The Captain’s Log – if you could be mine (Sara Farizan)

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Ahoy there me mateys!  As a reader I tend to have me favorite genres and authors.  However I also like to experience new cultures and ideas.  That is one of the best things about having this Log – I get recommendations on novels from readers all over the world.

One of me more favorite things going around the blogosphere is the call to read more diverse books.  This particular novel was called to me attention by Aimal @ bookshelves and paperbacks in one of her diversity spotlight thursday posts.  It deals with a female/female relationship in the Middle East.  I sadly know little about that part of the world outside of some few non-fiction books I have read.  I do believe in the rights of LGBTQ persons and so the look into a culture dealing with a rather unspoken issue intrigued me.  I picked up a copy.

The story is set in Tehran,  The main protagonist, Sahar, has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since she was six and has always wanted to marry her.  This story is told from her point of view.  Nasrin, does love Sahar but is conflicted about going against her parents and society’s expectations.  Their love could spell death for both of them if they are found out.  Then, Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her.  How is Sahar going to handle this and what can she do to stop it?

Sahar’s perspective is heart-wrenching.  If possible, I like to write me reviews immediately after finishing a book so that I can capture me thoughts clearly.  But this novel had me pondering for hours about me feelings of the culture, religion, and interpersonal relationships of the characters.  Also how do ye write a review of a novel about a culture that you know so little about and have only this one author’s work on a serious issue to form an opinion?  Well here goes . . .

Ultimately this book seems to this Captain to be a realistic portrayal of young forbidden love in a very conservative society.  In particular, I found the transgender issues to be eye-opening.  I had no idea that the culture and religion in Iran allowed for transgendered people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery.  Of course, just because it is allowed that does not make the choices or consequences easy.  The book was very clear on that.

In terms of characters, I loved Sahar.  She is intelligent, loyal, and loving.  She literally seems willing to go through any lengths for her love.  I was not as enthralled with Nasrin.  Though her love for Sahar did seem genuine, she also seemed like a spoiled rotten brat pretty much throughout the entire novel.  I did try to empathize with how enormously hard it would be for her to go against society and her parents and face negative consequences.  But alas, I felt that Sahar always deserved better.

Why?  Because in this story young teens’ love can somehow always seem to be the end all be all of life.  Sahar seems to be the one willing to give up everything for love.  Nasrin takes a more traditional and in some ways more realistic approach.

Do I wish with all my heart that Sahar and Nasrin could have had their choice to be together fulfilled?  That they lived in a society where being together could have been a viable choice?  That they could somehow live happily ever after.  Yes.  Very much yes.

But from a different perspective, Nasrin wanted children.  I don’t know about alternative means of having children in Tehran but would it even be possible if she and Sahar had stayed together?  Would Sahar grow to be fed up with Nasrin’s selfishness?  Would an everyday relationship grown to be a strain without the “forbidden aspects” of their relationship adding spice?  I am not saying that first love is lesser or that their relationship seemed false.  It definitely seemed real in this novel.  But life does force unwanted paths sometimes.  The ending of the novel seemed to suggest that life would somehow work out for the both of them but perhaps not ever in the manner in which they first wanted.  At least I hope so . . .

So I found this novel to be compelling, thought-provoking, and certainly worth everyone reading.  I will continue to foray into diverse books.  It may not make me a better person but the perspectives are certainly not my own and they different cause me to challenge my own understandings and for that I am grateful . . .

Want to find out more about this author?

Check out The Hub’s diverse books spotlight on Sara Farizan.

Want another good blogger who promotes diverse books?

Check out Naz @ read diverse books

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

To visit the author’s page on her publisher’s website go to:

Sara Farizan – Author

To buy the book go to:

if you could be mine – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – when the moon was ours (Anna-Marie McLemore))

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Ahoy there me mateys!  The beautiful cover is what drew me to this novel:

When I read the book blurb, I was intrigued.  And yet nothing could have prepared me for the impact this novel would have on me.  It is magical realism at its best.

The book is the story of two best friends, Miel and Sam, who are inseparable growing up.  But both have secrets from the world and each other.  As the two children enter young adulthood, each has to confront both their pasts and what they want their future to be like.

I particularly loved the two adult women in the story; Sam’s mother in particular was an amazing woman in her own right but also is a fantastic example of what a parent should be.

The writing style of this book was lyrical and beautiful.  Yet the book is filled with poignant and painful moments of what people can do to each other out of misunderstanding and fear  The juxtaposition of the imagery in the writing and the subject matter somehow made the feelings of the characters that much more substantial and heartfelt.  I really don’t know how to explain it adequately.  My heart just ached in the story for the beauty of the characters, the struggles they go through, and ultimately the resolution of the novel.

This is a strong novel that ye shouldn’t miss.  It is a novel that lingers days afterwords.  If ye don’t want to take me word for it, check out some other reviews of this one from some of me crew like:

Fadwa @ word wonders

Lily @ lair of books

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseperable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, and they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Anna-Marie McLemore – Author

To buy the novel visit:

when the moon was ours – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – the walls around us (Nova Ren Suma)

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Ahoy there me mateys!

the walls around us (Nova Ren Suma)

This book was lyrical and confusing and a good read.  I am not sure where I learned about this book.  The story centers around the murder of two fifteen-year-olds.  The book switches points of view between two people: 1) Violet, an 18 year old ballet dancer; and 2) Amber, a prisoner in Aurora Hills juvenile detention center.  Both points of view discuss among other things, a girl named Orianna.

The book is confusing because the plot does not follow a straight timeline and the two girls’ perspectives also contradict each other.  I had no real idea of what the premise of the book was and so for most of my read I was trying to figure out what the point was.  I mean, I had figured out who dunnit pretty early on.  But why we were in the heads of these two particular characters was a little more difficult.

That said, I found Amber’s story of juvi prison life and her own reasons for being in there to be extremely interesting.  Her perspective gives us a look at life inside the center.  I loved everything around the center’s library.  Her viewpoint of the other girls at the center is fascinating.  The other girls at the center seemed both unique and real.  It is quite a complex little microcosm.

Violet’s sections seem to be about the relationship that she and Ori had and what that meant to her.  While she was not a nice person, her voice was engaging.  Having worked with ballerinas before, the dance portion of this book felt very real if overdramatized for the purposes of the novel.

This book was not a quick read for me.  I had a hard time convincing myself to go forward because of the structuring of the narrative.  But the voice of Amber in particular kept drawing me back in.  The writing was beautiful in many ways.  I wanted to know how everything would tie together.  When I eventually got to the ending, it surprised me.  I am not sure if I liked it.  I am not sure that I didn’t.  I am however glad that I finished it.  I can’t guarantee that everyone will like this novel.  But if you read it, I would love to hear your take on it . . .

The author’s site says this about the novel:

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Nova Ren Suma – Author

To buy this book visit:

the walls around us – Book

The Captain’s Log – the serpent king (Jeff Zentner)

snake

Ahoy there mateys!

the serpent king (Jeff Zentner)

This was a fantastic young adult book recommended multiple times by fellow blogger bookwormanic.  It tells the tale of three teenage kids’ senior year living in a rural Tennessee town, told from their respective perspectives.  I found this book to be hauntingly moving, realistic, and heartbreaking.  It has been a while since I was so very mesmerized by a novel.  I read the book and my world faded away to be replaced by the stories of Dill, Lydia, and Travis.

While Dill seemed to get the majority of the attention in the novel, I loved all three characters.  Their friendships are filled with so much love and yet they keep secrets from each other and struggle at times.  Also all three of their viewpoints felt so distinct and well developed.  I also enjoyed all of the adults who were the secondary characters.  It was nice to have a range of adults in a young adult novel whose characters were developed and added to the story.  Of course not all adults were nice but they certainly seemed multi-faceted.

Also despite being a young adult novel, Dill, Lydia, and Travis are not superheroes and do not easily solve their challenges.  The novel also acknowledges that parents can and do sometimes help and that asking for help is okay.  All three teens had realistic responses to what they were going through.  And those included some extremely hard challenges of abuse, poverty, being school outcasts, bullying and a variety of other life changes.  This book also acknowledges that high school, while it can be tough, is not the end of a person’s life.

So many young adult books seem to suggest that high school is both the best time of your life and will determine your very future.  Perhaps for some.  And there is no doubt those are formative years.  But life does go on after high school and the period after high school is usually a time of major change.  The author handled these issues seemingly with grace and understanding.  I highly recommend this complex and lovely novel.

Amazon has this to say about the novel:

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jeff Zentner – Author

To buy the book visit:

the serpent king – Book

The Captain’s Log – holes (Louis Sachar)

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Ahoy there me mateys!

holes (Louis Sachar)

This was another book recommended by my first mate.  He wanted to watch the movie with me and as usual, I wanted to read the book first.  I had heard good things about this one including that it had won the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal.  So I checked it out . . .

I actually really loved this one.  First of all I adored the first two chapters and how they set up the novel.  The main character of Stanley Yelnats is just plain wonderful.  He is cursed and has to go to a juvenile camp for a crime he did not commit.   And let’s just say that the camp wasn’t like anything he was expecting.

It wasn’t really like anything that I was expecting either.  The kids have to dig holes in the dirt in the middle of nowhere as part of their punishment.  One a day that is as tall and wide as a shovel.  Weird, no?  Of course, the reasons for that get explained over the course of the novel.  But what I liked best about the story was watching Stanley be in a situation out of his control and dealing with it through grace and with strength.  I loved in particular his unlikely friendship with the kid named Zero.

In addition the novel tells the stories of Stanley’s ancestors and the reasons for and effects of their family curse.  It also tells the story of Green Lake and what happened in that community.  This is done by interspersing the facts of these interrelated things through the narrative of Stanley’s story.  I very much enjoyed the story of Mary Lou and Sam despite how it turned out.

The book was quick to read and very enjoyable.  Give it a go.

Side note:  A teacher at my old high school used to read chapters from Sideways Stories from Wayside School periodically during school assemblies.  I did not know who the author was though I liked the stories.  Surprise!  Same author as this book.  Oh and the movie is worth watching.  The author wrote the screenplay for it too . . .

The author’s website has this to say about the book:

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Louis Sachar – Author

To buy this novel go to:

holes – Book

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The Captain’s Log – witch child (Celia Rees)

witch hunts

Ahoy there mateys!

witch child (Celia Rees)

This book was an excellent read.  The story involves a girl named Mary has to go to America after her grandmother is killed for witchcraft.  She disguises herself as a Puritan in order to do so.  The plot is told through a series of journal entries.  It was fast paced and fun.  The secondary characters of Martha, Jaybird, and Jack were lovely.  While I loved the entire book, I of course really enjoyed the journey across the Atlantic and what happened there.  I mean how can I resist the sea?

This book felt kinda like The Crucible for children.  Having worked on the stage play, the final scene in the Church in particular felt very much like a critical scene in the theatrical production.  This aspect, however, served to heighten my enjoyment of the novel because the author seemed to have a strong grasp on the history of Salem and the witch trials.  There was more than enough difference between the play and this book that the comparisons were fun.  For example, the addition of Native Americans, settlers building homes, and how witchcraft existed in this novel led to me think more deeply about the subject.

The author is British, and this book has been published in 28 languages and is required reading in secondary schools in the UK.  This novel has a mini-site which I highly enjoyed. It tells the history and facts about choices the author made about the novel.  It also let me know there is a sequel which I will totally read.

The mini-site listed this as the author’s inspiration for writing the novel:

When I was at university, I studied American History. I remember being struck by the isolation of the first settlers who founded New England and thinking about how they must have felt, surrounded by vast forests, on the edge of an unexplored continent, an ocean away from home. Many years later, I was reading a book about 17th century witch persecutions. One of the accounts was of the Salem witch trials, and those fearful isolated communities came back to me. In the same book I found a description of the activities of one Matthew Hopkins, Witch Finder, at work in the English Civil War period. At about this time, I also read a book about shamanism, and it suddenly occurred to me that the beliefs and skills which would have condemned a woman to death in one society would have been revered in another. In North America, at that time, two communities with these sharply differing values could have been living side by side – Native Americans were, broadly speaking, a shamanistic people. That got me thinking, what if there was a girl who could move between these two worlds? … Mary came into my head and Witch Child began . . .

Side Note: This author also has a book about Pirates!  Hooray!  I want that too.

Amazon has this to say about the novel:

Welcome to the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?

To visit the author’s website go to:

Celia Rees – Author

To buy the novel go to:

witch child – Book

The Captain’s Log – blackhearts (Nicole Castroman)

blackbeard

Hearty har har me mateys!  Time to hear about a fellow grand and glorious sea dog . . .

blackhearts (Nicole Castroman)

So I am assuming most of me readers have heard of the fearsome Blackbeard who sailed the waters of the West Indies on the Queen Anne’s Revenge.  What readers may not know if that very little of Blackbeard’s early life is known.  This novel attempts to enlighten us on what could have been.

And a fun romp it was.  The story centers on Anne, a half West Indies / half English daughter of a respected merchant.  Her parents have died and she has found work as a servant for one of Bristol’s rich merchants.  His son happens to be about to return from a year at sea and is . . . you guessed it, the young Blackbeard known at the time as Edward Drummond.  The two meet and nothing is the same.

I truly enjoyed this novel.  As a Captain who is familiar with Blackbeard’s legacy, many of the author’s forays into his history made me laugh out loud.  She has certain “theories” on how Blackbeard came to have certain reputations (which I won’t spoil here) which were just plain excellent.  I cannot say with certainty that I think this novel is the “true” story of the legend but it certainly was a fun one.  Me mateys should definitely read this.

Side note: This was the author’s first novel.  Excellent taste in choice of subject matter.  Excellent job.

The author’s website says this about the novel:

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything. This is their story.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Nicole Castroman – Author

To buy this wonderful yarn visit:

blackhearts – Book