You Bring the Distant Near

by Mitali Perkins
First sentence: “The swimmers have finished their races and are basking in the sun.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There is some mild swearing. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

This one is a difficult one to describe plot-wise. It’s a slice of life, looking at three generations of women in an Indian family as they move to America and make a life here. It starts with the mother, Ranee, and her two daughters, Sonia and Tara, as they move from London to New York in the early 1970s. Each of the daughters reacts differently to coming to America, each looking for their own way to cope. Ranee isn’t as adaptable: she complains about their apartment in Flushing, she complains about her husband sending money home. Then he passes on, and Ranee is forced to adapt to this country as her daughters grow up and get married, one to an Indian, the other to a black American man.

The book then picks up when Ranee’s granddaughters, Anna and Chantal, are in high school. They are dealing with their own issues: Chantal is bi-racial and is trying to figure out her own identity. And Anna, though American, was raised in Mumbai where her mother is a Bollywood star, but has recently moved back so she could go to high school and college in America.

Perkins handles all this admirably; giving us a taste of Bengali culture, as well as the things immigrants do in order to fit in. One of the more interesting parts of the novel, for me, was set after 9/11, when Ranee goes through her own transformation as a reaction to the terrorist attacks. She figures out what “American” means to her. And that sentence may be what’s at the heart of this delightful novel: what does “American” mean? Perhaps it has become an individual expression for everyone, and there isn’t a “norm” anymore. (That was probably always the way it was, but we pretended otherwise.) Which is, as posited by this book, a very good thing.

An excellent read.

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Hag-Seed

by Margaret Atwood
First sentence: “The house lights dim.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the adult fiction section, but it has crossover appeal for those who are theater/Shakespeare fans.

Felix is the best, most innovative, most desired director around, and he’s on the cusp of Something Great with his interpretation of The Tempest. But, just as he was getting started with that, an unforseen bit of treachery outs Felix from his role. He’s sent off to the wilderness, where he finds, eventually, a job as a theater teacher in a correctional facility. He finds enjoyment teaching the felons (it’s a minimum security prison) the ins and outs of Shakespeare. And then, he learns that those who betrayed him are coming to visit, and he realizes that his Time Has Come; revenge is nigh.

Yes, if this sounds like the plot of The Tempest, you are correct. Very much so. And, I think, the better you know the play, the better this book is. As one who has seen it (once), and knows the general plot, but not all the intricacies of the play, I… enjoyed it. I liked the Fletcher Correctional Players best; I liked how they interpreted Shakespeare, rewriting the play to fit them. My favorite part of the book, perhaps, is the end, when the players come up with plausible futures for their characters. So, it was accessible and enjoyable to someone with a passing knowledge of the play. I do wonder, though, if you’ve never been exposed to The Tempest at all, if you’d be able to get into and enjoy this. (Just wondering…)

Thoroughly enjoyable, especially if you’re interested in a different approach to Shakespeare.

State of the TBR Pile: October 2017

I signed up to be a part of the Cybils again this year (first round, Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction; woot!) (also: today is the LAST day for your nominations! GO NOMINATE!), and I’ve been checking out books on the reading list, with the intention of reading them. I’m calling this TBR Pile number one:

(I’m wondering if I’ve not taken on more than I can handle… thankfully, there are a bunch of REALLY fast readers on the panel! I’ll try and pull my weight…)

TBR Pile number two are ones that are on my radar to either read for work (we’ve started a year-round YA book group; I’m hoping people come!) or just for fun.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

What’s on your TBR pile that you’re looking forward to?

Lighter Than My Shadow

by Katie Green
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some disturbing images and language, as well as depictions of sexual assault. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

This is a graphic memoir depicting Green’s journey and experience with eating disorders. She frames it as reflections from an adult perspective, looking back on her childhood, teens, and twenties as she struggles with anorexia and binge eating. It’s a very frank look — both at the way she perceived herself, but also the small things others around her, from her family to her friends to other students, said that contributed to her negative self-image.

Green tries many treatments, from the hospital to therapy to alternative therapy, but nothing seems to work. She thinks she’s “cured” at one point, but it’s really just a different manifestation for her need for control, which is the root problem.

Green’s not saying that her experience is typical of all anorexic’s experiences. But, that there is something of value in telling her story. And I think there is. I could see some of myself in her; while I have never been anorexic, I do have an inherent dislike of my body, and while I try not to pass that on to my girls, there are times when I’m afraid I have through little things I have unintentionally said.  I want them to have a healthy relationship with food, with their body, and reading books like this help me figure out how to help them have that.

I also really liked how the art reflects the story; Green does amazing things with darkness and shadow and fading images. It not only helped tell the story, it intensified it, giving a depth to this particular story that wouldn’t have come through in a prose book.

A very, very good book.

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power

by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated Brooke Allen
First sentence:”It was a gorgeous day.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some mild adventure. It’s in the middle grade section (grades 3-5) of the bookstore.

The Lumberjanes are back! And when they find a mysterious mountain, of course they have to climb it. But what happens when they get stuck at the top?

I wanted to like this one, because I love the Lumberjanes. But. Something is missing in the translation from graphic novel to novel. The humor tried to be there, but fell flat (for me). All the characters were there, and I enjoyed interacting with them, but they were… off… which made me sad.

This one would be a good introduction to Lumberjanes, for those who don’t like graphic novels or haven’t read them yet. But, honestly? Get the graphic novels. They’re better.

Audio Book: Wonder Woman Warbringer

by Leigh Bardugo
Read by Mozhan Marino
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some violence and several instances of mild swearing. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I’ll admit that I’m on board with anything Wonder Woman right now, so I probably would have read/listened to this whether or not it was any good. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that, because in Bardugo’s capable hands, it was definitely worth listening to.

It’s a bit of a Wonder Woman origin story, starting with Diana on Themyscira and dealing with feeling like an outcast with the Amazons because she was born rather than earning her spot among them. So, when she inadvertently rescues a mortal from a shipwreck which sets off a chain of events — since the mortal is no ordinary mortal — Diana is forced to leave the island and head out into the mortal world to save her life, her island, and the world from impending war.

Okay, there’s more to it than that; the mortal, Alia, is the daughter of scientists who died in a tragic accident, and who is trying to find her place in the world, out from under the long shadow of her brother, Jason. Her friends, Theo and Nim are fantastic and definitely worth rooting for. There’s a lot of fantastic action (Bardugo knows how to plot a book), as well as some fantastic reflective moments (plus a wee bit of romance).

And Marino is a stellar narrator. Seriously stellar. She had me enthralled, glued to the narrative, anxious to hear what will happen next.

I really can’t ask for anything better.

First Sunday Daughter Reviews: October 2017

Last night was the Rick Riordan event here in Wichita. I worked

But everyone else came to enjoy “Uncle” Rick’s presentation:

It was a lot of fun!

But it also means that half of them are reading this right now:

K has gone down the Rick Riordan wormhole, too, working her way through Heroes of Olympus. She’s currently reading this one:

She has issues with the story (most particularly, Nico’s age), but she’s liking them.

What are your kids reading?