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Showing posts from May, 2014

"The Embassy of Cambodia" by Zadie Smith

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Fatou, an Ivory Coast refugee, is working as a live-in nanny/housekeeper for a wealthy family in London.  Every Monday, she steals a health club guest pass from a drawer at the family’s home to go swimming.  As she walks to the club, she passes by the Embassy of Cambodia, a place a narrator first explains to us as something nobody would have expected there, a place where there never seems to be any signs of life except for the sounds of a badminton shuttlecock from behind the fence.
But the focus of the book is on Fatou.  She reads of a woman who was being held as a domestic slave and wonders if that could be her.  But her weekly swims and Sunday morning church attendance makes her think otherwise, even though the family she works for her has taken her passport.
The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith is a short story that was originally published in The New Yorker.  At only 69 pages, it packs a punch, examining the issues of class, immigration, domestic slavery, and of course, relatio…

"The Orchard of Lost Souls" by Nadifa Mohamed

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It is 1988 and Somalia is on the brink of a civil war.  In the city of Hargeisa, the revolution is stirring but the dictatorship is holding on to power at all costs.  Change is coming and the country will fall, as witnessed by three very different women.
Nine-year-old Deqo was born in a refugee camp, left behind by her mother.  Lured to the city by the promise of her first pair of shoes, she decides it is best to leave the camp and fend for herself.  Kawsar has lost both her husband and daughter and is living out her days in her little house with a garden.  But a savage beating at the local police station has now left her confined to her bed.  Filsan is a promising young soldier who has been sent to Hargeisa from Mogadishu to suppress the growing rebellion.  She wants to follow in her father's footsteps but life in the military can be tough for a woman.
As the country plunges into war, the lives of these three women become intertwined and their lives are changed forever.  The Orc…

"Mansfield Lark" by Katie Oliver

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Now that bad boy rock star Dominic Heath has been outed as Rupert Locksley, son of an aristocrat and heir to a country estate, his life has changed quite a bit.  And when his mother calls him, pleading with him to help save the family home, he has to return to the life he left long ago and the father who is threatening to disinherit him.
But Dominic’s return is going to be more difficult than he thought.  The house is in desperate need of repairs and he realizes that the only way he’ll be able to save it is to invite a camera crew to follow him around for a new reality show.  And when Dominic’s new status as heir of Mansfield House attracts the attention of socialite Bibi Matchington-Alcester, a woman determined to increase her status at any cost, Dominic may wind up way in over his head, especially if his girlfriend Gemma has anything to say about it.
Mansfield Lark is the third book in Katie Oliver’s Dating Mr. Darcy series.  Once again we get to visit many of the characters we met …

"Love and Liability" by Katie Oliver

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Holly James loves her job at BritTEEN magazine but she would love for her big break to come writing about something a bit more meaningful than hunky pop stars and makeup.  And after her chance to interview the sexy city solicitor Alex Barrington falls to pieces, she needs to find something quick.  When she spots Zoe, a homeless teenager, outside of her office, she knows she has to tell her story.
While the editor of the magazine loves the idea and promises her an opportunity to publish the story, Holly’s boss Sasha is bent on stopping her big break.  She finds herself being sabotaged at work and isn’t sure who she can trust.  Sexy solicitor Alex is chasing her heart but Holly isn’t sure she can trust him either.  And before she knows it, her teen homelessness story has led her into London’s dark underworld.  Is she in over her head or will she be able to save her job and her heart?
Love and Liability, by Katie Oliver, is the second book in the Dating Mr. Darcy series, a fun and flirty…

"Prada and Prejudice" by Katie Oliver

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As heiress to the renowned London department store Dashwood & Jones, Natalie Dashwood has been in designer clothes since before she can remember.  And as the girlfriend of famous rock star Dominic Heath, Natalie is living the life many socialites aspire to.  But for Natalie, the perfect life isn’t as it seems.
Her boyfriend has just announced his engagement to another woman and she finds herself both humiliated and on her own.  Her spending is absolutely out of control and with the family business in a financial crisis, she’s facing the dreaded b-word - budget.  And the arrival of sexy, high-flying business executive Rhys Gordon at the store doesn’t help matters either.  
Prada and Prejudice, by Katie Oliver, is the first book in the “Dating Mr. Darcy” series, books with a modern day Jane Austen feel.  This chick lit series packs fun, romance, scandal, and intrigue into three great reads.
I won a copy of the third book in the series in a contest and was really excited to get readi…

"The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Subhash and Udayan Mitra are brothers, fifteen months apart in age and inseparable.  But they are also complete opposites.  Growing up in Calcutta in the 1960’s, the charismatic Udayan is drawn into the Naxalite political movement and drawn into a world of terror and secrecy while under the radar Subhash pursues scientific research and leaves for a quiet life in America.
But when Udayan becomes so committed to the movement he risks everything including his life for it, Subhash is drawn back to India, the dutiful son returning to pick up the pieces and heal the family Udayan has left behind.  As decades pass, Subhash’s life is continually touched by the tragedy of Udayan’s life.
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a sweeping story, spanning decades and continents, politics and society.  This a big novel and a touching story that remains long after you turn the last page.
This is the first book I have picked up by Lahiri and I did so because of all the buzz around it and the award nominat…

Sunday Headlines - #WeNeedDiverseBooks Edition

Here are a few headlines that caught my eye this week:
For the past few days, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has been trending on Twitter.  Thanks to a campaign started by Ellen Oh and many other readers, it is now hitting the headlines where it deserves to be and to stay until we get what we need.  So all of my Sunday headlines this week are about this topic.  And don't forget to visit the WeNeedDiverseBooks website.
*'We Need Diverse Books' calls for more representative writing for children - The Guardian
*12 Irrefutable, Amazing Reasons We Need More Diversity in Books - The Huffington Post
*We Need Diverse Books - Here's How You Can Help! - Parade
*BookCon-troversy: Uproar Over Lack of Diversity at BEA’s Consumer Day - Library Journal
*#WeNeedDiverseBooks goes viral - Salon

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Pt. 1

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The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has been trending for the last few days and has now become a movement that isn’t going to die down any time soon.  And for good reason.  The current literary landscape does not reflect the diversity of the rest of the world.  And it needs to change now.  Here’s my story.
I’m white and I’m middle class.  On paper, I’m the one the publishing industry thinks is the target.  But the world that they think I want to read is not the one I live in.
I’m Canadian, the child of an European immigrant.  Growing up in an upper class neighbourhood, the kids I fit in with were the other children of immigrants, and we all made up a very diverse group.  Fast forward, to the present and I’m married to an immigrant living in one of the most diverse cities in the world.  Myself, my husband, and my children represent 3 continents, 5 countries, and 3 races.  And we live in a neighbourhood where ALL of those are the minority.  This is the real world and this is the world the …

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Pt. 2 - Book List

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As part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks push, I'm publishing here a list of every book I have reviewed on this blog that is a diverse read.  These are books by diverse authors and or whose characters make up a diverse cast.

Fiction
Stacy Hawkins Adams - Coming Home
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - The Thing Around Your Neck
Yahaya Baruwa - Struggles of a Dreamer
Ishmael Beah - Radiance of Tomorrow
Naomi Benaron - Running the Rift
Angela Benson - A Million Blessings
David Bezmozgis - The Free World
ReShonda Tate Billingsley - A Family Affair
ReShonda Tate Billingsley - Holy Rollers
ReShonda Tate Billingsley - The Secret She Kept
ReShonda Tate Billingsley & Victoria Christopher Murray - Fortune and Fame
ReShonda Tate Billingsley & Victoria Christopher Murray - Friends and Foe
ReShonda Tate Billingsley & Victoria Christopher Murray - Sinners and Saints
Peggy Blair - The Beggar's Opera
Peggy Blair - The Poisoned Pawn
Rhonda Bowen - Get You Go…

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Pt 3 - Kids Books

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As I have mentioned, I have two young kids (ages 7 and nearly 5) and my kids are multi-racial.  When it comes to choosing books for them to read, we do look for books that reflect not only them, but the world around them.  And anyone who was tried to do that will know it is very difficult.  So here I want to share the books that we have found and read with our kids as well as spotlight a couple of publishers who I feel do great a job publishing multicultural books.

Henry's Freedom Box - Ellen Levine
Please Baby Please - Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
Please Puppy Please - Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
Just the Two of Us - Will Smith
The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats
A Letter to Amy - Ezra Jack Keats (and many other books by Keats)
Happy to be Nappy - bell hooks
Baby Dance - Ann Taylor
One Love - Cedella Marley
Corduroy - Don Freeman
Whose Toes Are Those - Jabari Asim
Jamaica Tag-Along - Juanita Havill
We All Went On Safari - Laurie Krebs
Where Are You Bear: A Canadian Alphabet Adventure - Frieda …

"Skinny Bitch Gets Hitched" by Kim Barnouin

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Clementine Cooper’s No Crap Café is about to score one of the biggest publicity coups ever - a mention in the New York Times Sunday travel section.  All she has to do is make the best vegan lasagna she ever has.  So long as nothing distracts her everything should be okay…
But you know what they say, when it rains it pours.  First, Clementine gets the best surprise ever when her meat-eating millionaire boyfriend Zach proposes.  Of course she says yes, but that’s when everything begins to spin out of control.  Zach’s domineering mother decides that she will be the one to plan the wedding, and comes up with a wedding that goes against everything Clementine would want.  Then she is forced into giving Zach’s stepsister a job in the café’s kitchen, even though she has no cooking skills whatsoever.  On top of this, Clem comes up with a plan to open up a second restaurant at her parent’s farm, while Zach begins to spend more and more time at the office and less time speaking to her.  The onl…

"Every Day is for the Thief" by Teju Cole

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A young Nigerian writer living in New York City returns to Lagos with a unique perspective of the city of his youth.  Here, he is able to see it through the eyes of both a foreigner and a local.  As he reconnects with friends and family, he explores the history and present-day of his country, the beauty and corruption of his city while revealing pieces of himself.
Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole is an incredible story, a beautiful travelogue that straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction.  Accompanied by incredible photos taken by the author himself, this book will transport you to the heart of Nigeria, making you feel like you know the country even if you have never been there before.
This isn’t your typical novel in that there is a lot of plot nor is there much to the character (who in fact remains unnamed throughout the book.)  Rather it is one’s journey that the reader is invited along for.  And because of this, the size of the book, works very well.  This is a no…