“It seemed to Mauro that in choosing to emigrate, we are the ones trafficking ourselves.”
When I saw that Patricia Engle had a new book coming out, I knew I had to scoop it up right away. I really loved her last book The Veins of the Ocean because it was raw and intense.
Infinite Country is similar, it tells the story of a family between Colombia and the United States. The stories which is perspectives back-and-forth between two generations, telling the impact of life choices on a pair of parents and their three children. A young couple with their daughter travels to the US on a 6 month authorization to escape the violence and poverty of their lives in Colombia. They live in poverty in the US sending money home and their intention to return begins to change. The worst situation in America still seems better than the alternative. They go on to have two more children before the husband is caught and deported. Since their youngest is an American citizen, the choice is made for her to go back to Colombia. We see the impact of these choices and being a family stuck apart in two different worlds.
The narrative illustrates the way immigrants are taken advantage of financially, physically and ethically. I was amazed at the countless ways Elena and her children suffered at the hands of white Americans. This includes horrible questions and comments that are made when those who claim to be helping make when they have no idea the truth.
It’s a story that’s equally complicated, devastating, hopeful and altogether plausible. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What’s the best immigration story you’ve ever read? Help me add to my TBR!
Ok, everyone knows that rom-coms are not my thing but occasionally I like them as palate cleansers. And I’ve planned a few leading up to Valentine’s Day. Sometimes they really surprise me. And boy, did I enjoy this one!
Daisy was such a great main character. My biggest dislike in romcoms is when the girl is a mess and the guy’s life is completely together and he comes along and “saves” her from herself. This story was not that. Daisy was smart and capable and she knew it. In every aspect of her life she was waiting for the right opportunities and she knew when to grab them and hold on with them. She was balancing a career she loved with a vibrant family life and found a way to make real time to support a friend and eventually a relationship. We need more women in these stories that are bounding with confidence and learning when it’s ok to have it all and just shine. Liam constantly referenced how he loved her brain and how clever she was. I loved as she began to embrace that more. I loved that she was a Marvel nerd AND a sports fan, yes we do exist! Her tight knit family dripping with Indian tradition and culture was so fun to immerse in.
Liam was your typical aloof, damaged bad boy who turned out to be quite complex with real emotional depth. He was the epitome of unwavering loyalty. Neither of these characters were caricatures and I found that endlessly refreshing. I also really appreciated that there was real communication between them not just telling one another what the other wanted to hear. Even though there were some past hurts between them, they worked through them in a healthy way. This book highlights a relationship that is one that people can read and enjoy and root for.
I would consider this one to be more on the steamy side than my personal preference so be prepared for that going in. There are a few eye roll cheesy romance moments but I wasn’t drowning in them. There also are frank discussions about domestic violence, alcoholism and divorce which are well done. Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to an ARC of this novel. All opinions above are my own. This one releases in March so get your orders in! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Note: there are no discussions of Hinduism in this novel, but these two statues are my favorite items I brought back from my trip to India. I just adore them and everything I’ve experienced of Indian culture.
Would you ever (or have you ever) consider getting back with an ex? Or do you believe an ex is an ex for a reason?
Judging a book by its cover is one of my unfortunate prejudices, and if you judge this book by its cover you’d expect this to be light and fun romcom. But within its pages, you would find something much deeper than that. This is the story of a Hollywood couple who have been long divorced, when they are cast in a movie together they need to confront the truth of their split and their feelings for one another.
The thing I really love about this pair of authors is they write entirely relatable characters. Within a few pages you can put yourself right into the shoes of both main characters, even though they are quirky celebrities. We see the glamour of their lives but we also see beneath the facade where they have to deal with some serious mental health issues. I appreciated the delicacy with which this was handled.
As a child of divorce, I really valued the way that the two main characters took their children into account with all of their decisions. It’s nice to see a romcom with two characters who have their lives together as individuals and were looking for a healthy way to combine their lives.
Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions above are my own.
Are you reading any books including romantic themes as we get closer to Valentine’s Day? What’s on your list?
“Magic can only fix the surface of things. Magic can change what you see, but it can’t change anything deep down.”
Imagine your father is one of the most famous magic gatherers in the world and he has high hopes for your first magic gathering. All of your life he has spent preparing you for the glory of this day and your chance to carry on his legacy. He’s even given you a nickname, ‘Little Luck.’ But when that day comes, after the magic has disappeared, you have only gathered only one jar.
This is Rose Alice’s fate. Suddenly her life is thrown into turmoil when her father’s lifelong dreams for her are not realized. She begins to see how her father has always treated her mother and brother, like an average person not capable of greatness, she sees this because this is now how he treats her.
This story covers some very serious topics around self-esteem and touches on domestic violence. Not the overwhelming domestic violence you think about when you see families on the news but the more subtle type that can be just as dangerous and much easier to hide. The dedication is beautiful: “To everyone who thought they had to be someone better, stronger, faster, more. To everyone who helped them understand they were enough just as they were.”
I wish this book was on the shelves when I was Rose’s age. It would have helped me understand that my dad’s anger and violent outbursts were not my fault. That his expectations for my behavior did not define my worth. This is a great middle grade read with a powerful message. Don’t assume by its fun cover that it is just about whimsical magic, there is so much more to the narrative. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thank you to Katherine Tegen books for an advanced copy and allowing me to read and provide my honest opinion.
What would your jar of magic look like? What would it do?
“… a library without members is a cemetery of books… Books are like people; without contact, they cease to exist.”
The Paris Library is really about the American Library in Paris and its unique cast of characters. Odile is passionate about reading and working despite her parent’s wishes as the war reaches France. The story follows her and her colleagues as they try to continue normal operations and making sure that books still get to their beloved library members. As the Nazi’s overwhelm France they risk their own lives and safety to get books to folks who can no longer physically come to the library. We see all of the horrors of war, internment camps, rationing, racial injustice and violence. I really enjoyed following Odile through these years and adapting to new circumstances and growing into an adult. There were some surprising and harsh twists that I did not expect.
But dual timelines strikes again for me… sometimes I love it and sometimes I don’t get the need for it. In this story, I did not see any need for the Montana storyline. Maybe I missed something, but I just didn’t feel like Odile teaching Lily the lesson she learned added much to the story. I really considered giving this three stars because I found myself distracted in those chapters. Buck ended up having a quick blurb of who he was and how she ended up in Montana, I really wanted more of Odile’s story and less of Lily’s. But the ending of the French story bumped it back up to a four for me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Netgalley for access to an ARC of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Have you ever been to Paris? What’s your favorite spot there? If you haven’t been is it on your bucket list?
“Water itself is colorless. It’s the world around it that gives it color, reflections from the sky, from the surroundings, water is never just water. Water absorbs and whirls around everything it meets. Water is humus, sand, clay, and plankton. Water is given color by the bed it covers. Water reflects the world.”
Like all Nordic fiction, The End of the Ocean is starkly written. It is dystopian fiction, so you’d expect it to be harsh but the two storylines are each bleak and hopeless in their own unique ways.
The story follows Signe in 2017 as she is flashing back in her life and the life of her small town as big business destroys the natural glacier in the name of improving the local economy. Signe even through her childhood eyes saw the threat to the environment and now 70 years later she is still trying to stop the inevitable collapse. She is fierce and principled and completely emotionally damaged.
In 2041, David and Lou are living in a refugee camp trying to survive the severe drought that has left water a severely rationed resource. They have been separated from the rest of their family and hope is wearing thin.
I’d be hard pressed to say whether David and Lou had a harder reality than Signe. Each was trying to make the best of their circumstances but it is definitely one of the more bleak dystopian stories I have read. We see the devastation of their own lives in parallel with the destruction of the environment.
I love books that use nature as a metaphor because the writing is always beautiful and the sentiment is easy to connect with but this one was more depressing than I had imagined. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’m working this weekend, what are your weekend plans?
Immersive Scottish History ✅ Buddy Comedy Fun Roadtrip Antics ✅Gorgeous Dulcet Scottish Tones Narrating ✅ Behind the Scenes Outlander Dirt ✅
This lovely little book has it all! I literally limited the amount of time I listened each day because I wanted to stretch this read out as long as possible. Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish alternate narrating bits of their journey through the Highlands together. Their antagonistic brotherhood makes for some lovely laugh out loud moments as they weave the history of the clans along their journey with reverential passages of historical places and artifacts. When appropriate they sprinkle in a piece of Scottish literature or a tidbit about their acting careers and their love of the stage. Peppered throughout are anecdotes about Outlander casting and filming as well as some appearances from die hard fans.
My favorite parts were Graham and Sam bantering and nit picking one another as they journeyed along. The relationship between the two is comedy gold. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Have you ever been to Scotland? If so what’s your favorite place? If not, is it on your bucket list? 🏴
Queen of the Conquered is an unusual tale that lives somewhere between historical fiction and fantasy. It’s a slow building, emotionally fraught, politically complex story. At its heart, Sigourney is a strong woman with a huge history of trauma that defines her behavior throughout the story. She is the only woman of color who has risen to the level of royalty in this small group of islands. Islands run by elite white royals who make live extravagantly off the backs of slave labor tending to their sugarcane and tobacco crops. Sigourney’s position is unusual and precarious because she is also gifted with the kraft, a fact that relegates anyone of her color to a death sentence. Her status has exempted her from that fate but has also put her in a position of power over the slaves who are essentially her people. Most of this book is her inner and outer struggles to overcome the fact that she does not belong on either side. She does not agree with the treatment of her people but she capitulates to fit in amongst the royalty – often ordering beatings and executions of her slaves. She aches inside to set her people free and to exact vengence on those who are responsible for not only her family’s deaths but the torture and oppression of her people. She is entirely caught in an endless cycle of politics and power driven by racism and exploitation.
Most of the book you’re trying to figure out who is the big baddie pulling the strings amongst the royalty and slowly killing them off hoping to gain control of both the islands and all of the wealth, including the slaves. Most of the time trying to pin the deaths on Sigourney while she is trying to prove herself worthy to be the regent. That mystery was fun to play along with. My favorite character was not Sigourney but a slave she inherits, his background is as complex as hers as a child of a slave and a master, there are lots of spoilers attached to his story but he added a lot of intrigue. I struggled to rate this one because of the way it floats between genres. I would have liked it more if it had no magic and was just a treatise on racism and power in island plantations. Equally I would have liked this book more if there were more magic and vengeance and less internal emotional conflict. To me it hovered in between being really interesting historical fiction and really amazing fantasy but instead hovered in between being mediocre in both categories. That said I will plow forward with the next book because the last chapter was the most interesting one in the whole book! ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Do you like books that mash genres together? Like historical fiction with a little magic?
The Removed is a beautiful treatise on grief particularly in regard to the culture and traditions of the Cherokee nation. The Echota family has suffered a grievous loss and none of them have recovered. Each family member is coping in their own way. Most of these are not healthy ways. The chapters alternate between the family members as the anniversary of the death approaches.
One of their stories is hopeful, another vengeful and one is just lost. They all have traditional Cherokee spiritual elements. I enjoyed each of their stories and perspectives on grief although Edgar’s was quite challenging to understand at times. We see the impact of the Trail of Tears displacement both through the current narrative and through the narrative of Tsala who lived through that time. There are beautiful tales and myths weaved throughout and although I’m not sure I always got where those fit in, I did enjoy reading them. In addition to the commentary on grief we see the impact systematic racism has had in relation to the actual death, access to health care, domestic violence, drugs and poverty.
I felt like I wanted a hundred more pages and some substance and consequences to come to a few of the characters but, that said, I was satisfied with the more interpretive ending. I flew through the book and barely wanted to put it down. I wanted a little more in Edgar and Wyatt’s endings but I can surmise their fates. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This one came out yesterday so scoop it up!
Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to this ARC for my honest review.
What’s your favorite read by an Indigenous author?
Sofiya is a young woman living through war in Russia in 1915, she comes from a family of means close to the royal family who is in the process of being deposed. She volunteers her time with the soldiers coming into the hospital and falls for a man with amnesia from his head injury. In this story we learn more about the politics of the time, the horrors of war and rationing and the royal family.
In the 1940’s, Sofia (as she’s now known in America) has died and her daughter, Isobelle, finds the skeleton of a tiara hidden in her mother’s apartment. Her mother left Russia and never looked back, there were no stories for Isobelle to understand who her father was or how she might have come upon this tiara. As Isobelle begins to search she finds herself quickly drawn in by a jeweler whose grandfather helped her mother sell off the gems of the tiara. The two pair up to solve the mystery of the tiara and just who Isobelle’s mother and father may have been.
Two timelines in historical fiction is always a risk, you run the risk of only being truly invested in one character and dragging yourself through the other plot. That happened to me here but interestingly about halfway through which plot I was more invested in switched. First, all I cared about was Sofiya and learning more about the Winter Palace and the war and was shrugging over the modern plotline then about halfway through I became more interested in Isobelle’s quest to uncover her mother’s history. I’m not sure why that flip happened but I think truthfully neither character was well developed, it was the plots I was most invested in.
This novel also suffers from something I hate in historical fiction, men who are completely put together and in control even in the worst circumstances balanced with incapable women who melt with emotion at any challenge. Isobelle was an architect making her way in a career before her time but was the most naïve person when it comes to the real world and relationships. I get that her mother sheltered her but her emotions were reflective of a teenager rather than a full grown adult.
That said, the history was phenomenal and the mystery took a turn I really enjoyed in the end. The twist was one that I figured out but I believe that was because the author laid just the right breadcrumbs along the way. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Read this one if you enjoyed Gill Paul’s the Lost Daughter or Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden.
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
What’s the most priceless piece of jewelry or family heirloom that you own?