Friday, August 28, 2015

Kids Read in Colour: Books Coming Your Way, Sept. 2015

Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub
32 p.
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Ages: 5 to 8, Pre-school/Grade school

After Saya’s mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother’s warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories on cassette tape. Every night, Saya drifts off to sleep to the sounds of Haitian folktales mixed with parables of their current situation. Inspired by her mother’s stories and her father’s attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own—one that just might bring her mother home for good. With colorful, stirring illustrations, this picture book is a poignant and tender tale about the human side of immigration and how every child has the power to make a difference.

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco by Judith Robbins Rose
352 p.
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Ages: 10 and up, Grade school/Middle school

“Miss, will you be my Amiga?”
Amiga means "friend" in Spanish, but at the youth center, it meant a lady to take you places.
I never asked myself if two people as different as Miss and me could ever really be amigas.

When Jacinta Juarez is paired with a rich, famous mentor, she is swept away from the diapers and dishes of her own daily life into a world of new experiences. But crossing la linea into Miss’s world is scary. Half of Jacinta aches for the comfort of Mamá and the familiar safety of the barrio, while the other half longs to embrace a future that offers more than cleaning stuff for white people. When her family is torn apart, Jacinta needs to bring the two halves of herself together to win back everything she’s lost. Can she channel the power she’s gained from her mentor and the strength she’s inherited from Mamá to save her shattered home life?

The Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus
352 p.
Publication date: September 15, 2015
Ages: 10 to 14, Grade school/Middle school

Set in 1853 in Japan, this novel follows Yoshi, a Japanese boy who dreams of someday becoming a samurai. Unfortunately, as part of the serving class, Yoshi can never become a warrior. He is taken up by Manjiro, the protagonist of Preus’s Heart of a Samurai, and becomes his servant and secret watchdog. Meanwhile, Commodore Matthew Perry and his USS Susquehanna squadron of steamships arrive in Edo Bay demanding “diplomatically” that Japan open its ports to foreign trade. Aboard the commodore’s flagship is a cabin boy, Jack, who becomes separated from his American companions while on shore. When he and Yoshi cross paths, they set out on a grand adventure to get Jack back to his ship before he is discovered by the shogun’s samurai.

Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby, illustrated by Sean Qualls
128 p.
Publication date: September 22, 2015
Ages: 9 to 12, Grade school/Middle school

Discover the breadth and depth of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry—and learn how it reflects his singular life as a late-nineteenth-century black man.

Did you know that Paul Laurence Dunbar originated such famous lines as “I know why the caged bird sings” and “We wear the mask that grins and lies”? From his childhood in poverty and his early promise as a poet to his immense fame and his untimely death, Dunbar’s story is one of triumph and tragedy. But his legacy remains in his much-beloved poetry—told in both Standard English and in dialect—which continues to delight and inspire readers today. More than two dozen of Dunbar’s poems are woven throughout this volume, illuminating the phases of his life and serving as examples of dialect, imagery, and tone. Narrating in a voice full of admiration and respect, Sally Derby introduces Paul Laurence Dunbar’s life and poetry to readers young and old, aided by Sean Qualls’s striking black-and-white illustrations.

Dolls Of Hope by Shirley Parenteau
336 p.
Publication date: September 22, 2015
Ages: 8 to 12, Grade school/Middle school

When eleven-year-old Chiyo Tamura is sent from her home in a small Japanese mountain village to a girls’ school in the city of Tsuchiura, she never imagines that she will soon be in Tokyo helping to welcome more than twelve thousand Friendship Dolls from America—including Emily Grace, a gift to her own school. Nor could she dream that she’d have an important role in the crafting of Miss Tokyo, one of fifty-eight Japanese dolls to be sent to America in return. But when an excited Chiyo is asked to be Emily Grace’s official protector, one jealous classmate will stop at nothing to see her fail. How can Chiyo reveal the truth—and restore her own good name? In another heartwarming historical novel, the author of Ship of Dolls revisits the 1926 Friendship Doll exchange, in which teacher-missionary Sidney Gulick organized American children to send thousands of dolls to Japan in hopes of avoiding a future war.

The Inker's Shadow by Allen Say
80 p.
Publication date: September 29, 2015
Ages: 12 and up, Middle school/Young Adult

For Allen Say, life as a teen in Southern California was a cold existence. His father, one of the leading hamburger salesmen in Japan, ran a booming burger business, much like McDonald's, and sent Allen to an American military academy, so that his son could learn English and "become a success in life."

As the school's first and only Japanese student, he experienced immediate racism among his fellow cadets and his teachers. The other kids' parents complained about Allen's presence at the all-white school. As a result, he was relegated to a toolshed behind the mess hall. Determined to free himself from this oppression, Allen saved enough money to buy a 1946 Ford for $50--then escaped to find the America of his dreams!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#BookReview: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Who Are You?

Find out who you really are and accept this person. What else can you do?

The writing opens with a poem by Richard Wright from which the title of the book is lifted, this quickly sets the tone of Coates' part letter, part memoir to his son. Poetry imbued with passion; there is a delicate duality, a double consciousness as Coates moves chronologically from a teenager in Baltimore, to a student at Howard (The Mecca), into a career as a writer, and lastly as a father. Between the World and Me explores and listens for the subtext: facts, feelings, values and opinions on the meaning and value of black bodies. The narrative lives between his story and history. An important voice, effectively communicating a point of view many share considering the current state of these United of States where black American lives are being numbered, a devaluation.

“I have spent much of my studies searching for the right question by which I might fully understand the breach between the world and me.”

There are no grand antidotes on overcoming or defeating racial prejudice, Coates views race itself as a restatement and retrenchment of the problem. I appreciate this approach as it charges us not with saving the Souls of Black Folks but remembering who we are-who are you?, to survive … to stay woke.

I read this twice, purchased an electronic version for my Kindle and purchased a hard copy for the collection, goals. I love this book, I would rate it five stars for the way Coates writes from his soul on that merit alone. Between the World and Me should be required reading.

Five stars

176 p.
Published: July 2015

Today's post was written by Brian Tramuel. Brian lives with his wife Michelle, their children Geneva and Brian, and their cocker spaniel, Maestro, in the Queen City of Charlotte. He talks about money at and life at

Friday, August 21, 2015

New Books Coming Your Way, Sept. 2015

Providential by Colin Channer
Publication date: September 1, 2015
96 p.

Not since Claude McKay's Constab Ballads of 1912 has a writer attempted to tackle the unlikely literary figure of the Jamaican policeman. Now, over a century later, Channer draws on his own knowledge of Jamaican culture, on his complex relationship with his father (a Jamaican policeman), and frames these poems within the constantly humane principles of Rasta and reggae. The poems within Providential manage to turn the intricate relationships between a man and his father, a man and his mother, and man and his country, and a man and his children into something akin to grace.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
Publication date: September 1, 2015

Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.

The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.

The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.

The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry
Publication date: September 8, 2015
400 p.

The year is 1881, the era of China’s humiliation at the hands of imperialist Europe. Seven-year-old Jinhua is left alone and unprotected, her life transformed after her mandarin father’s summary execution for the crime of speaking the truth. As an orphan, she endures the brutal logic of a brothel-keeper, who puts her to work as a so-called money tree, and she survives the worst of human nature with the friendship and wisdom of the crippled brothel maid.

When an elegant but troubled scholar takes Jinhua as his concubine, her world begins to expand. “A thousand changes lie ahead,” he announces, and Jinhua accompanies him, now emissary to Prussia, Austria-Hungary, Holland, and Russia, to the land of “foreign devils”: Vienna. This place of strangeness delights and surprises her, and ultimately brings her to the “Great Love” that she had only read about in stories.

Sai Jinhua is an altered woman when she returns to a changed and changing China, where a terrible clash of East and West is brewing, and where her western sympathies will ultimately threaten not only her own survival but the survival of those who are most dear to her.

The Courtesan is a timeless tale of friendship and sacrifice, temptation and redemption; the story of a woman’s journey to discern what is real and abiding, and a book that shines a small light on the large history of China’s relations with the West.

Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
256 p.

Born in upper-crust black Chicago—her father was for years head of pediatrics at Provident, at the time the nation’s oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite—Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among (call them what you will) the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. Since the nineteenth century they have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.”

Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments—the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of postracial America—Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions. Aware as it is of heart-wrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance.

Keeping Heart: A Memoir of Family Struggle, Race, and Medicine by Otis Trotter
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
246 p.

“After saying our good-byes to friends and neighbors, we all got in the cars and headed up the hill and down the road toward a future in Ohio that we hoped would be brighter,” Otis Trotter writes in Keeping Heart: A Memoir of Family Struggle, Race, and Medicine. Organized around the life histories, medical struggles, and recollections of Trotter and his thirteen siblings, the story begins in 1914 with his parents. By tracing the family’s movement northward after the unexpected death of his father, this engaging chronicle illuminates the journeys not only of a black man born with heart disease in the southern Appalachian coalfields, but of his family and community. This testament to the importance of ordinary lives fills a gap in the literature on an underexamined aspect of American experience: the lives of African Americans in rural Appalachia and in the nonurban endpoints of the Great Migration.

The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness: A Novel by Kyung-Sook Shin
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
400 p.

Homesick and alone, a teen-aged girl has just arrived in Seoul to work in a factory. Her family, still in the countryside, is too impoverished to keep sending her to school, so she works long, sun-less days on a stereo-assembly line, struggling through night school every evening in order to achieve her dream of becoming a writer.

Korea’s brightest literary star sets this complex and nuanced coming-of-age story against the backdrop of Korea’s industrial sweatshops of the 1970’s and takes on the extreme exploitation, oppression, and urbanization that helped catapult Korea’s economy out of the ashes of war. But it was girls like Shin’s heroine who formed the bottom of Seoul’s rapidly changing social hierarchy, forgotten and ignored.

Richly autobiographical, The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness, lays bare the conflict and confusion Shin faces as she confronts her past and the sweeping social change of the past half-century. Cited in Korea as one of the most important literary novels of the decade, this novel cements Shin’s legacy as one of the most insightful and exciting writers of her generation.

Under the Udala Treesby Chinelo Okparanta
Publication date: September 22, 2015
336 p.

Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.

As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Publication date: September 22, 2015

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.

I'll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones
Publication date: September 29, 2015
400 p.

As a singer, model, and actress—a deluxe triple threat—Grace has consistently been an extreme, challenging presence in the entertainment world since her emergence as an international model in the 1970s. Celebrated for her audacious talent and trailblazing style, Grace became one of the most unforgettable, free-spirited characters to emerge from the historic Studio 54, recording glittering disco classics such as “I Need a Man” and “La Vie en Rose.” Her provocative shows in underground New York nightclubs saw her hailed as a disco queen, gay icon, and gender defying iconoclast.

In 1980, the always ambitious Grace escaped a crowded disco scene to pursue more experimental interests. Her music also broke free, blending house, reggae, and electronica into a timeless hybrid that led to classic hits such as “Pull Up to the Bumper” and “Slave to the Rhythm.” In the memoir she once promised never to write, Grace offers an intimate insight into her evolving style, personal philosophies, and varied career—including her roles in the 1984 fantasy-action film Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and the James Bond movie A View to a Kill.

Featuring sixteen pages of stunning full-color photographs, many from her own personal archive, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs follows this ageless creative nomad as she rejects her strict religious upbringing in Jamaica; conquers New York, Paris, and the 1980s; answers to no-one; and lives to fight again and again.

The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
Publication date: September 29, 2015
352 p.

Ria Parkar is Bollywood’s favorite Ice Princess—beautiful, poised, and scandal-proof—until one impulsive act threatens to expose her destructive past. Traveling home to Chicago for her cousin’s wedding offers a chance to diffuse the coming media storm and find solace in family, food, and outsized celebrations that are like one of her vibrant movies come to life. But it also means confronting Vikram Jathar.

Ria and Vikram spent childhood summers together, a world away from Ria’s exclusive boarding school in Mumbai. Their friendship grew seamlessly into love—until Ria made a shattering decision. As far as Vikram is concerned, Ria sold her soul for stardom and it’s taken him years to rebuild his life. But beneath his pent-up anger, their bond remains unchanged. And now, among those who know her best, Ria may find the courage to face the secrets she’s been guarding for everyone else’s benefit—and a chance to stop acting and start living.

Rich with details of modern Indian-American life, here is a warm, sexy, and witty story of love, family, and the difficult choices that arise in the name of both.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#BookReview: MAKE YOUR HOME AMONG STRANGERS by Jennine Capó Crucet

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
― Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Imagine trying to better yourself and getting slammed by your family for doing so. Lizet Ramirez is headed to college, and not just any college, but an elite private college in New York.  In order to go, she's leaving behind her older sister, baby nephew, depressed mother and close, yet distant, father. And every one of them feels betrayed by her decision to leave Miami.

Lizet's father has sold the family home without telling anyone, while her mother has become obsessed with an Elián González situation in her new neighborhood. Lizet's sister Leidy struggles to raise her baby on her salary as a washer girl at a local salon, and Omar, Lizet's boyfriend, worries that she'll forget him when she meets a college boy.  With all of that pressure, is it any wonder that Lizet secretly applied and enrolled in a school far away from the madness.  The problem is that even though she has geographically escaped, the mental burdens still weigh her down.  So even as she struggles to adjust to a world completely unlike one she came from, she's still trying to keep a toe in the world she left.

College can be difficult to navigate.  To come from a school where you're ranked highly academically, only to find yourself failing your first semester is not unusual.  Lizet's pride, embarrassment and resentment contribute to her struggle, and it's only when she's forced to admit that she needs help that she's able to turn things around.  As she adjusts to the academic aspects of college, socialization still seems to escape her.  The things that her white roommate and fellow co-eds know are things that she has to learn.  So you see her not just learning from books, but also playing cultural catch up so that when someone makes a comment about a movie or TV show and everyone else comments or laughs, she'll know why they're laughing.

Becoming more immersed in her new world changes the way that she sees her mother and realizes that it changes the way her mother sees her too.  Fighting to straddle the line between both worlds, Lizet begins to let important opportunities slip through her fingers, believing that her family must be saved from themselves and only she can do it.  It's a lot for a teenager to carry.

Crucet captures the first in college, child of immigrants, story so well. I was reminded of first in their family friends from college that left school for various reasons, but all related to being needed by their families to help carry the load at home.  I hate that Lizet has to go through the struggle, but I love that she gets her chance to shine.  She deserves it.

400 p.
Published: August 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Five years ago, I mentioned in a post that I'd read about this book on an author's blog and was frustrated that it didn't have a U.S. publisher and wasn't scheduled to be released in the states. The author of the book saw my comment and reached out to me with an offer to send me a copy. It arrived and, let me tell you, I read it from start to finish in a little under two hours and loved it! My only regret was that because it didn't have a U.S. publisher, my fellow readers weren't able to enjoy it as much as I did. Imagine my surprise while reading publisher's catalog when I found out that it had finally found a publishing home in the U.S. With that, allow me to introduce you to The Hairdresser of Harare. I know you're going to love it as much as I do.

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu is the story of what can happen when you refuse to see what's right in front of you. Vimbai is a single mother raising a child that's the result of an affair with a married man. Working in Mrs. Khumalo's salon, she's the best hairdresser in Harare. All of that changes the day Dumisani appears.

Though male hairdressers are unheard of in Harare, Dumi's charming ways with both Mrs. Khumalo and the customers immediately makes him the star of the salon. Feeling put off by this, Vimbai avoids him. However, the need for extra income prompts her to offer him a room in her house when she learns that he has no place to stay.

Both are cut off from their families, though for different reasons, and, as a result, become quite close. Dumi sends confusing messages to Vimbai when he invites her to attend a family wedding with him. His family is immediately drawn to her and embraces both her and her daughter. I really feel that Vimbai and Dumi use each other to legitimize themselves to others.

Earlier when I talked about not seeing what's in front of you, I was referring to Vimbai's refusal to acknowledge that perhaps there was something Dumi was hiding. As a reader going in knowing the back story, it was obvious by what the family was saying that there was something about Dumisani that he hadn't shared with Vimbai. However, I think even without knowing what the family was referring to or why, had she been paying attention, there were plenty of hints and signs for Vimbai to see.

When Vimbai is finally confronted with the truth, her reaction is such that she outs Dumi to those that intend to do him harm. Ultimately, he must leave Harare and Zimbabwe altogether. It's not until she realizes that she will lose every aspect of him that Vimbai truly grasps the consequences of her actions.

I loved the author's use of words and their flow. He does a wonderful job of describing not only the characters, but their surroundings. This is a must read!

200 p.
Published: August 2015 (U.S.)

Friday, August 14, 2015

New Books Coming Your Way Aug. 25, 2015

The Face That Changed It All by Beverly Johnson
256 p.
Publication date: August 25, 2015

In The Face That Changed It All, Beverly Johnson brings her own passionate and deeply honest voice to the page to chronicle her childhood growing up as a studious, and sometimes bullied, bookworm during the socially conscious, racially charged ’60s. Initially drawn to a career in law due to the huge impact the Civil Rights movement had on her life, Beverly eventually made her mark as the first black cover model of American Vogue in 1974. A successful three-decade career in modeling followed.

Offering glamorous tales about the hard partying of the 1970s and Hollywood during the ’80s and early ’90s, Johnson details her many encounters and fascinating friendships with the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Halston, Calvin Klein, and Andy Warhol, as well as stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, Keith Richards, and Warren Beatty. But not everything that glitters is gold, and Johnson’s memoir reveals the countless demons she wrestled with over the course of her storied career. She brings us into the heart of her struggles with racism, drug addiction, divorce and a prolonged child custody battle over her daughter that tested her fortitude and sanity. She shares for the first time intimate details surrounding her love affair with the late tennis icon Arthur Ashe, giving little known insight into the heart, mind and spirit of the revered tennis legend. She also pays homage to her mentor, the late Naomi Sims, while lifting the veil off the complicated, catty, and often times tense relationships between black models during her fashion heyday. Familiar names from the catwalk, such as Pat Cleveland and Iman, appear regularly in her story, illustrating how each had to fight various battles to survive not just the system at large, but each other.

Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement by Premilla Nadasen
248 p.
Publication date: August 25, 2015

In this groundbreaking history of African American domestic-worker organizing, scholar and activist Premilla Nadasen shatters countless myths and misconceptions about an historically misunderstood workforce. Resurrecting a little-known history of domestic-worker activism from the 1950s to the 1970s, Nadasen shows how these women were a far cry from the stereotyped passive and powerless victims; they were innovative labor organizers who tirelessly organized on buses and streets across the United States to bring dignity and legal recognition to their occupation.

Dismissed by mainstream labor as “unorganizable,” African American household workers developed unique strategies for social change and formed unprecedented alliances with activists in both the women’s rights and the black freedom movements. Using storytelling as a form of activism and as means of establishing a collective identity as workers, these women proudly declared, “We refuse to be your mammies, nannies, aunties, uncles, girls, handmaidens any longer.”

With compelling personal stories of the leaders and participants on the front lines, Household Workers Unite gives voice to the poor women of color whose dedicated struggle for higher wages, better working conditions, and respect on the job created a sustained political movement that endures today.

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano
272 p.
Publication date: August 25, 2015

Set in the 1970s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving--and troubled. This is Sonia's own story rendered with an unforgettable narrative power. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But--click!--when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life--the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia's dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times.

Spiced with culture, heartache, and humor, this memoir paints a lasting portrait of a girl's resilience as she grows up to become an inspiration to millions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#BookReview: THE AMERICANS by Chitra Viraraghavan

At first, The Americans seems very disjointed. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and each has their own intricate story line. It’s almost enough to make you quit if you have a short attention span, but stay with it. I promise you, it’ll be worth it.

The connector of everyone is Tara, so it makes sense that she’s the biggest focus of the book. In her mid-30s, she’s come from India to the U.S. to help her sister Kamala out. On her flight, she meets CLN, a fellow Indian, traveling to the U.S. for the first time to see his daughter, Kavita, and meet his grandson in person. While Kamala takes her autistic son, Rahul, to see a specialist, Tara is to stay with her temperamental niece, Lavi. Ariel, Kamala’s Israeli housekeeper, has a better grasp on what’s going on in Kamala’s house than anyone else, but doesn’t interfere, only observes. This makes up the core group of characters, but there’s a sub-group that’s just as interesting.

Shantanu, a friend of Tara’s from back home, works at the Royal Bengal Tiger restaurant in the Little India area of Los Angeles. He’s always suspected that his boss, Nagi Babu, is trafficking immigrants, but takes action when he realizes that Babu has moved into sex trafficking young girls.

Akhil, another friend of Tara’s from India, works at a university, but runs a conspiracy theory website on the side. At first Akhil seems level headed, but watching his descent into madness is painful. I can’t quite decide if he was just overly paranoid or was dealing with deeper mental issues like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Madulika is Tara’s best friend. She’s married to Vinod, who is cheating on her with a white American who is pregnant by him. Madulika is obsessed with having a baby, so much so that she begins taking illegal measures to get one of her own. I found her attitude toward “Mexicans” interesting. She lumped a whole population of people into that group because she couldn’t be bothered to learn the differences between ethnicities. At first I thought this was a very Western attitude, but given that India has operated on a caste system for so long, it makes sense. In her mind, she didn’t see them as being on the same level as she was, likely because their skin was darker than hers. So she doesn't feel the need to learn who her "Mexican" housekeepers really are, they don't matter to her.

What stood out to me most about The Americans is no one seemed really happy. Kavita has a very short temper and always seems irritated by everything CLN does, almost like she doesn’t want him there. But CLN comments that Tara reminds him of a younger Kavita. And Tara is a kind person, so does this mean that America has turned Kavita into the person she’s become?
Kamala is obsessed with being perfect and, since Rahul’s autism doesn’t fit into her plan, she ignores Lavi while trying to “fix” him. She’s selfish and self-centered, yet doesn’t realize it until Lavi points out to her that she asked Tara to come all the way from India to stay with her, but she would never do the same for Tara.

Ariel is happy in her job at Kamala’s until she’s accused of stealing. Then her world seems to crumble and she realizes that her white American husband is lazy and she can’t stand her mother-in-law. When we find her contemplating whether or not to stay in Tel Aviv when she visits her daughter, it’s easy to believe that she might leave America and never come back, because what is she really coming back to?

I can’t say that America transformed these people, but you have to wonder if they would have been this way in India or Israel. Kamala and CLN both make comments that lead me to think it has. At one point Kamala comments that wished she could go home to India where people were treated as humans and stood by each other. CLN says that in India people are happy being independent, but know that they are connected to a larger community; in the U.S., there’s a sense of isolation. So maybe it’s the lack of a support system and a lack of humanity that has so many of the characters on edge. And maybe Tara has kept her softness, her humanity, because even though she’s lived in the U.S. in the past, she’s been living in India and has had time to recharge her batteries, to regain her humanity.

296 p.
Disclaimer: Copy of book provided by publisher, opinions are my own.

Friday, August 7, 2015

New Books Coming Your Way Aug. 18, 2015

The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany
496 p.
Publication date: August 18, 2015

Once a respected landowner, Abd el-Aziz Gaafar fell into penury and moved his family to Cairo, where he was forced into menial work at the Automobile Club—a refuge of colonial luxury for its European members. There, Alku, the lifelong Nubian retainer of Egypt’s corrupt and dissolute king, lords it over the staff, a squabbling but tight-knit group, who live in perpetual fear, as they are thrashed for their mistakes, their wages dependent on Alku’s whims. When, one day, Abd el-Aziz stands up for himself, he is beaten. Soon afterward, he dies, as much from shame as from his injuries, leaving his widow and four children further impoverished. The family’s loss propels them down different paths: the responsible son, Kamel, takes over his late father’s post in the Club’s storeroom, even as his law school friends seduce him into revolutionary politics; Mahmud joins his brother working at the Club but spends his free time sleeping with older women—for a fee, which he splits with his partner in crime, his devil-may-care workout buddy and neighbor, Fawzy; their greedy brother Said breaks away to follow ambitions of his own; and their only sister, Saleha, is torn between her dream of studying mathematics and the security of settling down as a wife and saving her family.

It is at the Club, too, that Kamel’s dangerous politics will find the favor and patronage of the king’s seditious cousin, an unlikely revolutionary plotter–cum–bon vivant. Soon, both servants and masters will be subsumed by the brewing social upheaval. And the Egyptians of the Automobile Club will face a stark choice: to live safely, but without dignity, or to fight for their rights and risk everything.

The Girl from the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan
288 p.
Publication date: August 18, 2015

For all his wealth and success, Asher Malacouti—the head of a prosperous Jewish family living in the Iranian town of Kermanshah—cannot have the one thing he desires above all: a male son. His young wife Rakhel, trapped in an oppressive marriage at a time when a woman’s worth is measured by her fertility, is made desperate by her failure to conceive, and grows jealous and vindictive.

Her despair is compounded by her sister-in-law Khorsheed’s pregnancy and her husband’s growing desire for Kokab, his cousin’s wife. Frustrated by his wife’s inability to bear him an heir, Asher makes a fateful choice that will shatter the household and drive Rakhel to dark extremes to save herself and preserve her status within the family.

Witnessed through the memories of the family’s only surviving daughter, Mahboubeh, now an elderly woman living in Los Angeles, The Girl from the Garden unfolds the complex, tragic history of her family in a long-lost Iran of generations past. Haunting, suspenseful and inspired by events in the author’s own family, it is an evocative and poignant exploration of sacrifice, betrayal, and the indelible legacy of the families that forge us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

#BookReview: STAY WITH ME FOREVER by Farrah Rochon

Usually I'm not much for romances.  In my opinion, a lot of them are formulaic. You can change character's names, occupations and locations, but the story line is always the same.  Girl meets guy, guy chases girl, girl hates guy, guy wins girl over, yada yada yada.  But Farrah Rochon has created a catalog of characters and plopped them down in the town of Gauthier, Louisiana and now, I'm all in.

Rochon's latest in the Bayou Series is Stay With Me Forever.  It's the story of what was once and could have been, but wasn't and now could be.  Make sense?  Paxton Jones was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. In high school, she had a crush on Sawyer Robertson, a star football player and the son of one of the wealthiest families in town. The two hooked up once, but nothing came of it, thanks to Paxton.  Now they're working together on a plan to save the hometown they love so much, if they don't kill each other first.

So that's the basic premise of the book, but the backbone of this series is the town of Gauthier and its people.  Because this is the sixth book in the series, there are back stories and characters previously introduced in other books, but I had no clue as to who they were.  That didn't detract from the story, it only made me curious and so over the course of five days, I read the first five books in the series. Yeah, Rochon's writing is that good.

In the first book of the series, A Forever Kind of Love, we meet Mya Dubois, a Broadway designer, and Corey Anderson, a former professional baseball player who now coaches baseball at the local high school.

Always and Forever brings us Phylicia Phillips, a restoration expert. Rochon made this sound like the most amazing career ever!  Phylicia's love interest is Jamal Johnson, a recent transplant to the small town of Gauthier.

Yours Forever is my least favorite of the series.  It focuses on Matt Gauthier, descendant of the town's founders. His family's legacy puts an unnecessary burden on him, but it's only been placed there by him. Matt falls for Tamryn West, a professor in town doing research on a recent discovery in the building that houses Matt's law office.

If Yours Forever was my least favorite, Forever's Promise was my favorite.  Shayla Kirkland runs the local coffeehouse, is trying to establish a relationship with her nieces and has no time for the arrogant, but dreamy, new doctor in town. Xavier Wright knows that women in town are finding reasons to show up in his ER, but he's barking up the wrong tree when he accuses Shayla of doing the same.  These two were such fun to watch.

Rochon turns up the heat in Forever With You as she introduces science teacher and assistant principal Gabriel Franklin.  Gabe has his eye on Leslie Kirkland, a widow, president of the PTO and mother of one of his students.  Leslie is also Shayla's sister-in-law.

In true small town fashion, everyone knows everyone and is connected to someone in some way.  You'll find Mya from A Forever Kind of Love showing up at town meetings or Matt from Yours Forever popping in to Shayla's coffeehouse at any moment.  I told the author that if Gauthier really existed, I'd pack my bags and head there in a heartbeat.

I apologize for the extra long post, but I just wanted to share with you why I fell in love with Gauthier, the Bayou Series and the characters.  I'm sure you will too.

224 p.
Published: August 2015