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Blog Tour: Skunk and Badger

Synopsis

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
 
No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
 
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
 
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
 
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
 
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.


My Take

“Adventure and Science made the best stories.”

Skunk and Badger represent these two opposites but show that joy is to be had by embracing both of these principles. Adventure is fun but things get messy. (Beware of rocket potatoes!) Science has structure and discipline but its very essence is magic. Timberlake captures this very well in her story of Chicken Little the Mighty.


What Geralyn Liked Best

My daughter’s favorite character was Skunk. She liked him because he seemed like a lot of fun. She used his jumping on beds as her example. Most importantly for her was that he could COOK. Yes! With a capital C! And Lord knows my girl likes to eat. It may be her favorite pastime. LOL I mean no harm. I am a foodie too 🙂 But my girl was coming up with ideas. Skunk is putting this Momma to work! I have to be honest and say that those strawberry cinnamon muffins sounded delish. We’ll be savoring all of their goodness this weekend. Here’s the recipe in case you guys would like to share it with your kiddos as well.

Strawberry Cinnamon Muffins


For my part I have to admit that I sound a lot like Badger these days. Working from home is challenging and it’s hard to find a quiet place to work without interruption. Oh how I envy Skunk though. That moon room sounds like the ultimate reading nook.

Artwork by Jon Klassen

What We Learned As a Family

  • Everyone must contribute. “It’s a Law of Nature.”
  • “The fastest way to win a kingdom is by being kind and gentle instead of using violence and cruelty.”
  • It’s easier to make friends when you show a genuine interest in getting to know them, their likes and dislikes.
  • Sincere Sorrys do not come with “Buts”. (But this . . . But that)
  • You should get to know someone first before making judgments about them. It is wrong to lump groups of animals (or people) together and assume they all act the same way.

Family Fun Ideas

  • Go rock hunting! Explore some of our local national parks to see how many different types of rocks we can find.
  • Learn more about rock properties using a rock testing kit.
  • Make our own gem bracelets.
  • Grow a potato at home.
  • Make PEEP kebobs.
  • Write and illustrate our own retellings of Chicken Little.

Meet the Author

From her website: “Amy Timberlake grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin. She attended Mount Holyoke College and majored in History. She also holds an M.A. in English/Creative Writing. Most of the time, she can be found in Chicago, where she lives with her husband. But on especially good days she can be found walking on a long, long trail.”


Meet the Illustrator

From Goodreads: “Jon Klassen received the 2010 Canadian Governor General’s Award for his illustrations in Caroline Stutson’s CAT’S NIGHT OUT. He also created illustrations for the popular series THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE and served as an illustrator on the animated feature film Coraline. I WANT MY HAT BACK is the first book he has both written and illustrated. Originally from Niagara Falls, Canada, he lives in Los Angeles.”

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Blog Tour: The Last Story of Mina Lee

Buy Links

Synopsis

THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE (on sale: September 1, 2020; Park Row Books; Hardcover; $27.99 US/ $34.99 CAN). opens when Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, doesn’t return her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous and invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.


Review

The first time I heard about this book was by Russell on Ink and Paper blog. So when I got offered the chance to read it for the blog tour I was super excited. Indeed, I had very good reason. This book was an emotional tug that gave me insight into immigrant life.

Margot returns home after a long absence to find her mother dead. As she makes arrangements for her mother’s funeral she tries to sort out the pieces of her mother’s life. She soon comes to realize that a child never really knows the whole of their parents.

As a mother, Mina has had to make sacrifices and put aside pieces of herself in order to guarantee the best for her child. As the child, Margot was oblivious to her mother’s struggles and the secrets she kept to protect her. As a child, she judges her mother for her otherness and blamed her for her own insecurities of not fitting in.

As a woman looking back over that time, she realizes how strong her mother was and how much she must have loved her to make the decisions she did. Margot comes to understand how hard it must have been for her mother to survive as an immigrant in America.

“What did this country ask us all to sacrifice? Was it possible to feel anything while we were all trying to get ahead of everyone else, including ourself?”

Margot learns what it meant for Mina to be held at arm’s length from the American dream. Separated through poverty, by language and living in insular neighborhoods formed from common threats and fears.

In her mother’s death Margot learns not only the pieces that made her mother, but her heritage and herself.

Although The Last Story of Mina Lee may be considered a mystery, I was drawn to the characterization and the process by which Margot comes to know her mother.

There were so many powerful passages that stayed with me and kept me thinking not only of Mina and Margot but of immigrants, women and mothers and daughters.

Did stories keep us alive or kill us with false expectations? It depended on who wrote them perhaps.

With The Last Story of Mina Lee, Nancy Jooyun Kim has written an intimate, richly layered and moving portrayal of Korean immigrant experience. I look forward to reading more of her stories and cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.


Meet the Author

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, The Offing, the blogs of Prairie Schooner and Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her essay, “Love (or Live Cargo),” was performed for NPR/PRI’s Selected Shorts in 2017 with stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Phil Klay, and Etgar Keret. THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE is her first novel.

Where You Can Find Nancy

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Blog Tour: When I Was You

BUY LINKS:

Thank you to MIRA/ Harlequin Press for including me on this tour. I apologize for this post being so late. Between e-learning and getting sick I have fallen behind on nearly everything. But I really enjoyed this book and still wanted to give it the attention it deserved.

Synopsis

YOU meets FATAL ATTRACTION in this up-all-night psychological thriller about a lonely empty-nester’s growing obsession with a young mother who shares her name.

It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son’s pediatrician to confirm her upcoming “well-baby” appointment. It’s a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly has never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there’s another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched.

But Kelly can’t stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can’t help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician’s office, it’s simple curiosity getting the better of her.

Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose, taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why.


Review

Kelly Medina is lonely. An empty-nester, she has time on her hands particularly since her husband spends so much time away for work. Her only reprieves are her outings with her best friend Christine. So when she gets a call from her son’s pediatrician to remind her about her upcoming appointment she is intrigued by the prospect of another Kelly Medina. A younger woman with an infant son. She seeks her out. Stalks her even as she becomes obsessed with this other Kelly’s life.

This part of the book did not really spark my curiosity. My name is rather common and although I grew up in a relatively small town there was another young lady who shared my name. I was always having to sort people out between me and the other Michelle. So the very premise of this story was not as intriguing for me as it may have been for other readers.

What did pique my interest was learning about the emotional strain the older Kelly was going through. I kept trying to figure out just how mentally unstable she was and to determine whether the younger Kelly was real or a figment of her delusional mind. Either way the story played out When I Was You was shaping up to be a rather pulse-pounding dangerous ride.

Will our Kelly make it out alive and mentally sound? Garza serves up plenty of twists and turns to keep us guessing until the final moments. And oh how I LOVED that ending!

When I Was You was my first Amber Garza book but I am really looking forward to delving into her other novels. First up – the Prowl Trilogy.


Meet the Author

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.


Where You Can Find Amber

Author Website: http://www.ambergarza.com/

TWITTER: @ambermg1

FB: @ambergarzaauthor

Instagram: @ambergarzaauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5582891.Amber_Garza

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Tour the World in 30 Books Blog Tour: Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Hello Everyone and Welcome to my stop on Tour the World in 30 Books.

This blog tour is hosted by Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den in support of increasing access to more diverse books. The CCPL—a small, rural library in an area with a high poverty rate and a very homogeneous population, where people rarely have the means to travel or experience new perspectives. However, the library doesn’t believe that should stop people from learning more about the world around them, so they’re running a Diverse Book Drive through the month of September in an attempt to bring the rest of the world to the county instead. With a focus on MG and YA books, the CCPL aims to expose especially its young patrons to new and diverse perspectives and cultures.


Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Kawaii Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors is so far my favorite book of 2020. The story was moving, the characters memorable and the language was oh so beautiful. This is a book that will stay with me a long time and I will return to many times over.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should read this soul stirring book.

Importance of Place

The Hawaii in Sharks in the Time of Saviors is not a place filled with tourists but one of a family with roots extending through the generations. It is beautiful and lush but Washburn focuses on the value of tradition and the price paid for modernity.

Legend

Hawaiian Legend of the Night Marchers

Legend in Sharks in the Time of Saviors is both mystical and miraculous. It is part of the family’s heritage as well as their future. The book opens up on the night of Noa’s conception with a sighting of Hawaii’s Night Marchers. By the end of the first chapter Noa becomes a living legend when he falls into the sea and is delivered back to safety in the mouth of a shark. He goes on to perform miracles.

As the family hero Noa struggles to save the world without losing himself, while his siblings try to assert themselves to remind others that they still exist.

Family

Family plays an important role in the book. Washburn spends a lot of time with the siblings and how they adjust to their new familial roles after the tragedy. Throughout the book he uses rotating perspectives to amplify their different voices. The characters are drawn with such depth that even through their flaws each of them has the power to carve out the family’s existence and save the others.

Beautiful imagery

Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes

“I’d dream of what must have been Hawaiian gods. Women as large and distant as volcanoes, their skin dark like pregnant soil, dolphin-kind bodies thick and slick and full of joyful muscle. Their hair tangled and tumbled down into the trees until I couldn’t tell the vines from their locks and their eyes golden or blue or green without white and smoldering. Everywhere they touched the land, the land grew into them, skin blending with earth, until you couldn’t find where one ended and the other began.”

Faith

Hina, Hawaiian Goddess of the Moon

We can put our faith in the supernatural or in each other. Here, faith extends from the gods to family and to our connection to the land. Salvation comes in the form of returning home and melding the present with the traditions of the past.


My Favorite Quote

“If a god is a thing that has absolute power over us, then in this world there are many. There are gods that we choose and gods that we can’t avoid; there are gods that we pray to and gods that prey on us; there are dreams that become gods and pasts that become gods and nightmares that do, as well. As I age I learn that there are more gods than I’ll ever know, and yet I have to watch for all of them, or else they can use me or I can lose them without even realizing it.”


How Can You Help?

Casey County Public Library Wishlists

You may also purchase one of the books featured on this tour from the wishlists below. Hardbacks are preferred but not required.

(If you order something from the Book Shop wishlist, please DM @srbetler on Twitter or email sammie@thebookwyrmsden.com, because I don’t believe that site automatically removes books from the wish list.)

Need more ideas? The library has a general Amazon wish list with suggestions too.


Blog Tour Schedule

Please take the time to visit these other stops on the tour. It’s a great way to show your support for this great cause and who knows you might just find your next great book love in the pages of these awesome books.

✦ September 1 ✦
Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den – Introduction, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
Leelynn @ Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Dating Makes Perfect

✦ September 2 ✦
Lauren @ Always Me – The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

✦ September 3 ✦
Toya @ The Reading Chemist – Felix Ever After

✦ September 4 ✦
Michelle @ Carry A Big Book – Sharks in the Time of Saviors

✦ September 5 ✦
Shenwei @ READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – The Astonishing Color of After

✦ September 6 ✦
Maria @ A Daughter of Parchment and Paper – Patron Saints of Nothing

✦ September 7 ✦
Bri @ Bri’s Book Nook – True Friends (Carmen Browne)

✦ September 8 ✦
Bec @ bec&books – Lobizona
Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story – diverse TTT

✦ September 9 ✦
Sienna @ Daydreaming Book Lover – Loveless

✦ September 10 ✦
Kerri @ Kerri McBookNerd – Raybearer

✦ September 11 ✦
Noly @ The Artsy Reader – The Name Jar

✦ September 12 ✦
Jacob @ The Writer’s Alley – Forest of Souls

 September 13 ✦
Keri @ Are You My Book – The Tea Dragon Society

✦ September 14 ✦
Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight – The Space Between Worlds

✦ September 15 ✦
Melissa @ Ramblings of a Jedi Librarian – Girl in Translation

✦ September 16 ✦
Livy @ Shelves of Starlight – Clap When You Land

✦ September 17 ✦
Crystal @ Lost in Storyland – American Born Chinese

✦ September 18 ✦
Lili @ Lili’s Blissful Pages – A Wish in the Dark

✦ September 19 ✦
Leslie @ Books Are The New Black – The Poppy War

✦ September 20 ✦
Noura @ The Perks of Being Noura – Love From A to Z

✦ September 21 ✦
Crini @ Crini’s – A Pale Light in the Black

✦ September 22 ✦
Rachelle @ Rae’s Reads and Reviews – Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

✦ September 23 ✦
Dini @ DiniPandaReads – Wicked As You Wish

✦ September 24 ✦
Madeline @ Mad’s Books – Spin the Dawn

✦ September 25 ✦
Tessa @ Narratess – Brace Yourself

✦ September 26 ✦
Kimberly @ My Bookish Bliss – Truly Madly Royally

✦ September 27 ✦
Rena @ Bookflirting 101 – Anna K: A Love Story

✦ September 28 ✦
Susan @ Novel Lives – Burn the Dark

✦ September 29 ✦
Arina @ The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

✦ September 30 ✦
Maya @ Awesome Reads – Jackpot

Featured

Blog Tour: Punching the Air

Synopsis

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.


Review

I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens “wilding out”. Five teens — black and brown — were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam’s mother. Because of her stoicism. She never faltered. In the heat of the frenzy she boldly proclaimed her son’s innocence across her chest.

In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.

“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —

Dust
we both say
together”

Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.

” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
Umi asks
It rises, I whisper”


“It was this one dude
who said that’s why we’re always
fucking up, we’re always making
mistakes
because ain’t no butterflies in the hood

See, if there were butterflies
we would have what’s called
the butterfly effect

A butterfly’s wings can
change the path of a storm

Something so small
can change
one big thing in the world
one big thing in the universe

If there are no butterflies here
no pretty little wings flapping in the
hood
then we can’t change a thing, he said

We’re the butterflies, I said
and the things we do are like wings”


Meet the Authors

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.


Dr. Yusef Salaam

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

Featured

Blog Tour: Impersonation

Synopsis

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definition of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a high-profile lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her image in the eyes of the public and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

Allie struggles to write Lana’s book as obstacles pile up: not enough childcare, looming deadlines, an unresponsive subject, an ill-defined romantic relationship on the verge of slipping away. Eventually, Lana comes to require far too much of Allie and even her son. Allie’s ability to stand up for herself and ask for all that she deserves will ultimately determine the power that she can wield over her own life.

With the satirical eye of Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher and the incisiveness of Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, acclaimed writer Heidi Pitlor tells a timely, bitingly funny, and insightful story of ambition, motherhood, and class. 


Review

Ghostwriter Allie is used to stepping into someone else’s shoes and wearing their identities for months at a time. This level of method acting or getting into her subject’s head is required for pulling off a convincing read in someone else’s voice. Unlike actresses however, Allie never gets to take the credit for her work. Some charismatic headliner or successful business woman gets to put their pretty picture on the cover of her books and watch their faces climb the best seller lists. But Allie does not care for the accolades. She just wants to make a good enough living to support her son Cass.

Writing for condescending and sometimes sexist stars can make her job frustrating at times, but Lana Breban, feminist advocate, might be her most challenging client yet. Known for her blue cropped hair and no-nonsense style, Lana is an immigrant who has made her place in the world and has fought for the rights of other women. Allie looks up to her but as she tries to gather personal information for her book, Lana is not very forthcoming. Now that Lana is running for Senate she is not sure if her brand of motherhood appeals to the masses. As she tries to soften her public image Allie’s humble life and experiences seem more of the stuff that voters would like.

Impersonation asks a lot of questions not just about politics, but how we view women and how we judge mothers. Pitlor does start the conversation about modeling feminism for our younger generation in the hope to raise more compassionate and loving men for tomorrow. In the book, Allie tackles with the limits imposed on children by the genderization of babies. She strives to raise Cass in a gender-neutral setting offering him traditionally “feminine” toys like dolls to play with alongside trucks and cars. She also allows Cass to wear clothing of different types and colors but recognizes that other parents are not so open to little boys in pink. Nor will these parents chastise their children for being cruel. Bad behavior is usually explained away as “boys will be boys”.

Although I do not not think everything about motherhood is a feminist discussion, I do feel that oftentimes people feel they have the right to assert themselves in personal matters that are none of their business.

To breast feed or bottle feed? Which is right is a decision made between that mother and that child. I’ve breastfed four children. One I was able to feed on demand. With another we only lasted two months before switching to formula only. A third child was nibbling on chicken bones by 4 months old. The last took to bottle and breast equally. It made him no nevermind how he was eating as long as he had some type of food in his mouth.

What is the right way to disciple your child? Do you give them time out, take away privileges or use rewards as incentive for good behavior? What works with one child does not always work with the next. Nor does it work with the same child day in and day out. Whether she has one child or five, every mom needs to be quick witted and carry many tools in her arsenal.

Impersonation is in part an ode to the many hats that women wear as we make our way through American society. Daughter. Wife. Single mother. Career woman. Sometimes we wear a multitude of titles and they all carry a heavy weight loaded with the expectations of others. Ultimately, it is up to us to decide what works best for our own happiness and learn to advocate for what we want. Don’t apologize for who you are just because it does not fit the definition of who someone else wants you to be.


Meet the Author

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007 and the editorial director of Plympton, a literary studio. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Huffington PostPloughshares, and the anthologies It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. She lives outside Boston.


Buy Links

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Blog Tour: A House is a Body

Synopsis

INTRODUCING A DAZZLING NEW LITERARY VOICE

In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Review

A House is a Body is an intimate collection of stories that explores a range of human emotions, conditions and relationships. It is tender and riveting. The prose is simple yet searing. Even though each story embodied a different soul, together these stories came together to reveal a humanity that is full of beauty, hope and pain.

“She was like hearing your own heartbeat. If you stop for a minute and are entirely still you can hear it. All along she’s with you, but you never notice until you think to notice.”

In this passage Swamy is talking of mothers but in her intuitive way her female characters call to attention many nuanced perspectives of looking at the world.

“When he lifted his eyes to me for a moment I felt the wind knocked out: I was a bell, and he’d rung me.”

A House is a Body using electric prose and imagery to bring both the realistic and surreal alive. It is definitely worth your time to pick this book up and steep in its well of emotions.

Meet the Author

From the author’s website: “The winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook.

She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.”

Buy Links

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Blog Tour: Paris Never Leaves You

First, I would like to thank Clare Maurer and Maria Vitale at St.Martin’s Press for thinking of me when organizing this blog tour.

Synopsis

The war is over, but the past is never past …
 
Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe as the world around them is being torn apart. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill.  In desperation, Charlotte accepts help from an unlikely saviour – and her life is changed forever.
 
Charlotte is no victim – she is a survivor. But the truth of what happened in Paris is something she can never share with anyone, including her daughter. But can she ever really leave Paris behind – and survive the next chapter of her life?
 
Seamlessly interweaving Charlotte’s past in wartime Paris and her present in the 1950s world of New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is a heartbreakingly moving and unforgettable story of resilience, love – and impossible choices.

Review

Paris Never Leaves You is an historical novel about the German occupation of Paris during World War II. What stood out for me was that it showed the impact on civilians during a time of war. We see their daily struggle to get food and essentials. We understand their fears as their houses are no longer their homes, but instead commodities of war. Families are divided and move nightly to evade the German soldiers.

The effect of the war is palpable. Charlotte has lost a considerable amount of weight. Her father has fled the country. Her closest friend Simone has been arrested and her daughter Vivi is starving. And through all this a German soldier comes to her bookstore proffering food. At first she tells herself that she accepts his kindness out of necessity. Then she realizes that she has feelings for him that run deeper. She cannot admit or express how she truly feels. It seems like a betrayal. To her dead husband and to the people of Paris.

At the end of the war Charlotte and Vivi have both made it through. Their new lives in America are strained by the secrets of the past. Not only does survivor’s guilt weigh down heavily on Charlotte, but she also is ashamed of how she came to secure the life that she and Vivi now live.

I found the book slow going at first and had a hard time getting into it. When I read the blurb I thought it was going to be more about books because of the bookstore and publishing angles. However, I did appreciate learning another aspect of World War II that is rarely depicted in books. I never thought of a Jew serving in the German army or others using Jewish classification to escape war. I found this whole concept of “hiding in plain sight” intriguing and was touched by both Julian’s and Charlotte’s stories.

Meet the Author

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Terrible Virtue, The Unwitting, Next to Love, Scottsboro (shortlisted for the Orange Prize), The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank (translated into nine languages), and Lucy. Her last novel, Terrible Virtue, was optioned by Black Bicycle for a feature film.

Ellen has lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and enjoys talking to book groups in person, on the phone, or via the web.

She grew up in northern New Jersey and attended Bryn Mawr College, from which she holds a B.A. and an M.A. in modern history. After further graduate studies at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house.

Ellen lives in New York City and East Hampton, New York, with her husband and a terrier named Charlie.

Where You Can Find Ellen

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Mermaid-A-Thon TBR

I am late to the game with this Readathon. I first saw it on Twitter on Deja (I hope I spelled her name right.) Diary of a Reader‘s page. This is the third round of Mermaid-A-Thon. It is hosted by Fernando of Fernando’s Mermaid Books.

Dark World Challenges


Read a Book That Features War

Read a Book with a Badass Female Main Character

A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Trojan War from a female perspective. Short listed for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, “A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.”


Read a Book By a Black Author

Read a Predicted 5 star Read

In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, “the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.”


Read a Horror Middle Grade Book

Dead Voices is the spine tingling sequel to Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces. When I read this book a few years ago I got so swept up in the story that I forgot it was supposed to be a family read. LOL Looking forward to see where Arden takes Ollie and friends in this next chapter.


Read a Book with Revenge

In this first installment of Robert Pobi’s Lucas Page series, former FBI agent Lucas Page must find a sniper bent on revenge before his family find themselves in the sniper’s lens.

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Blog Tour: Hieroglyphics

Synopsis

Lil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically—lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d lost prematurely.

Now, after many years in Boston, they have retired in North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries—perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank’s repeated visits to Shelley’s house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she’d rather forget. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.

Hieroglyphics reveals the difficulty of ever really knowing the intentions and dreams and secrets of the people who raised you. In her deeply layered and masterful novel, Jill McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father or a mother, and what it means to be a child piecing together the world all around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory.


Review

Hieroglyphics opens as a character study of three generations of people not necessarily connected by family, but related by home. Lil and Frank are an older couple returning to their hometown in the winter of their lives. Shelley is a single mother of two boys Jason and Harvey. She and Harvey live alone in Frank’s childhood home.

We get a very good sense of Lil through her collection of letters and odd bits of history that she leaves about the house. Of all the characters her voice was the one resonated with me the most. I felt nostalgic at times even though she is not of my generation nor is her story my story. I was just pulled in by the love that she showed her family, her inner strength and her loyalty.

Frank is an archaeologist who investigates “graves and caves” in search of clues of long gone civilizations. But the past that he is really trying to decipher is his own.

Shelley works as a stenographer who is beset by the current case that she is transcribing. It is a high profile murder case where she over identifies with the victim. As she listens to testimony it triggers flashbacks of her past traumas. This intense anxiety is causing her to reflect on different aspects of her life. Not only forcing her to revisit her mistakes of the past, but to also reevaluate her decisions as a parent.

Poor Harvey thinks their home is haunted. There is a ghost that lingers at night and causes him to wet the bed. He has a vivid imagination. When he puts on one of his fake mustaches he could be either a sentient adult or a superhero known as Super Monkey. His superpower is that he can talk serial killers out of doing wrong and turn them onto the path of all that is moral and good. All of these are symptoms of his overriding fears – his sensitivity over his cleft lip, his abandonment by his father and his awareness of his mother’s grief and distress.

When I was a student I found that picking a title that encapsulated the heart of my story was perhaps one of the hardest tasks of writing. So now as an adult whenever I read a book I try to figure out why the author chose the title and its significance. After reading Hieroglyphics I came up with two justifications for the name.

Hieroglyphics are an ancient code of pictures that tell a story. Each of the characters encode their experiences. Shelley uses shorthand while transcribing her cases. Harvey and his brother trade secrets in Klingon. Lil reminisces over her mother’s unique sort of jargon. She and Frank share secret words so if one dies first they can “send messages” through the living.

Hieroglyphics are a language that informs the past. Here the past can be bittersweet with characters at times examining their lives through experiences of death and catastrophe. As Lil helps her daughter prepare for her wedding she is reminded of her own. Although her own mother was taken before she wed Frank she feels blessed to share this moment with her daughter and remembers how tragedy brought her and Frank together.

Take your time reading this book. It is subtle. It is sublime. If I had to sum Hieroglyphics up in one sentence I would say that it was a heartfelt, bittersweet examination of the legacy we leave behind for those we love. Highly recommend.


Meet the Author

Jill McCorkle’s first two novels were released simultaneously when she was just out of college, and the New York Times called her “a born novelist.” Since then, she has published six novels and four collections of short stories, and her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories several times, as well as The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Five of her books have been New York Times Notable books, and her most recent novel, Life After Life, was a New York Times bestseller. She has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Boston GlobeGarden and Gun, the Atlantic, and other publications. She was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard, where she also chaired the department of creative writing. She is currently a faculty member of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and is affiliated with the MFA program at North Carolina State University.


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