Source: from publisher for review

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Memoir Review: Wandering In Strange Lands

July 22, 2020 Uncategorized 3 ★★★★

Memoir Review: Wandering In Strange LandsTitle: Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots
Author: Morgan Jerkins
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was a nuanced, complex book that made me revise much of what I thought I knew about American history.

This book was enough of a genre mash-up that I hesitated to label it a memoir in my post title. Author Morgan Jerkins does include elements of memoir, reminiscing about learning her family history as a child and sharing her recent quest to trace her family history in more detail. Her journey takes her to many sites of significance both to her family history and to the history of Black Americans moving within the US. This portion of the book has elements of both travelogue and general history. She blends all of these elements with interviews with historians and expert locals to tell a nuanced story about her own history and the history of the US.

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Nonfiction Review: Ghost Road

July 16, 2020 Uncategorized 0 ★★★★

Nonfiction Review: Ghost RoadTitle: Ghost Road: Beyond the Driverless Car
Author: Anthony M. Townsend
Source: from publisher for review
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: A fascinating, balanced look at the possible futures of autonomous vehicles.

Although I thought Anthony Townsend’s first book, Smart Cities, relied a bit too heavily on anecdote, it presented enough interesting ideas that I was quite excited for his new book. The author is the founder of a ‘strategic foresight and urban planning studio’ and those specialties both show in the strengths of this book. He really narrows in on this one specific technology – autonomous vehicles (AVs). He is incredibly creative in the ways he imagines AVs might changes our lives. These changes will probably be largely in urban locations, especially at first, and the author paints a particularly vivid picture of the future of cities as AVs become more ubiquitous. I also appreciate his ability to recognize both the positive and negative changes AVs might make to our lives. Read more »

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Contemporary Fiction Review: This Is How It Always Is

July 6, 2020 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

Contemporary Fiction Review: This Is How It Always IsTitle: This Is How It Always Is
Author: Laurie Frankel
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: I loved almost all of this book, but one section was iffy both in terms of representation and plot progression.

“This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them. This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated. This is how children change…and then change the world. This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. [Parents] Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.” (source) Read more »

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TBR Pile Reads in Mini-Reviews

June 17, 2020 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

TBR Pile Reads in Mini-ReviewsTitle: Magpie Murders
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

This is the first book I picked up for the TBR Jar Read-a-thon and also the best. It’s a delightfully meta story in which the author of a murder mystery novel dies and his editor suspects that has actually been murdered. Two things really made this book work for me. First, the novel within a novel. After several chapters of the editor’s narration, we actually get to read the mystery novel she was editing when the author died. The entire thing! What a gutsy, original move to write a book that revolves around a mystery novel and than just write that whole book too. The novel within the novel was also just a delightful read, that at times perfectly captured the feel of an Agatha Christie novel. Second, the framing story was narrated by such a likable, relatable character. The editor’s love of reading and the way she stumbled into investigating the author’s death helped me enjoy her story just as much as the nested novel. Read more »

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Narrative Nonfiction Review: Patriot Number One

June 8, 2020 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★

Narrative Nonfiction Review: Patriot Number OneTitle: Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown
Author: Lauren Hilgers
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: An engaging, informative, personal story, enlivened by the author’s close involvement in the events she describes.

“Nearly three years ago, journalist Lauren Hilgers received an unexpected call. Hello, Lauren! a man shouted in halting Mandarin. We might be seeing you in New York again soon! The voice belonged to Zhuang Liehong, a Chinese man who had been arrested in his home country for leading a string of protests, and whom Hilgers had met the previous year while reporting a story. Despite zero contacts and a shaky grasp of English, Zhuang explained that he and his wife, Little Yan, had a plan to escape from their American tour group and move to Flushing, Queens, to escape persecution back home. A few weeks later, they arrived on Hilgers’s doorstep.”(source) Read more »

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Gripping Literary Fiction in Review: I Am China

June 6, 2020 Uncategorized 5 ★★★★

Gripping Literary Fiction in Review: I Am ChinaTitle: I Am China
Author: Xiaolu Guo
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: I really enjoyed the unique protagonist and multiple timelines in this gripping, well written story

Translator Iona lives a solitary, detached life and she likes it that way, but that changes when she begins translating letters and diaries written by a Chinese couple. Jian and Mu have had a challenging relationship, shaped by their differing opinions on art and activism, as well as by personal tragedies. Iona becomes absorbed in their lives. She desperately wants to know what happened to them and whether it will be possible to reunite them. This obsession draws her out into the world, but it’s not clear if this will lead to a happy ending. Read more »

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Translated Fiction Review: Territory of Light

June 4, 2020 Uncategorized 4 ★★★

Translated Fiction Review: Territory of LightTitle: Territory of Light
Author: Yūko Tsushima, Geraldine Harcourt
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: This book was written beautifully and could make for some great discussions, but it was too strange and surreal for me.

This is the “story of a young woman, living alone in Tokyo with her three-year-old daughter. Its twelve, stand-alone fragments follow the first year of her separation from her husband.” (source) It was originally published in monthly installments in a Japanese literary magazine. Read more »

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Memoir Review: Without You, There is No Us

May 11, 2020 Uncategorized 5 ★★★★

Memoir Review: Without You, There is No UsTitle: Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite
Author: Suki Kim
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was an informative and personal look at the lives of the most privileged students in North Korea.

Like Double Happiness, this was the story of an American English teacher abroad and one of the high points of the book was getting to know the students. Like the teacher in Double Happiness, author Suki Kim also clearly felt a lot of affection for her students. I’m sure that contributed to their strong characterizations. Since im was teaching in North Korea, it was also particularly fascinating to get a glimpse of her students’ knowledge base and their perspective on the world. The similarity between these books largely ends there though, to the benefit of this book. Although both authors describe their experiences in the countries they visit,  Kim’s time studying North Korea enabled her to provide a lot more context for her experiences. She is also able to draw on her family’s history in South Korea, fleeing an attack during the Korean War, to give a personal look at the history of both countries. Read more »

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Travelogue Review: Double Happiness

May 7, 2020 Uncategorized 2 ★★

Travelogue Review: Double HappinessTitle: Double Happiness: One Man's Tale of Love, Loss, and Wonder on the Long Roads of China
Author: Tony Brasunas
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:two-stars

Summary: This was a rough one, including some interesting stories that the author did his best to ruin with ‘philosophical’ musings.

I was a little apprehensive when I grabbed this book off my to-read pile. I got it a long time ago and at this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn about China from the perspective of a 22 year old American who was travelling internationally for the first time. However, I’d just read Without YouThere is No Us (review to come) and it seemed like a good time to pick up another memoir by an American English teacher abroad. This book interspersed his time teaching with a subsequent backpacking trip. I have to admit this was the first of many complaints I had with the book. The time jumps didn’t add anything to the story for me and I’d have preferred a linear narrative. Read more »

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Sci-Fi Review: 88 Names

April 7, 2020 Uncategorized 1 ★★★

Sci-Fi Review: 88 NamesTitle: 88 Names
Author: Matt Ruff
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: This was funny and gripping, but the ending was a let down and the social commentary wasn’t profound or subtle.

“John Chu is a ‘sherpa’—a paid guide to online role-playing games like the popular Call to Wizardry. For a fee, he and his crew will provide you with a top-flight character equipped with the best weapons and armor, and take you dragon-slaying in the Realms of Asgarth, hunting rogue starships in the Alpha Sector, or battling hordes of undead in the zombie apocalypse.” (source) Everything seems to be going well for John until he begins to suspect that his new, mysterious client might be Kim Jong-Un; the woman threatening him to get him to spy on his new client might be a spy herself; and either of them might be part of a prank by his ex-girlfriend Darla. Soon John finds himself entangled in intrigue and facing threats that aren’t confined to his online life. Read more »

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