Book Review: Autumn

First things first: I’m currently participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, hosted by Whitney at @theunreadshelf. This post reflects on the September Challenge, but you can look back at all the posts here


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I’m going to keep this review short and sweet – which is what this book was to me. Autumn can be described in so many ways — artistic, poetic, beautiful, and funny to name a few — but to me the dominating tone was sweet. The humor was sweet, the Daniel’s daydreams were sweet, and Elisabeth’s memories were sweet.

Autumn is the story of Elisabeth and Daniel – two friends, two generations apart. The story is told as Daniel lies in a hospital bed near the end of his life, and Elisabeth is there to be with him. Through glimpses in to different stages of their pasts and presents, Autumn shows us that age doesn’t matter in friendship. 

I hope that a review this short doesn’t give the impression that this books lacks substance, but I just felt like this book emoted more a feeling than story. So rather than piece together or pick apart the narrative, I just want to say that this book will warm your soul like a giant cup of hot apple cider, and make you smile like an apple cider donut. Soak this book up as you soak up the season, before it’s time to pick up Winter!

Required Reading Regarding Brett Kavanaugh

Alright, internet. We’re getting political. A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on “diverse books” and mentioned that I don’t like to talk about political or serious things if I feel like I may not know exactly what I’m talking about. But here’s the thing — over the past year, I’ve read two of the best books I’ve ever read that have taught me the importance of spreading knowledge of the prevalence and effects of sexual assault in our society.

I agree that it’s obvious – men shouldn’t rape women, and men who rape women shouldn’t be appointed to the Supreme Court (and yes, I know it was an attempted rape). But beyond the obvious there is so much that can be learned from reading about this topic. So I have two recommendations for you:

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Missoula by Jon Krakauer

This book is a nonfiction account of a town in Montana that had way too many rapes of high school and college students. Be prepared for a brutal read – this book takes you through trials where no details are spared, but if you want to know the facts about rape, read this book. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t want to hear the facts necessarily (because they’re hard to hear), but they’re so important.

This book will teach you that a rape between friends is a rape, that someone who commits one rape is extremely likely to commit rape again, that being raped can ruin your life, that rape victims feel a disproportionate amount of guilt, and that trying to get a rape case prosecuted is so much harder than it sounds. Seriously though, I learned so much and my life has never been the same. I’ve never been so blown away by a book, and I cannot. stop. thinking. about. this. book.

So read it — here’s the amazon link, because trust me it’s worth it. AMAZON LINK.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Does this blog really need to talk about Beartown again? (For real, if I need to I will.) This book is one of the most informative and moving pieces of fiction of I’ve ever read. Central to this story is a rape – ok sorry I ruined the plot twist, but you probably saw that coming. The response from the community – her family, her friends, and her enemies rings so true after reading Missoula and this book moved me beyond words. If you think you want to be understand what a rape victim goes through after the event, this book will illustrate that for you, and you’ll be better for it.

So again – please read this book. It’s one of my absolute favorites and I think it’s so important. Some of my best friends and book club pals have read it and not one has disliked it, so if you don’t trust me, trust them. And here’s the AMAZON LINK. Just do it.

Other Feel Learn Wonder content on Beartown: Beartown Review, Us Against You Review, Meeting Fredrik Backman, Should You Read Beartown?

And finally I just have to point out that both of these books are written by men, so the proof is in the pudding that not all men are bad, but also.. some of them are. Read these books. Be educated. Be passionate. Fight back.

What I’m Reading: October

I have been talking about “all the books I’m going to read in October” since…. July? Pretty much since I found out that July – September would be totally crazy busy and I didn’t set my hopes very high, outside of reading books from publishers. Well OCTOBER is finally here and I’m so excited to get cozy with some of the books on my shelf! This month is all about BOOKS FROM OTHERS. Borrowed, Traded, and Gifted!

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Borrowed

Having been focused on books from publishers over the summer, I made my grand return to the library last week for two books I’ve been waiting on for what feels like a while.

Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper

I love reading contemporary fiction in the fall. Maybe it’s because everyone in my family has a September birthday but it seems like a good time to reflect on family. I’ve seen a few great reviews of this book, and am excited to read it.

Goodreads Description: The Connor family is one of the few that is still left in their idyllic fishing village, Big Running; after the fish mysteriously disappeared, most families had no choice but to relocate and find work elsewhere. Aidan and Martha Connor now spend alternate months of the year working at an energy site up north to support their children, Cora and Finn. But soon the family fears they’ll have to leave Big Running for good. And as the months go on, plagued by romantic temptations new and old, the emotional distance between the once blissful Aidan and Martha only widens.

Between his accordion lessons and reading up on Big Running’s local flora and fauna, eleven-year-old Finn Connor develops an obsession with solving the mystery of the missing fish. Aided by his reclusive music instructor Mrs. Callaghan, Finn thinks he may have discovered a way to find the fish, and in turn, save the only home he’s ever known. While Finn schemes, his sister Cora spends her days decorating the abandoned houses in Big Running with global flair—the baker’s home becomes Italy; the mailman’s, Britain. But it’s clear she’s desperate for a bigger life beyond the shores of her small town. As the streets of Big Running continue to empty Cora takes matters—and her family’s shared destinies—into her own hands.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book is the hot book of the moment — after being selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club in  September, this book has been on everyone’s radar. I’m proud to say that I requested it from the library before it was chose, but here we are. Part beautiful scenic writing, part murder mystery – I’m ready to have all the feels!

Goodreads description: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Traded

I love doing book swaps with friends! Both of these are were traded to me (temporarily) by friends who read and loved them, in exchange for a book I read and loved!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I borrowed this book from a neighbor months ago after raving about The Great Alone by the same author. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this book, and I think Hannah’s writing style combined with a WWII backdrop, will make for a beautifully gripping novel!

Goodreads description: In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Ok – I have been hoping to read this book for SO long. I tried listening to it on audio twice, but couldn’t focus. But I heard incredible things from friends, and I mean, it won the National Book Award, so I plan to persevere and read the hardcopy a friend lent me.

Goodreads Description: Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love

Gifted

I love getting books as gifts, and I usually try to read them soon after I get them. One of these is new and unfortunately, the other I’ve been dragging my feet on for almost a year.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

For my birthday last week I said “no books!” when my boyfriend asked what I wanted. So what did I get? A graphic novel! I’ve never run one of these, but I’m really excited about this one. It’s the graphic novel behind the Tony winning musical, so you know after I read it, I’m gonna be listening to all the tunes!

Goodreads Description: Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve

Playing Through The Whistle by S. L. Price

I got this book as a Christmas present last year and it really is right up my alley – you may not know this about me but I’m form Pittsburgh and I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. This book is about a football town across the river from were I grew up which is notorious for producing stars from an underprivledged community. I’ve been swamped with other books I want to read this whole year, but I think it’s time for me to pick this one up!

Goodreads Description: In the early twentieth century, down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company built one of the largest mills in the world and a town to go with it. Aliquippa was a beacon and a melting pot, pulling in thousands of families from Europe and the Jim Crow south. The J&L mill, though dirty and dangerous, offered a chance at a better life. It produced the steel that built American cities and won World War II and even became something of a workers’ paradise. But then, in the 1980’s, the steel industry cratered. The mill closed. Crime rose and crack hit big.

But another industry grew in Aliquippa. The town didn’t just make steel; it made elite football players, from Mike Ditka to Ty Law to Darrelle Revis. Pro football was born in Western Pennsylvania, and few places churned out talent like Aliquippa. Despite its troubles—maybe even because of them—Aliquippa became legendary for producing football greatness. A masterpiece of narrative journalism, Playing Through the Whistletells the remarkable story of Aliquippa and through it, the larger history of American industry, sports, and life. Like football, it will make you marvel, wince, cry, and cheer.

What are you reading this month? Are you usually good about reading books lent/gifted to you??

 

September Reading Recap

September was… busy! Although, for all the right reasons – I traveled to the East Coast for my grandmothers 99th birthday and to meet my newest (and only) nephew! Then continued on to Portugal for my very first solo international trip. It went really well, and as you can see below, I got a lot of quality time with my kindle and a glass of wine 🙂 When in Portugal, right!?

I read six books which is a ton for me considering none of them were audiobooks! Some great, some not as great, but overall a pretty good reading month — here’s what I read:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Tone: Slow, Thoughtful, Tragic
Structure: Non-linear but with a relatively chronological timeline, before turning to a first person reaction
Read if you like: Beautiful writing, Family Sagas, Pachinko, An American Marriage

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Rating: 4/5
Genre: General Fiction
Tone: Bingeworthy, Dramatic, Youthful
Structure: Two points of view in two timelines
Read if you like: Greys Anatomy, Gossip Girl, The It Girl

The Witch Elm by Tana French
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Mystery
Tone: Dark, Gothic
Structure: Chronological first person from a single point of view
Read if you like: Tana French, Robert Galbraith, The Death of Mrs. Westaway

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Memoir
Tone: Quirky, Sarcastic, Long
Structure: First person chronological, although the voice changes as Piper grows up
Read if you like: Priestdaddy, Educated, Memoirs in general

Autumn by Ali Smith
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Tone: Contemplative, Hopeful, Sweet
Structure: Many stories blended together, no quotations around dialogue
Read if you like: Man Booker Prize Winners, Prose, Slow reads with a little humor

My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Fiction
Tone: Repetitive, Sarcastic, Quirky, Repetitive (get it?)
Structure: First person with a linear timeline during periods of being awake over the year
Read if you like: Millenials – otherwise this book is totally unique.

Book Review: The Witch Elm

Author: Tana French
Genre: Mystery
Pub Date: October 9, 2018
FLW Rating: 4/5

How do you review the QUEEN? Tana French has been my favorite author for my whole adult reading life, so I feel a little wrong writing anything but a glowing review. This is also a tricky one to review since I’ve been so in love with French’s Dublin Murder Series, and this was her first standalone novel. This book was totally different than her others (mainly that you didn’t follow the lives of ANY detectives!) but I totally enjoyed it in its own right — I’m just also ready to read another Dublin Murder Series book next. 🙂

The Witch Elm is a dark and moody mystery that demonstrates the fact that you never know you can trust — including yourself, your long-term partner, or your closest family members. At the opening of the novel, Toby experienced a break-in and assault, leaving him helpless and with some potential permanent brain damage. While Toby is recovering by spending time with his dying uncle, a dead body is recovered at the house, and everyone in the family becomes a suspect. Written as less of a “Clue” who-done-it puzzle, and more of an internal psychological monologue, the reader follows along while Toby struggles to determine what he knows and what he’s tricked himself in to believing.

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Dinner alone in Portugal wasn’t so bad as I worked through a dramatic scene with this view and this delicious Sangria! (I actually didn’t want to leave so had a couple glasses of this wine and this was the only night of my trip I felt tipsy! Oops!)

What Tana French does well (understatement of the century), in all books, is writing group dynamics. My favorite book of hers is The Likeness, in which one of the detectives actually goes undercover to investigate a murder by living with a group of the victims friends. (A few people I know have their issues with this one, because it’s pretty unrealistic, but I think it’s a perfect demonstration of how masterfully French writes group dynamics.) In The Witch Elm, the “group” explored was primarily Toby and his two cousins, who he grew up with. Suspicion was cast in all directions, and my favorite part of the book was trying to identify the motives of each character.

What I struggled with was the use of monologues throughout the books. In some cases, like Emma in the Night, I kind of love a big monologue reveal, but after a while in this book, I started to feel like it was just one big series of monologues. Additionally, it felt like the direction of these monologues changed suddenly — all of a sudden Toby would have an idea and begin a full reveal on his current theory, then something would come up and he would begin another. An unintended consequence was that it made the book feel like a TV series. I actually had a moment when I thought to myself “I can’t wait to get home, so I can keep watching my show!” and then remembered that it was a book. Ha! That’s never happened to me before.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book – the mystery and the drama I had been hoping for was present, and ultimately I got lost in the story and couldn’t wait to pick up the book to keep reading every time I had the chance. I read this book while traveling solo and since every time I opened it I felt submerged in their world, it was the perfect book to keep me company!

This book comes out October 9th! Thanks to Viking Books and Netgalley for my advanced copy!

Book Review: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles

Author: Karen Piper
Genre: Memoir
Pub Date: August 14, 2018
FLW Rating: 3/5

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles was the fresh, witty, laugh out loud memoir I was searching for – until it wasn’t. And at first I was blown away with how much I was learning and how much I was enjoying this fresh new voice! But as the end got closer, the wit and humor seemed to have disappeared and I found myself feeling impatient for the ending.

A Girls Guide to Missiles is a memoir of Karen Piper’s life, from her childhood in China Lake — one of America’s secret military deserts — where her parents were working on the design of missiles during the Cold/Vietnam Wars. As Karen grows up and and tries to understand the world on her own terms, shes forced to answer many questions about where she was raised and how.

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The beginning of this book was my favorite – I was laughing out loud and underlining passages consistently. Karen’s understanding of how life/religion/politics worked as a child had me cracking up because really, she was so logical in an illogical world.

I also enjoyed learning about a period of history that isn’t yet well documented in either memoirs or fiction — the 1970s. To be honest with you, I know a lot more about the first half of the 20th century than the second. It always drove me nuts in history class when we would end the year right before we got to learn about the Vietnam War and I haven’t quite filled my reading life to make up for that! (Note to self: read more books set in the 1970/80s.) It was interesting to hear about Vietnam, and the American missile program, and even Nixon and Watergate.

Where the book lost me was after the second failed romantic relationship, when she wasn’t going anywhere fast, and the tone had shifted from comedic and witty to just kind of depressing. I was disappointed that a memoir that started so strong, didn’t maintain that momentum throughout, but I guess it’s the truth of what happened, and it needed to be written.

Overall, I think this is a fun memoir (especially the beginning) that’s pretty eye opening to what it was like on a military base in the 1970s — not a side of life we frequently see! If you’re at all interested in that or looking for a new perspective in a memoir, this book is certainly worth checking out!

Have you read this? What did you think?

Thoughts on Diverse Books

I’ve learned so much about diverse books since joining #bookstagram – it’s a very hot topic in the world of people sharing book recommendations. I’m always trying to include “diverse books” in my reading, but I’ve realized that there can be many different motivations and definitions of “diverse”, so I wanted to discuss a bit of that here. I don’t normally like to talk about serious topics like this on here, since I don’t think I’m coming from a place of authority, but I have truly seen a new side of diversity recently, and wanted to share that journey with all of you.

 

Awareness

When I first joined #bookstagam, my opinion was that the purpose of diverse books simple – awareness. It’s important to read books about people from other cultures to understand what their world is life. It may be as simple as reading Ginny Moon and seeing the world from the perspective of a foster child on the autism spectrum and understanding that not everyone’s brain works the same way; or reading Left Neglected by Lisa Genova and understanding the impacts of a chronic illness on the victim and their family, both in the immediate and long term. These were great examples of “diverse” books for me, because they taught me things that I wouldn’t otherwise know and raised issues to a wider audience, so that we can know go forward with more understanding and empathy.

Since I thought I was doing the right thing, I didn’t expect to hear that I was thinking about this topic with a heavy side of white privilege. Which takes me to point two.

Representation

I believe it was during Black History Month that I started to see a lot of comments around #bookstagram, about how messed up it is that white people think “diverse reads” are about awareness when it’s clearly about representation, and giving the reader of the minority the opportunity to see herself in popular culture and feel represented and included.

My initial thought was, admittedly, “back off – I’m doing the best I can”, but recently with the production of Crazy Rich Asians among others, I’ve started to see how much it matters to the groups of people who feel under represented. I want to share that I think Elissa and Simone and Her Books, do amazing jobs covering how books featuring an Asian or Asian American protagonist make them feel. I really enjoy reading their reviews about books featuring an Asian character as the main character instead of the “token Asian friend”, and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand why this is such an important topic in literature today.

And now on to my third category –

Own Voices

This one is very new to me, but I think it’s both a combination of the two and an  important subcategory of both. Own voices means books about African Americans written by African Americans, and books about Asians written by Asians, etc. This is truly the best way to achieve diversity because it portrays the truth based on an internal understanding as well as supports minority authors of a minority. Kate Olsen (of @kate.olsen.reads) has been promoting this topic a lot recently, and it has been amazing to me to see the responses of her readers, and how much this topic means to them. I think that’s really cool!

Recommendations

And of course, I want to suggest a few of my favorite diverse reads to you to get you started!

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Stay With Me Ayobami Adabayo

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Let me know what you think of this and if you have any books I should add to my list? Have your opinions on diverse books changed at all recently?

 

Book Review: The Queen of Hearts

Author: Kimmery Martin
Genre: General Fiction
Pub Date: February 2018
FLW Rating: 4/5

I read a blog post – or maybe just an Instagram caption – recently where the author was sharing her frustration of people rating memoirs as 1 or 2 stars because they were too “self-centered/ self-absordbed.” Her point was that we, as reviewers, need to rate books based both on the category in which they exist and the goal/intent of the author in writing the book. I have my reservations about that as a blanket statement, but essentially, I think the logic applies well to this book, The Queen of Hearts. As Martin wrote in her Author’s Note, her goal for this book was to write something entertaining, involving her two loves of medicine and writing (she’s actually a full time ER doctor in her non-author life!). I feel like she took the words right out of my mouth, but of course I have to elaborate. To me, The Queen of Hearts was well written, complex, and entertaining — While there was nothing that blew me away in terms of writing or plot, I’ll happily reflect on it and recommend it to my friends who may be looking for an very solid page turner.

The Queen of Hearts is a story told in two parts – one being when the main characters, Zadie and Emma, were in their first intern year of Med School, and one later on when both women are successful physicians. During their school years, one of their classmates dies unexpectedly, and while Emma knows the full story, Zadie does not. That secret is constantly brooding beneath their friendship, and as Emma enters a turbulent stage of her career, the story being uncovered would mean her losing it all – her job, her best friend, and so much more.

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As I look back on this book the first thing that comes to mind is the plot line involving the shocking death of the classmate, but I need to highlight that as I was reading it, it was really the professional scandal that C is going through that hit me the hardest. With so many strong plotlines, being able to balance each and make them independently strong, is to me the sign of a well-structured book, and a testament to Martin’s writing, appealing to the humanity in us all.

Additionally, I liked that despite the sometimes-heavier subject matter, this book primarily stayed light and moved quickly. I credit this tone to the inclusion of the medical writing. The surgery, hospital, and emergency rooms scenes advanced the plot and added suspense, but also needed to be kept relatively short to avoid us non-medical personal becoming disinterested. Because of this, the medical scenes set the pace of the novel and kept the other sections moving at that pace too. The combination of the strong intersecting plot points along with the medical scenes made The Queen of Hearts unique from other books I’ve read recently, and truly a joy to read.

Overall, it gets a solid four stars from me – I was thoroughly entertained and appreciated both the complex plot and authentic medical knowledge contributions!

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Book Review: A Place For Us

Author: Fatima Farheen Mirza
Published: June 12, 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction
FLW Rating: 4.5/5

First things first: I’m currently participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, hosted by Whitney at @theunreadshelf. This post reflects on the August Challenge, but you can look back at all the posts here

You may be thinking – another five star (or almost five star) review of A Place For Us, really? If you are, I feel you – the hype was strong for this book and I found that anticipating “hype” in a slow burn really brought the vibe down. So I want to say that this book was good, particularly for the beautiful writing and unique structure, but I would advise you to be conscious of the slowness of this book.

A Place For Us is the story of an Indian-American family. Like any family they love each other but have their moments. This family in particular, though, has the added stressers of a strict Muslim lifestyle. Being a Muslim affects a lot of their life – the clothes they wear, the choice to abstain from alcohol, the romantic relationships they can enter in to, and, importantly, the way their classmates view them. As these factors come in to play over the course of the children’s upbringing, conflict repeatedly arises between Amar and his father and the book unfolds as they confront these issues. 

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At the center of this story is a generational shift from parents to children. While the parents grew up in a primarily Muslim community, and appear to have escaped a childhood full of prejudice and discrimination, the children are growing up farther removed from the church and in a society where they constantly have to think about not just being discriminated against, but also the risk of violence against them solely for their religion. This fundamental shift, while having some to deal with religious beliefs, comes across as a human story of struggle. While I harped strongly on faith in the summary above, I want to stress that, while I do not strongly associate with any religion, I still felt that I was able to relate strongly to the religious components of the story line in this book.

To illustrate this generational shift, two key issues are at play in this book: domestic violence and the use of drugs/alcohol/opioids. In this book Amar, the youngest child and only son struggled with substance abuse, and separately, his father, struggled with psychically abusive tendencies. I’ve read a few books recently (notably The Great Alone and Ohio) that tackle these issues together, meaning that one person has issues with both substance abuse and physical abuse — typically one causing the other. I loved how this book tackled them separately, so that one wasn’t an excuse for the other.

What truly made this book stand out for me was the structure. The first few sections, while non-linear in timeline, follow a relatively straightforward, third person storyline trajectory. However the fourth flips the story on its head and features Amar’s father directly addressing the first three sections and his feelings towards Amar. It was so hard to read and be confronted with the eternal and unconditional love of a father, despite viewing him as the villain for three-fourths of the story.

The phrase “stunning debut” is, in my opinion, way overused — but it truly applies in this situation. To write with such meaning and to create such a unique structure of a book is truly inspirational, and I commend Mirza for writing with such originality. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to feel some feelings — and sympathize with those who we may have faulted in the past.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

SDFOB: Women Writing Fiction

And Finally – Women Writing Fiction

This seminar was by far the one I was most looking forward to! I read a lot of fiction written by women and I love it. Going in to the seminar, my anticipated “headliner” was Brit Bennet, author of The Mothers, that I read a few years ago when it was chosen as a Book of the Month Choice. It turns out she grew up right here in Oceanside!

However, I was definitely quick to judge when I predicted she would be the most impressive woman on this panel – the other two women blew me away and I want to share the author love for each of them!

T. Greenwood

Most Recent Novel: Rust & Stardust

Tammy (what T stands for — I had the hardest time finding her on Goodreads after the festival because she doesn’t go by Tammy!) was such a beautiful, artistic, creative, and passionate soul. I was so impressed by so many things about her, but first and foremost that she has published TWELVE novels!

I really just enjoyed her energy and her ability to give the uncomfortable answer. On the topic of “women’s fiction” where others didn’t like the title but didn’t want to start a war, she was so ready to say “I have a serious problem with it!” I loved that because I totally agree and never classify a novel as women’s fiction.

I also enjoyed hearing how she funded her work – she has had every job in the book from waitress, to retail, to coffee barista! Now she’s able to write her novels, teach writing at a local university, and mentor/ freelance edit for other authors.

It was such a pleasure to “meet” Tammy, and I’m looking forward to reading some of her twelve novels!

Michelle Gable

Most Recent Novel: The Summer I Met Jack

Michelle Gable was another author I am surprised I hadn’t heard of – her energy was contagious and I found myself wanting to be her best friend.

Some of the highlights of her answers include that she always sets her books in beautiful places so she can visit — her first book is titled A Paris Apartment — and she didn’t publish her first book until she was 40 years old (this blew me away because Michelle is so gorgeous and full of young energy. Not that there’s anything wrong with being over 40, but I never would have guessed her age!)

To fund her writing process (and life in general) Michelle worked for almost 20 years in finance. Her advice is that the best way to be a writer is to be busy — she said she’s actually finding is equally as hard to find time to write when she’s doing it full time as when she only had an hour a day but she was committed to that hour a day. As an engineer, I totally feel this sentiment!

The most passionate answer Michelle gave is that it’s easy to write strong women because she is one and she is surrounded by many. Just be listening to her speak you knew this was true – she spoke with so much passion, excitement, and confidence and I loved it!

And in terms of supporting others and giving back,  Michelle shared that she is an avid readers and reviews all the books she reads on Goodreads. She also pre-orders hardcover versions of debut authors. These are some excellent peeks in to how the industry works and some of the best ways to support authors, so I think we should all take a page out of Michelle’s book – figuratively of course.

Brit Bennet

Most Recent Novel: The Mothers

Brit was truly unique on this panel — she was by far the youngest, the only one to not have a children (yet), the only one to only have one book published so far, the only one to be able to write full time since publishing her first book, and the only one to have an absolute sensation of a debut.

Despite all of those comparisons, Brit showed wisdom beyond her years with each of her answers. In each round of questions, she would answer last and start by saying, “Yeah, what they said,” but then continue to blow me away with some of her answers. As I’m writing this in Portugal without my notebook, I can’t remember her exact words, but it’s important to know that Brit is wise, elequent, and so impressive in her modest confidence.

What I didn’t know when I read the Mothers was that she wrote that novel in graduate school!!! She had it picked up by a publisher (not to mention Book of the Month!) and therefore was able to go in her career as a full time author — a rarity in this industry!

While she only has one book out right now, I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Final Thoughts

This panel did a few things for me — first and foremost, it inspired me to write a book (TBD if I’ll ever do it, but I would love to! More on that in a later post, probably)

Some of the common themes were that it’s hard to be a writer. Each of the author’s who have published more than one book shared that they’ve written way more books than they’ve had published. Brit Bennett is truly the exception here! They also shared that book tours are hard on the mind and the body (BB included here). Brit said even touring in her twenties was hard – she was so excited to visit friends in cities that she’d visit on her tour, but soon realized how exhausted she was and how much she just wanted to sleep when she arrived in a new city. I’ve heard others (Backman) speak about this, and even insist that his family join him on his most recent book tour, but he presented it more in the context of anxiety. Hearing from these women showed me that it’s really just hard to be an author and be on tour — it’s not the glamorous life we (well at least I) dream of.

Speaking of glamorous lives, each woman on the panel said that they watch and love Younger (my latest Hulu binge-watching show!) Their comments were that they’ve never seen publishers who are so attractive, so wealthy, or have such nice offices, but that they absolutely love watching it. Me too!!

Overall, this panel was my favorite of the day (clearly), and was both so inspiring and so informative.  I love knowing that each of the authors live (or grew up) in San Diego and intend to read their books and continue to support my local authors.

Have you read books by these three? Do you know which authors live in your city?