The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star continues my journey back into young adult fiction. I used to exclusively read only young adult fiction, but about five years ago, I decided that I needed to read outside my comfort area (and to read books with people my own age in them). Starting to read in a new area can be daunting, so I recommend looking at award-winning book lists and even articles with lists of books on different subjects. That is how I stumbled upon The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

Nicola Yoon had already been on my radar because of her book, Everything, Everything, but I had never actually read it. When I found an article that was talking up The Sun is Also a Star, I decided to give it a go and try to see what everyone was getting so excited about. (I was also slightly obsessed with making things using yarn when I saw this book cover, so I figured I needed to read it!)

The Sun is Also a Star takes place all in one day. Natasha is a girl who loves everything that is based in facts. She adores science and has a list of facts for almost any situation. She lives with her parents and her younger brother in a one bedroom apartment. Natasha’s life had been going along perfectly until one day when her father makes a mistake and ruins everything for the whole family. Her life could implode around her. Daniel is a boy who never messes up and is therefore seen as the good son at home and the good student at school. After his older brother messes up in college, the pressure on Daniel to be perfect becomes even higher.

When the two meet, Daniel finds himself questioning what his parents have always told him and just how he lives his life. He is a poet and a dreamer, but must live up to his parents’ high expectations. Daniel must find a way to be around Natasha more than he probably should. Natasha is more hesitant than Daniel and finds his exuberance about their “relationship” daunting and more than a little off-putting. Daniel feels that there is something magical and extraordinary between them, if only he could get Natasha to feel the same way. Daniel reaches out into the universe to try to convince Natasha that their futures can change, but he has trouble believing he can change himself.

This book, while taking place in one day, shines through a series of flashbacks into each character’s life. Minor characters that Natasha and Daniel come in contact with have their own sections within the book as well. The tiny snapshots into daily life show the effect a short interaction with a complete stranger can have on both your life and the other person’s. The ending left me wondering what had really happened between the two. Long after I finished reading this book, I found myself thinking a lot about fate, how even the smallest and inconsequential of our actions can greatly impact our lives and the lives of others, and how our attitudes and thoughts can influence our futures as well. The Sun is Also a Star had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I’m glad I decided to pick it up and give it a try.

Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie

Welcome to 2017 and our new updated blog! As our wonderful librarian Ann mentioned last week, we’re changing how we’re blogging and what we’re blogging about. I’m so excited to dig deeper into my reading and watching interests with you all! Let’s dive right in!

I had an epiphany moment with the last book I was listening to, Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie. I listened to Bad Country through the library’s Rivershare OverDrive app which I have downloaded on my phone (a FANTASTIC way to both listen to and read books, btw). Anyway, as soon as I started listening to this book, my brain seemed to revolt. It took me about five minutes to realize why. It was a male narrator! And only a male narrator! Every other audiobook I’ve listened to has been a female narrator or a combination of female and male narrators (with the female narrator having more to say). As a result, I’ve decided to actively search out more books with male narrators, so next time I stumble upon an audiobook with a male narrator, I won’t be so surprised.

Mark Bramhall narrates Bad Country and does a wonderful job. He does different voices and accents for each character (and there are TONS of different characters), which allowed me to easily separate and tell who was who. Bad Country is a mystery set in the Southwest. Rodeo Grace Garnett is a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator. He lives alone with his old dog in a very remote part of Arizona called the Hole. One day, Rodeo returns home to find a dead body near his home. Based on how the victim is dressed, Rodeo can tell he is not one of the many illegal immigrants who cross over just south of where he lives. The victim is instead a member of one of the local Indian tribes. He is also not the first Indian murdered in this county and town recently.

Rodeo is desperately looking for work. When his buddy offers him a job working for an elderly Indian woman who wants to know who murdered her grandson, he takes it. The woman has strange reactions to hiring him though, her behavior is slightly off, reactions that Rodeo begins to understand the more he digs into the case. Hatred swirls around this case, as well as the cases of the many murdered Indians in Rodeo’s area. Mystery, intrigue, death, and good old fashioned suspicion run rampant throughout this book with readers left wondering until the very end just who committed what crime.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. The narrator’s ability to provide different voices for each character really pulled me in. Towards the end, the plot seemed a little rushed, but I was able to keep up and found myself hoping that the author would turn this one book into a series. Here’s to hoping!

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

It’s time for me to be honest. I have not read a Nicholas Sparks book since high school. The movies never caught my interest either, so I just steered clear. In order to become a more well-read librarian, I have decided to expand my comfort zone and read books I normally wouldn’t. See Me by Nicholas Sparks is my latest outside-my-comfort-zone read. I started reading See Me thoroughly expecting a flowery romance with some kind of damsel in distress scenario and a dashing male hero coming to the rescue. I. Was. So. Wrong. Well sort of.

Maria Sanchez and Colin Hancock are the two main characters in this book and while they fit into some stereotypes, in other ways they completely break them. Maria is a lawyer and daughter of two Mexican immigrants who came to the US with nothing and now own a thriving restaurant. She has worked very hard to better her career with the end result being that her social life and friend circle is rather lacking. She does have a very close relationship with her parents and her younger sister though. Maria’s life is not all perfect. She is haunted by events in her past, events that ultimately led her to leave her previous job and move to a totally new town.

Colin is a 28 year old college student who is struggling to get his life back on track. He works out religiously and is avoiding all the people and places that led him to destroy his life before. Colin has spent most of his life tangled up in the legal system, as a result of a major anger problem and a myriad of other issues. He worked out a deal at his last court appearance, a deal that says that if he stays out of trouble, his criminal record will be completely expunged, his felonies erased, allowing him to become a teacher. However, if Colin gets back into trouble, he will go to jail for ten years and his record will not be cleared. Colin has stayed out of trouble with help from his best friend, Evan, and Evan’s fiancée Lily.

Colin and Maria have a chance encounter one rainy night on a highway in North Carolina. Maria tells her younger sister, Serena, about the man who changed her tire and Serena realizes that Colin is one of her fellow students. She arranges a meetup between Colin and Maria, hoping sparks will begin to fly. They do. Opposites obviously attract. Everything is going swimmingly between the two until a person from Maria’s past pops up who may ruin it all. Their budding relationship is put to the test as Maria struggles to figure out who is doing these horrible things to her. Colin also has to work through his anger issues and his protective instincts to put Maria’s wishes and well-being first.

Despite my reticence, I actually enjoyed this book. The story pulled me in and I found myself rooting for the characters. I also was not able to predict how the story would end, which is a major positive in my book.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

road-homeWidowed and jobless, Lev immigrates from Eastern Europe to London in hopes of finding work and a better future for his daughter in The Road Home by Rose Tremain. What he encounters there – friendship, cruelty, kindness, hardship and hope – becomes a snapshot of the world we live in today.

Arriving in London with just basic English language skills, minimum money and an EU passport, Lev finds a menial job washing dishes at a high-end restaurant where he discovers a passion and a talent for cooking. Lev makes some mistakes along the way – he doesn’t always do the right thing – but he is always sympathetic and likeable and you’ll find yourself pulling for him.

You’ll also meet some wonderful characters – Rudi, Lev’s colorful and outspoken but forever loyal friend from home, Christy, his down-on-his-luck Irish flatmate, Sophie, the English woman he has a passionate affair with, G.K., his gruff, rude yet ultimately life-saving boss, the people at the nursing home he visits and his fellow workers. From these wildly different parts he creates a family that sustain and guide him, yet there is always an undercurrent of sadness and longing for home. How Lev finds his way home again, both literally and figuratively, are the heart of the story. Although the ending is somewhat contrived, it is also exactly right.

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun

miles-from-nowhereUnlike James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, the author clearly marks this as a work of fiction.  Still, I found myself studying her photograph, wondering just how much of the story she might have actually experienced herself.  That’s how real it felt.

In this gritty and sometimes sordid tale about the homeless and the addicted, we follow Joon-Mee through her teen years during the 1980’s in New York City in Miles from Nowhere.  Joon, an immigrant from Korea, leaves her troubled home and ends up on the street, falling into prostitution and heroin abuse.  All is not dreary, though, as the book has a hopeful ending.  In the words of  Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl, this is a “starkly beautiful book, shot through with grace and lit by an offhand street poetry.  Nami Mun takes a cast of junkies and runaways and brings them fiercely and frankly to life.  It’s a measure of the artistry of the work that even in their grimmest, darkest moments, rather than being repelled by these characters, we want to stay beside them, as if to care for them, or at least bear witness to their lives. “

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

I’m reading the funniest book! It’s called Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. I picked it up at the last Women’s Connection (TWC) meeting, but the library does have copies at both buildings. Dumas, an Iranian-American, is the featured speaker at the November 5 TWC meeting, when the group traditionally hosts an international author. If you can go, do — but be prepared for some belly laughs!

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. There’s one scene in particular, in which the author describes a time she is waiting in a crowded medical clinic, when the receptionist mispronounces her name. Badly mispronounces it! Now with a first name like “Firoozeh,” you would probably expect some of this, but in this case, both her first and last name (her husband is French) are really butchered.

The author freely admits that her first experience in the United States, at the tender age of seven, was a very favorable one, and that people were very kind to her and her family. She’s quick to note, however, that this was before the hostage takeover of the embassy in Iran, and that later Iranian immigrants often faced open hostility.

There are lots of anecdotes that many can identify with — her father attempting to teach her how to swim, her not-so-fun experience at summer camp, and the seemingly endless supply of relatives coming to visit. More importantly, though, this book goes a long way in gently educating us Americans that Iranians are human, too. Not to mention funny.

Dumas has also written Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American at Home and Abroad. Enjoy!