Thank you to Netgalley and Mandel Vilar Press for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.
Hanna's story hit me from the very first page. Masih writes with raw emotion and I applaud her talent. I was instantly immersed in the story: I could imagine every scene, and feel the love Hanna has for her family. And the capacity of that love is overwhelming. Hanna has the fiercest determination to ensure the survival of her family, which ages her beyond her years throughout the novel.
This story is beautifully told, and the gravity intwined throughout is felt on every page. I cannot pretend at expertise on what work of fiction might do the horrors of the Holocaust justice, but My Real Name is Hanna is exceptionally well-researched and inspired by a real family's story, and I wouldn't hesitate to include it on any list of historical must-reads.
Readers will see that because of Hanna's age, the novel also functions as a coming-of-age-story, if a rather brutal one. It has notes of tenderness throughout, and the care Masih takes to develop each character should be noted. Her award-winning writing is clearly on display here, and her attention to detail throughout is immaculate.
5/5 stars. Gorgeously wrought--there's honestly not much else I can say other than simply: this book is a necessary read.
Got a bit of a busy time coming up soon, so I can't exactly say when I'll be back to post updates, but I'm in the middle of a bunch of amazing books that I can't wait to tell you about. Some of it involves fun baking--I'm making these apple pie wonton cups (recipe) that look absolutely delicious. Can't wait to see how those turn out, and I'll probably post pictures on my Instagram story when they're ready.
Other non-bookish news: School continues to be difficult, unsurprisingly it's hard to balance being a full-time student and blogger! I'm glad that I finally told you all that I'm in school, though, because now I can gripe about it publicly. My struggles this week include: being completely booked in zoom meetings so that I barely have the wherewithal to read some days, having a tough time finding ways to connect with friends, and all the other challenges of working on a virtual theatre production (details on that to come). One spot of joy: rediscovering my love of grapefruits! If you know me in real life, you know I love citrus. This winter I've been eating half a grapefruit for breakfast everyday, and I love the ritual. I think part of what makes it so rewarding is the effort I have to put into carving it up, so that enjoyment comes with a little note of realness.
Fruit thoughts? School thoughts? Any thoughts? I'd welcome comments and concerns!
The Larkin family isn't just lucky—they persevere. At least that's what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn't drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.
But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can't stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family's missing piece - the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.
The Last True Poets of the Sea is a beautifully quiet novel. It feels like a warm cup of tea, a peaceful morning, a hug. I was glad to have a break from the high-stakes fantasy books I've been reading lately and truly relax into this novel. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time to come.
This is truly an emotional read, so you should come prepared with plenty of reading and processing time. I especially loved the development of Violet and Sam's relationship. Violet's spends a lot of the book beating herself up for breaking her family, wondering where it all went wrong between her and Sam. Sibling angst isn't something I specifically understand, as an only child, but I do love how close they were and seeing Violet adjust to life in Lyric without Sam. She undergoes some real growth, as a reformed party girl who needs to learn how to have real friends and how to apologize occasionally.
The book also has important discussions about mental health, including anxiety and suicidal ideation (of course readers should be aware before going in that some material could be a trigger for their own issues), and I appreciated the care that Drake put into crafting the story. Those hard conversations contributed to the quietness of Poets and I think it's great for fans of Nina LaCour's books.
I also want to note that this has a realllly slow-burn sapphic relationship that I am absolutely living for! Lots of pining on both ends, and discussion of identities. I've started 2021 by reading not one, but four queer books (my last read, The One Hundred Nights of Hero, being one of them) so I'm elated to share another with you. There's something so special about soft romance. Liv and Violet go through some rough patches, but it's not a dramatic rollercoaster, which I appreciated.
My second 5 star read of 2021, so I made a moodboard in honor! I've been wanting to get more creative content up here to supplement my shorter reviews, so this is a nice start.
In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.
In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle--and Cherry.
But what Jerome doesn't know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.
As intricate and richly imagined as the works of Chris Ware, and leavened with a dry wit that rivals Kate Beaton's in Hark! A Vagrant, Isabel Greenberg's One Hundred Nights of Hero will capture readers' hearts and minds, taking them through a magical medieval world.
This was my first graphic novel read of 2021, and I couldn't be happier with it! Both the frame narrative of Cherry and Hero, and the stories Hero told had a wonderfully folklorish feel to them. It's a story about stories, love, loss, and what it means to be human in all the best ways. I'm a couple years late to the fanclub, but I'm eagerly awaiting my library hold of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth so I can find out more about the world.
The whimsical worldbuilding was easily my favorite part of the story. The Empire of Migdal Bavel is only one part of Early Earth, and Hero tells stories from a few other places, which only made me more excited to explore. It's a medieval world, with tall stone towers, patriarchy, sea travel, and religion (Birdman, and his children Kiddo and Kid), so Cherry and Hero's story became all the more personal for its beautiful queerness. Two women standing against the entitlement of Cherry's husband, and loving each other fiercely throughout. That is exactly the energy I want to start off this year!
Since this is a graphic novel, I of course have to touch on the artwork. A subtle but consistent color palette and bold lineart really allow the stories to shine. I enjoyed the organic form of the art, and the symbolism of not limiting the panels with borders. The splash illustrations especially drew me in. A starry night sky, boats swimming across a pond, sisters diving into books in a cozy room. They are so beautiful, and I kind of wish Greenberg had prints available! My only quibble: sequencing wise, the novel is easy to follow, but I could have done without the "chapter" divisions--the plot flowed seamlessly without them.
If you haven't already read The One Hundred Nights of Hero, I *highly* recommend it. 4.5/5 stars.
It's back to classes this week for me, and I'm optimistic about the rest of this year. I've got my bullet journal all filled in and a whole host of calendar alerts to try and keep me from missing my Zoom commitments. I often wish I was a little less busy, not because I don't love my community, but because the high-octane student life doesn't leave much time for relaxation. I try to carve out quieter moments to read or watch television, but more often than not I end up checking my email and scheduling myself into the sun.
One thing I like to do is listen to music while I work or study--the background noise can help me focus, and I get to listen to the character playlists I curate on Spotify. Lately, I've been listening to a lot of orchestral covers of pop music since Bridgerton introduced me to Vitamin String Quartet! I'll drop my Daphne & Simon playlist below, in case any of you want to do the same. Click the image or scan the Spotify code to listen... and maybe give me a follow while you're there?
With every week that passes, I also get closer to subscribing to Starz. I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but last fall I became pretty intensely obsessed with Outlander. I'm late to the party (the show has been on since 2014) but I like to think I make up for it in enthusiasm. (Again, see relevant linked playlist below--it's still in progress, but expect more songs soon!) Jamie and Claire are simply the height of romance for me right now, and I'm crushed that seasons 4 and 5 aren't on Netflix. This brings us back to Starz, which is running a sale on subscriptions making them incredibly affordable for 6 months, which should be all the time I need. (This isn't an ad, they're not sponsoring me, I'm just genuinely happy about the discount--I couldn't subscribe without it) Because I'm so new to the show, I have a fair idea of what's in store for future seasons, but I'm excited to see it play out for myself! I'm sure I'll be getting my heart broken again shortly, as I'm in the middle of season 2, the ending of which has already been spoiled for me. You lucky ducks get to watch me go on this wild adventure, so I hope you enjoy vague secondhand television references mixed in with your YA book recommendations!
Wow, this has been a long update. I hope you enjoy the playlists and my TV recs, and I'll see you back tomorrow for some bookish content!
As I'm sure you know, I'm a big fan of my local public library, and can't keep myself away for long! Although I've been hesitant to borrow books in the wake of the pandemic, I trust their procedures and am comfortable requesting books again. This month I've put a plethora of books on hold and they're slowly trickling in, so I want to share what I'm borrowing!
I've literally already run out of space in my Owlcrate reading journal's TBR page, so I'll have to stick to Goodreads to track my reading for the rest of the month. Follow my reviews if you'd like to see my snarky updates and progress trackers!
It's almost here! The New Year, blessed 2021, what we've all been dreaming about since... March. I'm determined to make next year better than the last in so many different ways, and that starts with setting goals. To me, New Year's resolutions are just more ways to feel bad about myself, so I'm not one for last-minute grandiose promises. However, I do have some goals for my blogger life.
That's it! I think those are admirable goals, and of course I'll be updating you with my progress throughout. Do you have any goals for the new year? I'd love to hear about them below!
This week I'm focusing on relaxing between Christmas and New Year's, as well as getting back into the blogging groove! I can't believe this crazy year is coming to an end, but I foresee great things in 2021. I've got some milestones coming up, including my seventh year blogging (and fifth year with this website!) which is a terrifying idea. I don't have anything particularly exciting planned yet, but I want to make this fifth year the best one yet. Thank you all for being on this journey with me!
I finished watching Bridgerton on Netflix, and I'm eagerly awaiting Part Four of Sabrina. I think I'll have to do another feature post on the TV I've watched this year, because there's so much to discuss. I especially want to talk about Bridgerton! There's some good and some bad, as with all things, but part of media criticism is knowing you can love things and acknowledge their flaws. So here's my declaration: I love Bridgerton, and I know it could have been better. Come back soon to see me discuss how!
There's been some debate recently on the ethics of "Worst" lists, and I'm going to make my stand as a reviewer by sharing my Worst of 2020 list. My voice is subjective--something that wasn't for me might be for you, and typically folks don't take these judgments to be end-all be-all decisions on what books to read. This blog is a space primarily for readers, and I'll not be cowed into sharing only positive opinions. I have the privilege of an audience, and it's my responsibility to speak honestly. If you're intimidated by that, I bet you'll find some measure of comfort in the fact that I rarely dislike books, and these are pretty much a collection of 3-star reads. Just me saying "It's not you, it's me" to a book. Not an indictment of quality, either, necessarily, since I rate on an emotional basis. These reads just didn't tug at my heartstrings--and that's not to say they won't for you.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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