Next Year in Havana

Havana

“The story of Cuba is one of struggles and strife. When we were girls, we were kept from most of it, but the edges seeped through, crawling over the gates. Batista was a harsh president. He loved sugar, loved the money that flowed into the country from overseas, but he didn’t love the Cuban people. He wanted to be king over a people who didn’t want to be ruled.”

Stop what you’re doing and READ THIS BOOK! It’s gorgeous in every way possible – the storyline, the characters, the twists and turns, the writing.

Told in two alternating perspectives – grandmother and granddaughter, past and present – Cleeton accomplishes so much. While I was mostly anticipating a romantic story, I had no idea I was in for the most fascinating Cuban history lesson. I loved the side story of Marisol and Luis, but it was the grandmother’s story that captured my heart. As a granddaughter of an immigrant myself, I loved the thought of learning about my grandma’s history and perspectives in a way that Marisol did! And while I knew little to nothing about Cuba and its past, this book opened up a door I didn’t know I even cared to walk through.

Cuba herself is a character of this story. Through Cleeton’s writing, I felt as if I were walking the streets of Havana as I read. I felt the heat, saw the beauty, and smelled the food.

This is one of the most gorgeous books I’ve read in a long time. I can’t wait to read When We Left Cuba now which will be on shelves on April 9, 2019!

 

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories

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Thank you, Flatiron Books, for the free, finished copy to review. All opinions are my own.

A collection of stories that gives voice to the modern-day Indian American experience. All the stories had depth, well-developed characters, and thought-provoking prose. Short story collections make me nervous, but Patel proves masterful in this craft.

Each story had so much depth, and honestly, I was sad to see most of them end!

From the Corner of the Oval

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 6.54.53 PMThank you, NetGalley, for the free digital copy to review. All opinions are my own.

To be transported back to the Obama administration was amazing. To remember his way with words. His gentleness. His humanity. I loved getting to read a little about Obama behind the scenes, off camera. I just wish there would have been more!

Dorsey-Stein is a great writer, but she got sidetracked from telling the story of her experience in the White House. Instead, this book was basically her lamenting her moral behavior as she recounts over and over again just how hopelessly in love she was with a emotionally unavailable and manipulative man, who continuously convinced her to cheat on her boyfriend. As if that’s not enough, we also have to read through seemingly nightly binge drinking. I was often wondering how these staff members, who I assumed were responsible for Obama’s safety, had so much time and ability to go to bars and drink until the early morning hours while on trips. It seemed as if these people were really on vacation and not working responsibly.

The title of the book certainly led me to believe I was getting more behind-the-scenes details instead of a coming-of-age story set in Washington, D.C. amongst some major power players. I loved the parts that included Obama; I could have done without the rest.

Manhattan Beach

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Let me start off by saying: I wasn’t a fan of A Visit From the Goon Squad at all. And then when I saw quite a few negative reviews about Manhattan Beach, I was nervous. It kept me from picking his one up for a long time.

In an effort to clean my shelves up a bit, I decided to give it a try, giving myself full permission to DNF it if it wasn’t catching my attention. Honestly, there were a few times I almost stopped…but something kept me going and I’m glad I finished this one because I liked it so much!

The story is divided into six parts, and some were clearly better than others. But the interweaving of the characters and their stories began to hook me. By the end, all the pieces came together and I really didn’t want the story to end.

Egan’s writing is excellent (which is also true of Goon Squad; but for some reason, I just couldn’t ever get connected to that story). I love the imagery she creates with her words; I could feel myself on the docks of the Navy Yard. Set in NYC, after The Great Depression and during WWII, Egan creates well-developed characters and I quickly became invested in their lives.

I’m glad I ignored the reviews I read on this one. I think this book will stick with me for quite awhile as I reminisce about the many layers of this story. What’s a book that didn’t get great reviews, but which you really enjoyed?

Tangerine

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Thank you to Ecco Books for the free finished copy to review. All opinions are my own.

These are the hardest books for me to review/rate. I loved the writing, but I hated the pace of the book. It felt like there was a great big build up, but the story ultimately fell flat and didn’t feel like it really supported that big build up. I was invested and I cared what happened. It wasn’t a huge surprise in the end, although I am left a little confused by the last twenty pages.

One thing that definitely saved the book was the setting. Mangan describes it so well it felt like I was actually there. I could see the crowded marketplace, I could smell the spices, I could feel the intense heat of Tangier. After hearing Annie B. Jones talk about the setting, I added this to my TBR. It was masterful, almost like it became its own character in the story.

I can’t say I loved this one and I can’t say I hated it. The writing was fantastic, but the plot could have used a little better pacing.

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews. Have you read this one? Thoughts?

There There

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“Listen, baby, it makes me happy you want to know, but learning about your heritage is a privilege. A privilege we don’t have. And anyway, anything you hear from me about your heritage doesn’t not make you more or less Indian. More or less a real Indian. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what being an Indian means. Too many of us died to get just a little bit of us here, right now, right in this kitchen. You, me. Every part of our people that made it is precious. You’re Indian because you’re Indian because you’re Indian.”

A debut novel that is important, powerful, and unapologetic. I was caught up in this story from the very beginning. Tommy Orange explores what it means to be a Native American in the United States today – after the brutal overtaking of their lands, livelihood, and tradition. Set in Oakland, California, Orange follows several (12, maybe?) characters all converging at the stadium for a powwow competition. As each character is introduced, the reader learns about their story and, in the greater scheme, how the history of the Native Americans has forced them into this city life they didn’t chose. He makes the case that the experiences of their ancestors has been carried on through their blood – that the past’s culture is part of the current’s culture – and that the Indians today are carrying the hurt, burden, and unfairness from all those years ago when the Indians were forcibly removed from their land, culture, beliefs, and way of life. The unfairness is still being felt and experienced today, in Oakland.

It’s a moving tribute to the plight of the Native American. It’s important reading for all of us. And just like the plight of African Americans to heal the wounds of the past, this book reminds us that there are other wounds still festering that also need healing and attention.

The only reason this book didn’t earn a full 5 stars from me is because the amount of characters and how they eventually become intertwined was a bit confusing. I had read from a previous review to take notes of who the people were, and even with that, I found myself having to refer to it a lot which somewhat interrupted the flow of the book for me.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing and think this will be a highly talked about book!

Thank you, Chris, for the selection, which I received through my #ShelfSubscription from The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. It’s one of my favorite subscriptions…you should check it out.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

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While this book talks a lot about the death of her husband, readers who are not experiencing grief can still get a lot out of this book.

Loss is loss – whether that loss is through death, divorce, a lost job, etc – and Sheryl Sandburg does a great job of weaving it together. Resiliency and adversity are common themes of this human experience, and the tools and tips mentioned in this book to help deal with those things is helpful.

I devoured this book in just one day. I found some of it relatable, and all of it fascinating.

This is totally my type of self-help book…what are some other similar books that I can add to be TBR?