It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.
Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.
Kiss Carlo is a meandering family story that takes place over a few years in post WWII Philadelphia. The Palazzini family lives together in a large house containing Uncle Dom and Aunt Jo, their three sons and their wives, and a cousin, Nicky. The men all work together also in the family cab company.
What no one knows is that Nicky has been moonlighting at a struggling Shakespeare theater. He’s a stagehand but an emergency forces him onstage mid-play and makes him realize that he wants to act. He also has a man die in his cab which forces the realization that he isn’t doing exactly what he wants with his life. His actions shake up the whole Palazzini family when Nicky breaks off his engagement and moves out of the house.
The book is full of distinct and interesting characters. With such a large cast it could have been hard to keep the characters separate, but the author did a very good job of writing each one as a individual with their own backstory, personality traits, and motivations. There are no “generic sisters-in-law” here.
Hortense is the African-American dispatcher and telegraph operator at the cab company. She’s no nonsense and proudly self-educated. Her husband doesn’t appreciate her and demeans her. She forges a friendship with a housebound Italian widow over a weekend who shares part of her way of making marinara sauce. This leads to a business opportunity for Hortense because she’s savvy enough to see how a simple sauce fits into the need for convenience for the modern house wife. Adding this character gives an outsider’s view of the Italian families and neighborhood of Philadelphia.
This is a long book that doesn’t have one distinct through story. It is a book that you just need to settle into and let it take you along for the ride instead of trying to imagine where the journey is going to take you.
Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...
I’m loving this urban fantasy series! The Price family fled to North America several generations ago after they broke away from the monster-hunting Covenant. The Covenant thinks the family died out. The Prices have worked hard to make it seem like they did.
Verity Price isn’t sure she wants to spend her life as a cryptozoologist. She has trained to be a professional ballroom dancer. Now she has one year in New York to try to make a living dancing as long as she uses her spare time to survey the local cryptid community. But her side job is taking up more time than her dancing.
There is so much great world building here. There are ultrareligious mice colonies that live with the Prices. There are telepathic cuckoos that can make humans give them things and not notice they did it. There are boogeymen who know all the secrets. Dragon princesses live to make money and gorgons have a hard time keeping their snakes happy under their wigs.
Verity comes face to face with a Covenant member. He was sent to see if New York needs to be purged of cryptids. Verity isn’t going to let that happen to her friends.
Cryptid, noun:1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.2. That thing that's getting ready to eat your head.3. See also: "monster."
Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...
But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.
Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done.
This is book two with Verity. Now the Covenant is coming. Dominic has to decide where his loyalities lie and Verity has to decide if she can trust anything he is saying to her.
This book does a good job of picking up where the last one left off without feeling like a filler book that you see so often with second novels in a series.
When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn't expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.
Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone...
The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.
Of course, so do the talking mice.
It can be a hard transition in a series to leave the previous main character behind and start with a new one. I’m always a little bit leery of these transitions but this was done well.
Alex is Verity’s older brother. He doesn’t work with large cryptids like she does. He works more with cryptid wildlife. He’s identifying ecological problems that are increasing the likelihood of someone realizing that there are feathered frogs in Ohio.
If that wasn’t enough, someone turned one of his assistants to stone and seems to targeting him.
I thought this book was really well done. I wasn’t crazy about the girlfriend. Her name was also Shelby Tanner. That seemed really familiar to me. Then I realized that I knew a person with dogs named Shelby and Tanner and then I couldn’t unsee that.
Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.
This book moves the action to Australia. It is nice to see how the author imagines a different ecosystem and what cryptids evolved there.
There was a lot of “Daddy threatens the boyfriend for sleeping with the daughter” trope which I absolutely hate. The characters try to diffuse it but it doesn’t work. I could have done without all that.
I did miss the rest of the Price family in this one. Hopefully they come back in the next books.
A few complaints about the series:
The names of the books have absolutely nothing to do with the books. You could call any one of them “Your Aunty Jane’s Peach Cobbler” and it would not change anything. The word Ragnarok does not appear in Half-Off Ragnarok for example. I don’t understand how they are named.
There are roughly a gazillion short stories in this universe. I’m sticking with only reading the integers – books #1, #2, etc. – for now.
About Seanan McGuire
“Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.
Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.
From the author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series comes a novel of friendship, family, and hope.
When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia's porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn't have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o'clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that's only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.
This book was not what I was anticipating. I expected a book about friendship. This isn’t really about that. The book starts with the friendship of the three women unraveling because one woman gets a job and asks to change their meeting time. That seems like a reasonable request but it causes a major meltdown in Lulu who then refuses to speak to them anymore.
We come to find out that Lulu is actually a horrible angry woman who hides it behind a mask of gentility. She is thrilled to find out that her favorite daughter who lives in California is coming back for a visit.
We find out that:
She went to California for college
She doesn’t visit
She cut her hair short
It is like the Holy Trinity of Lesbian Foreshadowing. /sarcasm
When the prodigal daughter tells her mother that she is gay, the mother starts in on homophobic rants that are absolutely vicious. I certainly didn’t expect this level of hatred spilling out of a book that appears to be marketed as a light read. People may attempt to explain this character’s hatred away by saying that she is sick and not in her right frame of mind. She may not really mean that. I think that is negated by the fact that the older daughter had stayed away for years because she knew her mother would react poorly to finding out that she was a lesbian.
She’s also racist. When she is imaging that her daughter’s friend that is coming home with her is a man, she starts to worry about what will happen if she doesn’t like him. In her list of concerns is, “What if he was a foreigner or a hog farmer?” Excuse me, what? She also reacts negatively to finding out that the name of the home care nurse she has been recommended is Gladys Guzman.
It is ok to have a horrible character in a book. But this book doesn’t limit the tone-deaf narrative to that character. There is repeated use of the phrase “chosen lifestyle” to describe lesbianism from different characters. Lula’s younger daughter has just graduated from college and lives in downtown Charleston. Somehow she also doesn’t know anything about gay people? “She asked herself if she approved of her sister’s chosen lifestyle and was surprised her answer was yes.” Well, thank you for bestowing your seal of approval.
She also feels bad about thinking that her mother was bigot. Nope, honey, your mother is a bigot. Go with your gut on this one.
Even though towards the end there is magical reconciliation in the family, you don’t see if she changes her mind about gay people or “foreigners”. The people around her don’t call her out on it much. If fact they use these phrases to describe her:
“Her faith is so strong.”
“She was ornery and set in her ways, but she had the kindest heart of them all.”
No. This is a woman who told a doctor who called her out on her homophobia that she didn’t want to be treated by any LGBT doctors or nurses. She did not have a kind heart.
There are two other women in this story but their narratives took a back seat to Lulu’s. They weren’t as hateful as she was which is good. I actually liked Georgia who has spent her life as a doctor’s wife only to find out that he’s been cheating on her for years. She doesn’t take his crap (much) when he tries to blame it all on her. Midge is in a new relationship with a man that everyone assures her is rotten. She doesn’t listen to her friends or her instincts and yet somehow it is all ok?
I’ve never been a big proponent of trigger warnings but this book might change my mind. The anti-homosexual hatred in this book is so intense and there is no mention of any discussion of homosexuality in the blurb so people would be unaware of it coming. A mention in the description of conflict between a mother and her lesbian daughter might help people not be blindsided.
About Ashley Farley
Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.
After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.
Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.
Sandra and her family are part of the Banyamulenge tribe. Originally the tribe lived in Rwanda but migrated to the Congo. They are not considered citizens of any nation and they are persecuted in the Congo.
War was a constant backdrop in her life. Her family often had to flee because of an outbreak of fighting wherever they were living. It got worse when her oldest brother was kidnapped along with 200 other boys and taken to be used as a child solider. Her father dedicated himself to rescuing her brother.
Sandra was 10 when fighting forced them to flee the Congo and cross the border into Burundi.
They were in a refugee camp in Gatumba on August 13, 2004 when armed men singing Christian praise songs came into the camp and started killing people. Tents were set on fire to force people into the open where they were shot. Most of the people in her tent including her aunt and cousins were killed. Her mother was holding her six year old sister when she was shot repeatedly at point blank range. Sandra had a gun held to her head but her captor let her go.
In the morning she found out that her mother had survived because she was tossed into a pile of corpses and managed to crawl away before they were burned. Her little sister was dead. Her brother was severely injured.
The family eventually moved to Rwanda and then was resettled in the United States. They thought their lives would be fine then. They didn’t realize the problems of being a refugee in the United States. They had lived a comfortable life in the Congo. Now they were living in poverty. People asked her what it was like to learn to wear shoes assuming she had never done that in Africa. Although she was fluent in three languages, people ridiculed her poor English. The family survived numerous setbacks in America. Sandra emerged as a spokesman for her tribe. She educated groups at the UN about the massacre and the hardships of being a refugee.
Then when she was in college, it all came crashing down on her. The feelings she and her family had supressed for so long were too much. She describes her problems with survivor’s guilt, depression, and PTSD. How do you get help for this when you are ashamed to speak of it especially to your family? Her mother had endured so much and seemed fine. Sandra was ashamed for not being as strong as her mother. Opening up a dialogue with her family about what happened was the hardest part of her mental health journey.
This book is written very simply. It is very matter of fact without a lot of embellishment. It is geared towards YA readers.
I hadn’t heard of the Banyamulenge or the Gatumba massacre. The man who claimed responsibility for it has since run for President of Burundi. No charges have ever been brought against anyone for the murder of 166 people.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
A riveting, powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, this small group of men and women chose to fight for their right to live by educating themselves and demanding to become full partners in the race for effective treatments. Around the globe, 16 million people are alive today thanks to their efforts.
In dramatic fashion, we witness the founding of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), and the rise of an underground drug market in opposition to the prohibitively expensive (and sometimes toxic) AZT. We watch as these activists learn to become their own researchers, lobbyists, drug smugglers, and clinicians, establishing their own newspapers, research journals, and laboratories, and as they go on to force reform in the nation s disease-fighting agencies.
With his unparalleled access to this community David France illuminates the lives of extraordinary characters, including the closeted Wall Street trader-turned-activist, the high school dropout who found purpose battling pharmaceutical giants in New York, the South African physician who helped establish the first officially recognized buyers club at the height of the epidemic, and the public relations executive fighting to save his own life for the sake of his young daughter.
Expansive yet richly detailed, this is an insider's account of a pivotal moment in the history of American civil rights. Powerful, heart-wrenching, and finally exhilarating, How to Survive a Plague is destined to become an essential part of the literature of AIDS.
Think back to a time not that long ago when:
The New York Times banned the use of the words gay and lesbian in the newspaper
Hospitals and funeral homes turned away people they suspected were infected with AIDS
Weekly meetings of gay activists included a list of names of people who had been at the last meeting and who had died since
This book tells the story of ACT UP. This was a group founded to pressure scientists, politicians, and drug companies to increase the number of drugs being investigated for possible treatment for AIDS.
One of the main problems in the beginning, besides a lack of funding, was government scientists’ insistence on doing double-blind controlled studies. They weren’t wrong from a science perspective. These trials have patients in two groups. One group gets the treatment and the other gets a placebo. Neither the patient or the doctor knows who is in each group. The problem was that people with AIDS were dying so quickly that being in a placebo group for a few months, especially if you were required to go off all other medication, was basically a death sentence. There are stories of trials in this book where all the placebo group died in the course of the trial.
Without these studies to cover them from liability no one was willing to go on record and recommend using drugs off label. Doctors in the field, especially if they didn’t handle many AIDS cases, then didn’t know that giving a common antibiotic decreased the chances of patients dying of opportunistic pneumonia, for example. This was the leading cause of death in AIDS patients. It was almost entirely preventable and no one would officially say so. ACT UP worked to streamline and humanize the drug trials.
They were able to:
Stop people having to go off all other medications (like antibiotics to prevent pneumonia) to be in the trial
Allow drugs to be tested on women and people of color
Allow a parallel track where sick people who couldn’t wait for formal drug approval could try the drugs in the trial at their own risk and data could be collected about their experiences
Get drug companies to stop increasing prices of the drugs as demand went up.
I don’t remember hearing anything good about ACT UP at the time. I only knew of them from news coverage that was always negative because of their dramatic demonstrations. The first time I ever heard of ACT UP in a positive light was when I started watching Gay USA on TV. One of the hosts talked about being in ACT UP. Her name is Ann Northrup and she is in the movie a lot more than in the book. The associate producer of Gay USA is named Bill Bahlman. I know that because he does the intro to the podcast that I listen to now. What I didn’t know is what all he did during the early days of the AIDS epidemic to reach lawmakers.
This book is a long, slow read. It is very densely packed with names and actions and committee meetings. The author was a young, gay journalist reporting on AIDS in New York at the time. It is very focused on New York. Occasionally it talks about San Francisco but you could get the sense that except for occasional mentions of Africa, that AIDS was only a New York/California problem. It is also focused primarily on white gay men. This was one of the criticisms of the drug trials. They wouldn’t enroll women, people of color, or drug users. Although ACT UP seemed to give equal representation to women, those women aren’t discussed much in the book with a few exceptions.
When I was almost finished with the book I watched the documentary that the book came out of. It is also called How To Survive a Plague and is available on Netflix.
I don’t think that I would have understood the documentary as much if I didn’t already know what they were talking about from the book. Especially at the beginning of the documentary, there wasn’t a lot of context given for the video being shown. I understood where they were and what they were protesting from reading the book. It was interesting for me to see what I had read about but I don’t think the documentary did a good job of really explaining all the issues that they were fighting for.
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of medicine or the gay rights movement in the United States. It is heartbreaking and inspirational. This is civil action on so many levels. It is interesting to look back now and see how far the United States has come in just the last 30 years – even when we feel like there is so much that needs to be better.
I’m reading so much now that I have time off that there is no way that I’m going to be able to review everything on here. I started adding reviews straight to Goodreads for books that aren’t going to be on here. I’ll probably do some roundups of mini reviews.
What Am I Reading?
Yeah, still with How To Survive a Plague but I only have about 50 pages left.
“A passionate manifesto decrying misogyny in the Arab world, by an Egyptian American journalist and activist When the Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy published an article in Foreign Policy magazine in 2012 titled Why Do They Hate Us it provoked a firestorm of controversy. The response it generated, with more than four thousand posts on the website, broke all records for the magazine, prompted dozens of follow-up interviews on radio and television, and made it clear that misogyny in the Arab world is an explosive issue, one that engages and often enrages the public. In Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy takes her argument further. Drawing on her years as a campaigner and commentator on womens issues in the Middle East, she explains that since the Arab Spring began, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake one fought with men against oppressive regimes, and another fought against an entire political and economic system that treats women in countries from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as second-class citizens.”
Even if you don’t read the book, follow her on Twitter. But seriously, read the book.
“The Jon Stewart of the Arabic World”—the creator of The Program, the most popular television show in Egypt’s history—chronicles his transformation from heart surgeon to political satirist, and offers crucial insight into the Arab Spring, the Egyptian Revolution, and the turmoil roiling the modern Middle East.”
This was an amazing look at the life of someone who decided to quit being a heart surgeon and stay in Egypt to make fun of the leaders.
“He now brings that keen insight to the fore in Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White, his most incisive and important work of non-fiction in years. He uses his unique blend of erudition, street smarts and authentic experience in essays on the country’s seemingly irreconcilable partisan divide – both racial and political, parenthood, and his own experiences as an athlete, African-American, and a Muslim. The book is not just a collection of expositions; he also offers keen assessments of and solutions to problems such as racism in sports while speaking candidly about his experiences on the court and off.”
“Prize-winning journalist and the co-author of smash New York Times bestseller I Am Malala, Christina Lamb, now tells the inspiring true story of another remarkable young hero: Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, whose harrowing journey from war-ravaged Syria to Germany in a wheelchair is a breathtaking tale of fortitude, grit, and hope that lends a face to the greatest humanitarian issue of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis.
I want to put this one in everyone’s hands and make them read it.
“In the fall of 2001, a young Pakistani woman took on a job editing the “women’s section” of one of the country’s leading Urdu newspapers. Soon, the young mother of three transformed pages of celebrity gossip and fashion advice into a vehicle for investigation of the true lives of Pakistani women, shocking the nation.
News of acid attacks on hapless women, the trading of girls as currency in tribal disputes, and other abuses transformed Humaira Awais Shahid into a fiery advocate for women’s rights—one guided by Islamic ethics and ideals of social justice as she teaches rural leaders to distinguish between religion and tribal custom. Her commitment to her countrywomen led her to a seat in Pakistan’s parliament, where she continues to fight to protect women and girls.”
“The extraordinary story of an all-American girl’s conversion to Islam and her ensuing romance with a young Egyptian man, The Butterfly Mosque is a stunning articulation of a Westerner embracing the Muslim world.”
Obviously, you need to read every word that G. Willow Wilson writes – Ms. Marvel, Alif the Unseen, but if you haven’t read anything of hers start with this one.
“Unexpectedly denied a visa to remain in the United States, Qanta Ahmed, a young British Muslim doctor, becomes an outcast in motion. On a whim, she accepts an exciting position in Saudi Arabia. This is not just a new job; this is a chance at adventure in an exotic land she thinks she understands, a place she hopes she will belong. What she discovers is vastly different. The Kingdom is a world apart, a land of unparralled contrast. She finds rejection and scorn in the places she believed would most embrace her, but also humor, honesty, loyalty and love.”
“For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.
Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.”
“The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.”
“Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.”
“Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.”
“Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they’ve thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn’t count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.”
Ramadan Readathon is an event this month highlighting books by Muslim authors. It is hosted by Words Beneath The Wings and We are All Critics. When you make a list like this you end up making a lot of assumptions based on name, nationality, and subject matter. If I’m wrong about the identity of any of these authors, let me know.
“Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be.”
“Selina, a beautiful, British-born Pakistani young woman recently lost her father, and finds herself struggling to cope with life, in particular with some aspects of her studies. Matters go from bad to worse, when a trusted family friend from the mosque offers to tutor her, and rapes her instead. With the threat of dishonour to her family at her back, Selina goes to extreme lengths to avoid scandal, and prevent shame being brought to her widowed mother’s door. It will take all the strength and courage Selina can muster when her life travels down a dangerous path, from which there may be no return…”
I haven’t read this yet because of its potential to be super depressing but I’ve heard that it is good.
“Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.
But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met.”
I’ve heard nothing but great things about this one. It is on my iPad. I need to read it but mistaken identity books are always so stressful for me to read.
“When Sidan’s family and village are swept away in the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Indonesia, he rushes home to Aceh, leaving behind Yogyakarta, his studies, and his beloved, Firdaus. Interrupting their plan to marry, Sidan promises Firdaus he will soon return to her side so they can spend the rest of their lives together.
But the unimaginable scale of loss and the political and cultural complexities that ensnare the recovery make it impossible for Sidan to abandon his birthplace and the graves of his family. Stoked by his love for Firdaus and their shared devotion to the poetic beauty of Islam, Sidan remains in Aceh, doing everything in his power to help the survivors while keeping in close contact with his beloved.”
Why do I mostly have potentially super depressing books by Muslim authors?
“As the daughter of one of Turkey’s last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life.
But when the Nazis invade France, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing—not war, not politics, not even religion—can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety. Together, they must traverse a war-torn continent, crossing enemy lines and risking everything in a desperate bid for freedom.”
“Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist working for the Kabul Daily in Afghanistan. She takes care of her ill, widowed mother and her younger brother, Jahan. With the arrival of a summons for Rukhsana to appear before the infamous Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the family’s world is shattered. The Minister, zorak Wahidi, has two goals in mind: to threaten the anti-Taliban news reporters and to announce the Taliban’s intention to hold a cricket tournament, the winner of which will represent Afghanistan in international cricket and give the brutal regime a cloak of respectability in the world.
Rukhsana knows this is a ludicrous idea—the Taliban could never embrace a game rooted in civility, fair play and equality. And no one in Afghanistan even plays cricket—no one, that is, except Rukhsana.”
“When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather Kemal—a man who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs—is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But Kemal’s will raises more questions than it answers. He has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in an Armenian retirement home in Los Angeles. Her existence and secrecy about her past only deepen the mystery of why Orhan’s grandfather willed his home in Turkey to an unknown woman rather than to his own son or grandson.”
“An unknown observer is watching the residents of a small, closely-knit neighborhood in Cairo’s old city, making notes of their comings and goings, their quarrels, their triumphs, descriptions of dress and biographical details. The college graduate, the street vendors, the political prisoner, the café owner, the taxi driver, the vegetable seller, the ironing man, the baker, the beautiful green-eyed young wife with the troll of a husband-all are subjects of surveillance. The watcher’s reports flow seamlessly into a narrative about Zafarani Alley, a microcosm of Cairene urban life that is a village tucked into a corner of the city, where intrigue is the main entertainment, and everyone has a secret.
The mysterious Sheikh Atiya has cast a spell over Zafarani Alley, and the men are all cursed with a loss of virility; the women, gossiping on their balconies, are afflicted with despair. Suspicion, superstition, and a wicked humor prevail in this darkly comedic novel by the well-known writer and journalist, Gamal al-Ghitani, author of Zayni Barakat.”
“Jessica Jiji’s Sweet Dates in Basra is a compelling, poignant, and unforgettable tale of friendship and family, set in Iraq during the second world war. A dramatic departure from Jiji’s previous novel, Diamonds Take Forever, Sweet Dates in Basra brilliantly captures the atmosphere of a volatile Middle East during the previous century and pays tribute to the lost traditions of a once-idyllic world.”
“Sofia Khan is just married. But no-one told her life was going to be this way . . .
Her living situation is in dire straits, her husband Conall is distant, and his annoyingly attractive colleague is ringing all sorts of alarm bells.
When her mother forces them into a belated wedding ceremony (elopement: you can run, but you can’t hide), Sofia wonders if it might be a chance to bring them together. But when it forces Conall to confess his darkest secret, it might just tear them apart.”
I loved the first book so much but I heard this one isn’t as good and now I’m a little scared to read it.
“Leila Aboulela’s American debut is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman — once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London — gradually embracing her orthodox faith.
With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, she finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love.”
Whether weaving family life and history into dark fiction or writing speculative Afrofuturism, American Book Award winner and Essence bestselling author Tananarive Due’s work is both riveting and enlightening.
Due takes us to Gracetown, a small Florida town that has both literal and figurative ghost; into future scenarios that seem all too real; and provides empathetic portraits of those whose lives are touched by Otherness. Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories—one of which has never been published before—Ghost Summer: Stories is sure to both haunt and delight.
Tananarive Due is an amazing writer. She puts her stories together so beautifully and smoothly that you get sucked into her world even knowing that she is a horror writer who is going to pull the rug out from under you soon.
This is a collection of short stories grouped by subject matter. It starts with stories set in a small Florida town where the local legends are something to be believed and feared. It starts with a story from the point of view of a monster and moves into the origins of a town full of ghost stories.
There is a group of five stories set after the onset of a plague. Several follow one woman at different points in her life as she lives in a world that has been destroyed.
What makes this collection different from other paranormal stories out there is that many of the heartbreaking moments are from real life playing out while there are monsters in the background. Just because the world is falling apart doesn’t mean that you can abandon your grandmother who is dying of cancer. The excitement of visiting your grandparents’ haunted town dims when you realize that you are there because your parents are splitting up. She does an excellent job of keeping the supernatural grounded in the real which makes these stories even creepier.
I particularly appreciated the notes after each story that tells a little bit about the origins of the story. I know authors always complain about being asked where they get their ideas but I find it fascinating to see what random thought developed into a story.
Even if scary stories aren’t what you normally read, consider picking up this book for the lyrical writing that isn’t always seen in this genre.
About Tananarive Due
“Due has a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Leeds, England, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar. In addition to VONA, Due has taught at the Hurston-Wright Foundation’s Writers’ Week and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. As a screenwriter, she is a member of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA).” – from her website
Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
This book…wow. Go get it and read it. Seriously.
I started out listening to this on audio. The narration by Bahni Turpin was incredible. She really brought the characters to life. I’m glad I had those voices in my head to help keep the characters straight. She made the adults in books seem even more vile than they were on the page. But about 1/3 of the way through I had to go to the library and get a hard copy. It was just too stressful to listen to the audiobook. There was such a sense of foreboding that I needed to know what happened at the end in order to be able to concentrate on what was going on in the middle.
I’m not even ashamed of grabbing the book and reading the last few chapters to settle my poor nerves.
Then I went back and read the rest of the book straight through from where I left off on the audio.
Mary’s life is absolutely tragic. She has been in jail since she was nine years old. Not juvenile detention. She was in adult prison. She couldn’t be with the general population so she was kept mostly in solitary confinement for years. Now she is on parole in a group home full of viscous teenage girls who hate her for the notoriety of her alleged crime.
No one is on Mary’s side in life. The story is told in part through transcripts from interviews and passages from books written about what a monster she is. There is always the racial subtext of a black girl killing a white baby. She’s had death threats from people who seem to think that the correct penalty for killing a child is killing yet another child.
Her mother is horrible. Oooh, I hated that woman. She needs to be the center of attention at all times. It isn’t surprising that Mary feels that it was her role in life to do whatever would be necessary to take care of her mother. It would have been nice if her mother felt the same way about her.
All the adults in her life judge her as a murderer and they seem to think it is worse than any other murder because she killed a baby. She is physically, mentally, and sexually abused in jail and/or the group home. No one cares except for her boyfriend, Ted.
Through all this you see her trying to better herself, especially now that she is pregnant. You root for her all through the book. She needs to learn to stand up for herself. That’s hard when you have never had any control of anything in your life.
This book will leave you emotionally wrung out over the way Mary was treated. I’m a huge fan of books that have just one more twist than you were expecting right at the end. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that absolutely hate that but it is one part of this book that made me think this is a masterpiece. I just had to sit a while and let everything sink in.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I am officially unemployed as of last week. You know what is wild about that? I actually had to sit down and make a to-do list because I had so many things I need to get done. I didn’t have a to-do list when I was working. I keep saying I’m going to lie in my hammock and read books, but aside from the last 2 chapters of Allegedly that hasn’t happened yet. Mostly I’ve been ordering books from the library for all this reading time instead of actually reading.
I did change my library pickup location to a library closer to my house instead of the one on the way to my job. That felt more final than packing up my stuff.
New In This Week
Finished This Week
What Am I Reading?
How to Survive a Plague is a huge book. I’m making my way slowly through it. It is fascinating. I love reading about the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I’ve read a lot on the subject but this is not just repeating what I’ve already heard.
The Turner Series is to balance it out. American War is very good so far but a sad read. I decided to read it now for #RamadanReadathon.
When you go to Book Expo, you can go in with a plan of what books you want to get. The plan falls apart about 30 seconds after you get there as people are shoving books you’ve never heard of at you. So, in the spirit of Book Expo I’m giving away a surprise box of books. Yep, that’s right. You get what you get. They may be ARCs from Book Expo. They may be other books. It is a total surprise.
I will give away 1 box of books for every 20 entries (up to five total boxes). If you win and you don’t live in the U.S. and it is going to cost me a fortune to ship you books, I’ll substitute a Book Depository gift card. a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love reading chick lit/light romance. It is my happy place when I need a book to just take my mind off everything. I like most all sub-genres of it. I like magical books.
Of course I like foodie books about people going to work in cafes or bakeries.
The problem with these books is that they are usually all written by white authors and set in either the U.S. or Britain. When I binge on them I skew my reading statistics. Happily I found a whole bunch of these types of books written by South Asian authors – including the wonderful Sofia Khan is Not Obliged.
I’m looking for more happy, light books set in South America or Asia or Africa. Give me recommendations for these types of books written by black authors in the U.S. or Europe.
I’ve found a few suggestions so far that I haven’t read yet.
Romance Class is a group of Filipino romance writers. They have a list of all kinds of books on their website. I bought two to try. There are some other ones that look good on that site too. Check it out.
“Book Expo sparked quite the controversy a couple years ago regarding diversity in books and authors. Where are we now?”
In May of this year I threw myself totally into an Asian author reading month called #AsianLitBingo. I had a huge amount of books that I could read. I ended up reading 10 books by 9 Asian authors. I also ended up sort of accidentally reading 9 books by white authors.
Let’s make that clear. In a month where I was actively and preferentially reading Asian authors, I read almost as many books by white authors and I didn’t realize I was doing it until I counted it up for this post. I knew I had read a few books by white authors. I didn’t realize how many.
This is why I report how many white authors I’ve read versus authors of other races in my month end posts every month. Accountability. If you don’t think about it, you don’t realize that you are cutting yourself off from a whole world of great books.
“But, I don’t want to have to think about author’s race. I just want good stories.”
I want good stories too. That’s why branching out from one point of view is so important.
“But I don’t know where to find those books.”
Here’s how. It takes a bit of research to get started and then it snowballs into an out of control TBR list.
Check out reviews of diverse books.
A great place to start right now is at Read Diverse Books. There is a linkup going on there for reviews. There are hundreds from the last few months.
Follow people who read diversely
Did you like any of the reviews you read? Follow those people. See who they follow. Check out their Goodreads/Twitter/Bookstagram. You’ll soon find people who have the same tastes as you.
Find an event
There are always events going on that highlight diverse books. #AsianLitBingo was in May. Check out that hashtag and others like #weneeddiversebooks, #diversebookbloggers, and #readdiverse2017. Follow some people and they will lead you to more. #RamadanReadathon is going on right now to highlight Muslim authors. There are lots of Pride-related reading events and lists published in June.
Branch out when finding books
I love BookBub but it is overwhelmingly white. Same with NetGalley. You can find some books but the majority are from white authors. BookRiot has some good lists. If you are an Amazon Prime member and you get Kindle First, sometimes they have translated fiction on the list of books you can choose for free. Try it.
When you find a book you like, check out the suggestions for similar books on Goodreads. I fell into a major Indian chick-lit reading hole doing this once. It was lovely.
Look at lists if you want a book set in a particular place or featuring a certain character. My favorite resource is this one for books around the world. You need to do some research on this list because they aren’t all by authors who are from the place where the book is set but it is a start.
Ask for help
Know that you want to read historical fiction set in Asia but aren’t sure where to start? Put a request out on Twitter for suggestions. Tag it #diversebookbloggers and you will probably get a bunch of recommendations.
If you are participating in Armchair Book Expo, put your request in your ISO Books post on Saturday. That’s what it is designed for. Let the group help you find the book you want. I’m leading the Twitter chat on Saturday night and we’ll be brainstorming lists of books to meet people’s requests.
There are too many series that don’t need to be series.
I like series. I do. But, not every story needs to be a trilogy. If you do write a series there should be a complete story in each book. Don’t write just one very, very long story then chop it randomly into three pieces and call it a trilogy.
If you are going to be writing a series you should also get the sequels out in a timely manner. You really, really need to do this if you have a cliffhanger ending. There is one sequel I’ve been waiting years and years for and I don’t see it coming anytime soon.
There doesn’t need to be a romance in every book. Well done romance is fine but don’t have a great story and then think, “You know what this needs? Sexual tension!” and then shoehorn a needless romance in there. You can go save a dragon by your own self or with friends without dragging along an annoying potential love interest that will just need to be rescued.
I took any star rating scales off the blog because it was too subjective. People didn’t always know what I meant. For Goodreads, here is my mental scale.
3 star – most books. I read it and enjoyed it as I was doing so. It was entertaining. I’m moving on now and won’t remember much about this in a few months.
4 star – will stick in my mind for a while.
5 star – loved it. Will rave about this and recommend it to everyone I know. Very rare and elusive
For Amazon, I only rate books I really loved (because I have to do it by hand instead of Ultimate Book Blogger automatically doing it for me. Lazy!). I tend to give only 4 or 5 stars. Amazon’s ratings feel more inflated than Goodreads so I tend to rate high.
I think I’m a picky reviewer. I don’t give many 5 stars at all. I know some people give lots. I give less than 10 a year. Maybe I embody the spirit of these guys.
“The online book community has changed so much over the years. How do we keep up within our own book-sphere as well as within the community as a whole (i.e., libraries, bookstores, authors, publishers, etc.)?”
Keep up? What’s that? I am pretty much entirely out of the loop. I almost never know what new books are coming out when. If I do it is because I’ve read something else that I loved of the author’s and now I’m following them on Twitter. Don’t even ask me about publishers. I never know. I have realized lately though that most of the books I’m loving come from Tor.
My book finding habits have changed. I used to just go to the library and look at the new release shelves. I might browse around some favorite authors or genres in the stacks. I can’t remember when the last time I did that was.
Now I have such a list of books that I want to read that I heard about on Twitter or through other blogs and websites and I put in requests at the library. I just go as far in as the desk to pick them up. I never actually go into the stacks any more.
In a way, that’s sad. There isn’t the surprise of finding a good book that you didn’t know about. On the other hand, I’ve found out about a lot of books that I would have never found just browsing the library. Interlibrary loan is my friend. I have weird tastes in books.
I don’t worry about ARCs. I have a few book tour companies that I’m signed up with and if something sounds amazing I’ll sign up for the tour. I don’t do it often though. (Except for this summer. TLC Book Tours had a summer lineup that looked like they tailored just to get my attention.) I ignore NetGalley for years at a time. I love backlist books. There are so many books that I haven’t read yet that I don’t feel the need to be rushing to read new ones. I don’t need the pressure of having to read a book by a certain date. I read what I want when I want and I DNF liberally and sometimes not even on purpose. I just get caught up in another book and forget I was reading something else. People who put a lot of pressure on themselves don’t stick around these parts for long.
So how have you changed since you started blogging? Do you try to keep up with anything?
Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.
I added 6 books this month to the map. Ireland, Singapore, Botswana, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Indonesia
Armchair Book Expo started today and runs through Saturday. I’m helping out with the Twitter parties and writing posts here for the daily topics. There will be lots of giveaways for people participating!
In June there are a few Pride readathons and #RamadanReadathon for Muslim authors. Are there other events going on that you are participating in?
It’s Armchair Book Expo time! If you don’t know, this is the home participation part of Book Expo that is happening now in New York.
I went last year in Chicago but I hated the idea of going to New York. Is it just me? I can’t be the only person who is not at all interested in spending time in New York, can I? Ugh, it just seems so oppressive feeling the few times I’ve driven though.
Anyway, I was one of the on-site correspondents for Armchair BEA last year. This year I’m helping with the social media parts of Armchair Book Expo. If you come to the Twitter parties (and you totally should), you’ll see me around.
I am… at my last day at my job if you are reading this between 10 AM and 6 PM Eastern time on May 31. This is a YAY not a OH SORRY.
My least favorite … things to read are:
books with billionaire in the blurb
books celebrating really stupid life choices especially if they are made by teenagers
My favorite … bloggers to find and follow:
read a really eclectic group of books – fiction of all genres and nonfiction
don’t take themselves too seriously. Stream of consciousness tangents during book reviews are totally encouraged.
read books set all over the world by authors from all over
If that sounds like you, yell and wave your hands around in the comments.