Book Review

The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik

The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik
April 6, 20201
Penguin Random House

Publisher’s summary



“In 1918, a young and bright-eyed Dorothea Lange steps off the train in San Francisco, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking Chinese American with a complicated past, gives Dorothea entrée into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of the city. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with the brilliant but troubled painter Maynard Dixon. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives.

The Bohemians captures a glittering and gritty 1920s San Francisco, with a cast of unforgettable characters, including cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence. A vivid and absorbing portrait of the past, it is also eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and a devastating pandemic bring tumult to the city—and the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.

As Dorothea sheds her innocence, her purpose is awakened and she grows into the figure we know from history—the artist whose iconic Depression-era photographs like “Migrant Mother” broke the hearts and opened the eyes of a nation.

Penquin Random House

Everything I have ever loved that revolved around culture came from the magnificent inspirational topography of California into my New York-born, Utah-raised heart! I had wanted to live in California since I was a tween so that I could follow the footsteps of John Muir through Yosemite seeing the Fire Falls with my eyes instead of just through the print of an Ansel Adams B&W photograph. I wanted to wear black and white checkered Vans before stepping onto the pier and white sands of Newport Beach, or holding hands with Mickey Mouse walking through Main Street USA at Disneyland. The biggest influence though was a woman who took her camera snapping photos of the underprivileged in San Francisco. She also taught me empathy through the hardships of the migrants from Oklahoma to California, just to pick fruit to provide for their families after they were left with nothing in their own hometowns. Dorothea Lange and her iconic photographs were the reason that I searched out the adult classics like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Without Dorothea Lange I might not have ever cared about the experiences of the people, who to be honest lived 60+ years before I was even born, those poor, resilient people who had to leave Oklahoma and traveled to California just like the Joads.

All those childhood dreams came true, when as an adult, my husband and I moved to California.
So, when I accidentally happened upon a NetGalley advance readers copy of The Bohemians and found out it was a historical fiction (my favorite genre) about Dorothea Lange and her Chinese assistant I was hungry to read the book. My heart was elated with joy when I was given the chance to read it! I didn’t know much about Dorothea’s early life in San Francisco, just a lot of her life after her divorce from Maynard Dixon and living in Berkeley, so what a treat to be able to have a fleshed out story of Ay-yee (who is reimagined as Caroline Lee by author, Jasmin Darznik.)

The Bohemians is told through all the senses. I could see, the coastlines of the Bay, smell the eucalyptus and pine while driving with Dorothea and Maynard, to what I can only assume is Stinson Beach for their picnic. I can hear the sounds of China Town in the early morning while the community sets up their wares in their small store-fronts and smell the deliciousness of roasting chicken and duck at lunchtime. It would’ve been wonderful to witness the Bohemian life of Monkey Block, or Montgomery Block as it was called by those who weren’t familiar with the area, but reading about it is as good as it can get. Coppa’s in their original setting was something I would have also like to experience even though I have seen photos of Coppa’s when it moved to Pine Street. I could feel the pain that Caroline experiences after her attack by John Pharrell Jr.

Ms. Darznik’s research and imagination created the perfect mix of fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes, if you didn’t know, you would think all of the stories was a true story of two strong, independent women, who do everything in their power to become a success at running a business in a time where men had all the control. This story is timely in that it covers race, inequality, and the power of how people can change the world. Caroline might not have been but a blimp in Dorothea’s real-life since we don’t hear anything after Dorothea’s portrait studio shuts down, but what Caroline embodies is the real struggles that Chinese women and Chinese in California as a whole struggled with — the lack of respect, the lack of opportunity, the lack of identity. Honestly, without those Chinese Immigrants, the California elite wouldn’t have had a mode of transportation across the nation by train, nor the roads that took them through the Sierra Nevada’s to other states from Northern California. Those immigrants, just like the migrants from the midwest embodied the spirit of California- the resilience to push forward when all the world was trying to hold them back.

The Bohemians is the perfect book to read when you need adventure, but also want to learn how to see those who consider themselves invisible. Invisible isn’t good, especially when beauty, class, and ingenuity should be celebrated like the people in this book.



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Five Stars for beautiful writing
and a story that draws you in.

Book Review

Come Fly the World by Julia Cook

Come Fly the World
Julia Cooke
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
March 2, 2021

It started for me with those fabulous blue and white square travel bags… I was enamored with Pan Am Airlines. Sadly, I wasn’t old enough for their heyday of two-story flights with a lounge, bar, and warm meals at any given time of the day.

Come Fly The World is the epitome of those fabulous bags and more! I read this in March which in the United States is National Women’s History month — a perfect time to celebrate and read about the women who served customers, consoled Vietnam Soldiers, picked up war orphans in the middle of danger, fought for Women’s Rights, lived throughout the world learning about self-identity, strength, and even bravery all while wearing heels at heights unimaginable 50 years before when the Wright Brothers attempted their first flight.

Julia Cooke weaves world history, social construct, and fashion into this novel and does it while folding out a tale that not only educates but entertains.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the women who changed the world for generations of women (and men to be honest,) no matter their age, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, or relationship status. Pan Am was a great airline. It was very sad to have their company shut down before I was of an age to explore the world myself. “Stewardesses” lived large, lived how they wanted, and created a camaraderie that lasted beyond their work years.

As a teen, I dreamed of traveling the world by working up and down the aisle of a plane. This book makes me regret not achieving that dream.

Thank you, NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Julia Cook for the opportunity to read Come Fly the World in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing… or does she?

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing
Allison Winn Scotch
Lake Union Publishing
August 1, 2020
Fiction

“Let’s break out a map. Not the old out-of-date one that shows where we’ve been, but a crisp new on that shows where we might go. Let’s embark on a new journey together, and see where it takes us.” Leslie Knope

Cleo McDougal had a list of regrets that spans 20 years. Most of these regrets are innocuous, however some are not, they are barnburners. For a Senator considering running for President this is a dangerous list. What happens if it gets out? This mad dash novel is exactly what you end up with — more regrets and fortunately some bridges being rebuilt.

This book isn’t about that curse word —Politics, even though people might assume it is, and to a point they might be right. The overall message of the book is the rendering of what happens to a strong woman who doesn’t show weakness, when she runs right into the slammed door of said regrets- her childhood best friend posts an Op-Ed about her that is less than stellar or lovingly reminiscent. Cleo has to decide whether she faces Marianne or leave all the regrets in the past.

The big lesson from this book is that to grow, you have to face the fears, and more than likely set the world on fire to rise stronger from the ashes… even when you don’t know you need to burn it all down.

There are a few places in the book that I got tired of the victimhood view of Cleo, or the bashing of a man in power just because she feels slighted by a decision of the senate leader based on the fallouts of one of the actions she takes to correct one of her regrets. This 30 something woman acts as if she is back in high school, not an accomplished member of one of the highest seats in the government.
Do women have to work harder to have mistakes accepted or overlooked, maybe, however, that isn’t my experience, but I am sure it is other women’s experiences. I just don’t love man-bashing especially when in the case of the books experience it isn’t based on whether she is a woman or not, but that her situation would take away from the point of the trip…

Overall, Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing is a good read filled with some fun and a whole lot of learning to become a better person. Regrets are strange bedfellows and to keep from letting them eat you up, you need to learn to love them or leave them.

3.5 Stars for a good read

Book Review

Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen, or how an author writes his best series finale.

Blood Sworn
Scott Reintgen
February 16, 2021
Random House Children’s Books

I am a huge Scott Reintgen book fan and Blood Sworn did not disappoint me at all! I believe it might be Mr. Reintgen’s best book yet! There were twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I am usually good at timing in my mind where the climax will be in a story while reading, however, low and behold Scott got me and turned my judgment of his writing skills to a higher plain.

Blood Sworn will draw you in with its gorgeous cover and the fact that you need to know what happened after we left Dividian Imelda, Ashlord Pippa, and Longhand Adrian at the end of book #1 Ashlords. There were so many scenes in the story that made me think wow, this would make a great movie! The action, the world-building of the Gods and their kingdoms in the dark and dreary underworld, the one place that you were curious about the most when it came to Ashlords and little Quinn, Pippa’s Gods-appointed helpmate in the Phoenix Races – the land she lived in. I felt as if it might be akin to Hoth – hotter than Hell, dryer than the Sahara, drearier than the Wombat creatures cave that the Millenium Falcon hid in while in the asteroid field, and full of creatures that you just can’t imagine, but Mr. Reintgen did.

The intriguing part of this book was the Blood Sworn alchemy mix Imelda found and reproduced into her own formula to go beyond just an amazing Phoenix Horse. Without it, this book would be very short, and very two-sided instead of a triangular point of view which makes this book very exciting, and of course the name of the book. Well done, Mr. Reintgen, well done!

This book is a lesson in writing entertainment, castes, races, and social injustice for any new writer or reader. The need to build new worlds when corruption is at its highest and the need to find light-heartedness even in the dark times make Blood Sworn, not only entertaining but also very worthy for the times we live.

This book is a most excellent read for young adults, (and us adults) that love to use their imagination, a gulp of danger, and a want to escape to another world altogether! I know that it will be recommended to those kids I know that love Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and unlike Marvel characters who bounce back from danger and the occasional bad wounds, not everyone gets out alive with your favorite characters.

My only negative comment would be that I would’ve liked more of a detailed taste of Quinn’s world when it came to the people who served the gods in the underworld. I would’ve loved a few pages on that. Nothing else comes to mind in critiquing Blood Sworn.

I was sad that this book is a duology and I let the author know I needed more! Whenever Mr. Reintgen wants to revisit his three Viceroy friends he needs to share it! I know I will be standing in line with the rest of his devoted, and hopefully so many more new readers.

Thank you, Netgalley, Random House Children’s Books, and Scott Reintgen for allowing me the privilege of reading the next chapter and sequel to Ashlords. Blood Sworn is my favorite read of the year thus far! The author’s Imagination Cable is thick with this one. 😉

Book Review

The Crowns of Croswald: The Girl with the Whispering Shadow by D.E.Night, The Continuing Fairytale!

Summary from Publisher: 

The Girl with the Whispering Shadow, the second novel in the middle-grade series The Crowns of Croswald, meets Ivy Lovely in a magical town, findable only by the whisper of its name. Banished from school and tasked with a mission that no other scrivenist has been able to accomplish, Ivy must dig deep––and reach out to friends––to begin to restore her world. Disappearing treasure, magical bottles, powerful spells, and mythical creatures abound in this rich, textured landscape. 

Curious and whimsical, both shy and brave, Ivy is a hero that connects with readers of all ages. For those who wished that Narnia, Harry Potter, and Alice in Wonderland could go on forever, Croswald opens a whole new world of magic. Recommended as a read-aloud for families and a first middle-grade fantasy read, The Crowns of Croswald is a four-part series that will carry readers to a whimsical world that they won’t want to leave.


My review:

The last time we were with Ivy Lovely, she had just been told she could not return to the Halls of Ivy as the Dark Queen knew where she was there. The Girl with the Whispering Shadow brings us to the Town. Ivy’s journey is just as entertaining as her journey was to the Halls of Ivy. Somehow Ivy always gets into some kind of trouble when she leaves the Hall and this is no different. 

I found The Girl with the Whispering Shadow to be even more entertaining than D.E. Night’s Crowns of Croswald, which I absolutely loved. I think that it’s because we get to know more about Ivy’s friends, such as Fynn’s background, we get to know where he comes from, who his friends are and we get to know a ton about The Town. 

Speaking of The Town, or the name I can not speak because right now it’s a secret to all of you readers. what a great place! To me, it feels a bit like Seattle or London with its low cloud cover, but what an adventurous way to get to know it. Ivy ends up taking the serendipitous route to arrive at the address that her Scrivenist gives her before she leaves the Halls of Ivy.

Where she ends up is a pleasant surprise! My favorite part of this adventure is the amazing places Ivy has to visit to further the education and learning of her power and the backstories that give even more depth to where Ivy comes from besides as a Scullery Maid. 

What I won’t tell you is whether evil or good prevails and how the adventure proceeds. I will tell you though that if you have fallen in love with Ivy, with her friends and the adventure, then you definitely need to read this second book in the series!  I look forward to reading the next book in the series that came out in May 2020- The Words of the Wandering!

D.E. Night has done a wonderful job at creating tension and terror at the hands of the Dark Queen and her cohorts and has continued building darling Ivy into the heroine that we love and cheer for. Ivy has her challenges, she has her weaknesses, but she also has the strength to keep fighting for her heritage, her friends, the people of The Town, and her role into the future. 

Buy this book from your favorite Indie book shop in-store or online, or if your shop doesn’t have a website and you need to buy online buy from http://www.Bookshop.org and support your favorite book shop by linking your favorite shop to bookshop.org’s option to do so.

I plan on reading this series to my granddaughters when they are older. I see myself reading this series over and over.  The Crowns of Croswald series is definitely a fairytale that will become beloved by current and future readers all because of a girl named Ivy Lovely!  

Thank you Netgalley, D.E.Night, and Untoldstories for the opportunity to read and review this book!

Book Review

The Memory Monster

The Memory Monster — I don’t even know how to explain this book, however, I will try to gather my thoughts and put them as simply as I can. I might actually have to include a few spoilers to get my feelings and thoughts down on the page, and I apologize for that here at the start. 

This book is about a man who works at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of WWII’s Holocaust, who is writing a letter report to the Chairman of Yad Vashem

 The Man who is writing this report works as a tour guide and expert in the extermination camps of WWII who takes student groups, VIPs, and at the end a Filmmaker through the Poland extermination camps. This book is shocking to me to how fast a person can become too deep into past history. I found it interesting that as the book moves forward in time, The Man, which btw- we never find out his name, becomes so mentally steeped into the lives of the Jewish people (victims) who died at the camps that I feel he starts to look like them when it comes to dressing and disheveled appearance. There are times when some of the students tell him to buy new shoes or clothes, his neighbor gives him a bag of clothes thinking he can’t afford new ones, or his wife tells him he looks sickly. I do believe that leading that kind of a tour day after day would start playing with your mind and cause distress to anyone, especially when you can visually see what was happening as the Jewish People entered the camps by way of deception. 

At one point in time, The Man convinces an Auschwitz survivor to accompany them on the tour to tell his story. oh the hell of his experience, what I felt of his reliving it by visiting is too painful to talk about except that he ended up collapsing. The poor, poor man. What torture to make him re-experience that period of his life.  Talk about PTSD.

This book had some seriously mixed up stuff in it.

The Man takes Israeli HS students on a tour of the remnants of the Concentration Camps. A description of The Man’s take on the students feeling’s of what he heard and observed about the German Nazi soldiers was shocking to me as a grand-niece of a victim at Auschwitz-Birkenau who was liberated. It hurt my heart to actually understand that although this book is written in Satire to an extent people do actually feel as these students did.  Here is The Man’s description of the feelings of the students: 

“They didn’t hate the Germans, the kids in my groups; not at all, not even close. The Murderers barely registered…They hated the Polish much more. When we walked around the streets in cities and villages, whenever we met the local population, they would mutter words of hatred at them, about the pogroms they had committed, their collaborations, their anti-semitism. But, it’s hard for us to hate the Germans. Look at photos from the war. Let’s call a spade a spade: they looked totally cool in those uniforms, on their bikes, at east, like male models on billboards. We’ll never forgive the Arabs for the way they look, with their stubble and their borwn pants that go wide at the bottom, their houses without whitewas and the open sewers on the streets, the kids with pink-eye. But that fair, clean, European look makes you wan to emulate them.” 


So… they hate the Polish people, but not the Germans who did the actual torturing & killing? Disgusting. But poor little Arab kids with pink-eyed kids are unforgivable?!!!  I know I don’t know the relationship very well between the Arabs and the Israelis, but seriously, these are little kids who didn’t choose where they were born or to whom…

At different parts of the report The Man asks questions like, would you be able to take in a Jewish boy if he showed up at your door? Would you risk the danger? Another time, What would you do as a Jewish person put in charge at one of the camps, would you do the job to save your own life and end the lives of others, or would you protest and die with the others? These are questions aren’t as cut and dry as you would think.  I feel until you are actually put in the same exact situation you can’t really give an honest answer. 

Speaking of honesty, I had to take a break from reading for a while because it just hurt too much to continue reading sometimes. The descriptions of the sites themselves, the rooms and what they were meant for, the numbers of people killed and buried in Mass Graves, and the lies, oh the lies the Victims are all told to get them into the gas chambers was overwhelming, to say the least. 

The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid is well written, a poignant piece of writing that everyone should read, not only for the immensely tragic tale of the victims which has to be retold, but also the prediction that comes from reading: as the saying goes, “if you don’t learn from the past, you will relive it in the future.” This hatred of a race or religion of people should never be taken to the extreme that Hitler took. We can not let it be repeated and The Memory Monster is a cautionary tale of how we can forget and commend those whose hatred was so vile that to some they were heroes. 

I am thankful that to Restless Books, and Yishai Sarid for allowing me the honor of reading this book in exchange for an honest review. It truly has challenged my thinking and opened up some extremely deep processing on how we can become too immersed in history and the problems of the world to the detriment of our future.

Yishai Sarid was born and raised in Tel Aviv Israel. He studied law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has a Public Administration Master’s Degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of five novels.

Book Review

The Light After The War Anita Abriel

The Light After The War
Anita Abriel
Atria Books
February 4, 2020




The Light After The War is a lesson in life:
how to continue through tragedy, heartache, guilt and sometimes continuing mean that you have to do it over and over again.

Publisher’s summary:

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Although this book is told through narrative that tells instead of shows the lessons that are learned are poignant.

Vera’s mother-in-law, Alessandra Albee, a strong, independent women who lectures at the local University, but knows that Venezuelan men expect certain behaviors from their wives, teaches Vera a very important lesson when she first meets Vera.

Do you know what the most important human trait is? It is not Piety, as our Catholic priests would wish; it’s not honesty or even loyalty. It is empathy. If we don’t have empathy for others, we are finished. How can we learn empathy without studying history and geography and Literature?”

Empathy is not a normal virtue in most people’s lives. Usually, it is either something you are born with, or something you can learn if you are willing to let life show you the beauty of each human being. Not everyone will ever learn to be empathetic. Most live selfish lives only thoughts of what life can give them. This might be because they aren’t being stretched through hardship and struggle as people did during WWII. Life is much easier when there is prosperity.

Vera lives an empathetic life. She observes everything around her, she sees that life can have meaning and that you can add meaning to other’s lives too. Most of The Light After The War comes from her interactions with others she encounters in the four years that she is wandering with Edith trying to find a life that gives meaning to the both of them.

Vera meets Rabbi Gorem after she learns her parents are alive and they arrive in Venezuela. He plays chess with her father, Lawrence, and provides Vera with a spirituality that Vera hasn’t had while trying to find meaning in her life after being pushed off the train to Auschwitz. I personally believe that combined with Alessandra’s lesson on empathy and this lesson from Rabbi Gorem, there is hope that the world will never repeat the atrocities that happened during WWII if we keep teaching what happened to all generations after ours.

In Judaism we take the study of the soul very seriously. God could not create the soul in everyone equally. Some people are born with Souls that reach for the light like buds in spring. For others it’s more difficult to seek true meaning, their thoughts get in the way.
But God makes sure no one’s life is for nothing. Every Jew who died in the camps left behind something: a piece of music or a poem or a new idea.”

Anton, Vera’s first love (and boss,) while on a trip to Capri teaches her about the light that can be found even during darkness.

During the Roman Empire, Tiberius built twelve villas in Anacapri… He ruled the most important empire on earth from this spot. After the Roman Empire fell, civilization went dark. For centuries the world revolved around war and disease and death. But now we have the Sistine Chapel and the Louvre. We have Shakespeare and Dante and Proust. Symphonies perform Mozart and Beethoven, and museums display Rembrandt and Monet. Europe will recover from Hitler’s atrocities, and a new crop of artists and philosophers will emerge. No one man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.”

I truly believe that “not one man can wipe out truth and beauty”. That is paramount to remember, especially during times where people believe that a dictator or a president can destroy the fabric of their lives. Hitler’s ideas and values devastated and killed millions of innocent lives. Survivor’s had guilt, they mourned, they pushed on to live how they could. Some decided they could push on even in the concentration camps because the Germans couldn’t take their thoughts and their prayers away even if they took everything else.

Like the sun coming through the clouds even after a devastating storm there is brightness and light if only we look for it and add to it.

Thank you Netgalley, Atria Books and Anita Abriel for the opportunity to read The Light After The War in lieu of my honest review.

Personal, Reading

Curiosity Killed the Cat: Why Do You Read?

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Why do you read?  Is it to escape, enlarge your world, or perhaps to gain empathy…

I read mostly to learn about other people I may not encounter in my little town in Wonder Bread Utah. I read to engage my mind in a life that I might never experience and sometimes am thankful that I don’t. Mostly, I learn to understand. I want to understand other’s experiences through their hardships, their joys, and their frustrations; how they overcome such hardships, how they express their anger, rage, and even happiness. This can happen from engaging with people too but what if you live in a place where everyone is more or less the same in their culture, in their dress, and in their monetary value? Individuals are just that individuals, but when they are growing up in the same area the individuality is not as significant as it would be living in the melting pot of humanity. 

I used to read a lot of classics. Books on the plight of the turn of the century during the climb second stage of the industrialization age, the struggles that people had as workers, and trying to create laws that protected those workers, or the plight of Dicken‘s characters just to eke out an existence in the grey world of London. 

Except for as a small child I never really read strictly for entertainment. As a teen I devoured books, books about my heritage, books on relationships, books on world views I could never even imagine. If I owned it I had written in the margins, If it was borrowed I would copy quotes in a notebook (which I still have today,) or photocopy the page to remember all the beautifully used words. However, I still didn’t delve deep enough. What I could have learned if I paid attention to what Charlotte Bronte and her sisters were trying to say in a world where they had no say would have helped me to guide my own destiny instead of always following behind someone else’s plans for me.

As a youth, I hated school, not because I struggled with the subject matter, but that I wanted to discuss ideas. I wanted to learn why you had to do fractions and why it would pertain to my life later on. I wanted to KNOW. 

Photo by Kathy Jones on Pexels.com

Like in the rest of my life it was “do as I say” and not what would make my learning experience better, or help me love to learn on a larger scale. I felt squelched because according to people, especially teachers, “I was a darling girl, but I talked too much in class.” Damn, right I did!  I wasn’t learning anything that interested me, except during English and History where we learned about expression and how other people expressed themselves in the here and now, and in the past. The rest of the time it was all memorization and rote information that was taught over and over again to generations of kids just like me. I wanted more. I wanted as I said before, TO KNOW. I wanted expression, I wanted feelings, I wanted two sides to each history lesson, not just the popular telling of it which marginalized the information that I received. I read to close these gaps that I felt were not being taught in school. So, my parents and grandma would introduce me to books that were sometimes a bit of a stretch for my understanding, and yet, I understood. My german grandma and her (and mine) heritage branched me out to the Holocaust, the lives of the Jewish people and the aftermath of that horrific time. I learned about the resistance that so many Germans secretly gave to help the marginalized and misrepresented. I even learned the thought process of the man who decided that Jewish people were an affront to his life and a danger to his unified world. Mein Kampf for a 12-year-old was a scarily deep and disturbing book (it still is) and yet, I wanted to, no, I needed to learn about it as it affected all sides of my German family.

Still, I didn’t expand out past the USA or even the European nations, I didn’t read internationally ALL OVER the world. I am grateful that those options are now part of my reading repertoire and all the way down to small children through so many fabulous picture books.

It wasn’t until I started taking college courses at the age of 43 that I found my voice. That I could express my frustration to professors, that I could dig deeper when I asked a question on our discussions. I wanted to expand my knowledge and feel more empathy towards others. I had a few professors that took the thirst I had for more and pored all their experiences, ideas, and knowledge into my brain during class; after class, and through emails. I felt empowered. I felt acknowledged for the first time for the intelligence I had and wasn’t belittled for asking questions or throwing out ideas. I am sure I drove my fellow school mates crazy. Those 19/20-year-olds that just wanted to get the assignment and get the heck out of the classroom. I wanted a discussion that expanded the topic at hand. It was a glorious time. 

After we moved and college wasn’t an option for me anymore, that didn’t stop me from learning. It just built up the desire even more. So, I started reading international books, books by authors who weren’t famous, books with tough subjects because those are the books that teach the most. I’ve found that emotional connection and different ideas from all walks of life, faith’s and countries expand our hearts and minds to what could be, what should be, and what will be if we work towards a collective betterment and kindness towards those we come in contact or see on the news. Empathy towards others and seeing people’s struggles help make the world a smaller place. It makes you want to know but also to do. Serve, improve, and build a bridge. As the tribes of third world countries have shown, it definitely takes a village to raise those who might not have anyone to raise them.

Don’t get me wrong, I read for entertainment too, but overall I read to expand my individual universe so I am a better community member of this spinning blue and green marble we call Earth. 

Because of this, over the next year, you will see more diversity of subject matter in my book review choices, more international authors, and some amazing covers that don’t blend into the popular canvas of publishing.

I am extremely curious to know: WHY DO YOU READ And will you expand that way of reading throughout 2021?

I can’t wait to hear and learn from you in the comments. 
        

~Sandra.

Happy Reading!

Book Review

And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again — Covid-19 Pandemic a collection of stories

And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again compiled by Restless Books Publisher, Ilan Stavans was a very interesting collection of essays based on the world quarantine due to Covid-19.

Each International Author created a unique view of what was happening on their part of the Earth.

I really found the personal stories the most effective. Didn’t love the Political stories which tended to be extremely off putting to those who don’t believe the same viewpoint which is how I read things when reviewing for a wide general audience.

I think my favorite was the introspection of author, Lynne Tillman. It struck me, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, she tried to make each day interesting, however, after a while it’s all tedium day after day, unless when looking out windows or wandering the streets of New York.

Each essay was either creative writing- Poetry, photography, etc; personal experiences or stories that held your interest that related to their feelings and were expressed in a way that took you away from the tension, the extreme stress, fear or boredom.

I think this book is worthy of being read if you need to commiserate and want great writing.

Thank you, Edelweiss Plus, Restless Books and Ilan Stavans for the opportunity to see how other people were dealing with the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic in lieu of my honest review.

Personal

Books, Books, Books… Conundrum

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You all know that I love books, movies based on books and books about books, however did you know that I started writing a book for youth that isn’t fantasy based?  Yup, that’s right. My book is actually about three characters who interexchange through their lives without knowing each other and is connected by minor characters. I am not going to talk more about it, however because I am not anywhere near completing said book.

I love writing as much as I love reading, except that I struggle sticking to a schedule and I am apt to get writer’s block easy. It’s part of the “I get bored working on a project and jump to something new” syndrome, a creed I hold that often got me into trouble in High school. I would do the homework and then not turn it in, it was like, “why should I turn it in when the test on the work was a great grade?” this attitude causes me stress in the fact that I have a lot of “almost” finished projects that aren’t done.

I tend to do this with books too, but that isn’t a bad thing. If the book isn’t worth my time and I am bored with it, it’s time to close the cover and maybe come back to it at a later date. Do any of you do the same thing?  Is a book always worth finishing? that’s my dilemma right now. I am reading a book that I am not loving and am halfway through, sadly, it’s something that I need to read and review at the request of a publisher (mind, you, this book is an backorder request… I tend to read three books at once — one that I missed during its release – for review; one to be released soon – for review; and a classic read that I love. This makes it easier, for me, so that I can cleanse my palate by reading the one I love. 😉)

I love the book’s subject. I love the idea of the book it’s just not capturing my engagement and I am afraid to drop it and move on as I don’t want to be dropped by the publisher.

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So, does anyone have any suggestions? Drop me your ideas in the comments below, please!