From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Title: From Sand and Ash27343696
Author: Amy Harmon
Pages: 386
Year: 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: 5

Goodreads Synopsis: Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

It’s taken me a while to review this book, simply because I am at a loss for words as to how to translate my feelings for this book into a review. Amy Harmon has proved, first in The Bird and the Sword and now in From Sand and Ash, her ability to create a work of art using words alone. I want to read everything this author has ever written, even her shopping lists.

From Sand and Ash is a story of contradictions, contrasting violence with love, fear with bravery, good with evil, and death with life. Amy brings together the best and worst of humanity on these pages, evoking a relentless emotional response that will have you laughing one minute and sobbing the next. The story of Eva Roselli and Angelo Bianco is as enchanting as it is brutal. The love they share, forbidden both by duty and by law, is all consuming despite the horrific circumstances in which this love inhabits. Amy doesn’t disguise the pain and atrocities her characters face, but immerses her readers in a frightening and turbulent time in history. This book serves, not only as a story of survival and love, but as a reminder that we are all the same. No matter where we come from, where we live, who we pray to, or what we believe in, we all seek joy and purpose. This book is a harrowing demonstration of what happens when we stop trying to understand each other, when we take what makes us different and use it as a means to divide, hurt, and demean. This message is hammered in on every page, in every sentence, in every word. When we refuse to learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

As someone who was raised in a Catholic family, I understood Angelo’s devotion to God. However, his self-righteousness and desire for martyrdom were very frustrating. The relationship and tension between Angelo and Eva was all consuming, and it tugged on my heartstrings to see just how much he loved her. It actually brought tears to my eyes to see just how much Angelo worshiped Eva’s mind, body, and soul. Even though he is a priest, you can’t help but root for them no matter how wrong and blasphemous it is in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

In the author’s note, Amy mentions that she researched Judaism and Catholicism, but wasn’t sure if she brought them justice. I can’t speak for Judaism, but I can say that she captured the Catholic religion beautifully.  I think both of these religions have a negative stigma to them, brought about throughout history due to a lack of understanding. Amy Harmon not only understands these religions, but she makes them beautiful. Even if you aren’t religious by any means, I think you can still appreciate the role each religion plays in this book.

My biggest, and only, complaint I had while reading this book was how lucky these characters were, to the point where it was almost unbelievable. There were times when Eva and Angelo should have gotten caught, but didn’t. There were characters that had happy endings that seemed too good to be true, endings that fell too easily into place, or were resolved too quickly. However, none of these things took away from the bigger picture. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, and its message is still relevant for us today. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Invasive and in yo’ face

*Disclaimer* This is not a book related post. I know this is a book blog and I need to stay true to my brand but shhh this ain’t yo blog, don’t worry about me. Actually no, please worry about me. Pray for me. #losingit #Aintnothingwrongwithmejustmoderatelyinconveniencedbywildlife

I’m sure everyone has heard about how Pythons run rampant in the Florida Everglades. If not, let me be the first to inform you.

Why… HOW, you ask? Do you really need to ask when there’s probably an entire news sector dedicated to articles titled: “Florida man/woman…” etc? It’s in our nature, a prerequisite for moving here. “Please list all the poorly advised decisions you’ve made in your lifetime…” And then they’ll get back to you in 5-7 business days as to whether or not you’re allowed to join the face-eating cult of Floridians.

Let’s be real though, it’s probably the tourists and non-natives that give us a bad name. Someone buys an exotic pet, it’s cute at first, then it eats the family dog, (or your grandma.) A quick decision is made, target practice or humane release back into the wilderness from whence it came. Well, this wilderness is not the wilderness from whence it came. In the python’s case, this is a great thing because there are so many other reptiles, mammals, and small children to eat with little threat from natural predators. A paradise!

Friends, countrymen, please. If you are going to irresponsibly purchase an exotic pet and then release it – release it to a zoo. At the very least, take it back to its home country so it can be with its people.

In other cases, these animals escape. Which, back in 2016, was the case of the Orlando King Cobra, who escaped from its owner and then wasn’t found for almost a month. Picture this, you’re living in the quiet suburbs of Orlando, FL. You take your perfect, all-american family to Disney every weekend. You own a golden retriever. Life emulates the cover of Good Housekeeping. One day, you’re doing laundry and you hear a hissing noise. A leak? No, a snake. And not just any kind of snake, a King Cobra.

To quote the distinguised and highly-regarded juvenile television program, Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the others.”

Yes, you heard that right, children. The owner’s neighbor found a Cobra underneath her washing machine, hissing angrily at her to please, for the love of God, separate the lights from the darks. The Wildlife FBI was contacted, as well as a therapist, who decided that the best course of action was to arrest the snake and release it to the custody of its former owner. Yes, the owner that couldn’t keep it contained to begin with.

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up, which brings me to my next point. There was another invasive species that I have seen with my own eyes in my own backyard, and it was frightening.

What in the damn hell is this?

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Someone please collect this strange dog from my neighborhood.

Extensive research, accompanied by occasional shrieking and mild cursing, has told me that this creature is an Argentinian Black and White Tegu. A Tegu, a reptile that is not native to Florida, is a type of monitor lizard. They seek out human affection like dogs and cats, meaning that they are not afraid of humans, but can become aggressive when they do not have human contact for a period of time. They grow up to 4 feet in length, and may kill small cats and dogs.

Clearly, Florida does not have enough overgrown lizards hanging around. Please, come on in and make yourself comfortable. Would you like some tea? Some pythons? A condom?

According to the Florida Department of Wildlife, the Black and White Tegu is not an “established” species as of yet, so they can still be stopped. Wildlife vigilantes, start your engines. (To be clear, I am not calling for the murder of these lovable cold-blooded reptiles, I just want them deported.) I do possess the mental capacity nor the willingness to become Steve Irwin every time I leave my house.

I do hope this has created some awareness. And to those who have released their pets into the wild, please know that I blame you personally for this disruption in my daily routine.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Predictions

Obviously, this post will contain spoilers. So if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones and you plan on watching Game of Thrones, stop reading and start watching.

Game of Thrones Season 7 is premiering this Sunday, and the hype is so real. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, please. Indulge yourself below.

I’m. SO. PUMPED.

Season 6 left our characters in various states of disarray, heck yes, and holy enchilada, Batman. Based on that, and this trailer, here are my season 7 predictions:

  1. Arya takes on the “Lady Stoneheart” role (without being undead, of course.) and takes to murdering Frey’s across the countryside before making her way north. I’m pretty sure she will make it to Winterfell this season, and I’m not sure what that means for the remaining Starks. Generally, when POV characters get together in GOT, at least one of them dies. Also, there will definitely be a reunion between her and Nymeria. (PUMPED.)
  2. Bran continues to have flashbacks and learns more about the events of Robert’s Rebellion, and the White Walkers. I think either Bran or Sam will figure out how to defeat the White Walkers in the end, hopefully there is some big reveal with Jon about his parentage. Bran also seems to be heading back to Winterfell, and it’s about damn time.
  3. Sansa is finally playing the game, becoming the politician to Jon’s hulk smash. I can see her character going two ways. One: I think the years of abuse will have gotten to her, and she may crack under her desire to get revenge. She might make a mistake and end up falling into a trap. Two: I think Littlefinger will try his hardest to make her his puppet and she will end up being the one using him the entire time. 

     

     

  4. Littlefinger continues to be the creepiest person alive. Depending on where Sansa’s character goes, I think he will finally meet his end this season. Don’t quote me on that, but I hope it’s to the tune of the Starks finally figuring out that he is the one behind literally everything bad that has ever happened to their family. KB3yHWE
  5. Jon Snow will continue to be moody and generally emo. I’m hoping that they finally reveal his parentage to him and the fact that he isn’t a Snow after all, but I’m not sure how they will do that or if they will do it at all. Him and Sansa clearly have different priorities, so it will be interesting to see what happens between them in the coming season. tumblr_nxz6qnrr0b1r18z8zo4_r1_540
  6. Cersei is a kamikaze character. She’s smart, but she’s filled with anger. Now that she’s buried all three of her children, all that’s left of Maggie the Frog’s prophecy is the Valonqar. I think she’s going to focus on ruling the Seven Kingdoms rather than the war against the White Walkers, and I think it will be her ultimate undoing.
  7. Jaime will end up killing Cersei. GOT has a tendency to go full circle with it’s story lines so I think it will be a “Mad Queen” type situation.
  8. Tyrion is now Hand of the queen, so he will spend his time marveling at dragons, bartering deals, and making jokes no one else on the show seems to get. And yes, I’ve heard about the “Tyrion is a Targaryen theory.” I’m not convinced, but anything is possible. I’m just not sure they will stuff that into the show or not.
  9. Daenerys lands in Dragonstone, FINALLY. She will set up a base camp there while she waits to make her next move. She will send Yara to Dorne to gain an alliance with the Martells, who already support her rule because of Elia Martell. (Who, if you remember, was murdered by the Mountain. RIP Oberyn.) Dany + Sand Snakes = very exciting. I think John and Sansa will also end up in Dragonstone to form an alliance with Dany at some point. Or maybe they’ll just send Davos. Dany’s army will go to battle with the Lannisters in what looks like either King’s Landing or Casterly Rock, and I think she may end up fighting a two front war.
  10. Grey Worm and Missandei finally get together. And it’s about damn time. I’m very curious to see how this pans out, all things considering. Stay tuned.
  11. Melisandre is waiting for Dany at Dragonstone. She’s kind of a wildcard, but I think she will try to convince Dany to turn her sights north rather than south. She seems to be attaching herself to whoever seems to fit her Azor Ahai bill, and Dany is the next best candidate. Based on other trailers, it seems like that one dude who died at least 7 times is going to do the Azor Ahai flaming sword bit, which would make sense but also be pretty random since we haven’t seen him since season 2 at least.
  12. Theon will continue to be the bane of my existence.
  13. Varys will be revealed as Gossip Girl, Westeros edition. NupmxHj
  14. Sam and Gilly learn all the things.
  15. Olenna Tyrell partners with the Martells to seek revenge on the Lannisters for the deaths of Loras and Margaery. More witty remarks, sass, and general distaste with everyone around her. I can see her and the Sand Snakes getting on well.
  16. The Wall comes down and the White Walkers start marching south. At this point, most of Westeros seems very unconcerned about this, so it will probably be the Night’s King on the Iron Throne at the end tbh.
  17. Everyone goes to war. Again.
  18. Cleganebowl. I can only hope.

Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Let’s discuss!

 

Top Five Wednesday: Side Ships

Tell us your favorite relationships that don’t involve the protagonist!

We’ll start with the obvious and the one that is probably about to be on everyone’s list.

Ron and Hermione

For the record, I’m so glad J.K. Rowling didn’t have Hermione end up with Harry. Hermione and Ron compliment each other so well, his sense of humor to her practicality, her brains to his… well. We can’t all be geniuses, can we Ronald?

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Prim and Buttercup

Prim and her cat had a better love story than Katniss and Peeta. Buttercup is a mangy, old thing, with distrust of everyone around him except for Prim. When Prim dies, he even goes looking for her. My dog probably wouldn’t have even noticed that I had left.

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They’re even dressed alike!

 

Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs

The ultimate bromance, or… you know… parabatai pairing. Will and Jem are the perfect duo, fighting demons, cracking jokes, and having each other’s back. Jem is the voice of reason to Will’s destructive nature, holding him back from the edge every single time.

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Jamie Fraser and Murtagh

I couldn’t decide if this relationship was more of a bromance or a father-son like relationship, but I definitely like their dynamic. I think they compliment each other well, more or less like Will and Jem, balancing each other out and adding strength to the other’s flaws.

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Jon Snow and Ygritte

I know Jon’s one of the main character’s on Game of Thrones, but we have so many POV characters that it’s hard to tell who’s a main character and who is not. I really liked Jon Snow and Ygritte together. Again, she balanced Jon’s cautious and practical nature out with her fiery and bold personality. Even though it took Jon a while to warm up to her, I think she was good for him and taught him a lot while they were together.

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The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

Title: The Love that Split the World25467698
Author: Emily Henry
Pages: 396
Year: 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: 4

Goodreads Synopsis: Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife is the perfect description of this book. There is a stark contrast between those two references, but The Love That Split the World marries the Contemporary with Fantasy and Sci-Fi, creating a cohesive and complementary world within it’s pages. I can safely say that I have never read a book like this one before, and I found the different genres within to mesh together perfectly.

Right off the bat, we are introduced to a minor but very crucial character, Grandmother. Grandmother has been appearing to Natalie since she was a child, and has suddenly decided to reappear after a three year hiatus to deliver an important message. “Three months to save him.” As any of us would be, Natalie is confused and unsettled. Who is him? And who is Grandmother? Is she a religious messenger? A Native American apparition? Or simply a figment of Natalie’s imagination? One thing is clear, time is running out and Natalie has to race to beat the clock.

Adopted at a very young age into a middle-class white family, Natalie has struggled with her identity all her life. As a child, she tried to fit in with the people around her so that they wouldn’t think she was different. But as a blossoming young adult, she has become tired of this charade and is looking to discover her Native American heritage. This leads to the alienation of some of her closest relationships and changes the dynamic within the social space she has occupied for so long. Throughout the novel, Natalie struggles to answer the question; Who am I? Her mental state plays a very large part in this book, as she tries to figure out whether her experiences are supernatural or psychological.

Natalie Cleary is a particularly wise, and likable protagonist; she is quick to point out slut-shaming and refuses to see her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend as anything but human. Natalie is a feminist, and she refuses to give in to social pressures and constraints that compromise her sense of self. Her relationships with each of the characters featured are meaningful and play an important part in her journey to discover who she is, and who she needs to save.

This book is centered around a romance between Natalie and Beau, and relies on your attachment to that romance in order to effectively tell the story. I found Natalie and Beau’s relationship to be a little too insta-lovey for my taste. There wasn’t any build up of their relationship, just feelings plucked out of midair and proclaimed as love. Their romance was entirely built on good looks, and we are constantly reminded of those good looks throughout the novel.

“His biceps are roughly the size of my head, and his eyes look like summer incarnate, and he has two little dark freckles on the side of his nose, and a mouth that somehow manages to look like a shy kid’s one minute and a virile Greek god’s the next.”

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.  I’m not sure what I prefer, being constantly reminded how beautiful a character is, or being constantly reminded how ordinary a character is. I have to admit, that description does paint a pretty picture. Emily Henry has an extraordinary way with imagery, using words to perfectly conjure a character, action, or place in the reader’s mind. Criticisms aside, I did believe and become invested in their romance. Despite its beginnings, it felt genuine and relevant.

The Love That Split the World is a novel that features diversity, feminism, positivism, and the contrast between the supernatural and psychological. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but I liked that it was open-ended, and at the same time not unclear. This is one of those books where you don’t get a concrete, “tied up all the loose ends” ending, but it’s done beautifully, successfully, and it satisfies the reader. Nothing in this book is cut and dry, everything is open to interpretation, and the ending captures that perfectly.

 

Top Five Wednesday: Books for your Hogwarts House

I wanted to be as accurate as possible, so I created another account on Pottermore and took the sorting quiz again to make sure. The first and second time I previously took it, I was a Gryffindor through and through. This time, however, I was sorted into Ravenclaw.

I’m having an identity crisis. Which end is up, who am I, what is the meaning of life – crisis.

Also, as an added bonus, I took the patronus quiz. Turns out, I’m a Marsh Harrier. You can imagine my confusion, as there is no such creature in existence in the good ol’ United States of America. No room for birds other than the Bald Eagle. So I looked it up.

A Marsh Harrier is basically a very common British Hawk. A dangerous pigeon, if you will. (Or if you won’t.) Hot damn. Let’s go knock out some Dementors.

Anyway. I’m just going to include both houses.

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My sentiments exactly, El Paso commercial. 

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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Katniss is a Gryffindor through and through. She is endlessly loyal, brave, and daring, taking unnecessary risks in order to protect the people she loves. Prim belongs in Ravenclaw, as she has a ready mind and seems to think a lot more logically than Katniss does. (Peeta is a Hufflepuff, FYI.)

Outlander by Dianna Gabaldon

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With her quick wit, desire to learn, and logical mind, Claire would be definitely be sorted into Ravenclaw. Brawny, quick tempered, and selfless Jamie would be sorted into Gryffindor.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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This one is incredibly obvious… As university professors and accomplished scholars, both Diana and Matthew would be sorted into Ravenclaw.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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Isabelle Mauriac, “the nightingale,” would be sorted into Gryffindor for her unbridled bravery against the Nazi’s, loyalty to her fellow rebels in the face of death, and her strong sense of right and wrong.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

the queen of the tearling - erika johansen

Kelsea could go either way. She has a desire to learn and loves to read, but she is also brave and stands up for others. She has a strong sense of what is right and wrong, and she definitely has a lot of nerve. I think I’ll put Kelsea in Gryffindor.

My Favorite Book Series

There are certain books and series that I can read over and over again without getting tired of them, and every time I read I take away something different. The books in this list are old and new, but they are books that have stuck with me.

#5 The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

I read this series for the first time only last year, believe it or not. I put off reading it for so long because, for whatever reason, I associated the hype around it with Twilight. (Yeah, I don’t know either.) I guess I hated the hysteria and swooning that went along with Twilight, so when this series came out and people were swooning over Jem and Will I was like…. Hard pass. However, when I finally decided to read it, I was blown away with the writing, the characters, the adventure, and the world that Cassandra Clare created. Now, it’s among my top five favorite book series!

 

#4 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Baby’s first dystopian novel. This series is what introduced me to the dystopian genre, if you don’t count 1984. I immediately fell in love with Katniss Everdeen and Suzanne’s writing. I have to admit that I had never heard of this series before they announced that the film was coming out, but I hopped on that train faster than you can say “tribute.”

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#3 Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace

I was first introduced to this series in the 2nd grade, when I read Betsy-Tacy, and Betsy, Tacy, and Tib for the first time. As a child with an active imagination and a growing affinity for historical fiction, I fell in love with Betsy Ray’s adventures in Deep Valley. What I love most about this series is that each book progresses in age and reading level as Betsy grows up, beginning with age 5 in Betsy-Tacy, and 20-something in Betsy’s Wedding. The books are simple, but timeless. They capture the nostalgia of growing up at the turn of the century so perfectly, and I’ve read my copies so often they are falling apart.

 

#2 Outlander Series by Dianna Gabaldon

This is another relatively new addition to my favorites, but I already know I’ll be reading about Jamie and Claire’s adventures for years to come. I read the first book in a day, which is a FEAT considering how long the books are. I got up to book 4 in a matter of weeks before I decided to take a break. I tend to binge read and not savor a series like I should. I had no idea I would love this series so much, but I’m so glad that I do!

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#1 Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Raise your hand if you knew this was coming… Harry Potter is a series that I have read over and over and over again, and I never get tired of it. Even on my 12th read, I still laugh and cry at the same parts. This is a series that is very close to my heart, and I can’t wait to read it to my kids one day. Hopefully they’re smart and will love it as much as I do.

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Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Title: Here and Gone 32336395
Author: Haylen Beck
Pages: 304
Year: 2017
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Rating: 4/5

 Goodreads Synopsis: Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Thank you to Penguin Publishing for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine if your children were kidnapped by the people who were supposed to protect them. Who can you turn to, if not the police?

Eighteen months ago, Audra Kinney fled from her abusive husband, Patrick, with her two children, Sean and Louise. Patrick has since enlisted the help of Child Services in an attempt to gain custody of both Sean and Louise, and Audra is forced to take them and run. Her nervousness at being caught and shipped back to her husband has forced her to take back roads through small towns in order to avoid law enforcement.

However, on a desolate Arizona road, Audra is followed and pulled over by Sheriff Robert Whiteside. He states that her car is overloaded, which may cause problems for her on the bumpy road, and insists upon carrying some of her possessions in his cruiser to the nearby town of Silver Water. While transferring boxes, he “finds” a bag of marijuana in her trunk and arrests her for possession. He radios Deputy Mary Collins to watch Sean and Louise while things are being sorted out, all the while assuring Audra that everything will be okay.  Upon being booked at the police station, Audra asks after her children; Sheriff Whiteside responds “What children?” Her nightmare has begun.

From continual false accusations to manufactured evidence, Audra is fighting an uphill battle against law enforcement. She is vilified by the media and her husband, both of whom use her troubled past as motive for murder. Audra has no one to turn to, no one who believes her story. All the while, time is running out for Sean and Louise, who are being auctioned off to the highest bidder…

With a realistic plot line and alternating POV chapters, this story is not for the faint of heart. I flew through this book in a matter of hours, and I think it would make a great beach read. The ending was a little dissatisfying and the story did not have much depth to it, but it was endlessly entertaining. I can definitely see this being turned into a film in the future. Haylen Beck has created an intense, fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Catch it when it comes out on June 20th 2017.

Re-Reading Books?

I’ve always been a re-reader. If I loved a book the first time, I liked taking the time to come back and visit a world I once called home. I loved the comfort of reading something I knew I loved, the way the pages wore and the crinkles of the spine.

I haven’t been re-reading so much lately, but I think its interesting to go back to a book you loved as a kid to see how your tastes have changed. Something that seemed really interesting to me as a kid, isn’t so interesting now. I still appreciate the books I loved earlier in life, but I think its interesting how my tastes and preferences have evolved over time. It’s also fun to go back to books I found quite difficult at one point, because I have found that they are not so difficult anymore. (Part of growing up and brain development, I suppose.)

I’ve learned to view books with a more critical eye as well. I find issues with books now that I didn’t notice when I was younger. While they are still some of my favorites, it’s interesting to see what I notice about them now vs. what I noticed as a kid or teenager when I first read them.

Who else is a re-reader? What are your favorite books to re-read?

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

Title: The Wangs vs. The World28114515
Author: Jade Chang
Pages: 355
Year: 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Rating: 3

Goodreads Synopsis: Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.
Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Before I begin: how do you feel when an author has their characters frequently speak in a different language, and they don’t provide translation? I, for one, find it to be very irritating. Especially if I can’t figure out what they are saying.

The Wangs Vs. the World follows a family of billionaires living in L.A. who lose everything when Charles Wang, the patriarch, decides to put up his home and business as collateral to start a new line of makeup products (Referred to as “the Failure.”). When the economy crashes in 2008, Charles packs up his second wife Barbra and pulls his two kids (Grace and Andrew) out of school to make his way across the country to his oldest daughter Saina’s house in Helios, NY. This fall from grace is narrated by Charles, Barbra, Grace, Andrew, Saina, and even the car they are riding in for the majority of this road trip.

This book was promoted to be a hilarious “riches to rags” story about a family of Chinese immigrants living in America. I guess I didn’t get the jokes… I got the impression that parts of it were intended to be funny, but they just fell flat for me. In fact, I found myself cringing throughout the entire novel. The first chapter starts out with a joke about how Wang means “King” in China and “penis” in America. Penis jokes ceased to be funny when I turned 12, but please… continue. From there, Chang showcases the family’s prejudices against people who think differently than they do, look different than they do, and come from different areas and walks of life than they did. “All Floridians are backwards, all republicans are stiff and racist, all teenage/college-aged girls are slutty, mixed relationships are only okay if you have cute mixed children…” should I go on? I considered abandoning this book several times, but plodded on in the hopes that it would eventually get better.

The dialogue was good (when it was in English), especially between the siblings. The author has a knack for using dialogue to portray images and characters, and clearly made a lot of effort to create complex, well-rounded characters. I just didn’t have any sympathy for them. I didn’t relate to their problems, hopes, dreams, or fears. Any time I felt sympathetic for one of them, they did something that changed my mind. Okay, that’s a lie. Grace was the only character I wasn’t completely turned off by, but that’s only because I kept telling myself that she was just a kid and didn’t know any better than the life of privilege she was accustomed to.

This review seems to have taken a turn for the critical, which I apologize for because it really wasn’t that bad. I gave it 3/5 stars, verging on 3.5. I have to say, this book was not a terrible read. I didn’t hate it, and I did end up liking Chang’s writing. However, I found myself to be more often offended than complacent, and less invested in the characters than usual. There seems to be a disconnect between author and reader as well, which is demonstrated by the liberal use of Cantonese/Mandarin or whatever language they are speaking without translation or explanation. I feel like I missed important plot points because I couldn’t understand what the characters were saying, and the dialogue in this book was so important because this book was entirely driven by dialogue and the individual journeys the characters take over the course of the novel.