow you have missed reading Neil Gaiman or this one in particular, get to it!

Recommend for RIP? Yes!

Nancy thought she was all alone, the only child to stumble into another world. But at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, she finds people just like her who lived for a time in a magical realm only to find they no longer fit in back home. As Nancy starts to find her place among these strange and broken children, someone is murdered. In a house where people will do anything to get back to their magical worlds, is anyone safe? Every Heart a Doorway is an incredibly dark story because there is a brutal murderer in the house, but mostly because these children have been through traumatic experiences. Seanan McGuire has done an incredible job of giving you just enough information so you can imagine the beautiful, terrible, amazing worlds they have visited and see how the darkness of magical worlds compares to the darkness in our own.

Recommend for RIP? Yes!

          The Ocean at the End of the Lane    Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: Unsheltered

Willa's life has not gone the way she expected. She finds herself in a crumbling house in Vineland, New Jersey with her husband, her dying father-in-law, her adult daughter, her son's baby, and no job. Willa is determined to find a way to care for her family and when she discovers that a famous female scientist from the time of Darwin might have lived in her house, she thinks that  will be the key to ensuring their home doesn't fall down around them. The story moves through two timelines, as we see Willa and her family in the present and the people who lived in and around their home in the mid-nineteenth century--scientist Mary Treat and schoolteacher Thatcher Greenwood.

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of beloved books The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees and a new book of hers is always a big deal in the literary world. In Unsheltered, she masterfully shows the frustration and heartbreak of doing everything right and not being able to make ends meet. Willa and her husband are both starting over again in their careers in journalism and academia instead of having stability after decades of working. She is having trouble navigating the endless complications of medical care for her sick father-in-law. Her son has finished graduate school, but his world implodes when his girlfriend commits suicide and leaves him as the sole parent to their baby. This kind of story is all too familiar to modern readers, who know all about stringing together several part-time gigs  and still not being able to pay the bills or spending all their savings when someone needs unexpected medical care.

There are many readers who felt that this book was too political and devolved into political diatribe with Willa's debates with her very Republican father-in-law or daughter Tig's ruminations on how the generations before her ruined both the planet and the economy. But for me, it felt very of the moment. It might be impossible to write about the past few years without acknowledging that very charged political discussions are everywhere and many people are discouraged and angry with the way things are going in the United States.

As always, Barbara Kingsolver gives a master class in doing good research and crafting rich characters that compel readers to follow them through a story. It is obvious she did a great deal of research into the accomplishments of real-life scientist Mary Treat and the fascinatingly bizarre origins of Vineland, New Jersey. She has written a book that captures this specific moment in time and also reminds us that having to start all over again is a familiar story across generations.

By Barbara Kingsolver
Harper October 2018
480 pages
From the library

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The 24 Hour Readathon, Fall 2018

And so we say goodbye to another Readathon! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make Readathon happen. I found that this year, I checked in online periodically but I didn't really feel like participating in the mini-challenges or bingo. So I did a lot of reading and it was lovely.

Closing Survey
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Friends, I was tired this time around! I usually make it to at least hour 18 or so, which is 2 a.m. on the East Coast of the United States. This time, I was falling asleep in my book before midnight. Oh well!
2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read! I read When Dimple Met Rishi, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, An Age of License, Every Heart a Doorway, one Flannery O'Connor story, and I listened to 13 chapters of my audiobook Cress. 3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners? The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Every Heart a Doorway are perfect for the fall Readathon! They are both short and creepy without being so terrifying that you have to turn every light on in your house. 4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you happy? I don't know! I look forward to seeing what will happen in April. 
5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep? If I'm free, I'm always here for Readathon and I would be happy to help out with whatever our intrepid leaders need! 

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? I'm reading some Flannery O'Connor short stories and trying to decide on my next book. 
2. How many books have you read so far? Four
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm looking forward to dipping back into some comics when I start to get tired (Giant Days, Lucy Knisley) 
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Well, I have two kids and I had to do a few things, so I just kept going. 
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Nothing really, although the time is going by strangely; sometimes it's really fast and other times, I can't believe how much reading I've done in a little time! 

So it's time to check in again! I've read four books so far--When Dimple Met Rishi, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, An Age of License, and Every Heart a Doorway. I've also been listening to the audiobook of Cress when I had to do some other things.

              The Ocean at the End of the Lane    Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)
The boy has been sick for the past few days, but he managed to read four books: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Geeked Out, and Game Over, Pete Watson. I also took some time this afternoon and went to the library with the little girl. Tonight at bedtime, we read Yasmin the Fashionista and Lucia the Luchadora. 

Now I'm looking forward to some ice cream and short stories. What are you reading? 

Getting to Know You Survey
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Hello from New Jersey! Today is pretty gloomy, which is fine with me. Who needs to go outside when there is reading to do? 
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I'm pretty excited to read When Dimple Met Rishi and catch up on some Lucy Knisley comics. 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I have to confess I didn't do a lot of snack planning this year. However, I did make a giant batch of pumpkin pancakes the other day so there will definitely be pancakes at some point. 4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I've lived in New Jersey since I was five, I married the boy I started dating in eighth grade, I have two kids, and I am really enjoying expanding my editing business now that my little one is in kindergarten. 5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I figured out that this is my 15th Readathon (!) so I'm going to relax and enjoy reading lots of fantastic books. Thanks to everyone who makes Readathon possible every year! 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Readathon Prep and Tips

Tomorrow is Readathon! In a world where temperatures drop 40 degrees in one day, it's nice to know that one thing is certain: each fall and spring, readers around the world will assemble an audacious stack of books, fill their fridges and cupboards with snacks, and settle in to read for 24 hours.

If you haven't signed up yet, there is still time! Go here to join us.

Here are the books I'm starting out with tomorrow:

Comics: Displacement, Giant Days
Fiction: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, When Dimple Met Rishi, The Keep
Short stories: The Sadness of Beautiful Things, The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
I also have A Forever Family on my kindle and the audiobook of Cress on my phone.

I figured out that I have been a part of the Readathon since I started blogging in 2011, which means that this is my 15th Readathon. If you are a newbie, I have some tips for you!

1) Variety, variety, variety
Make your stack of books ridiculously large and as varied as possible. It's terrible to only plan a book or two and then find that you hate them and have to go find something else. Give yourself a lot of options and make sure that you have children's books, short stories, audiobooks, and comics in the mix--you never know what is going to keep you awake when you have been reading for 18 hours!

2) Take a break
Seriously. Get up. Stretch. Go for a walk. Take 10 minutes and clean up your kitchen or vacuum your living room. Sitting in one place for too long is an invitation to fall asleep.

3) Eat and drink well
Half the fun of readathon is planning and eating delicious snacks. But this is not a good time to triple your caffeine consumption or eat only Cheetos for a day. Your body needs good fuel to go with the snacks and lots of water. Keep drinking water!

4) Relax
Readathon is a fun day. It's not the day to beat yourself up because your kid had a soccer game or you only read one book when that crazy lady on twitter read 22. Read things that make you happy, check in and see what wonderful books people are talking about online, and revel in the knowledge that there are people all over the world who love books just as much as you do.

Happy Readathon, Friends!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Review: The Family Tabor

Harry Tabor is about to be honored as the Man of the Decade in Palm Springs. He will be recognized for his work in helping Jewish families escape persecution and resettle in Florida. Harry's family gathers to celebrate his accomplishments--his wife Roma, an insightful child psychologist; his daughter Pheobe who keeps talking about a boyfriend no one has met; his daughter Camille who is trying to discern where to take her anthropology work next; and his son Simon, whose new interest in his Jewish roots is causing problems with his wife. But before Harry can be honored, he vanishes into the night. Each family member has a secret, but it will be Harry's sudden memory of his actions many years ago that could unravel everything that they have worked to accomplish.

The Family Tabor is a story told in fragments: we get a bit of Harry's history and then a piece of a child's present. Cherise Wolas has written a book (and a family) that you must commit to following because it's not linear and it won't go where you expect. The present action is limited but, as each person reveals a little piece of themselves, we understand the full impact of their choices on their family. It's also an examination of how one family and its members fit within the history of a people and a religion as the Tabors decide what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.

Wolas' writing is insightful and powerfully draws readers into the inner lives of her characters. It is clear that these people care for each other, even if they can't always be honest with each other. This story requires some suspension of belief with its conceit that Harry forgot something important for so long and Wolas is not afraid to leave her readers in unexpected places, but it's worth experiencing these characters and their search for where they fit in their family and the world.

The Family Tabor
By Cherise Wolas
Flatiron Books July 2018
400 pages
Read via Netgalley

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Readalong: The High Wire Edition

A few years ago, I started a series called Readalongs. It fell to the wayside a bit, but I recently read a book that brought it right back to the forefront of my mind. 

As you probably know, I have two littles (10 and 5, respectively). It's fun to read beloved childhood classics with the kids in your life. But it can be even more fun is to pair books for kids and adults that have the same kind of stories. So, welcome to volume 3 of Readalongs!

Mirette on the High Wire was one of my favorite books as a little girl and I've read it with both of my children. Mirette lives with her mother in a boardinghouse. They often get interesting boarders, but Mirette is particularly intrigued by a sad man who used to be a famous high wire walker. She is determined to find out what happened to him and to convince him to teach her to walk the wire.

Older readers can find that love of high wire walking in Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond. Jules Maroni is a proud member of a circus family. But when the join the Cirque American, she discovers there is very bad history between the Maroni family and the Garcia family. Jules finds cursed objects in her costume and trailer and things start to go terribly wrong. Can she figure out who is trying to destroy the Maroni name and make her fall from the wire? 

Whether you are a kid or an adult, there is something alluring about living among the magic of the circus and climbing up to walk the wire each night. Are there other books about high rope walkers that you love?

       Mirette on the High Wire     Girl on a Wire (Cirque American #1)

Other Readalongs:
The Fox Edition
The Pirate Ship Time Travel Edition 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: Off the Clock

Laura Vanderkam's entire career revolves around people's ability (or inability) to manage their time. She studies how people order their days and the habits that make them feel productive. When she found herself with an unexpected free day, it surprised her to realize how restorative it was and how difficult it could be to make that free time happen. In her most recent book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, Vanderkam investigates how we can find margin in our lives and find good even in the necessary repetition of life.

When I heard people rave about this book, I have to admit I was dubious at first. Surely the author would advise us to take certain steps that would be possible for some and cause the rest of us to laugh a bit before putting the book aside. Instead, Laura Vanderkam guides readers to think differently about their time. While she does begin the book by urging each of us to track our time, she believes that we can all enjoy the time that we prepare for. Once you've decided on your priorities, the key to feeling like you have time might just be taking it. Vanderkam advises leaving white space in your schedule and taking concrete steps to remember unexpected beautiful moments.

It's often hard to manage our time because we don't have hard boundaries. We work from our office and from home or juggle side gigs. We certainly don't get to clock out from raising kids or caring for elderly parents. But Vanderkam is quick to point out that investing in people is a good use of time. When we spend time intentionally strengthening the relationships with our friends and family, it makes us happier and interestingly makes it feel like we have more time, not less.

Laura Vanderkam has written a book that could really change how you view and spend your time. I have a better sense of how I can enjoy my time after reading Off the Clock and I can see returning to this book when I'm feeling a time crunch.

Off The Clock
Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
By Laura Vanderkam
Portfolio May 2018
256 pages
From the library

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Readers Imbibing Peril XIII

If you've been around here for a while, you know I'm not a big fan of scary. I like to sleep at night and stories where bad things happen to kids are an automatic no for me. In spite of this, I find myself tiptoeing into Readers Imbibing Peril again every fall. This reading challenge is for readers who want to read some mysteries, thrillers, and otherwise spooky books as the leaves start falling and the temperatures start dropping.

I'm never sure I have any books on my radar that will fit and then I discover I have plenty. Peril the First asks that you read four books. I will read at least four of the books below, if not more!


Career of Evil, Cormoran Strike #3 by Robert Galbraith
I need to catch up on this series before the next book comes out!

Deathless by Catherynne Valente
Valente is one of the most interesting authors writing today and I'm excited to read her take on the evil Koschei the Deathless. 

Practical Magic/The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
I know, I know. I'm the only person who hasn't read Practical Magic yet. I'm going to fix it (and read the sequel while I'm at it).

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Zombies, people. Plus I've been meaning to read this book since it came out this spring.

            Deathless (Leningrad Diptych, #1)        Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Ok, this is nonfiction but I think it counts as a mystery!

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
This story has magic and technology and lots of readers loved it!

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
This is the first book in a series featuring two Canadian detectives investigating a case that may be connected to the genocide in Bosnia.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
When children visit magical worlds, what happens to them when they come back home?

            All the Birds in the Sky        Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

If you want to sign up for RIP, you can join here! What spooky books are you hoping to read this fall? 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: The Ensemble

The Van Ness quartet is on the brink of success. They have given their graduation recital and are off to the Esterhazy competition. If they do well, they will have no problem finding places to perform and patrons to support their music. Henry is a young viola prodigy, Jana is the brash and determined violinist, Daniel is the cellist and works hard as the oldest member, and Brit is the shy second violinist who desperately wants to feel like she belongs. Each one has the potential to destroy everything they have been working to achieve. The Ensemble follows the four musicians as they achieve success, suffer personal tragedies, and discover if there is a place in their lives for these friends with or without music.

Aja Gabel has done an excellent job crafting a story that is specifically about music, but is about relationships at its core. This unique set-up ensures that Henry, Jana, Daniel, and Brit have to be in each other's lives for better or for worse. While many of us experience this kind of closeness when we live and study and work with people during college, their music career forces our ensemble to maintain this closeness for decades and gives readers the chance to see the answers to tough questions. Is it better to date someone you work with or pine for them instead? How do you find the balance between your relationship with your family at home and your work family? Is it possible to put personal disagreements aside for the good of your work?

When an author chooses to tell a story from multiple viewpoints, you often end up liking some characters more than others. The wonderful thing here is that you truly witness each character grow and change; by the end of the story, they are very different people from the confident students you met in the first chapter. The Ensemble deserves every bit of praise it received and I am anxiously waiting for Aja Gabel to bring us new characters to enjoy. 

The Ensemble
By Aja Gabel
Riverhead May 2018
352 pages
From the library

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: The Most Beautiful Thing I've Ever Seen

Lisa Gungor and her husband Michael were stars of the Christian music scene. They knew what they believed and their path through life seemed all figured out. But Lisa's certainty crashed into pieces the day her husband admitted he didn't believe in God anymore. They faced intense backlash from their church, their fans, and their families when they were honest about their doubts. When their second daughter was born with Down syndrome and needed several surgeries in her first few months of life, she wondered if she could ever find her way back to faith.

The Most Beautiful Thing I've Ever Seen will be familiar to many readers who found that their early faith couldn't hold up to the pain and brokenness of the world. But it is also a very personal confession. Lisa even bookends her memoir with letters to her mother, sharing her grief for the way they have been separated over the years and highlighting the choices she understands now as a mother herself. She lays out the entire story of her life: the churches her family attended, listening to her parents fight, the first time she went on a date with her husband Michael, and the need to find new people when her family and church told her she was no longer welcome.

This is not a story where everything is resolved by the end; instead it is one woman's experience of an expanding mind and heart. It can be frightening for us to realize our core beliefs have changed, but Lisa explains with kindness that it feels very much like thinking you were living on a dot only to discover it is actually a line and then a whole circle. The Most Beautiful Thing I've Ever Seen is about finding the place somewhere between a handful of friends in your basement and the stage of a megachurch where you can recognize the beauty in the midst of life's pain and admit out loud what you think about love, life, and faith.

The Most Beautiful Thing I've Ever Seen:
Opening Your Eyes to Wonder
By Lisa Gungor
Zondervan June 2018
214 pages
Read via Netgalley

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: Our Homesick Songs

Big Running used to be a thriving town. But the fish disappeared and one by one, families left the place that was their home. The Connor family is still there, but they have to make some major changes. Aidan and Martha work at an energy company inland for alternating months, while the other parent stays with their children Finn and Cora. The separation is hard on the entire family. Finn becomes obsessed with figuring out why the fish left and how to bring them back. Cora decorates abandoned homes like different countries until the day that she too leaves Big Running and forces the family to choose if they should leave the only home they've ever loved.

Our Homesick Songs is indeed a book about homesickness and what it means to be home. It can often be a certain place, and it is definitely certain people. The author gives us a glimpse into one such town and one such family both in 1993, when the town is slowly abandoned, and the 1970s, when Aidan and Martha meet and fall in love. It's also a story about the importance of story and music and magic in remembering our history and dreaming about our futures.

Our Homesick Songs is the perfect story to read on a hard day. It is a simple read at certain points, almost like a child's fairy tale. But in other chapters, the very adult problems of paying the bills and staying faithful to a spouse you never see take center stage. The characters go through tough times and the story does not ignore the difficulties of loving people well in an ever-changing environment, but it does leave the characters and the readers with hope. We can hope in the goodness of people and the possibility that our love for our families, our friends, and our home will be enough to pull us through the darkest of days.

Our Homesick Songs
By Emma Hooper
Simon and Schuster August 2018
336 pages
Read via Netgalley

Also by Emma Hooper: Etta and Otto and Russell and James 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesdays with David: The Great Shelby Holmes

The Story: Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes. 

When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that’s eluded her up till now: a friend. Easy-going John isn’t sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that'll take both their talents to crack. (Synopsis from Goodreads) 

Thoughts from David: The Great Shelby Holmes is a very good mystery novel. Shelby is plain incredible with the fact she can deduct almost anything. She deducted that the main character, John Watson's (Yeah, both Shelby and John's last names are spin-offs on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson) mom had served in  Afghanistan just from boxes, a medical license, and that John's mom had a limp. John may not be a genius detective like Shelby, but sometimes John sees things that Shelby might not, like things about stuff that Shelby doesn't notice, like basketball.   

All in all, The Great Shelby Holmes is an amazing book. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery books. You'll be laughing and trying to solve the mystery with Shelby and John the whole way through!  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: An Ocean of Minutes

In 1981, the world is struck by a terrible flu. Frank falls sick and there is no way he can afford the very expensive treatment. So his girlfriend Polly decides to travel to the future and work for a company called TimeRaiser. In return, they will give Frank the cure that will save his life. The couple plans to meet up in 1993, but Polly is sent to 1998 instead. She finds herself in a very unexpected world, where she is subject to the strict rules and regulations of TimeRaiser employees. When Frank doesn't show up to their rendezvous, Polly is at a loss for what to do next. She traveled across time to make sure they would be together; what will she do if they can't?

An Ocean of Minutes has been pitched as similar to Station Eleven, but I think the two books are very different. While Station Eleven skips some time, we still see people navigating the aftermath of an epidemic. Polly sees little of the aftermath, since she travels 17 years into the future and her days are restricted to the workplaces and shoddy accommodations of TimeRaiser. An Ocean of Minutes is instead a story about class and poverty and how impossible it is to "work your way" into a better life. It's about trying to find the people and places that make up your home when everything has changed.

Thea Lim has smartly given us Polly and Frank's love story in the midst of Polly's current desperation. When she doesn't know how to find him, it is that much more painful because we have seen their relationship grow and we know how much they adore each other. An Ocean of Minutes is one of those stories where you hope that your protagonist will find what she is looking for and sigh in frustration at every barrier that she encounters. But those barriers caused by individuals and bureaucracy are exactly what makes this story seem so plausible, even as they break our hearts and threaten Polly's hope for a happy ending.

An Ocean of Minutes
By Thea Lim
Touchstone July 2018
320 pages
Read via Netgalley

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: The Great Believers

Yale Tishman is at a turning point in his career. If he can get a group of paintings donated to his Chicago gallery, it will be his biggest success yet. But his personal life is not as hopeful--his friends are dying from AIDS and no one knows how to grieve or who will be the next to be diagnosed. He finds comfort in the unlikely friendship of his friend Nico's younger sister Fiona. Thirty years later, Fiona is desperately searching Paris for her daughter. She thought Claire was lost to a cult, but now she will do anything to reconnect with her daughter and try to make amends for the ways she failed her.

I've been intrigued by Rebecca Makkai's writing for a long time. Not every story of hers works for me, but she weaves some kind of literary magic that makes me willing to try again. With this book, she has written herself into a tough situation because every book about a group of gay friends finds itself compared to the devastating A Little Life. The wonderful news is that this book holds its own--there is a perfect balance here between a specific moment in time and the intimate details of any person's life.

Both Yale and Fiona are incredibly invested in what is happening around them, as friends, relatives, and lovers are dying from AIDS. They show how life continues in spite of loss and tragedy, because there are fights with family and you still have to make that appointment and get to work on time. But there is a specter hanging over everyday life as characters wonder if a cough is just a cough or feeling tired means that something insidious is inside your body. The costs are more than physical--there is immense pressure on the ones left behind, the ones who say goodbye over and over again and must keep the memories of their friends alive.

In my reading lately, I'm finding many good books where I am excited to keep reading, anxious to find out what happens to the characters, and invited into another time and place by careful writing. But the books that stand out for me are the ones that are just enough--the author takes us into someone's life and knows when to close the curtain and force us to go back out into the world. The Great Believers is one of those stories. I spent the perfect amount of time with Yale and Fiona and I grew to care for them. Now I am ready to leave them behind and return to my own life, prepared to be a bit kinder and pay attention a bit more because our time with the people we love is a finite gift.

The Great Believers
By Rebecca Makkai
Viking June 2018
432 pages
Read via Netgalley

Also by Rebecca Makkai: The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Bread and Wine

Lent is seen as a time for reflection. Many people give something up as they think about the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In the weeks leading up to Easter, many Christians spend more time than usual in prayer and study. Bread and Wine would be a great starting place. These 72 readings come from writers throughout Christian history and across the theological spectrum, including Kathleen Norris, Oswald Chambers, Barbara Brown Taylor, John Donne, Christina Rossetti, Watchman Nee, Madeleine L'Engle, Saint Augustine, and Mother Teresa.

In a perfect world, I would have finished reading this collection of devotions during Lent and written my review right around Easter. Unfortunately, I finished it in May and am just reviewing it now. This is definitely not the kind of book you can race through. Many of the selections require some time to think about deeper commitment during Lent, the temptation and crucifixion of Christ, and the new life we experience because of Easter. As with any collection, different selections will resonate with different readers but the diversity in this book ensures that there is something for everyone.

This would be an excellent resource for any church. Pastors and teachers could certainly draw from this volume during Lent and any Christian will find new ways to think about Lent and Easter and new writers to inspire and teach them.

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
Plough Publishing House November 2014
430 pages
Read via Netgalley

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: Smoke and Iron

Jess Brightwell has deliberately put himself in danger by delivering himself to the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. Pretending to be his twin brother, he offers an intriguing business deal between the Library and his family of smugglers. Jess hopes to work from the inside of the library to bring its deadly reign toppling down. Meanwhile, Morgan is imprisoned in a tower in the library, their mentor Wolfe is a prisoner, and Dario, Thomas, Khalila, and Santi have been betrayed and are on their way to certain death. In this fourth book, our heroes have to convince others to join their resistance--they have seen the evil the Library can perpetrate. Will anyone join them to stand against the Archivist Magister?

I have to confess I initially thought that Smoke and Iron would be the final book in this series and groaned a little when I saw that there would be a fifth book. But as I read the story, another one seemed like a great idea. Rachel Caine's world is so fascinating and it's easy to see how she could create another series or two about the origins of the Library and the people who swear to protect it.

Happily, this isn't a book where the epic creation of countries and societies makes up for lackluster characters. Caine has put together a large cast of characters, but it's never difficult to remember who is who and each one grows and changes as the story progresses. The characters have specific strengths, but they also have some big flaws that could ruin everything.

Rachel Caine has written a great series with a world that comes to life before your eyes and characters you have to cheer along their journey. I will certainly be reading the final book to find out what happens to this unlikely bunch of people who will fight to the end for the fate of the Library and for each other.

Smoke and Iron
The Great Library #4
By Rachel Caine
Berkley July 2018
448 pages
Read via Netgalley

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: Mother of Invention

Tessa Callahan is brilliant, but she hasn't been able to conceive one thing she wants: a child. She decides to use her abilities and resources to work on a new technology known as Seahorse. Tessa will personally assist the first three women who will be pregnant for just nine weeks before giving birth. She truly believes that this technology has the potential to help women spend less time feeling sick and more time pursuing their career and mothering their children. After the trial is underway, Tessa learns the dark origins of the technology and the secrets that allow them to continue. She will have to decide whether to see these mothers through to birth or drag the truth out into the light at the expense of her dreams and the mothers she has promised to protect.

This story asks some compelling questions. Would speeding up pregnancy actually help us? Do we need those nine months to bond with our child and prepare for a new part of our lives? If this kind of technology did exist, how would we decide who received it and who had to wait out a full pregnancy? Would having this distinction become just another round of the vaginal birth vs. cesarean, breastfeeding vs. bottle, working mother vs. stay-at-home mother wars?

Tessa seems to really want to help other women, but the reader can see where her own blind spots might hurt them even if she can't. There is a lot going on in this book, but Caeli Wolfson Widger writes compassionately and compellingly. While some of the characters in this story read like thinly veiled versions of people you might read about in the news, the questions about parenthood and the ethics of technology set in the midst of edge-of-your-seat thriller make a powerful and fascinating story.

Mother of Invention
By Caeli Wolfson Widger
Little A May 2018
364 pages
Read via Netgalley

Friday, June 15, 2018

Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Can We Have Nice Things In YA?

A note before we get started: This post will have spoilers for Exit, Pursued by a Bear and discussion of rape and rape culture.

In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, protagonist Hermione Winters is drugged and raped at cheerleading camp. She doesn't remember anything, so she doesn't know who the rapist is. It's even possible he is one of the boys on her squad, someone who she sees every day and considers a friend. Throughout the story, readers witness Hermione cautiously move back into her life--she goes back to school, starts seeing a therapist, and returns to the cheerleading team.

I thought this book was great. E.K. Johnston is a really excellent writer and it is clear that she cares about her characters. Hermione gets the help that she needs as she recovers from trauma, her family and friends are supportive and caring, and by the end of the book, she can see how to keep moving forward despite the terrible thing that has happened to her.

Then I did something silly and I read some reviews of this book. I found several people who thought this book was unrealistic. They wanted to know where the public shame was and why her friends took care of her instead of abandoning her. The only person who is awful after the assault is Hermione's boyfriend, but even he eventually supports her after their cheerleading teammates confront him. To some readers, it seemed unimaginable that a girl who has been raped would have a fun night with her friends or laugh with her therapist.

I guess it all comes down to the reason that we read stories. Do we read to be reminded of how terrible the world is or do we read to imagine that we can do better? When teens read this book, I think they should believe that people will be there for them if they ever find themselves in a situation like Hermione's. I know YA is not always realistic, but I don't think there is a problem with it reflecting the best of us--the parents who support us, the friends who won't abandon us, and the community that supports us even (and maybe especially) when everything is falling apart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Inspired

Rachel Held Evans grew up loving the stories of bravery and faith in the Bible. But as she grew up, she had some questions. How could a good God wipe out a generation of Egyptian children to lead the Israelites out of Egypt or reward Abraham for almost killing his own son? Why did her church believe some parts of the Epistles were still relevant and some were not? Her pastors and professors seemed more eager to get her to be quiet than to really answer her questions, so she started doing her own research and discovered different kinds of theology. In her uncertainty, she found a way to love the complicated and unexpected stories of the Bible all over again.

In Inspired, Evans looks at the different kinds of texts that we find in the Bible. There are tales that tell us the origin of the world, war stories, stories of resistance and deliverance, and letters and recollections from the early days of the Christian church. She gives each section new life by reimagining it--Hagar tells her own story and proudly declares that she was the only person to give God a new name, Job becomes a modern professor who has an unexpected encounter with some colleagues and a cafeteria worker, and Peter stepping out of the boat to Jesus becomes a choose-your-own-adventure during a trip to Israel.

These retellings are interesting and many of them made me think of well-known stories in new ways. But Evans challenges us even further. Many people experience Christianity as a long list of things you must check off, that you must act a certain way, and believe these specific things. But it can quickly become complicated when we admit that Scripture sometimes contradicts itself and doesn't answer the questions we think it should. Instead, she turns to Jewish midrash and invites us to see the Bible as the start of conversations instead of a door-slamming, absolutist end to them.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again will be a book I turn to again and again. Evans writes with passion and reverence for the Scripture and shows us how to hold the tension of a holy, timeless book written in a specific place and time by specific people. We are a part of an ongoing story of faith--the first few chapters are captured within the pages of the Bible to teach us, to comfort us, and to help us to ask good questions.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water
and Loving the Bible Again
By Rachel Held Evans
Thomas Nelson June 2018
240 pages
Reviewed as part of the book launch team 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: The Very Worst Missionary

Jamie Wright rather unexpectedly found herself a missionary in Costa Rica with her husband and three sons. She quickly discovered that they didn't have the right training to do this job and that they had been sent to an area with many people who were doing the same work. She had been writing about their experiences to family and supporters back home. But as she became more lonely, disheartened, and worried that they might be doing more harm than good, she started writing the truth. When she was dubbed "The Very Worst Missionary" by a supporter withdrawing their contribution, she agreed and wondered if the worst missionary is the one presenting a perfect picture while falling apart on the inside or the one who admits that they are a mess and need grace just like everyone else.

Wright starts off her book with an apology, recognizing that her story and the ways she tells it are probably not what you expect. Snark and swearing are not always welcome in books about faith, but she wields both throughout The Very Worst Missionary. She begins by explaining their family's journey to faith and how they felt like they had found a home in their local church. But it wasn't long before Jamie noticed a disparity between what Jesus said and what the people in her congregation did. In spite of her questions, she and her husband Steve took their youth group on a short missions trip to Costa Rica and felt like it might be the perfect life for an adventurous family who loved Jesus.

Jamie's life and work in Costa Rica are nothing like she expected and she realized that her family might be hurting the very people they wanted to help. This is not a book that wraps up nicely in a bow. Wright says early on that she still struggles in her forties with many of the things that she struggled with as a teenager who wandered a college campus in a biker jacket at fifteen. In part, this may be what was frustrating to me. She does an excellent job of articulating the things that are wrong with the way that the American Christian church sends missionaries out into the world. But after pointing out the problems, she doesn't offer a solution. Maybe I am putting too much on one person but I want to know what we should be doing, not just the things we as the church do terribly wrong. However, if you see some problems with the concept of modern missions, Jamie Wright is right there with you. Even if she doesn't have the answers, she has some really funny stories to keep you company along the way.

The Very Worst Missionary
A Memoir or Whatever
By Jamie Wright
Convergent Books April 2018
230 pages
Read via Netgalley

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review: The Map of Salt and Stars

The summer of 2011 is one of great change for Nour. Her father has died from cancer, and her mother decides to move the family back home to Syria. Nour's older sisters quickly fall back into the rhythm of life in Homs, but Nour has never lived in Syria and finds it hard to adjust. Their neighborhood turns into a warzone before their eyes and when a shell destroys their house, they are forced to flee across borders. As Nour and her family travel, she remembers a tale that her father told her again and again: the story of Rawiya, the girl who dreamed of seeing the world and left everything she knew to go on incredible adventures. The two girls take the same journey, hundreds of years apart, fighting for their families and a place to call home.

The Map of Salt and Stars is a book that effortlessly spans age ranges--I thought it was compelling and beautiful, but can just as easily see giving it to a teen or mature middle-grade student to read. The writing in this novel is utterly unique because Nour has synaesthesia and experiences the world a bit differently than most. Joukhadar subtly reminds readers of the beauty of story and art and nature through our heroine's experiences.

The two narratives work wonderfully here--an entire novel could have been written about Rawiya or Nour but they add new layers to each other's stories. There is a beautiful juxtaposition between the magic of Rawiya's tale as she disguises herself as a boy and fights human and magical enemies and  the devastating reality that Nour's family might not all make it to safety.

The Map of Salt and Stars is a truly beautiful debut novel that I will be talking about for a long time.

The Map of Salt and Stars
By Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
Touchstone May 2018
368 pages
Read via Netgalley

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Review: The Displaced

If you watch the news for longer than five minutes, you will likely hear someone yell about refugees and what we should (or shouldn't) be doing about the thousands of people who are displaced from their homes. It's easy to lump everyone who flees dangerous circumstances together, but their stories are as different as the refugees themselves. In The Displaced, Viet Thanh Nguyen has collected the experiences of twenty people.

In "Last, First, Middle," Joseph Azam struggles with his choice to leave behind the name his grandfather gave him. Fatima Bhutto recounts her experience with a simulation of crossing the Mexican border in "Flesh and Sand," and Reyna Grande reveals that the trauma of a separated family never goes away in "The Parent Who Stays." Marina Lewycka, who has spent most of her life in England, finds that she is no longer at home in a country where people are harassed in the streets just for looking foreign in "Refugees and Exiles."

The stories in this collection are excellent and there are such different experiences and writing styles between the covers of this book. I do believe that reading about the experiences of people from all countries and situations is crucial, but I wonder if the people who feel empathy for refugees and want to do something to help are already the ones who would read this collection. If words do have the power to change minds and hearts and convince us to see others as people, The Displaced is an excellent place to start.

Note: This advanced copy only included ten of the twenty pieces. All royalties from the sale of this book will go to the International Rescue Committee.

The Displaced:
Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives
Edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Abrams Press April 2018
192 pages
Read via Netgalley