WWW Wednesday – 30 November 2016

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday post, a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. Don’t forget to go take a look at what everyone else is reading! You can post your own WWW in the comment thread here

The Three W’s Are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I am spending the next two days at the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina! Look at that amazing fireplace…the lobby is filled with so many perfect reading spots. I will be spending quite a lot of time cozied down with a book in front of that fireplace. Or maybe, within viewing distance of the lovely warm glow, since the weather is actually in the 7os right now!

Currently Reading:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. For better or worse, I am finally taking the plunge and seeing for myself what The Cursed Child is like.

Just Finished:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I just finished this, around 11:30pm last night! For me, it definitely lived up to expectations. My review will be shortly forthcoming.

Up Next: 

Continue reading


10 Gifts for Bookworms That Aren’t Books!

Today I am linking up to Top Ten Tuesday for the prompt “Holiday Gift Guide”, a topic I was already planning on writing about!

Ten Gifts for Bookworms

That Aren’t Books!

I love books. I love receiving books as gifts. Equally nice, I love receiving book-themed gifts that aren’t actually books! Which is why I have put together my go-to list of bookish-themed gifts for that adorable bookworm in your life – which is most likely, YOU!!

Literary Candles by NovellyYours


Photo by NovellyYours

Who doesn’t want a Lemon Tart Candle to go along with Marissa Meyer’s latest release? Or revel in the scent of the Scottish highlands while reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series with the Craigh Na Dun candle?

In addition to these two, there are many great other literary candle scents from NovellyYours:

  • Anna’s Favorite Cookies (Anna and the French Kiss) – Chocolate, Mint
  • The Lunar Chronicles Collection – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter
  • The Raven Cycle Collection – Cabeswater, Henrietta, Manibus, Gansey
  • The Candle of the Month – Fantasy Beasts (Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them)

Magnetic Bookmarks from HappyHelloCo


Photo by HappyHelloCo

They are so adorable and there are so many to choose from! One of my favorites from HappyHelloCo is the Land of Tales bookmarks, which looks like the characters from the Lunar Chronicles! The ones inspired by A Darker Shade of Magic are great, too!

Literary-themed Coloring Books

There are an amazing number of literary-themed coloring books out there. Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare, A Christmas Carol, Outlander…and the three pictured above!

The Literary Tea Collection by First Edition Tea Co.


Photo by First Edition Tea Co.

I love to curl up with a cup of tea when I am reading in the winter. The First Edition Tea Co. has an amazing selection of classics-inspired teas. If you can’t decide which one to try, you can buy a set that features them all! the Literary Tea Collection includes 5 blends inspired by:

  • Alice in Wonderland – Almond & Marzipan Rooibos Black Tea
  • Sherlock Holmes – Smoked English Breakfast Tea
  • The Great Gatsby – Lemon and Lavender Green Tea
  • Jane Eyre – Currant & Spice Black Tea
  • Pride and Prejudice – Citrus and Roasted Mate Herbal Tea

Bookish Mugs

Add a literary mug to go with the above tea collection for the perfect gift for your bookish friends! My favorites right now are designs by Evie Seo @ Society 6. Pictured above are mugs based on A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures


Funko Pop! mainly focuses on movies, TV, and comic book characters in pop culture, but there is often overlap with the book world! My favorite bookish Pop! right now are the various Harry Potter series figurines, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time…and the soon to be released Gilmore Girls!

Bookmarks by Marquis du Soleil


Photo by Caitlin Nicoll.

A bibliophile can never have too many bookmarks! Caitlin Nicoll, owner of the Etsy shop @MarquisduSoleil creates beautiful bookmarks in three different styles: Hand-painted, Minimalist, and Illustrated.

Throw Pillows


Photo by Evie Seo.

Everyone needs a pillow or two to make their reading experiences more comfortable and cozy! Here is another pick from Evie @ Society 6. I adore the Between the Pages pillow, as well as the Mr. Darcy pillows.

Book Page Art


Photo by Bookishly UK.

Who doesn’t want a little bit of Virginia Woolf, Jane Eyre, Dracula, Shakespeare, or Oscar Wilde gracing their walls? These bookish pieces of art by Bookishly UK are the perfect gift for the classically-minded reader.

Literary Scarves


Uncommon Goods has so many fun gift ideas, and we have bought quite a few things from there over the years. My current favorite is the literary scarves by Tori Tissell. You can choose from Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and Wuthering Heights.


Book Review – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: YA Contemporary

Rainbow Rowell seems to be one of those YA authors that “everyone should read”. So, I figured it was about time I picked up one of her books and read it!

I picked up Eleanor & Park on a whim this month, as it was not in my planned November reading list, but I am so thankful I did. It was just what I needed right now. The characters are offbeat misfits; the story is both heartwarming and heart-achingly tender.

Eleanor and Park. Eleanor, Eleanor…I loved her, flaws and all, although the majority of her flaws were due to her horrendous family members, not her. I have seen Eleanor’s behavior before, in a friend or two, and Rainbow Rowell really nailed what it can be like living in an abusive home. My heart bled for her and her siblings so many times. It was devastating to read about her lack of basic necessities – like food and clothing – and the creative ways she learned to compensate. Particularly her self-created fashion style, born out of necessity, totally owning it. Eleanor was a teen in pure survival mode, building a wall of protection around herself and not letting anyone in through the gate…until Park comes along.

Park. PARK. I wish I had a Park back when I was in high school. What a sweet guy. He’s kind and sweet and just awesome. His family was wonderful, too.

The two of them together were so adorable. And I love how they slowly , awkwardly connected, over comic books! I think I do a happy dance every time characters bond over books.

Shakespeare. Rainbow Rowell incorporated Shakespeare into the story, and it really, truly worked! I love when Shakespeare references work. Rowell uses Romeo & Juliet to help frame the storyline – you find out in the very beginning that the story doesn’t necessarily have a “happily ever after” ending for the two young-and-in-love teens, and it is further amplified by the Shakespeare references early on.

The Ending. I won’t say what happened, but feel free to discuss in the comments, which I am making a SPOILER zone! Did you like the ending? I definitely liked the way it ended. For the most part.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Read Watch Play #7


Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, and the Sunday PostRead, Watch, Play is a round-up of bookish and non-bookish entertainment going on in my home this week. Feel free to join in and let me know what fun you have had recently!

Whew! The last few days have been a whirlwind! We have had loads of family in for both Thanksgiving and M’s 9th birthday, which was yesterday. Very little reading, but lots of fun to be had. We went to the NC Zoo yesterday, a birthday request, and M and her cousin both had a blast.

One of the cutest – and funniest – moments of M’s birthday happened during the birthday gift opening. Her excitement and exuberance over receiving all of her gifts was contagious, but her reaction to opening one of them was priceless. She asked for a 2016 Hillary Clinton Funko! Pop, and when she opened it – OMG! She literally cried tears of happiness, jumping up and down and hugging it to her chest. The reaction was so over-the-top and genuine she had everyone in stitches. Even the Trump supporters in the family!


Who knew a little Hillary could give so much joy to a 9-year-old? She looks up to Hillary – and the historical aspect of her campaign and what it represents – tremendously. It was all incredibly cute and a little bittersweet – when we bought the HRC Funko Pop!, we were hoping it would be a gift representing the newly elected Madame President. It still stings a bit.

In case you’re wondering what to buy a 9-year old this holiday season, these were all big hits:

  • My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope
  • AmScope Prepared Microscope slides
  • Walkie Talkies
  • Lego Friends Heartlake Grand Hotel
  • LilGadgets Wireless Headphones
  • Beados Sweet Scoop ‘N Mix
  • Harley Quinn Mini Action Figure
  • The Blank Comic Book Panelbook (for drawing and writing your own comics)
  • Usborne Write and Draw Your Own Comics –do you see a theme developing?
  • Mindware Extreme Dot-to-Dot: Animals
  • Books: The Land of Stories: An Author’s Odyssey by Chris Colfer, Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce, and Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky.




Woohoo! I reached 100 followers a few days ago! A BIG thank you to everyone who follows my blog!

Now, on to Read, Watch, Play!

What I’m Reading


The Exclusive Edition from OwlCrate, of course!

What I’m Watching


Stars Hollow is back!!!! Filled with nostalgia, I have watched two of the four revival episodes: Winter and Spring. It is so cozy and fun to be back with Rory and Lorelei.

No spoilers on the last four words, and the real ending, until I finish the final two episodes, please!


We went to see Doctor Strange on Friday, it was so good! Marvel movies – comic book movies in general – can be hit or miss for me. This one was so much fun to watch. I am admittedly not well-versed in this Marvel character’s storyline, so much of it was new to me! I love the magical and mystical components, different from the pseudo-science I was expecting. It definitely made me want to dig up some Doctor Strange comic books to learn more about the character’s book storylines!


What I’m Playing


We always get out the Apples to Apples Jewish Edition when my in-laws come to visit!

What are you up to this week? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Appreciating the Small Stuff


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme was a Thanksgiving freebie: what we are thankful for.

I needed this theme this week! The year 2016 has not been the greatest year for me, at times, it has been downright miserable. I had surgery and was diagnosed with endometriosis in February; my husband was involved in a car accident in June when someone ran into him, and a dear friend and someone who was a mentor to me passed away suddenly in October. I won’t even go into the feelings brought about after the election.

It would be an understatement to say that I am counting down the days until 2017, with the hope that it will be a brighter year. Which is all the more reason why I need to take a moment to highlight all the great little things in life. The little things are vastly underrated, when in reality, they do so much to cheer and uplift.

 Top Ten Little Things That Bring Happiness and Joy

  1. Comedians – Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, Ellen….they always bring out a laugh, even during the gloomy times.
  2. My cats – Isabel and Hello Kitty.
  3. Giving to others – Giving an extra pair of sneakers to the Tile Guy working on our bathroom renovation. M had a foot growth spurt in September, and she outgrew the sneakers we bought in August before she even wore them. I passed them on to the Tile Guy, who happens to be a single dad raising a 6-year-old. His daughter loved the shoes – win/win for everyone!
  4. Warm, sunny days – we have had a lot of them this autumn, and I appreciate every single one.
  5. Books – Of course this book lover will have books on the list! It would be so silly to think otherwise.
  6. My daughter’s first original composition – My 9-year-old wrote her own song, y’all! And it is such a fun thing to listen to.
  7. My Book Club – our book club is known as the LLC – Liberal Literature Club – and we always have great conversations when we get together.
  8. Netflix and Amazon Prime – When I feel like doing nothing else, I can always count on these two to come to the rescue.
  9. Ice Cream  – the small-batch gelato at Va Da Vie in Charlotte, Ben & Jerry’s, or any one of the other many local ice creameries in our area. Yum.
  10. The Joe Biden memes – Oh, how they do make me laugh. We love you, Joe!


Read Watch Play #6


Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, the Sunday Post, and 5 Things on Sunday.

This fall has been crazy busy!! I look forward with glee to December when I will hopefully have two weeks of quiet and calm, and can go into winter book hermit mode (although it’s not actually that cold here yet in North Carolina – I don’t usually go into seclusion mode until the cold weather blows in!).

Right now, I am gearing up for Thanksgiving, a holiday that almost always also overlaps with M’s birthday. Every year, we host a multitude of family for both Thanksgiving and birthday celebrations. Don’t ask me about the year of Thanksgivukkah – that one crazy year (2013) that I had 3 holidays in 3 days: M’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Chanukah all rolled into one! So much fun…and so exhausting!

This year, we have 10 family members coming to visit, beginning to arrive on Tuesday, and hopefully I will still be sane on the other end of things! Too bad our bathroom renovation is about one week behind schedule, and will not be done by Thanksgiving. I am sobbing tears of defeat over that one!

In other exciting news, I am only 4 people away from 100 followers!! Who knows, maybe you will be my 100th follower! It would be wonderful if I reached that milestone today!

What I’m Reading


We had a great book haul from the library this week! Above is a selection of books that both M and I are reading.

M’s books:

  • The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty (I will be reading this, too!)
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell. M loves this one so much she has probably already read it 3 times, and we are currently reading it aloud together, as well.

My books:

  • eleanor & park by Rainbow Rowell. I finished this a few days ago, and hopefully will have my review up before Thanksgiving!
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer – Squeee!!!
  • a platter of figs and other recipes by David Tanis – I always like going back to this cookbook when I need new ideas for dinner.

Even more exciting news, my November OwlCrate came in the mail Saturday evening! Here’s a sneak peek:


Excuse the poor lighting, I didn’t open the box until I returned home from dinner last night!

What I’m Watching


The Hunting Ground (Documentary) – This documentary takes a look at college rape, and how it is handled by various universities…and hits the bull’s eye. It is an influential documentary that deserves all the attention it has recieved…as do the amazing young women who were brave enough to confront university and athletic programs head on and demand change and reform.

What I’m Playing

My reward swag bag finally came in the mail for my team finishing 1st Place in the Women’s Relay for the JJF Virtual Triathlon!!

You can read about the Jimmie Johnson Virtual Triathlon in one of my earlier Read Watch Play Posts, but look at this cool swag!


Here’s what came in the Swag bag:

  • An awesome medal and Congratulations note for completing a 140.6 mile triathlon!!
  • A Lowe’s Nascar hat – My dad would love this, so it will be passed on to him.
  • Under Armour Coldgear running gloves – They have touch-screen fingertips, which will be perfect for cold weather bike rides and walks to/from M’s school!
  • Sports towel – I can always use  more of those!
  • Mission EnduraCool Instant Cooling Skull Cap – I’m not sure if I will use this or not, so it might be gifted to my father-in-law, who runs and bikes and lives in the very hot, very arid desert near Phoenix, Arizona.
  • $10 Gift Certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods! Yes!!

What I’m Cooking


I am participating in the 5 Things on Sunday meme for the first time, hosted by Kendra @ Reads and Treats. This week’s theme is a Thanksgiving freebie, which fits in perfectly with what I’m cooking this week!

I tried to switch things up this year and prepare some new dishes for our Thanksgiving feast. I received a resounding, PLEASE, NO!!! from almost every family member. My daughter loves my sweet potatoes and would be devastated if I switched out the marshmallow topping for pecans. My brother-in-law would consider it sacrilege if I tried out a new stuffing recipe. And so on and so forth.

So, here are five tried and true dishes that I make on Thanksgiving, and apparently are well-loved by my family!

  • Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing – made with a mix of whole wheat and farmhouse white bread that I buy at Great Harvest Bakery a few days before.
  • Cranberry Sauce – a quick 10-minute skillet recipe that only uses 3 ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and orange juice. Easy, and delicious!!
  • Turkey – We buy local, heritage turkeys as often as we can, and brine it overnight. We added the brining step a few years ago, and never looked back! I’m not a big turkey fan, but brining brings out the moisture and really adds to the flavor.
  • Sweet potato casserole – I don’t make the sweet potato as sugary sweet as other people do, but we do pile the marshmallows on the top!
  • Pumpkin Pie – my secret? I don’t use pumpkin, I use butternut squash! When we lived in Australia, sugar pumpkins (or canned pumpkin) was hard to come by. I substituted butternut squash one year, and loved how easy it was – especially compared to stringy pumpkins – and have done it that way ever since!

Happy Sunday! What are you up to this weekend?


ARC Book Review – The Blazing Star by Imani Josey


Title: The Blazing Star
Author:  Imani Josey
Publisher:  Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Release Date: 6 December, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Book Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.


Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

The Blazing Star contains so many incredibly awesome components: time travel to Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology, a diverse cast of PoC characters, strong female protagonists, and a gorgeous, breath-taking book cover. I know, I know, a book cover in no way represents the quality of writing inside of a book, but LOOK AT IT. I bow down at the feet of the artist who designed it, because I love the cover THAT much.

Much of the story revolves around the twinning, or lack of twinning, going on between Portia and Alex, as they try to find out why they were pulled back in time into ancient Egypt, and how they can get home. It’s a fun, original mash-up of fantasy, Egyptian mythology, and magic. Imani Josey truly did an amazing job of making me, the reader, feel as if I was back in Ancient Egypt with the girls. What makes the time travel plot work so well is the characters that Portia, Alex, and Selene meet. My favorites were definitely the Priestesses of the Temple of Isis: High Priestess Weret, Sikara, and Tasherit. The Prince of Egypt was exasperating.

The first half really held my attention, and did a moderately successful job of setting up the world and mythology that we learn about as the novel progresses. However, sadly, the story begins to lose its way in the second half, and in my opinion, starts to fall apart a teeny tiny bit. It became harder and harder to keep track of the timeline, and all the characters that come in and out of the story. The plot advances, but there are definitely some holes and gaps, and character’s actions that don’t make a lot of sense, which started driving me batty about 2/3 of the way through the book.

The ending is unresolved and definitely leaves room for a sequel, but also had me feeling as this was a case of lost potential. I really, really wanted to love The Blazing Star, but ultimately, it fell a bit short.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Diversity Spotlight -17 November 2016


I am slowly making my way through The Blazing Star, which was on my Diversity Spotlight list last week. I feel like every time I pick it up, I get interrupted, and have to put it back down. I hate when that happens! I don’t know if it is the constant interruptions, or my mood that is still down in the dumps, but I am having a hard time getting into the book.

Wildfires are still raging in the North Carolina mountains, and for the past 3 days, my home in the Charlotte area has been hazy and smoky. So much so, that the local school district has cancelled outdoor recess and sporting practices until the air quality improves. The Code Red air quality, combined with all the drywall repair work currently underway in our bathroom renovation, has really triggered my asthma, so I am back on a nebulizer and frequent inhaler use at the moment. Ugh.

Hopefully, it will rain soon, but there is still no sign of rain in the forecast.  2016 certainly is continuing on its path of being the year of constant yuckiness.

On a positive note, I am extremely excited to participate in an upcoming Love Wins rally. You might be scratching your head on that one, in light of the recent election, but a group of mothers involved with a local nonprofit, OurBRIDGE, decided to unite together and send a message to our neighbors, city, country, and the world, that we stand together in the belief that the United States is stronger for its diversity and inclusion.

OurBridge Kids is a Charlotte-based nonprofit that provides a safe, nurturing and respectful environment for refugee and immigrant students and their families. The rally is getting a lot of attention locally, with an excellent line-up of speakers and attendees. It should be a very empowering and uplifting event, what so many of us need right now.

In honor of all the refugee families I have come to know over the years, all of my selections this week will focus on the experience of refugees.

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly feature hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks. Each week, you discuss three books featuring diverse characters or authors, that fall into each of following three categories:

  • A diverse book you have read and enjoyed
  • A diverse book that has already been released but you have not read
  • A diverse book that has not yet been released



What is the What by Dave Eggers

Book Blurb:

In a heartrending and astonishing novel, Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. We follow his life as he’s driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety — for a time. Valentino’s travels, truly Biblical in scope, bring him in contact with government soldiers, janjaweed-like militias, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation — and a string of unexpected romances. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.

I have had the incredible privilege to get to know two Sudanese doctors who worked with the Dinka people during the Civil War, who eventually had to flee and became refugees themselves. The courage and optimism of so many Sudanese refugees, and most especially the Lost Boys, is beyond belief. This book is powerfully written, and is a must read for everyone.

Little known fact: Many, many refugees celebrate their birthday on January 1. Here in Charlotte, a local refugee agency holds a big birthday party every year in January for their clients. The reason for this is due to the fact that many refugees don’t know their actual date of birth. When that is the case, a new birthday is assigned to them during the resettlement process. The date always assigned for those who don’t know? January 1.



The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Book Blurb:

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

From 2001 – 2005, I worked with asylum seekers in Brisbane, Australia. The clients, many of whom became dear friends, that I worked with were community-based asylum seekers. This novel details the experience of asylum seekers who don’t get that opportunity. Australia has both “onshore” and “offshore” detention centres, and the characters in The Bone Sparrow live in one of the onshore detention centres.

Fact: There are many myths surrounding refugees. One such myth is that “Boat People” – those who arrive via boat to Australia – are not “genuine refugees”. This is UNTRUE!! There is no such thing as a ‘genuine’ or ‘non-genuine’ refugee. Refugee status should not be influenced by method of arrival, and 93.4% of asylum seekers who arrived by boat to Australia in 2011-12 were found to be refugees and granted protection.

However, Australia discriminates against asylum seekers based on their method of arrival. If they arrive with a valid visa – often a student or tourist visa – and then apply for protection, they are allowed to live in the community until their application is processed (this can take years). If an asylum seekers arrives on a boat, or another method, without a visa, they are sent to detention centres.

Some people end up stuck in a no-man’s land, denied protection by Australia, but unable to be sent back to their home country, and end up living in the detention centres for years upon years.

This includes children. And the conditions can be abhorrent, and so incredibly inhumane.



The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Book Blurb:

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was one of the most widely and highly praised novels of 2015, the winner not only of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but also the Center for Fiction Debut Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the California Book Award for First Fiction. Nguyen’s next fiction book, The Refugees, is a collection of perfectly formed stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.

With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. The second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

I don’t usually read collections of short stories, but I might make an exception for this one. I find it particularly interesting that the stories were written over a period of twenty years!

The Refugees will be published on 7 February, 2017.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Movies for Quirky People


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme was Top Ten Movies freebie.

Some of my favorite movies are quirky and eccentric, with “strange” and unconventional characters. I have always been drawn to quirky indie films, so I decided to focus on that genre – can you call it a genre? – for this week’s Top Ten.

Top Ten Quirky Indie Films

(although a few non-indies did sneak on to the list)

Juno (2007)

“In my opinon, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.”

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)

“I refuse to be a goody bag at your pity party, Nick.”

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

“Nunchuck skills…bowhunting skills…computer hacking skills…girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!”

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

“Why did you order raisin bran?
Why did you order tea?
Because you ordered raisin bran.
I ordered raisin bran because I didn’t want there to be any mistaking it for a date.
It can still be a date if you order raisin bran.”

Once (2007)

“Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy.”

Rushmore (1998)

“I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then…do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore.”

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

“A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.”

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

“You never even gave me the time of day till I started getting good reviews.
Your reviews weren’t that good.
But the sales are.”

Almost Famous (2000)

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

What is on your Top Ten Tuesday list this week? Feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Book Review – Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi


Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle-grade

Book Blurb:

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

Whimsical. Almost every review I have read about Furthermore, describes this middle-grade novel as whimsical.

As it turns out, whimsical is an apt description.

First off, the cover art. Isn’t it gorgeous? I freely and humbly admit that picking up this book was purely a case of judging a book by its cover! It’s very fitting…Alice Alexis Queensmeadow stands out in her home land for being devoid of color in a world obsessed by it. And she stands out on the book cover as well, for much the same reasons. I read a library copy, and I usually keep library books in our lovely little library basket when not actively reading a book. With Furthermore, I kept displaying it at various spots around the house. It is just that much fun and so mood uplifting to see! All the images started to come together and make sense as I continued my journey through the book, and it was fun to use the cover art almost like a reference map as I was reading.

In Ferenwood, magic is a part of every day life, and all Ferenwood citizens possess a type of magical ability. It is a town where magic is grown and harvested – I do wish this aspect had been explained in a bit more detail – and a place where all 12 year olds have to participate in the Surrender.

I was briefly worried, but no, the Surrender does not go in the direction of The Hunger Games. Whew! In the Surrender, children must demonstrate – surrender – their greatest power. They are then given a task to complete, something that will help better the town of Ferenwood. A magical community service project, one could say.

Sounds simple, but in a land that is like a topsy-turvy Wonderland with a dash of Harry Potter and a pinch of Unfortunate Events, nothing is simple and straightforward.

Because, dear reader, we have Alice. A  blank canvas in a world of vivid color. Alice’s father went missing three years ago, and her mother seems to take out her sadness on Alice more than anyone else. As I don’t want to go into too many details as to how Alice’s journey to find Father begins, I will just change topics too…

“Some evenings all the unspoken hurts piled high on their plates and they ate sorrow with their syrup.”

The writing! This book was SO much fun to read. Sometimes, whimsical, metaphor-laden writing becomes a chore. That was definitely not the case for Furthermore! Taherah Mafi is an amazingly talented writer, and Furthermore is a pure joy to read. It’s the kind of novel, like Alice in Wonderland, that you need to just accept the oddity and absurdity, and go with the flow.

Another thing I really loved, especially considering it is a middle-grade book, is the character growth of Alice and Oliver. Alice has some important lessons to learn (so does Oliver!), the biggest of which is learning to love herself just the way she is, no matter what other people think. Studies have shown that a girl’s self-esteem and positive body image peaks at 9 years old, and body shaming by peers  – and sadly, sometimes family members – definitely starts to build in the later elementary years. Furthermore sends a positive message to this age demographic to embrace and love themselves as they are.

The only complaint I would have about Furthermore is the abruptness of the ending. The story is building and building, and suddenly you are over the hurdle and at the end of the book. It just happened too quickly.

“The morning arrived the way Alice imagined a whisper would: in tendrils of gray and threads of gold, quietly, quietly. The sky was illuminated with great care and deliberation, and she leaned back to watch it bloom.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this middle-grade novel, which appeals to kids and adults alike!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Have you read Furthermore? What did you think of the ending?