Friday, July 31, 2015

New Books Coming Your Way Aug. 11, 2015

In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib
288 p.
Publication date: August 11, 2015

Emigrating from Egypt, Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy were determined to live the American dream. After years of hard work, Samir set up his own medical practice and the family moved to an upscale New Jersey suburb; a beautiful home and a close friendship with their neighbors, the Bradstreets, made it seem as though they had finally made it. But when a devastating turn of events leaves their eldest son and the Bradstreets’ daughter dead, all their years of success begin to unravel. The Al-Menshawys become pariahs in the neighborhood, and whether through religion, work, or friendship, each family member struggles to move forward in his or her own way. Through it all, Nagla works desperately to keep the family together; Samir is determined to reconcile with the community; while their surviving son, Khaled, is forced to reexamine his beliefs, responsibilities, and place in a changing world.

In graceful yet unflinchingly honest prose, Rajia Hassib tells the story of a family pushed to the brink by tragedy and mental illness, trying to salvage the life they worked so hard to achieve.

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
240 p.
Publication date: August 11, 2015

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, The Salt Roads, Sister Mine) is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as having "an imagination that most of us would kill for," her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness.

In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall with unfulfilled ghosts, or herding chickens that occasionally breathe fire, Hopkinson continues to create bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#BookReview: WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi

I'm always appreciative of authors that teach as they write. Nadia Hashimi appeared on the literary scene last year with The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, a novel that delved into the lives of girls growing up in Afghanistan living as bacha posh. I was immediately drawn into the lives of the characters in The Pearl and with When the Moon is Low, Hashimi once again pulls readers into the stressful and chaotic lives of her characters.

When first we meet Fereiba, she's a Cinderella-like character. In an attempt to find a mother figure for newborn Fereiba and her two year old brother, Asad, her father marries KokoGul.  While Asad, as a boy, is looked upon favorably, Fereiba becomes a bit of a whipping post for KokoGul, who goes on to birth her own daughters. Kept home for years to assist KokoGul with housework, Fereiba watches all of her younger sisters and brother attend school. Is it because KokoGul really needs help around the house or is it because she wants to limit Fereiba's future?  I would say both. KokoGul strikes me has a hateful and petty character.  We see this when Fereiba is being courted by a neighbor boy, but KokoGul pushes Najiba, her daughter by birth, forward for marriage instead. Again and again, we see Fereiba face adversity, but we also see her find a way to work around her circumstances and that will serve her well in the long run.

Fereiba marries Mahmoud, an engineer, who is much better suited for her than her former suitors. With him, they have a son, Saleem, and daughter, Samira.  Life in Kabul takes a turn with the rise of the Taliban and Fereiba's family finds that their only means of survival is fleeing their home.

When the Moon is Low follows Fereiba's journey with her children, taking them from Afghanistan to Iran, Turkey, Greece and hopefully, eventually, England. Her grit and determination are passed on to her children, Saleem in particular, who takes on responsibility for the family when his mother needs him to do so, but also Samira in her own way.
Samira was just nine years old on that night. She was an extension of me. Her moods ebbed and flowed in response to my moods, just as the tides respond to the moon. If I brooded, Samira quieted, blowing her dark bangs away from her crinkled forehead. If I was happy, my daughter walked with a skip in her step.

I loved this book. Told from the perspective of Saleem and Fereiba, Hashimi brings us the story of immigrants from a war torn country with such care and concern. I found myself shaking my head, realizing that I'd never really given much thought to how bad things were in other countries or the difficulties citizens had in escaping the oppressive regimes. As long as Hashimi keeps exposing and exploring such fascinating topics, I'll keep reading.

400 p.
Publication date: July 2015
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Friday, July 24, 2015

New Books Coming Your Way Aug. 4, 2015 (from Chitra Viraraghavan, Liu Zhenyun & Iceberg Slim)

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan
296 p.
Publication date: August 4, 2015

The protagonist of the book is Tara, a single Indian woman in her mid-thirties who travels to America to look after her teenage niece while her sister Kamala is dealing with her autistic son’s treatment and issues at school. But theirs is just one story of many. Woven expertly together, The Americans tells the stories of eleven people whose lives span the country from Louisville to Chicago to Los Angeles to Portland, to Boston. And all of their stories connect back to Tara. The Americans is about a group of people who have come to the United States with the hope of a better life, and find out what it means to have arrived here and not fit in. For fan of Jhumpa Lhairi’s Interpreter of Maladies and Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, The Americans is an eloquent and heart-warming debut from an exciting new voice that brings up questions of race, ethnicity and point of origin, and explores the puzzles of identity, place and human connection.

The Cook, the Crook and the Real Estate Tycoon by Liu Zhenyun
288 p.
Publication date: August 4, 2015

Here's a new one from Liu Zhenyun, author of I Did Not Kill My Husband. The protagonist, Liu Yuejin, is a work site cook and small-time thief whose bag is stolen. In searching for it he stumbles upon another bag, which contains a flash disk that chronicles high-level corruption, and sets off a convoluted chase. There are no heroes in this scathing, complex, and highly readable critique of the dark side of China’s predatory capitalism, corruption, and the plight of the underclasses.

Shetani's Sister by Iceberg Slim
256 p.
Publication date: August 4, 2015

Here is the newly discovered novel by Iceberg Slim, the creator and undisputed master of African-American “street literature,” a man who profoundly influenced hip hop and rap culture and probably has sold more books than any other black American author of the twentieth century (not that he saw the royalties from those sales). In many ways Iceberg Slim’s most mature fictional work, Shetani’s Sister relates, in taut, evocative vernacular torn straight from the street corner, the deadly duel between two complex anitheroes: Sergeant Russell Rucker, an LAPD vice detective attempting to clean up street prostitution and police corruption, and Shetani (Swahili for Satan), a veteran master pimp who controls his stable of whores with violence and daily doses of heroin.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#BookReview: THE LADIES OF MANAGUA by Eleni N. Gage

Maria Vazquez has a love/hate relationship with her mother, Ninexin, a larger than life figure.  While she was out leading the revolution, she left Maria to be raised by her grandmother, Isabela, and grandfather, Ignacio.  And in Maria's eyes, her grandparents can do no wrong.  The Ladies of Managua follows the lives of these three generations of women.

Her father's death at an early age adds to the abandonment that Maria feels by her parents.  While he left her by death, her mother chose to leave her and lead the Nicaraguan revolution.  She has a good relationship with her grandfather, but can't help feeling that a part of her is incomplete because she never knew her father.  We see her involved in a relationship with an older man, a temperamental artist that takes her for granted.  As she bends to his will, at times forsaking her own desires, you have to wonder if he is a replacement father figure for her.  Even as he tries to right the wrongs in their past, I found myself rooting against him, believing that she would be better suited with someone other than him.

Ninexin is a complex individual, shrouded in layers of secrecy.  She doesn't strike me as a maternal character, so when she makes attempts to reach out to Maria, it's not difficult to understand why Maria rebuffs her attempts.  As readers, we know that Ninexin is now a high level government official and revered by many in the country, but we're only given a glimpse of her on a personal level.  Even as she begins to show her "real" side, Maria is unsure of what to make of it.  It's only when Ninexin completely lets her mask fall that Maria begins to understand the sacrifices her mother made for her in the name of the revolution.

Bela is absolutely my favorite character.  When we meet her in present day, she's mourning the loss of her husband.  But we learn that he was not the great love of her life, that would be Mauricio, a man that courted her during her time at boarding school in 1950s New Orleans.  I've visited New Orleans several times, but reading it through the eyes of a teenage girl in days past was an eye opening experience.  At a time when young women were expected to be prim and proper, Bela was bold, though not brave enough to go against her family wishes.  Still, the present day Bela is bold and brave.  She's reached an age where she has little regard to how people view her and she rarely bites her tongue.

Although the relationships among the three women are the heart of the story, I also enjoyed reading about their relationships with Ignacio - husband, father and grandfather. Even though he had other grandchildren, you can tell he went out of his way to make Maria feel special and to make sure she didn't lack paternal influence.  It would seem that all three women had a special bond with Ignacio.  He wasn't the man Bela initially wanted, but he was the man she needed. He didn't necessarily approve of, but understood and supported Ninexin's decisions.  And he stood in the gap for Maria when her own father couldn't.

I was initially drawn to this book because of the colorful cover, but was quickly drawn into the lives of the characters.  If you love a good generational saga with intense characters, this is a must read.

Published: May 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

Free for All Friday, July 17, 2015

In 2013, a number of actors and actresses collaborated with the August Wilson Foundation to create audio versions of his 10 plays, collectively known as the American Century Cycle.  Each play highlights a different decade beginning with the 1900s and ending with the 1990s.  Fans of August Wilson can listen to all 10 of his plays until August 26.  While I've had the pleasure of seeing The Piano Lesson on stage, and a made for TV version featuring Charles S. Dutton, I can't wait to listen to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Joe Turner's Come & Gone, Fences and the other works.

As parents, we have several talks with our kids about the important things in life.  The ladies over at Cool Mom Picks have created a list of 12 books to help talk to kids about prejudice.

The Harlem Book Fair takes place this weekend. The Saturday schedule is pretty full, so if you're planning to go, you should definitely plan ahead to make sure you get to see panels that interest you. For those of us that can't make it, C-SPAN will broadcast a few of the panels beginning at 11 a.m. EDT this Saturday.

Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist just announced that she's working on a Young Adult (YA) novel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#BookReview: THE STAR SIDE OF BIRD HILL by Naomi Jackson

This is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far.  I rarely hand out five stars, in fact, I've been told that I review too harshly.  Not even Judy Blume's latest, In the Unlikely Event, received five stars.  With the exception of The Turner House, all of my favorite reads this year have been centered in the Caribbean (Til the Well Runs Dry and God Loves Haiti).

Touted as a coming of age story, Star Side follows two sisters, Dionne and Phaedra, who are uprooted from their life in Brooklyn and transplanted in Barbados.  And while coming of age usually implies that someone is growing up or entering adulthood, I would argue that all three of the main characters, Hyacinth included, come of age in this well crafted novel.

Sent to Barbados by their mother, Avril, the sisters adjust to life on the island differently.  While Phaedra, the younger and more optimistic of the sisters hopes to make friends with the island girls, she quickly finds happiness in having two close friends.  (Anyone with good sense will tell you that that's all you really need anyway.)

Dionne, however, is sixteen, that magical age when you know everything, no one can tell you anything and you want to try everything.  Having practically raised Phaedra while their mother sat holed up in their Brooklyn apartment, it's no wonder that Dionne craves her independence.  And, overall, she really just wants what girls her age want - her freedom to do her thing without question.  Her grandmother, Hyacinth, sees so much of her daughter, Avril, in Dionne and you just know that she's going to do her best to break her spirit.

Hyacinth doesn't readily give off the warm and fuzzy granny vibes we so often see in books.  She's a bit prickly with the girls and you're never sure if she's always been that way with children or if it's a result of doing years of battle with Avril as a teen.  Phaedra craves her attention and Dionne craves her praise, even if she won't admit it.

In most books, there's a turning point when characters come to realize what they should have known all along.  For these three, it's the arrival of Errol, the girl's father.  Even as he wins over the girls, Hyacinth is reminded of the snake he was and will always be.  His actions upset the fragile balance of the household, but eventually causes the trio to draw closer together.

Watching the girls and their grandmother come to know themselves and each other is fascinating.  We see Hyacinth bend a little, not becoming soft, but finally acknowledging to herself that neither of the girls is Avril and it may be okay to show real affection to Phaedra and offer praise to Dionne.  I also love the idea of Phaedra continuing the family legacy, learning from her grandmother.  Mostly, I love that Dionne finally gets a chance to stop being a mother to Phaedra, realizes that she doesn't have to show out for anyone, and just gets to be a teen.

I can't praise this debut novel from Naomi Jackson enough. If you loved Til the Well Runs Dry from Lauren Francis Sharma (which I haven't reviewed on the site, but will soon), this is a must read.

304 p.
Published; July 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

On Shelves Now: MAMA'S BOY by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

When her son is in trouble, a heartbroken mother finds the courage and faith to save him, in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s powerful family drama Mama's Boy—a novel as timely as today’s headlines.

The breaking TV news rocks Jasper, Texas, to the core: a white police officer is fatally shot in a scuffle with three black youths—and a cellphone video captures Jamal Jones, the sixteen-year-old son of esteemed Reverend Elton Jones, escalating the tragic encounter. Now, as the national spotlight shines on a town already rife with racial tension, Jamal is a murder suspect on the run. And all of Jasper—even the reverend’s congregation—rushes to judge the teen they thought they knew.

But Gloria Jones knows her son best, and she races to find Jamal before the law does—to the outrage of her workaholic husband. Once she finds him, she has to decide whether to turn him in or help him run. With ruthless prosecutor and Houston mayoral candidate Kay Christensen hungering to put another young thug behind bars, Gloria will face her biggest battle yet. And when long-hidden secrets and shocking lies come to light, throwing Jamal’s case and his destiny into a tailspin, all Gloria can do is pray that the truth—and a mother’s unconditional love—will be enough to redeem the mistakes of the past and, ultimately, save her son.

Mama's Boy will have readers engrossed in thoughts of what they would do if facing the same situation, and inevitably having the conversation with others—a page-turner and conversation-starter all in one.

About the Author
ReShonda Tate Billingsley is the national bestselling author of more than 35 books. Four of her books will be made into BET movies: Let the Church Say Amen, Everybody Say Amen, and Say Amen, Again, (winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work), and I Know I’ve Been Changed. Regina King will direct Let the Church Say Amen. Queen Latifah’s Flava Unit will be producing. Scheduled air date for Let the Church Say Amen is August 30, 2015. TV One will premiere both The Secret She Kept and The Devil is a Lie in 2016.

Facebook: reshondatatebillingsley
Twitter: @Reshondat

Meet the Author
Saturday, July 11th, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Books & Brunch, Forum Caterers, 4210 Primrose Ave, Baltimore MD
Brunch Early Bird, $35 / Brunch and Writers Workshop, $55 / Writers Workshop, $25
To register and make payment:

Sunday, July 12th, 3:00 – 6:00 pm
Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Rd., Hyattsville, MD
General Admission $25. To register and make payment:

Monday, July 13th, 6:00 pm
Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, July 15th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
The Twig, 306 Pearl Parkway Suite 106, San Antonio, TX

Saturday, July 18th, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Houston Public Library, 5411 Pardee St., Houston TX 77026
*An event with ReShonda’s daughter Morgan Billingsley

Tuesday, July 21st, 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble, Westheimer Crossing, 7626 Westheimer, Houston, TX
*An event with Victoria Christopher Murray

Thursday, July 23, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Epps Memorial Library, 1324 North Simmons St., Lake Charles, LA

Saturday, July 25, 1:00 pm
Barnes & Noble, 4155 Dowlen Rd., Beaumont, TX

Sunday, August 9th, 3:00 pm
Durham County Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., Durham, NC

BOOK FESTIVAL: September 4th – 6th, 2015
Decatur Book Festival, Decatur, GA (10 minutes outside Atlanta)

BOOK FESTIVAL: Saturday, September 12th, 2015
2nd Annual Literacy Mid-South Book Festival, Memphis, TN

Saturday, September 19th, 9:30 – 6:00 pm
Durham County Library, Southwest Regional Library, 3605 Shannon Rd., Durham, NC

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


For all the talking, tweeting, conferencing and tumbling about children needing diverse books, and they really do, let's not overlook the importance of diversity for adults.  On the kids site, I make it a point to search for and highlight books featuring children of colour.  It's fairly easy to find books featuring African, Caribbean, Asian, Latino and Native American kids.  But I've noticed that as the reader's age creeps up, books that look like them fade out.  While it's important that children see characters that look like them, it's just as important that teens/young adults and adults do as well.   I wholeheartedly support the We Need Diverse Books movement, but it focuses solely on children's lit and YA.

What I'm looking for, and don't see a lot of discussion about, is literary fiction. There are a limited number of authors whose work makes it onto shelves and is promoted, but there's no push from publishers or the land of Tumblr to propel those books forward into the hands of people that don't necessarily look like the characters those books are about. What I have witnessed is an interesting cross-section of authors of colour reading, loving and promoting each others books, which seems like a win-win situation to me. Not only are they, as readers, stepping outside of their norm, they're sharing those books with their own readers, giving visibility to books that audience might not know about otherwise.

Interestingly enough, the group that often complains about the saturation of white male authors in the  New York Times review section are white female authors.  But rarely do I see them promoting other authors that aren't white females.  That's not to say that they never do, but I follow a lot of the more popular authors and they're more likely to promote an unheard of author that looks like them before an Asian, Latino, African American or Native American author.  The closest they come to talking about books with characters that don't look like them is when someone that looks like them has written them (e.g., The Help, The Secret Lives of Bees, etc.).  These aren't women that are scrambling to make it to the top, they're big dollar authors that see New York Times Bestseller stamped on their books, but reaching out to authors that look like them and trying to help them get there?  Apparently that goes beyond the call of duty.

I don't know about you, but I want to read books that introduce me to another culture, other customs, new traditions.  I already know what white America looks like, I've seen it every day of my life.  I'm more interested in stories about San Francisco's Chinatown in WWII, Afghani women living as bacha posh, African American teens finding themselves living in Barbados, etc.  Isn't the world a more interesting place when you realize it's not all about you and your culture?  I encourage you to spread the word about good books featuring characters of colour, whether you do it by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads, talking about it on social media, or just telling friends about them in conversation.   If you belong to a book club, suggest books to fellow club members.  Often, authors are willing to Skype with your club or even attend the meeting if they're in your area.  Remember, kids need diverse books, but so do we.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Read in Colour: New Books Coming Your Way in July 2015

Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! by Big Freedia
272 p.
Publication Date: July 7, 2015

From the eponymous star of the most popular reality show in Fuse TV’s history, this no-holds-barred memoir tells the story of a gay, self-proclaimed mama’s boy who exploded onto the formerly underground Bounce music scene—a hip-hop subgenre—and found acceptance, healing, self-expression, and stardom!

As the “undisputed ambassador” of the energetic, New Orleans-based Bounce movement, Big Freedia isn’t afraid to twerk, wiggle, and shake her way to self-confidence, and is encouraging her fans to do the same. In her engrossing memoir, Big Freedia tells the inside story of her path to fame, the peaks and valleys of her personal life, and the liberation that Bounce music brings to herself and every one of her fans who is searching for freedom.

Big Freedia immediately pulls us into the relationship between her personal life and her career as an artist; being a “twerking sissy” is not just a job, she says, but a salvation. A place to find solace. To escape from the battles she faced growing up in the worst neighborhood in New Orleans. To deal with losing loved ones to the violence on the streets, drug overdoses, and jail. To survive hurricane Katrina by living on her roof for two days with three adults and a child. To grapple with the difficulties and celebrate the joys of living.

In this eye-opening memoir that bursts with energy, you’ll learn the history of the Bounce movement and meet all of the colorful characters that pepper its music scene. With her own unique voice and unabashed enthusiasm, Big Freedia tells how she arrived at this defining moment in music, and how Bounce ultimately has allowed her to become her own version of diva, one booty-pop at a time.

Side note: I fell in LOVE with Big Freedia & her no holds barred attitude after watching her show on Fuse.  Below is a promo from last season's show.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
400 p.
Publication Date: July 7, 2015

A scrap of silk will reach across a century to reveal a forgotten woman's tragedy and threaten a powerful family.

In 1886, Mei Lien is washed up on Orcas Island, the lone survivor of a cruel purge of the Chinese from Seattle.She is determined to tell her heartbreaking story the onlyway she knows how: through needle and thread. A century later Inara Erickson, enlisting the help of a local professor, uncovers details in Mei Lien's delicate stitching that could have far-reaching repercussions for her own life. Should she bring shame to her family and risk everything by telling the truth, or tell no one and dishonor Mei Lien's memory? This brilliant debut is atmospheric and beautifully written, and serves as a poignant tale of the importance of our own stories.

The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer
576 p.
Publication Date: July 7, 2015

An absorbing family saga set amid the commotion of the last forty years of Indian history.

The Way Things Were opens with the death of Toby, the Maharaja of Kalasuryaketu, a Sanskritist who has not set foot in India for two decades. Moving back and forth across three sections, between today's Delhi and the 1970s, '80s, and '90s in turn, the novel tells the story of a family held at the mercy of the times. A masterful interrogation of the relationships between past and present and among individual lives, events, and culture, Aatish Taseer's The Way Things Were takes its title from the Sanskrit word for history, itihasa, whose literal translation is "the way things indeed were." Told in prose that is at once intimate and panoramic, and threaded through with Sanskrit as central metaphor and chorus, this is a hugely ambitious and important book, alive to all the commotion of the last forty years but never losing its brilliant grasp on the current moment.

Confession of the Lioness by Mia Couto
208 p.
Publication Date: July 14, 2015

A dark, poetic mystery about the women of the remote village of Kulumani and the lionesses that hunt them.

Told through two haunting, interwoven diaries, Mia Couto's Confession of the Lioness reveals the mysterious world of Kulumani, an isolated village in Mozambique whose traditions and beliefs are threatened when ghostlike lionesses begin hunting the women who live there.

Mariamar, a woman whose sister was killed in a lioness attack, finds her life thrown into chaos when the outsider Archangel Bullseye, the marksman hired to kill the lionesses, arrives at the request of the village elders. Mariamar's father imprisons her in her home, where she relives painful memories of past abuse and hopes to be rescued by Archangel. Meanwhile, Archangel tracks the lionesses in the wilderness, but when he begins to suspect there is more to them than meets the eye, he starts to lose control of his hands. The hunt grows more dangerous, until it's no safer inside Kulumani than outside it. As the men of Kulumani feel increasingly threatened by the outsider, the forces of modernity upon their traditional culture, and the danger of their animal predators closing in, it becomes clear the lionesses might not be real lionesses at all but spirits conjured by the ancient witchcraft of the women themselves.

Both a riveting mystery and a poignant examination of women's oppression, Confession of the Lioness explores the confrontation between the modern world and ancient traditions to produce an atmospheric, gripping novel.

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi
400 p.
Publication Date: July 21, 2015

From the author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, an unforgettable story of terror, survival, perseverance, and hope that chronicles one extraordinarily brave Afghan woman’s odyssey to save her family and find asylum in the West—a tale of a daring escape, a perilous trek across Europe, and the courage and tenacity of one defiant woman.

Mahmoud’s passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she’s ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister’s family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe’s capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta
320 p.
Publication Date: July 28, 2015

An undocumented immigrant’s journey from a New York City homeless shelter to the top of his Princeton class.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.

Without papers, she faced tremendous obstacles. While Dan-el was only in grade school, the family joined the ranks of the city’s homeless. Dan-el, his mother, and brother lived in a downtown shelter where Dan-el’s only refuge was the meager library. There he met Jeff, a young volunteer from a wealthy family. Jeff was immediately struck by Dan-el’s passion for books and learning. With Jeff’s help, Dan-el was accepted on scholarship to Collegiate, the oldest private school in the country.

There, Dan-el thrived. Throughout his youth, Dan-el navigated these two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and his mother and tried to make friends, and the ultra-elite halls of a Manhattan private school, where he could immerse himself in a world of books and where he soon rose to the top of his class.

From Collegiate, Dan-el went to Princeton, where he thrived, and where he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before he gave the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at his commencement.

Undocumented is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit. It also is the perfect cri de coeur for the debate on comprehensive immigration reform.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#BookReview: BLISSFUL SUMMER by Cheris Hodges & Lisa Marie Perry

Looking to add a little sizzle to your holiday weekend?  Cheris Hodges and Lisa Marie Perry are here to provide it.  The authors have collaborated to bring us two stories under one cover.  First up is Hodges' steamy, international romance, Make You Mine Again; then Perry brings the heat in international waters with the interracial romance, Unraveled.

Make You Mine Again by Cheris Hodges
Supermodel Jansen Douglas is living her dream. Now a wedding in Paris is about to reunite her with the high school sweetheart she left behind. But Atlanta CEO Bradley Stephens won't let their stormy past stand in the way of reclaiming his first and only love.

Unraveled by Lisa Marie Perry
Ona Tracy's plans to seduce her high school crush unravel when the reunion trip she books turns out to be an erotic-themed cruise to the Bahamas! Rather than abandon ship, she recruits blond-haired, silver-eyed Riker Ewan to be her hookup, unaware that the hot-bodied ex-Marine isn't who he seems to be…

Review: Cheris Hodges' tale of old flames trying not to rekindle a love that's been smoldering since they separated is quite enjoyable.  Because she's dealing with characters living the lives of the rich and famous, money is no object for this writer's characters.  As readers follow Jansen from the U.S. to Paris and on to the Caribbean on her quest to escape the inevitable reunion with her ex, we can't help but to cheer for Bradley going after the woman he loves and wants.

Ona Tracy is a mess and Lisa Marie Perry knows it.  She reminds me of  the over the top theater kids from high school that are determined to make it big.  Falling extremely short of that goal, Ona is out to prove to her friends (and I use that term loosely) that she's not the failure that she appears to be.  Ona's romance with a stranger on board her cruise is a welcome distraction from her mean classmates.  The twists and turns with Riker's story line are interesting.

While Jansen and Bradley's story is more believable to me, because of their history, it's still difficult for me to fathom Ona and Riker falling so hard for each other in less than a week.  However, I suppose that that's what romance novels are all about, right?  Hoping and believing in the impossible.

224 p.
Publication date: June 2015
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from author, opinions are my own.