Adult Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

 

American War by Omar El Akkad
(Alfred A Knopf – April 4, 2017)

“Come now,” said Yousef. “Everybody fights an American War.”

This quote is just one on the miles-long list of lines that hit me at my very core as I was reading this searingly powerful book. A book that touches on every aspect of modern culture as well as American history of the past 200 years. “American War” is almost impossible for me to review because it is just so immense and culturally significant, not just for America, but for the middle East and the rest of the world as well.

Set in the US from the 2070s – 2090s (and later), this book has war at its heart, but also family and survival and climate change and refugees and torture and the constant clash of the American North and South. This line in particular chilled me: “I drove past dust farms and shack-towns, places riddled with postwar poverty and the occasional three-star flag hanging limp from trailer-side posts – reminders that in so much of the Red, the war stopped, but the war never ended.”

Young adult literature may be churning out dystopian stories left and right, but never have I read a futuristic America so chilling…….and so possible. It isn’t an easy read and it isn’t a happy read, but it is a required read. I will be ruminating on this book for years and years to come. And praying it doesn’t come true.

Add this to Exit West Mohsin Hamid and you’ll have my two MUST READ books of the first half of 2017.


This (and Exit West) was one of my Book of the Month Club selections, and I won’t lie – I’m obsessed with BOTM. I post about them constantly on Instagram and I hoard the special editions on a special book shelf. OBSESSED. If you are at all interested in joining, and want to use my referral link, I have linked it here. If you join by using my link, I get a free book credit and you get 3 months for $9.99 each and a free tote. BOTM has an amazing Instagram community too – just check out the #bookofthemonth posts! I’m sure you’ll see me there…….

YA Review: Girl on Point by Cheryl Guerriero


Girl on Point by Cheryl Guerriero
(Red Adept Publishing – May 2, 2017)

Girl on Point is a very powerful and original debut novel set in the suburbs and inner city neighborhoods in New Jersey. It tackles the incredibly difficult topics of teenage gang violence, drugs, and death from a quite unique perspective – that of a teenage girl trying to avenge the death of her sister by infiltrating the gang that killed her.

Alex’s grief is so raw and her attempts to come to terms with Jenny’s death and the gang members who killed her are so strikingly written, as are her parents’ struggles to cope in the aftermath of the murder. Once Ally begins working her way into the world of the Black Diamonds, the novel reads very quickly and I got sucked into the story. The ending was NOT what I saw coming at all, and Guerriero wrapped things up with skill.

I asked the author about how authentic the gang portrayal is given that I have zero experience with this, and she said that she researched this thoroughly with former gang members and a detective, which definitely lends authenticity to the story.

From a school librarian’s perspective, due to graphic violence, drugs, language and sex I would recommend this as a upper HS read, and possibly even as an adult novel appealing to mature teens.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

Release Day Review: The Girl of the Lake by Bill Roorbach

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This collection of ten stories is a wonderful literary homage to relationships, with each story being incredibly unique and in some way a statement on the human condition. Roorbach hits a vast array of topics, from a young child exploring Russian history with an elderly neighbor to a lustful online dating encounter between a farmer and a former member of the clergy, among many others.

Regardless of the topic of each story, they are all hopeful and thought-provoking shorts – in my reading life, they were perfect as palate cleansers between longer novels.

My favorite story in the collection is the title story, “The Girl on the Lake” which takes readers to a lake cabin with the 17-year-old narrator as he spends the summer with his widowed grandmother. It instantly made me reminisce for the lake cabin of my own childhood and I fell in love with Chick, his grandmother and the entire lake property.

Thanks to Algonquin for the advance review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

Vacation Review: The Windfall by Diksha Basu

Last vacation review of the trip! This one is out on June 27th in the US – put it on your new release purchase list NOW…..

A thoroughly satisfying social and class satire set in Delhi and New York, “The Windfall” tells the story of a family grappling with newfound wealth and attempting to find their place in their new suburban life. Marriage and parenting adult children are portrayed in such an honest way, and the descriptions of ostentatious expenditures are described with just the right balance of vulnerability and humor.

I loved the dialogue between the Chopra and Jha couples and cheered for Rupak as he attempted to figure out his true identity and path in life. My favorite character in the whole book, though, was Mrs. Ray – her quest for happiness as a young widow is so touching and authentic. 

I highly recommend this new title from Diksha Basu to anyone looking for a witty and smart commentary on class and culture in India and the US. 

Thanks to Net Galley for the digital review copy – all opinions are my own. 

Vacation Review: Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Coming to you from the car en route from Tennessee home to Wisconsin!

FIVE STARS!!!

An absolutely glorious commentary on motherhood, marriage, grief, faith and forgiveness. As a mother and daughter, I made note of so many passages and thoughts that hit me especially hard, particularly those that pertained to children actually knowing a mother’s whole self. This isn’t a funny novel, but there is certainly wit, and as it is buried in grief and loss, it hits you even harder and catches you by surprise. A beautiful family saga that makes you ache for the victims of words unsaid throughout generations. Highly highly recommend. 

Vacation Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

This one comes to from Tennessee where we are visiting family on our way back to Wisconsin. And the book comes out on June 27th!


4 Stars!

Loved this one! It’s a smart thriller and I always like reporters solving crimes, so I was set up to connect with the story. I can’t review it very well without spoilers so I’ll just say that it very much kept me guessing but also wrapped it all up for me at the end. A very enjoyable and fast-paced read! If you read The Widow (I haven’t) by this author you will love this since lots of other reviews are saying this one is even better!

Thanks to Edelweiss for the digital review copy – all opinions are my own.

Nerdy Book Club – Picture Books about Yoga

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I’m on Nerdy Book Club again today, and this time the post is a round up of picture books about YOGA! Head on over and take a look!

If you are interested in my other Nerdy Book Club posts, here they are!

#ownvoices, Windows and Mirrors

10 Picture Book Series for Read Alouds

 

 

 

Vacation Review: City Mouse by Stacey Lender

 We are currently smack in the middle of Tropical Storm Cindy while in Gulf Shores, AL – not great for beach time, but great for reading! 

Remember, my vacation reviews don’t have links – you know where to buy books, right?
 

City Mouse falls perfectly and satisfyingly into the genre I call Mommy Lit – books solidly about and for the moms in the world. It is both an engaging and entertaining story of motherhood and marriage, but also a love letter to New York City and urban life as Jessica and her husband wrestle with the decision of where to live with young children. 

Jessica and Aaron are like so many parents who are desperately trying to do what they feel is best for their family but sometimes end up sacrificing their own sense of self and happiness in the process. And in this case, suburban drama and humor enter the picture as Jessica realizes that the ‘burbs are nowhere near as quiet and boring as she thought they would be! 

I identified so closely with Jessica’s working mom woes and laughed out loud at some of the predicaments she found herself in, but the part that sealed the 4th star for me was the addition of the Hamilton subplot. It is such a timely and smart part of the story and ties in perfectly with Jessica’s job as a Broadway advertising executive. 

Highly recommend this book for all my mom reading friends and especially for those who appreciate NYC and the theater world. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes – all opinions are my own. 

Vacation Review: The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

Vacation reviews mean I’m not supposed to be blogging and should be back on the beach! No official descriptions or links – you know where to find all that, right?

This was a great beach read ~ I finished it in one long beach session!

Some books grab me right away and won’t let go, and this one certainly was that kind of book for me. I love books like this that are quietly suspenseful without being shocking and books with characters I just get right away. 

I connected instantly with Mary and her life of growing up way too early and having to do anything, ANYTHING, to keep her sister safe, fed and secure. While things she did were shocking, I understand her motivation completely. 

A tale of family, tragedy, and doing the absolute best you can when life is stacked against you. 

Highly recommend to readers of family drama. 

And my choice to read it while on vacation in the Gulf was perfect since a lot of important scenes in the book take place here!

So glad I chose this as one of my Book of the Month Club picks for June!

Vacation Review: White Fur 

FIVE STARS!!!

Vacation Review #1 

I’m not providing official book descriptions in vacation reviews ~   I trust you know where to find it if you want it!

 THIS BOOK!!!!!

So, let me preface this with the fact that this is NOT my normal read and I know many of my read-alike friends might not want to follow me on this sordid and graphic-sex-laden trip down the rabbit hole that is Elise and Jamey’s relationship……BUT. BUT. 

Sometimes reading outside and waaaay past our comfort zone stretches our world and more importantly our empathy. I actually hated this story, while very much appreciating the writing, for the first 100 pages……and then as soon as the story moved to NYC Elise started getting under my skin. And then more of her history was revealed. And then I’m like, oh NOW I know who she is and why she is. And then I grew to love her fierce determination to MAKE IT, damn it. 

And then I couldn’t stop reading through the madness and finished this book with the last 25 pages spent with my phone flashlight lighting the pages with a pillow over my head so it wouldn’t disturb my husband driving in the dark because I HAD TO find out how it ended.

 I can honestly say I’ve never read a book with c u next Tuesday (c’mon, I’m a school librarian- I can’t even speak that word!) used so often and it jarred me…..but jarring can be good when it’s accompanied by literary force as this is. 

Anyway, if you are willing to make the commitment to riding the White Fur emotional roller coaster, PLEASE tell me what you think of it!

Thanks to Blogging for Books for this review copy!