2020: Week 2 & Week 3 Reading Roundup

Sunday.5.January – Saturday.11.January

Sunday.12.January – Saturday.18.January

So I said I was back and then dropped the ball on blogging. Sorry!! Still trying to get back into the groove of things 🙂


FINISHED READING:
5

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

* Thank you BookishFirst for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the galley provided *

Expected Publication Date: March.3.2020

This is Marie Lu’s first foray into YA historical fiction and I must say, it is fabulous. It follows the story of Nannerl, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister. She longs to be remembered as a composer but knows the reality of it happening is slim. Not because of her lack of talent (she is a child prodigy), but because she is a girl. The story also has fantasy elements, inspired by a fictional world created by the real Mozart children. {4.5*

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates


This book is part-memoir. Coates gives brief insight into how/why he was inspired to write various articles, followed by said publication. The article that really got me thinking was The Case for Reparations (which you can read HERE). I found it very thought-provoking and incredibly well-written. {3.75*}

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories From Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

The book begins with Malala recounting her own experience with being an IDP (Internally Displaced Person) when the Taliban moved into her hometown. In each subsequent chapter, the reader is introduced to a different young girl from around the world that details her own harrowing experience with being a refugee. A must-read! {4.75*}

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

* Thank you BookishFirst for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the copy provided. *

A beautiful mix of fantasy and Bolivian culture. The basis of the story is inspired by real events. In Inkasisa, the indigenous Llacsan people have revolted, wresting power from the ruling Illustrians. The new King Atoc, hopes to solidify the legitimacy of his rule by marrying the sole surviving royal, Catalina the Condesa. But since the overthrow when she was 8 years old, the real Condesa’s identity is hidden, being replaced by a decoy named Ximena Rojas. And it is her story that we follow as she wrestles with feelings of loyalty and self. {4.5*}

Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds


Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw is a troublesome middle school student. Three years before, he and his mother survived a traumatic experience that resulted in his father being imprisoned for 10 years. Now, Ghost joins a track team with a coach that tries to keep him out of trouble. Ghost doesn’t change overnight. He still gets into trouble, but you can see his mentality begin to transform. It’s a relatable read. Reminded me of my thieving days, when I used to steal stuff from the Scholastic Book Fairs. Ha! {4*}


CURRENTLY READING:
2

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
I barely started listening to this audiobook. Not even half an hour through it but can already relate to wanting to learn Italian haha.

The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Màrquez
Have only read about 30 pages so far. It’s based on General Simón Bolívar, “The Liberator”. Seems okay so far. 

UPCOMING READ:
Hopefully my audiobook loan of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson comes through! OverDrive has been telling me “Available Soon” for the past week smh.

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE! 😀

2019: Week 20 Reading Roundup

Sunday.May.12 – Saturday.May.18

AKA: The week I saw a coyote roaming my neighborhood which pretty much took 10 years off my life because why is it so far away from the mountains???

FINISHED READING: 3

Truly Devious (#1) by Maureen Johnson

​I so enjoyed this book! The mystery is well-plotted and interesting. A true crime obsessed teenage girl is accepted to a prestigious academy with an old, unsolved murder mystery. The cliffhanger though!!! [4*]

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

​Not for me. The basic message is your thoughts control the universe and the universe will give you whatever you want (no work/effort on your part necessary) *major eye roll* [2*

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (read by Josephine Bailey)

​I listened to the audiobook and was thoroughly impressed by the narration. Each character had their own distinct voice. The story itself is dramatic. Think fairytale, evil stepmother and rebellious stepsister and all. BTW there is no ending! Gaskell passed away before the novel was completed 😥 [4.25*]

CURRENTLY READING: 2

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

My current audiobook. Loving the narration and the story! About 32% through the book.

Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck has quickly become one of my favorite authors. There’s just something about his writing that really gets to me. It’s simple but deep. Currently about 68% through this novel.

UPCOMING READ: 

Um, idk… probably the ARC below…?

BOOK HAUL: 1

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

​I won an ARC of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway!! I’m really lucky when it comes to winning books haha

PUBLISHED POST(S): 1

My review of The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning can be found HERE

IN OTHER NEWS:

Ahhhhhh!! There is a Nancy Drew television adaptation coming this fall!! OMG!! I am equal parts excited and nervous!! 

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE! 😀

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Lee has put together her thoughts, notes, and letters by her and other survivors of a school shooting to fix the media’s (and others’) narrative of the event.

This is an interesting book. It’s been a few years since the shooting and the survivors have banded together, united by the same trauma. Well, all but one. Kellie. Kellie and her family were chased out of town when everyone took her truth for a lie.

I read this book because the synopsis reminded me of Cassie Bernall and Valeen Schnurr. After Columbine, it was widely rumored that Cassie declared her faith before being killed. That story took off and made a martyr out of the teen. Except, it wasn’t Cassie. It was Valeen. And she survived the massacre. This book doesn’t make mention of Columbine or the two girls. Not in the acknowledgments or anything. If you weren’t familiar with the Columbine story, then you would believe the book is fictional. Which it is. But it is inspired by true events. 

Now, to the book itself. Like I said, it is interesting. Lee’s best friend, Sarah, has been made a martyr. Lee knows the truth of what happened but in an attempt to not hurt Sarah’s parents, she keeps quiet for 3 years. Then Sarah’s parents decide to write a book and Lee knows she must finally tell the truth.

At times, I didn’t like Lee. She was pushy. Forcing the other survivors to speak about the tragedy even though they continually told her they didn’t want to. But she pushed and pushed and they eventually gave in and it was cathartic for all blah blah blah. What bothered me was that just because Lee is finally trying to take ahold of her narrative, it doesn’t make it okay for her to force the others to do so as well. If they’re not ready, they’re not ready! She’s no better than the people who were trying to shut her up. Ugh. 

A quick, read. There are little tidbits about those killed interspersed within Lee’s manuscript. The book also gets you thinking a lot about truth. Truth and all its nuances. An overall, okay read.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

I was watching the movie and realized I hadn’t read this book. So after I finished watching the film, I quickly found the audiobook and started to listen. 

The book itself is a Hogwart’s textbook on magical beasts found throughout the world. It’s full of information that in the movie, Newt was working on gathering. 

The audiobook is narrated by Eddie Redmayne. Since I went from watching him on my television to listening to him, it really was like Newt was there, reading aloud to me. I could distinctly picture Newt’s excitement as he talks about his favorite subject. The beastly sound effects were pretty great as well. It was all-around, a wonderful listening experience. 

A lovely way to jump back into this magical universe. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (original screenplay) by J.K. Rowling

Ah, I loved this! It’s the movie’s screenplay and oh my it’s just as magical. I didn’t think it would translate as well, but it did! See, this is what I wish Cursed Child would have been. Sigh. 

It’s fairly quick to get through this book. And as I read along, I could instantly recall the movie. It was like watching the film all over again. 

Fingers crossed the screenplay for The Crimes of Grindelwald comes out soon!

* Yesterday was Veteran’s Day! Thank a service member. Remember their sacrifices…

A Book About a Problem Facing Society Today

I tried to narrow this down to one problem. But I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t. Our society has one too many issues. And these books do a good job of sparking a discussion.

RACE RELATIONS
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said before? This is an incredibly powerful book. My top read this year. No doubt about it. The hype is legit with this one.

Starr is an African-American teen from “the ghetto” attending a predominantly white private school. One night, her best friend is murdered by a cop right before her eyes. What ensues, is heartbreakingly real and poignant.

This book is real. Cannot stress that enough. I cried, I laughed, I was angered, I reminisced and I cried again. Look, I grew up in the hood. And I felt this novel perfectly encapsulated that part of my life.

All I know, is that if I were to fall victim to a crime today, my name and reputation would probably be dragged through the mud because I lived in the projects and may therefore have “possible gang affiliations”. Despite the fact that I live in the suburbs, graduated from a decent university and have a steady job. But in today’s America, those details get lost as soon as someone’s skin color is seen.  

My review of The Autobiography of Malcolm X


SEXUAL ASSAULT

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer


A look at the prevalent number of alleged campus rapes/sexual assaults in Missoula, Montana by college athletes. The book presents interviews with the victims and the accused and their parents, friends, etc. It is an in-depth look at certain cases, some that made headlines. 

Wow wow wow. A myriad of emotions. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Mozhan Marno and every morning I was upset. I’ve always been on the “believe the victim” side (I’ve known people who were roofied, sexually assaulted and raped). So to listen to these young women in the book go through what they did in detail. It was a lot. My blood boiled. And it scared the shit out of me. At the end of the day though, it didn’t really surprise me. That’s the heartbreaking part. That I knew justice wouldn’t be served in these cases. In one instance, it actually is. It shocked me and I cheered and cried. Why? This shouldn’t be something out of the norm. But, it is. 

The way the prosecutors and detectives went out of their way to help the accused football players makes me see red. Seriously Kirsten Pabst?! She was in charge of one of the cases but refused to file charges. She then resigned, her boss decided to file charges, so she joined the guy’s defense team! I mean, what kind of bullshit is that?! 

And the trials themselves! Good Lord! You confess to rape and still deserve a lenient sentence because you’re a good person? The fuck?! NO! Raping “your little sister” proves otherwise! “I have suffered enough and have a bright future”. Excuse me?! You’re the one that raped someone and have caused years of emotional damage. Do not play victim when YOU have committed a crime. 

Reason #37293629 why I don’t trust the justice system. I am a woman and if I were the victim of sexual assault I wouldn’t get Oliva Benson or Eliot Stabler. I’d get some asshole that would blame me for falling asleep in a friend’s house in the first place. How dare I expect people to act like decent human beings? Haha, silly me. 



SCHOOL VIOLENCE

Columbine by Dave Cullen

An in-depth look at the school shooting that rocked the United States. This book is written by one of the many journalists that initially covered the massacre. My one pet peeve: the writing format. Bounced back between something that happened pre-massacre to one of the survivors. It seemed a bit unstructured to me.

I remember life before Columbine. After? Big changes. My sister was in high school and my mom worried about her constantly. I went from having regular earthquake/fire drills in school to active shooter/lockdown drills. Although to be completely transparent, my elementary school was in a rough neighborhood and we had drive-by drills. Um, yeah. 

Look, I don’t know what the root of these incidents is. Gun control? Mental health? Bullying? I honestly, have no clue. One of the Columbine killers was a psychopath, the other was severely depressed. So again, I don’t know. I do know that whatever is driving this phenomenon has gone on too long. 

I thought after Sandy Hook some kind of change would occur. Those babies were slaughtered. Yet, nothing happened. Sending your kids to school shouldn’t be a daunting task. 

Here’s a loose list of mass shootings that have happened in the last 20 years. Full disclosure: my alma mater is on the list. (Sort of). IV ❤ 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book about a problem facing society today

Challenge Update: 44/50

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram 



Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.
     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT

Publisher: Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House 

Expected Publication: August.28.2018

*Thank you First to Read for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Ahh I love this kid. Darius reminded me of Simon (from Simon vs.) . There’s something so damn endearing about them. 

Darius is a half-Persian, clinically-depressed teen that is continually bullied at school. Told from his point of view, the reader follows him and his family from their home in Portland, Oregon to Iran where he meets his dying grandfather for the first time. In Iran Darius learns to be a bit more comfortable with himself, thanks in huge part to his new best friend, Sohrab.

At first, Darius continues to struggle with fitting in. He doesn’t feel like a true Persian because he doesn’t speak fluent Farsi (unlike his 8 year old sister), his Babou (grandfather) doesn’t understand his mental illness, and he still has issues with his father. But with Sohrab, he doesn’t have to explain himself because he understands. Because being Bahá’í, he too knows quite well what it is like to not fit in. 

“Dr. Howell likes to say that depression is anger turned inward.

I had so much anger turned inward, I could have powered a warp core.

But without the proper magnetic field strength, it exploded outward instead.”

A beautiful story so subtle and wonderfully written. From the food (Qottab!!) to the landscapes to the cultural identity struggles. Iran came alive before my eyes. 

The book is billed as an LGBT novel but you have to read between the lines to even get close to the label. Honestly, I don’t think I would have picked up on it if it hadn’t been promoted as such. Darius becomes close with Sohrab, but there is no romance. At all. And Darius never discusses his sexuality. I think the closest we got was when his family in Iran kept asking why he didn’t have a girlfriend which flustered him. Other than that, I didn’t see it. 

My one little complaint about the book would be Darius’ dialogue. A lot of “um”. And I mean, A LOT. At least 85% of his sentences begin with “um”. I get that the author is trying to convey a part of the character’s personality, but it’s unrealistic. Nobody speaks that way. No matter how shy, anxious or whatever. No one. 

Anyway, I really did enjoy this book. I loved reading about Darius’ bougie tea taste haha. I’m not a tea drinker (except for my black tea lemonade from Starbucks lol) but this kid really knows his damn tea. He’s low-key funny. And his Star Trek and Lord of the Rings references were on point. Loved it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Warcross by Marie Lu

If Leopoldo Gout’s Genius series and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One had a baby, it would be this book. 

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter and hacker, looking for a huge score to pay off all the debt she finds herself in. One day, she hacks her way into Warcross, a virtual reality game played by everyone, and accidentally exposes herself to the world. The game’s young creator, Hideo Tanaka, invites Emika to join the Warcross champiosnhip games as a wildcard pick and hires her to help him track down a hacker. 

I feel like I’ve read this book before. There were similar plot elements used from other books I’ve read that kept taking me out of this story. The twists, were not really twists. I was never shocked or taken by surprise because again, if you’ve read RPO or Genius: The Game, then you have an idea of what’s going to happen. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a completely different book, written by my beloved Marie Lu. 

With that being said, I did enjoy the story. Not as much as I perhaps thought I would. But still. You can’t deny Marie Lu’s talent. She really knows how to make a world her own and create characters that have depth.

I’m so excited for Wildcard! Can’t wait to see how this story concludes! 


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a cyberpunk book

Reading update: 39/50

Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Selina Kyle is doing everything she can to take care of her younger sister, Maggie, who has cystic fibrosis. With no parents in sight, it is Selina’s responsibility to make sure Maggie has access to all the tests, drugs and doctors available. But being 17 and living in the East End, Selina works in the underbelly of Gotham City for Carmine Falcone to make some quick cash. When she is recruited by Talia al Ghul, Selina’s path to becoming the infamous Catwoman unfolds. 

Review

I was originally planning to do a mini-review of this book for next Monday’s post. But, I have a lot of feelings about this read. So, here we are.

Okay, *takes a deep breath* this book and I got off on the wrong foot. The writing irked me from the get-go. The “that Latina girl” and “that Asian girl” got on my nerves. Because they weren’t main characters (not even supporting ones), and I felt the author only used them for diversity points. They appear for a hot second, and have maybe one speaking line between them. If that. 

Anyway, the story itself is actually okay. We see a lot of familiar characters from within the DC universe. A LOT. (I couldn’t pinpoint any new major character introductions). Selina works alongside and befriends Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. It was all very interesting. Especially as there seems to be a bit of a one-sided romance between the latter two. And of course there has to be a love interest for Selina. He comes in the form of Luke Fox and his brown skin, aka Batwing. (The number of times Maas refers to his skin color is way too much. And don’t get me started on how many times Selina’s white skin and blond hair are brought up. Seriously.).

I know this book will appeal to a ton of people. But honestly, it annoyed me. My expectations were a bit different, I guess. I’ve read Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Batman: Nightwalker, so was expecting a story of a similar strain. Which is completely unfair of me. I acknowledge that. Besides, this story was a bit familiar. Probably because I’ve watched every single episode of Arrow, and a similar plot device was used there. So… um yeah.

I didn’t go into everything that irked me in this review haha. Batwing’s portrayal, the stereotypes(!), the lack of plot in at least 75% of the book, the ending(!!) … the list goes on. I was very excited to read this book but boy was I disappointed. Was I entertained though? Yes, yes I was. 

Anyway, writing this is only upsetting me and making me seriously rethink my Goodreads rating. If I wanted to read about a special snowflake (because Catwoman has NO flaws: a gifted gymnast, a genius in school, an undefeated fighter…) I would have picked up Nancy Drew (which I always excuse as a product of its time). Ugh. Okay. I’m done. 

Mini-Reviews: Judy Blume, Gidget & Lauren Graham

It’s summer and I’m getting through books faster than I usually do. Hence the mini-reviews. I am not complaining though. Let’s see how well this pace keeps up before I burn myself out haha. 


Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Caitlynn and Victoria (“Vix”) have two distinct backgrounds but meet when they’re 12 years old. Every summer since,they spend it at Caitlynn’s family home on Martha’s Vineyard. This is the story of their friendship, and how they grew up and followed different paths in life.

The dynamic of their friendship is weird. Vix wishes she had Caitlynn’s life. So as little girls, she does what Caitlynn wants. Never once questioning her actions. Which is why Caitlynn likes her. As adults though, you realize that Caitlynn is struggling. She cries out for help in her own way but Vix kind of blows her off. And there are all these revelations that make you think, they were shitty people to each other. Yet, they’re still friends. 

Caitlynn’s dad and stepmom become Vix’s benefactors, giving her opportunities that she otherwise may not have had. Vix follows the path that everyone assumes Caitlynn was destined for. She goes to college, she maintains a healthy relationship with Caitlynn’s parents, she marries, she has a baby. While Caitlynn travels the world, never once returning to the island. She sort of drifts along. That is until she decides to settle down and marry Vix’s first love on her birthday!

Yeah. That happens. Vix started dating Bru, an islander, when she was about 16 years old. They maintained an on-again/off-again relationship for about 4-5 years while she was in college. When he proposes, she turns him down and that’s the end of that. Fast forward a few years and he is engaged to Caitlynn. Caitlynn who has only recently returned to the island. Caitlynn who one day out of the blue rings Vix and invites her to the island because she is getting married. When Vix asks to who, Caitlynn is so matter of fact. Talking about “I thought you knew”, and you have to be my maid of honor, and oh we’re getting married on your birthday so you never forget our anniversary. What?! Girl, bye! 

This is my first adult novel by Judy Blume. And, um… haha. I liked it. I really did. I loved the setting. I loved the writing. I loved the story. It’s an interesting take on childhood friendships and how they change when we grow up and experience life. But. The ending. Something happens and it’s open to interpretation. Sigh. This always bothers me. I do have a theory though… 

Gidget by Frederick Kohner



I am completely biased when it comes to this book. Gidget is a precocious teen and Moondoggie is swoon-worthy haha. I love it!

It’s summer and Franzie goes for a swim at the beach when she gets caught in the waves. Enter Moondoggie. A surfer that pulls her out of the water. He rides the wave in, with Franzie on the board, and what ensues are Gidget’s attempts to learn how to surf and become a part of the all-boy crew.

The book is a good look at 50’s surfing culture in Malibu. It is also The Catcher in the Rye for women. Gidget is trying to grow up fast but she is also scared to do so. She’s funny, she’s adorable and strong-willed. While she’s fallen head over heels for Moondoggie, it is surfing she has truly fallen in love with. 

In all fairness I should mention there is an instance of cheating. But it is important to remember dating norms were different in the 50’s. Even wholesome Nancy Drew dates other guys, even though she has Ned. So, don’t judge the book by today’s standards. (Didn’t I say I was biased? ;)) 

My book is signed by the real-life Gidget!!! 😀

The story was inspired by Kathy Kohner’s own surfing adventures in Malibu. Her father took her stories, fictionalized them, and wrote this book in 6 weeks! This is actually the first book in the series. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to read the rest :/ (I can’t find them in any bookstore!)

A quick, easy, summer read! Read the books, watch the movies and tv show! 🙂

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham



I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Lauren Graham herself. Which I absolutely loved! Her happy go-lucky personality really shines through.

In her memoir, she takes the reader through each season of Gilmore Girls. With tidbits on her fashion choices, and other behinds the scenes stuff. The part that got me was when she talked about the ending of the show. Apparently no one knew with any degree of certainty that the show would be cancelled so when the show wrapped up the seventh season, she left. Not knowing that it would be years before she would get to go back. 

What I particularly enjoyed was when she discussed the renewal. Because boy do I have opinions about the revival. And Graham does a wonderful job of conveying her own confusion with the revival’s finale. (Those damn 4 words ya’ll!). But we also get to see how emotional she is to be back on the set. I got a little teary-eyed myself. 

One thing to keep in mind if you go with the audiobook. Lauren Graham frequently refers to photographs. (OverDrive wouldn’t let me download the supplementary stuff). So a quick peek at the physical book before or afterwards would be a good idea. 

Overall, an enjoyable listen. I laughed, I got a little sad, but it was nice to see Stars Hollow through the eyes of someone who spent quite a lot of time there. Lauren Graham, is funny, witty, and she really does talk fast haha. It’s a relatively short memoir and one I would recommend to all Gilmore Girls and Parenthood fans.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Picked this book up because it’s by Lauren Graham and she mentioned how it came to fruition in her memoir. 

Franny Banks is an aspiring theater actress living in New York in the 90’s. She has a deadline. A deadline to ascertain whether she continues trying to pursue acting or takes a different career path. She fumbles, she mildly succeeds but she keeps trying, and manages to keep her happy go-lucky attitude through most of it. 

It’s not the best book but it is entertaining. And as someone who has seen Gilmore Girls multiple times, I could see elements of the show within the book. Some of the character quirks and personalities seemed oddly familiar. But it is a good look at the entertainment world from someone who has lived it. It also parallels Franny and Zooey, which I didn’t realize. Yet another book I apparently need to reread. 

Well, that concludes today’s mini-reviews. Until next time. Happy blogging everyone! 🙂

A Book Set In A Country That Fascinates You

So… I’m low-key obsessed with Russia. I know the country’s politics are problematic (to say the least). But I’ve been reading Russian Literature since I was 14. I want to see all the places that I’ve spent years reading about. 

Two stories from my favorite genres: YA & Historical Fiction and of course, a Classic

FIRST UP:

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz



Okay, wow! What an incredible novel. It’s a fictionalized portrayal of the real women who flew fighter planes for the Soviet Union during WWII.

Valka is a young girl who dreams of becomimg a pilot, just like her hero Marina Raskova. As a teenager, she and her cousin Iskra manage to get their pilots license. When war breaks out, they try to enlist. There are obstacles, of course. They’re women, and best to be taking over the jobs the men have left behind. But Raskova has decided to create a new women’s regiment, and Valka and her cousin quickly leave the safety of their home and head for the war.

The story is told mainly through Valka’s point of view. But there are letters that she and her friend/sweetheart Pasha (who is drafted and sent to the front) send back and forth. So amidst the violence and destruction of the war, we get a little reprieve from the chaos as we see the two friends comfort one another. It was obvious where their story was heading, but it was bittersweet to see them confront their feelings for one another. And getting a glimpse of how the war affects them in different ways especially since Pasha gets stuck in German-occupied territory…

Through Pasha’s letters, the reader gets an account of life at the front. It’s raw brutality. While through Valka, we get a different view of the war. She lives in a barracks and every night has to fly her plane into enemy lines. Two different perspectives, from two completely different people, in the same war. 

I knew absolutely nothing about these incredible women. And some of the feats described in the book were actually based on real life events. Amazing! Quite an empowering novel.

I do have to say, that the book read a little young for me. It’s YA yet I’m not sure why, but it read more like a middle grade novel. At least to me it did. Maybe the writing was too simple? Regardless, I really enjoyed it and loved learning a little about the infamous Night Witches.

 NEXT UP:

The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is, I answer Dostoyevsky. No hesitation, whatsoever. This man was brilliant. I make it a habit to read at least one of his works every year (something I also do with Jane Austen). 

The Double is a novella. It’s one of Dostoyevsky’s earlier works so it’s not on the same calibre as his later writing. But it is still really good. This is my first time reading it, and I was completely drawn in. 

The story revolves around the idea of a doppelgänger. Golyadkin wakes up one day and has various strange encounters. As he walks home, he runs into a man. His double. He is so bewildered and frightened. Then his double, also named Golyadkin, is hired at his job. What is going, he wonders. Are his colleagues messing around with him? Is his servant, Petrushka, setting him up? Or is Golyadkin imagining it all?

And that is where the beauty of the novella lies. You’re so in tune with Golyadkin (the original one’s) mind that you completely understand why he’s confused. Because you as the reader are also uncertain as to what the heck is happening. 

Another amazing story from one of the greatest writers!


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: a book set in a country that fascinates you

[I’ve tried learning Russian before. Epic fail haha]

Challenge update: 34/50