I am I am I am by Chatti Brown

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When I was twelve years old, my family went on a day outing to Lake Paris. Standing in the water, my sister and I made sure our feet were always touching the sand. I haven't learned to swim yet, that would come a lot later in adulthood. I had a small fear of drowning after having read a passage in a V.C. Andrew's book in which a character drowned and the description of his bloated body was too much for me. But having also grown up in Southern California with the coast only a mile away, I also didn't have a fear of the water. I probably should, but I didn't. I was always careful. I never went into the ocean by myself and I never venture far. What I wasn't expecting that day was that while holding onto my sister's hand we'd start drifting away from shore. I don't remember the actual drifting part, what I do remember was the immense panic that set in when I realized that I couldn't feel the sand beneath. As I started to go under, I saw the lifeguard and prayed that she would see us (she didn't). My sister will tell you that she saved me, that she pulled me back to shore while I tried to dragged her underneath. It is all true. Trying to pull myself up, I inevitably pushed her down. We see-sawed like this for a bit until she started kicking her feet, propelling forward. She never lets me forget, not even today when I called to asked her how old we were when it happened. So here's an apology to my sister for making it harder for her to save me. I love you.

This is a peculiar review, I know but this is what Maggie O'Farrell's memior did for me. It made me think of my own near death experiences. This one, not as dramatic as others, but forever imprinted in my mind. Here's the thing: Maggie O'Farrell has seventeen of these near-death experiences. She's either extremely unluckily or she's lived a full and interesting life. The first story caught my attention, sending chills down my spine while the others pulled me in completely. I can't say I'd read a memoir like this before, neither in this format or this compelling. Memoirs and non-fiction short stories are typically slow reads for me. Some I haven't picked up again after putting them aside in the fifth chapter. Not even Tina Fey made it to the end, but this one was unique and gripping. A full five stars for me.

What are your thoughts on this memoir? Did you have any near death experience? Tell me below.

 

Six books on my Summer Reading List by Chatti Brown

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The weather went into the triple digits here in Colorado so it felt time to cull my summer reading list. As you already know, I'm trying to read less but be very intentional about what I choose. Most of these books have been sitting on my TBR (To Be Read) pile for some time and it seems summer is the perfect time to tackle this list . 

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HOME FIRE- This one knocks all the birds with one stone for any reading challenge (POC woman writer, culture different than my own, winner of an award, best cover). From the publisher: "The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she's accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma's worst fears are confirmed. Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined."

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THE DRY: Last summer I had a thriller kick and read some very good ones (Emma In the Night, Final Girls), but since then they have been more hype than substance. I'm hoping this one will break the spell and at the very least, keep me engaged. "After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets."

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STARDUST- How did I not know that my beloved movie was actually based on a book?Stardust is the one feel good movie I can watch over and over again. I don't talk much about my love for fairytale/fantasy/magical realism but this was my go to section in the library when I was a kid. Set in 1850s England, Tristran seeks the love of town beauty, Victoria, by promising to gift her a fallen star. So begins a wonderful tale of faerie land, magic, aging witches, cunning princes, a flying pirate ship and of course, a unicorn. I'm really hoping that the book is just as fun as the movie.

 

 

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LEAVE NO TRACE- Thank you Simon and Schuster for the free book via Bookish First. I was able to read a chapter of this and I can tell you it left me wanting more. This is about a boy who, along with his father, disappeared in the wilderness only to show up ten years later without an explanation. It is up to Maya Stark, a speech therapist with her own secrets, to crack him open. I'm hoping this book leaves me a bit frighten and out of breath. Available in September.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON- Again, my love for fantasy/magic compelled me to but this middle grade book This one seems right up my alley with a good witch that feeds a baby with silvery honeyed moon beam. 
"To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known."

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OUR SOULS AT NIGHT- When I first bought this I knew little about it. What I do know: the story takes place in a fictional Colorado town and the author, Kent Haruf, wrote Plainsong (I haven't read it but heard good things). This book follows the relationship between two widowed neighbors, Addie and Louis, after Addie propositions Lewis and asks if he would be interested in keeping her company at night. Knowing that alone makes it tender, and more about finding comfort than town gossip or sexual intimacies.

 

 

Tell me below what is on your reading list. Happy summer and happy reading my friends!

May Monthly Wrap Up by Chatti Brown

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May was one of those crazy months where the weather never fully cooperated but I spent all my time outdoors anyway. It was a month of reflecting on how bookstagram changed my reading life and how I was over-consuming, buying too many books, and on social media more than I'd like to admit. So as everyone gears up for summer reading, I'll be taking this time to slow down and read less.

Inside Out & Back Again: I first learned about this book from the Diverse Book Club. Written in verse in the voice of ten year old Hà, this book tells the story of her life in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and subsquently, her family's immigration experience in Alabama. I cried during so many parts because her story resonated with me and reminded me of my family's own refugee experience. What I enjoyed about this book was that the words were simple, yet I was able to stand in Hà's shoes and empathize. This is a children's book so a very quick but important read.

I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.

The Summer List: I wrote a review over here but I can't tell you enough how good it is. It's tender, sweet and well, how should I put this? Let's just say shit gets real. It comes out on June 26th but you can preorder it here or put it on your library list. *Thank you Graydon House for the free review copy.

Circe: If you're a fan of greek mythology like I am, this one is for you. This also has to be one of my favorite sub-genres, a retelling from the perspective of the villain (e.g. Wicked). You may know Circe from The Odyssey in which Odysseus encounters her on a secluded island, but here you get to know her intimately. Madeline Miller's expert storytelling had me mesmerized all the way to the very end.

How to Walk Away:  While quite predictable, there was something about this book that made me smile. It had such a satisfying full ending which made my heart ache with happiness and gratitude for the life I have. There's a full cast of characters, some very unlikeable (can we talk about that Chip guy?) and others will grow on you. A word of warning: although this book tackles a big issue it's done in a lighthearted way. Like me, you may be left wanting a lot more emotional depth. But because this is contemporary lit. it does what it came to do, and gets four stars in my book.

Pachinko: I've been waiting to read this book at the right time because I wanted to do it justice. It's a big one - think sweeping, epic, multigenerational drama if made into a television series would take 125 one hour episodes. With no commercials. The book details the life of an immigrant Korean family in Japan in the early 1900s all the way to the 1980s. My heart broke for Sunja, Isac, and Noa - those stories were stunning and filled with emotional complexities. But my interest dwindled a bit towards the end and I didn't feel a connection with the characters introduced later in the book. I would recommend this still- it's worth the 484 pages.