The Book That Sent Me Down a Wikipedia Rabbit-Hole on Soviet Gymnasts at 1am | Winterland by Rae Meadows [REVIEW]

The Book That Sent Me Down a Wikipedia Rabbit-Hole on Soviet Gymnasts at 1am | Winterland by Rae Meadows [REVIEW]

CW: ED, Child Abuse, SA

In the Soviet Union in 1973, there is perhaps no greater honor for a young girl than to be chosen to be part of the famed USSR gymnastics program. So when eight-year-old Anya is tapped, her family is thrilled. What is left of her family, that is. Years ago, her mother disappeared. Anya’s only confidant is her neighbor, an older woman who survived unspeakable horrors during her ten years in a Gulag camp—and who, unbeknownst to Anya, was also her mother’s confidant and might hold the key to her disappearance. As Anya moves up the ranks of competitive gymnastics, and as other girls move down, Anya soon comes to realize that there is very little margin of error for anyone.

Release date: Nov. 29, 2022

Never has a novel made me feel disgust, hope, overjoyed, fear, sadness–all of these emotions. What a stunningly gorgeous novel from Rae Meadows.

This one really reminded me of Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, the writing and the story, which I also loved. So it was no surprise that this was a success for me.

This book felt so, so cold. I don’t just mean this because it takes place inside the Arctic Circle, the feeling I felt while reading, Anya’s and her family and friends’ lives–they were so cold, so painful to read.

Meadows just does such a wonderful job of capturing the pressure all these characters are under, from themselves and the world around them. I felt so deeply for Anya who suffered a great amount of abuse from those who should have been watching out for her. She’s not real, but she felt real, and she represents so many children who are exploited for political or financial gain all over the world still.

What I loved most about this novel is how Meadows shows change with the passing of time. To the reader and to the protagonist, this portion of their life seems to go on forever. When we see the time pass, though, and how much has changed, this time as a child seems so far away. It was so incredibly true to real life. How often do we miss the passing of time until everything has changed in our lives?

Meadows was inspired by the story of Olympic Soviet Gymnast Elena Mukhina who was paralyzed after being pressured to perform a dangerous trick she was not ready for. That is how I ended up spending my precious sleeping time on Wikipedia, reading about Soviet gymnasts. The story of how these children were taken advantage of is tragic. Seeing Anya’s and Elena’s story through felt like creating a little bit of justice. Rae Meadows did a beautiful job of this.

Thaank you to Netgalley and Henry Holt and Co. for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Find Winterland at an Indie Bookstore near you

If A Young Patron Comes in to the Library Looking for a Humor Book That Can Also Make Them Cry… | Everything Sad is Untrue [REVIEW]

If A Young Patron Comes in to the Library Looking for a Humor Book That Can Also Make Them Cry… | Everything Sad is Untrue [REVIEW]

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls “Daniel”) stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much.

But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment he, his mother, and sister fled Iran in the middle of the night, stretching all the way back to family tales set in the jasmine-scented city of Isfahan, the palaces of semi-ancient kings, and even the land of stories.

We bounce between a school bus of kids armed with paper clip missiles and spitballs, to the heroines and heroes of Kosrou’s family’s past, who ate pastries that made them weep, and touched carpets woven with precious gems.

Like Scheherazade in a hostile classroom, author Daniel Nayeri weaves a tale of Khosrou trying to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. And it is (a true story) [From Goodreads].

If you listen, I’ll tell you a story. We can know and be known to each other, and then we’re not enemies anymore.

One thing I hear from a lot of Youth Services librarians is that they are looking for more humor books to recommend. There are lots of YA books, but most of them, at least in my experience, are very serious or romances or something else. But, I have finally found THE book. The book I would recommend if a young person came into the library looking for something funny to read. Somehow, Nayeri manages to juggle humor and sensitivity in a way that only makes sense for a story about a middle-school-aged Persian boy living in Oklahoma.

I think I was laughing and tearing up within five minutes of each other while listening to this audiobook. Khosrou’s story is so heartbreaking yet hopeful and light at the same time. i think the quote above really sums up the experience of reading this book. As is mentioned in the synopsis, this is a series of true stories based on the author’s life. This story is so important for everyone to consume, young and old, about the immigrant experience in this country.

I want this book to be in every school’s curricula, on every library’s recommended reads display. I’m grateful the cover of this one is so beautiful, otherwise I might not have picked it up originally (I saw it from afar while eating brunch at our local BookBar and looked it up later).

I don’t have much else to say about this one other than it is a hilarious and inspiring read I need everyone to recommend to the young people in their lives.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [11.23.22]

Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [11.23.22]

This is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words that asks us to answer the three Ws:

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

Happy Wednesday before Thanksgiving! I’m going to my cousin’s for lunch tomorrow and then my partner and I are seeing the holiday Festival of Lights. I don’t love what the holiday represents, but I do love to spend time with my family! What are your Thanksgiving plans (if you live in the US)?

I just started both Gilded (audiobook) and The Light Pirate (eARC). I’m a little iffy on the writing style of The Light Pirate, but it’s still very early on. I have hope. Gilded is a lot of fun already. I’m still slowly working through my physical copy of The Whispering Dark. I’m hoping to do some reading in the car tomorrow over to my cousin’s.

I finished two the other day: Winterland (eARC) and Everything Sad is Untrue (audiobook). Both were beautiful and I loved every second of them. Reviews to come, but I highly recommend.

I just picked up One Dark Window at Barnes & Noble the other day. The description sounded so good, and someone on my Instagram also recommended it. So, I think that one is calling to me.

What are you reading today?

Five Books I’m Thankful For | Top Ten Tuesday [11.22.22]

Five Books I’m Thankful For | Top Ten Tuesday [11.22.22]

Happy Tuesday! This is the first Top Ten Tuesday I’ve done since the summer, and it’s a fun one for me. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is a Thankful Freebie, so I’m going with the top five books I’m thankful for (I do not have the energy to do ten, I apologize). These can be books that were very influential in my formative years, books I read at a really important moment in my life, things like that. Let’s get to it!

TWILIGHT by STEPHENIE MEYER

I mean, could I start the list any other way? Twilight was the book that got me, and I’m sure many of you, into YA. Twilight has so many problems, so many concerning and problematic elements, but I’m so thankful for this series. I could get emotional about this one.

THE GIVER by LOIS LOWRY

This one is very similar to Twilight for me. This is the first book I ever read in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. Now, I know it’s a fairly short book, but I was in the fifth grade, and this had never happened to me before. A couple semesters ago, my professor tried to tell me that this book was some kind of propaganda–I have no idea. All I know is that I read this and discovered books could capture my attention so well that I sit on 300-year-old hardwood floors for three hours to finish it.

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by RUTH OZEKI

I think this was the first adult fiction novel I really connected with. Before then, I just kinda thought all adult fiction was too serious (which I still kinda believe). I had never really seen a novel accurately depict what depression and loneliness felt like. For me, at the age of 15 (16?), knowing someone else knew how I felt, made me feel so much less alone. Ruth Ozeki is actually an alumna from my alma mater, and she taught a creative writing class while I was there which was incredible. I’m thankful for this book and her writing and her mind.

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN

I don’t have any memories of my life while reading this book. This book was meaningful for just how beautiful the writing was. I’m thankful for this book for the writing alone and the wonderful story they tell. That’s all.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by JANE AUSTEN

I need to end this list with the original enemies-to-lovers story. I love this story with all my heart. To be honest, I watched the movie long before I read the book. But, without the book, there would be no movie, so it still counts. I’m sure there were enemies-to-lovers stories before this one, but this is the first one I can remember consuming. I was considering a lot of books for this, many of them romances, but I had to go with the original here.

What books are you thnakful for?

Appalachian Grief and Beauty in a YA Novel | In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner [REVIEW]

Appalachian Grief and Beauty in a YA Novel | In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner [REVIEW]

CW: SA, Addiction, Overdose

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind [From Goodreads].

I found this book while searching for titles for a Collection Development course project. It was on YALSA’s list of best teen fiction. I haven’t been reading too much YA recently, but the Appalachian setting is one I don’t see very often, and had to pick this one up. I listened to the audiobook of this one which I highly enjoyed.

This novel was such a beautiful representation of growing up in Appalachia. Zentner does a really great job of capturing the wonder of the setting’s nature along with the more tragic side. The first part of the novel might have been my favorite with all the scenery descriptions of the region.

Delaney’s and Cash’s characters were so wonderfully written with little quirks and insecurities. They felt so real to what my experience of teendom was. The way Cash’s grief in dealing with losing a grandparent really spoke to me, too. It was so accurate and so well done.

The only thing I took issue with [minor spoiler ahead] was the presence of SA to further Cash’s development in the story. I think it was mostly there to deal with Cash’s gross roommate, but I think it could have been handled in a different way. I just don’t really like the use of SA of a girl as a plot device, especially when written by men.

Aside from that, I really loved this story and was just overyjoyed by the setting, the characters, everything. Also, anything with girls in STEM is a win for me.

Highly recommend if you’re looking for a YA contemporary novel with so much heart.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [11.16.22]

Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [11.16.22]

This is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words that asks us to answer the three Ws:

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

Let’s all pretend I haven’t been gone for 3 months, and this isn’t the first time I’m posting since then. Nope, let’s ignore that. Work and school have been so busy. We got a new head for our library. She’s been great, but so so different than our old Head. Now that fall break is next week, I have a bit more time to read and to write. So, here goes!

Currently reading: I’ve been listening to the audio version of Jeff Zentner’s In the Wild Light. I found this one while doing a Collection Development assignment and am so glad I picked it up. I really love that Appalachian setting. Please let me know if you have any recs with this setting!! I also just started an eARC I have of Winterland by Rae Meadows. I’m not very far at all since I just started it last night, but I’m really enjoying the writing. As for my physical read, I’ve been in the middle of The Whispering Dark by Kelly Andrew. I love the disability rep, but it’s been a bit confusing so far. I really need to push through to see where it goes.

Recently finished: The last book I read was Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of Butterflies. Wow. What a beautiful book. Cannot recommend this one enough.

Reading next: I saw the cover for Everything Sad is Untrue at the bookstore this weekend, but I’m on a hardcover buying ban and left without it. The cover really grabbed my attention, so I immediately looked for it on Libby. I plan on borrowing the audiobook next because there are some really good reviews for it on Goodreads.

What are you reading this week?

Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [8.24.22]

Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [8.24.22]

This is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words that asks us to answer the three Ws:

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

I am going to very honest today. I did not want to make this post. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and depression for the past few weeks, and I barely have the motivation to do the work I’m actually payed for.😂 HOWEVER, I know that if I leave my blog for too long I will never come back to it, so here I am! Powering through!

Currently reading: I ran out to Barnes & Noble yesterday to pick up Love on the Brain, and of course I’m already loving it. Ali Hazelwood is absolutely one of my favorite authors now. I want to take this one slow though because I’ll be devastated when I finish and have none of her novels left to read.

Recently finished: I JUST finished my audiobook of The Last Olympian today because it was the last day of my library loan. I love this series to death. It’s not listed here, but I plan to go onto the Heroes of Olympus series next.

Reading next: I have a review copy of A Dreadful Splendor to read. I think this has some romance in it which is what I’m really in the mood for, so hopefully that goes well. I’ll get started on this one this weekend when I’m on my flight to visit some friends.

What are you reading this week?

A Sweet Summer Romance | Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

A Sweet Summer Romance | Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

Rowan McKinnon doesn’t believe in love. With a botany PhD, two best friends who embrace her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she has everything she needs. But she hides deep wounds from the past—from a negligent mother, and a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. When an academic setback leads Rowan to take on the restoration of an abandoned vineyard, she relishes the opportunity to restore the grapes to their former glory.

She does not expect to meet a man like Harrison Brady.

An obstetrician profoundly struggling after losing a patient, Harry no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling, Harry leaves Los Angeles to emotionally recover at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania.

He does not expect to meet a woman like Rowan McKinnon.

As their combative banter gives way to a simmering tension, sunlight begins to crack through the darkness smothering Harry’s soul. He’s compelled to explore the undeniable pull between them. And after a lifetime of protecting herself from feeling anything, for anyone, Rowan tries to keep things casual.

But even she can’t ignore their explosive connection. [From Goodreads]

First of all, let’s hear it for all the romances featuring ladies in STEM being released recently!! I am SO for this trend. I work in an engineering library, so I love seeing this representation in romances. The botany and science-y aspects were some of my favorite parts of this book. I always think the inclusion of these subjects leads to the most beautiful descriptive imagery, and Jen Devon does not disappoint here.

My actual favorite aspect of this romance, though, was the found family and every adorable moment Rowan was able to receive from the Bradys. These moments filled with dialogue that show off every individual family member’s personality are where Devon really shined in her writing. Family is the most essential thing in my life, found and not, so when a writer does a good job of writing this subject, it can make me very emotional. This book succeeded in doing just that.

Of course, the romance was also so tender and sweet and spicy all at the same time. The dialogue between Rowan and Harry felt so real. Their frustrations, wants, and needs all felt very true to a couple who are not really a couple.

I said already that the dialogue was the strongest part of this novel, so parts where Devon resorted to telling about the passing of time instead of showing it fell flat to me. Because of this, the pacing felt off, like there were points in the relationship that were skipped over where I would much rather had seen the development. I wanted one more moment in the beginning of the story to really solidify Rowan and Harry’s connection.

The relationship and the ending made up for this, however, and I ended up being very pleasantly surprised overall with this novel. If you’re a romance reader, this new release should definitely be on your list to pick up.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [8.3.22]

Recent, Current, and Future Reads | WWW Wednesday [8.3.22]

This is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words that asks us to answer the three Ws:

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

Happy Wednesday! I’m going to the bookstore in a bit with my dad to pick up a copy of the book I just finished (I’ll get to it!), and I plan on going to read on the porch for a while. So its shaping up to be a good bookish day for me!

Recently finished: I just finished my audiobook of John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed today. I teared up a few times listening to this. I know the Green brothers are very polarizing people, but I have always been more on the side of loving them. I’ve always enjoyed John Green’s voice, so this one was just a lot of really enjoyable essays.

Currently reading: I’m working on my ARC of Bend Toward the Sun right now. I love when STEM is incorporated into novels, especially biology or horticulture. I’m still undecided on how I feel about the actual romance, but I hope to finish this one in the next couple days.

Reading next: Bend Toward the Sun and Bronze Drum are both releasing next week, so I need to get Bronze Drum in as well once I finish the former. I don’t know too much about it, but I love a good tale of sisters. I’ve never read anything set in Ancient Vietnam before either, so that should be exciting.

What are you reading today?

Books I Read in July | Wrap-Up

Books I Read in July | Wrap-Up

COVID hit me hard this month! I’m still having breathing issues 4 weeks later! On top of that, my best friend from college came to visit this week. Both of these made for a not-so great reading month. But! I am looking forward to a relaxing August (aside from having to go back to school and work) filled with lots of reading!

I read five books this month, so not too bad. Not great, but not bad at all.

Emotional, adventurous, and lighthearted were my top moods. I don’t usually go for lighthearted, but I think those mostly correspond to Percy Jackson books which I’m really enjoying reading through! Emotional and adventurous are much more my speed, so those make sense.

Historical isn’t something I pick up too often–I didn’t realize I had two historical books this month. I really enjoyed them both, so maybe it’s a sign I need to start reading more historical fiction.

Here are the books I read! Click the covers to see my reviews 🙂

What’s the best book you read in July?