Look by Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection, Look, is a powerful and moving exploration of language, war, and memory. Through her innovative use of language, Sharif captures the complexity and tragedy of the war in Iran, as well as the broader impact of militarism and violence on society.

One of the most striking features of Look is the way Sharif incorporates military terminology and jargon into her poems, challenging readers to confront the dehumanizing language of war. For example, in “Contaminated Remains” Sharif uses a list of military terms to show the human cost of war, highlighting the lives lost and the families left behind. This technique is both effective and affecting, making the poems feel urgent and deeply personal.

Another strength of Look is the way Sharif weaves together different narratives and voices, creating a complex and nuanced portrait of war and its aftermath. Through poems like “Deception Story” and “Desired Appreciation,” Sharif explores the experiences of soldiers, civilians, and families affected by war, as well as the broader societal impact of militarism and violence. By bringing together these different perspectives, Sharif creates a rich and multifaceted account of the human toll of war.

At the same time, Look is also a deeply personal and emotional collection, as Sharif grapples with her own family history and the legacy of war. In “Reaching Guantanamo,” for example, Sharif explores the speaker’s relationship with “Salim,” via the equivalent of wartime “Dear John” letters–letters the speaker knows will never be returned, perhaps never read. Through her use of language and imagery, Sharif captures the complexity and ambivalence of relationships strained by forced separation (a war prisoner and the person they left behind), as well as the ways in which personal and political histories are intertwined.

Overall, Look is an extraordinary collection of poetry that offers a powerful and nuanced perspective on the impact of war on society and the human spirit. Sharif’s willingness to confront the difficult realities of war makes this collection a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of language, politics, and the human experience.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

If you’re looking for a beautifully written, emotionally powerful novel that transports you to a different time and place, look no further than Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.

The plot of this epic multi-generational saga is both sweeping and intimate, taking readers on a journey through the lives of several generations of a Korean family living in Japan. The story begins in the early 20th century and continues through World War II and beyond, tracing the family’s struggles and triumphs as they navigate a complex and often hostile world.

What makes Pachinko truly remarkable, however, are the characters that Lee has created. Each member of the family is vividly drawn and fully realized, with their own hopes, dreams, and flaws. Whether it’s the fiercely independent Sunja, the stoic Isak, or the tragic Noa, every character in Pachinko feels like a real person, and their struggles and triumphs are all the more moving for it.

And then there’s the history that Lee weaves throughout the novel. Through the eyes of her characters, we see the discrimination and persecution that Koreans faced in Japan, as well as the horrors of World War II and the aftermath of the atomic bombings. But we also see the resilience and strength of the human spirit, as the characters in Pachinko forge ahead in the face of unimaginable hardship.

Overall, Pachinko is an unforgettable novel that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. With its powerful storytelling, richly drawn characters, and compelling historical backdrop, it’s a true masterpiece that deserves all the praise it has received. I absolutely loved this one.

Pachinko is Book Two completed for my TBR Year 10 Challenge.

March #TBRYEAR10 Check-In!

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Welcome to our third checkpoint for this year’s TBR Pile Challenge! We already have EIGHTY reviews/checkpoints linked up on our Mr. Linky, which is ten more than last year at this time! Well done to all of you. I hope you continue to read and share and discuss all your favorites (or least favorites) from this challenge.

As for me, I’ve made more progress since last month, which is that I actually managed to read and write down thoughts for two more challenge books!

Progress: 3 of 12 Completed

Somehow, I’m almost back on the pace I was at last year, which was probably my best year for this challenge since its inception. I know that I’m going to have plenty of time to read and review later this year, but I’d like to keep steady pace just the same. At this point, I’ve read three novels set in Asia (historical fantasy, historical realism, and magical realism/Buddhist) plus one poetry collection from an Iranian-American poet. I can’t say I planned to start this year with exclusively non-Western reading, but that’s definitely how it has gone so far, and they’ve all been great reads! (Three of four are also written by women. Again, unintentional, but interesting to note!) I have reviews for the two reads I’m missing for this challenge drafted and will post once I’ve gone through and edited them. I hope to get completely caught up on all three in the next couple weeks. In addition, I just started my fourth book from this challenge, Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf (1927).

Books read:

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!

Mini-Challenge Two is Coming in May! 


February #TBRYEAR10 Check-In!

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Welcome to our second checkpoint for this year’s TBR Pile Challenge! It looks like some of you are off to a rip-roaring start! Way to go! As for me? I’m basically right on track, having completed two of my reads & reviews while being about halfway through list selection number three (A People’s History of the United States).

Progress: 2 of 12 Completed

So far, I’ve read and reviewed 2 of my 12 required books. I started Book 3 yesterday, which puts me on track, but more importantly, I need to get my thoughts down for Lee’s Pachinko and for the two completed books in my “friends recommending reads” challenge (Mishima’s Spring Snow and Baldree’s Legends and Lattes.) I always seem to be way ahead in reading but way behind in reviewing. Is it just me?

I still plan to read all 14 of the books on my list this year, the main 12 plus my 2 alternates, so I’m glad to be at least “on track” with one a month. Summer usually leaves me extra time, and I might have some extra reading time this fall during my academic sabbatical. (Maybe? I’ll still be pretty busy, maybe even busier than normal? Yikes.) Long story short: I plan to “win” again this year!

Books read:

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books in February, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!


As I mentioned in the Announcement post, there are four mini-challenges planned for this year. Our first checkpoint also brings with it the first mini-challenge!

Here’s the plan: Visit this link to see the list of linked-up participants. Travel around and leave a comment (or two, or five) with some encouragement for this new year and new challenge. Then, when you’re done, come on back to this post and comment with a link to the blog where you left your encouragement.

Everyone who spreads a little cheer and positivity to another challenger’s post(s) will be entered to win a book of choice, up to $15 USD, from The Book DepositoryComments need to be posted and linked-up here by the end of January and the winner, drawn randomly from the collection of comments, will be announced in the February checkpoint post. Only those who registered for the 2023 TBR Pile Challenge by January 31st, 2023 are eligible to participate in these challenges and/or to win any of the TBR Pile prizes. 


Interview with Author Jenna Miller (#Giveaway)

Cover for ya novel Out of Character by Jenna Miller

I want this story to connect with any reader who doesn’t feel seen or heard, who feels lost in the chaos of life, or who doesn’t feel quite comfortable with who they are . . . I hope this book inspires people to love themselves.

Jenna Miller

Today, it’s a real pleasure to welcome my long-time friend-from-afar and former book blogging pal, Jenna Miller, who is here to talk about her debut young adult novel, Out of Character!

Incidentally, I had the chance to read Out of Character early, and I loved it! The book is timely and relevant, filled with delightful humor, a protagonist who splits her time between online and real life (role playing! discord!), family drama, body positivity, and a lovely sapphic romance or two.

Miller’s characters are dynamic and interesting, right down to the scene-stealing cat (and perfect wingman), Mr. Tuttles! There are also some amazing descriptions of a regional favorite meal called “totdish,” and I have to admit, I’m now on the hunt for the best recipe. Is it the recipe Cass prefers? We’ll see! Since I loved this one so much, I bought an extra copy to giveaway to one lucky blog reader! See details at the end of this post.

AB: Since this is your debut novel, I’d like to start by asking what was the biggest surprise for you during (or after) the publishing process? Is there anything that caught you off guard?

JM: The biggest surprise for me has been how different every step in this process can be depending on which publisher you end up at, which imprint, which editor, etc. No two author experiences are the same. I’ve heard from author friends who are doing X for marketing/publicity, and I’m doing Y, and others are doing Z. Authors have different relationships with their publishing teams, and the timelines will also vary. So, if you’re new to getting a book deal, try not to compare your journey/process to others.

AB: I know that you’re working on edits for your second novel (hooray!), which must be quite a challenging thing to do while simultaneously preparing to go on tour for your first book. In Out of Character, the main character, Cass, has some “real life” and “online” friends she relies on; do you have a community of your own, like a writing group, or do you prefer to work solo?

JM: For the writing process itself, I work best alone. I don’t do live workshops or readings with groups of people, but I do have writer friends who I swap manuscripts with for critiques/revisions before sending a new project on to my agent and/or editor. It’s so important to get that outside feedback, find out what they love about the story and find out what can be done even better. It’s also important to have writer friends who get what you’re going through, because most other people in your life are so lost when you start to ramble about publishing. That support is essential, so find your people!

AB: As a newly published author, what advice do you have for young (i.e. inexperienced or new) writers who are trying to navigate that wide gap between having written a story and getting that story published?

JM: Finding your people is so important! You’ll help each other navigate the chaos and figure out next steps. And give yourself grace. It can be so easy to compare to others and feel behind or like your work isn’t good enough but take care of yourself and just keep going. On the process side, write down your goals and the steps it takes to get there. The process for self-publishing is vastly different from the process for publishing with a smaller press, which is vastly different from a big press. For example, not all paths require an agent. From there, do your research! If seeking an agent, research agents who are looking for the type of story you’ve told and pay attention to their querying guidelines. Same goes for if you’re submitting to a smaller press. Guidelines vary, so don’t treat every agent/publisher the same.

AB: What are you most looking forward to readers experiencing when they read Out of Character? Is there a particular audience you had in mind when you were writing?

JM: Writing Young Adult, my main audience is always teenagers (though I do believe adults can also enjoy YA). Digging deeper than that, I want this story to connect with any reader who doesn’t feel seen or heard, who feels lost in the chaos of life, or who doesn’t feel quite comfortable with who they are. Out of Character features a girl who is fat and a lesbian, but those things don’t define her. She is who she is, and I hope this book inspires people to accept/love themselves for who they are.

AB: There are probably a lot of difficult moments in the writing, querying, and editing processes. What kept you going—kept you motivated—throughout this journey? (Goal-setting? Playlists? Rewards for milestones?)

JM: One great thing about finding your people is that they will bully you into not giving up! Could you imagine the shame!? But seriously, I got to a point where my own determination to see it through drove me, but little rewards along the way definitely helped. Whenever I finish a big revision or get to a milestone, I reward myself with gay cake (aka rainbow cake). So, find your version of gay cake if you want that little reward!

More About the Author

JENNA MILLER (she/her) writes young adult books about fat, queer, nerdy girls who deserve to be seen and have their voices heard. When she’s not obsessing over words, she can be found making charcuterie boards, befriending people online, cross-stitching, or adventuring in the Minneapolis area. Out of Character is her debut novel.

You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok as @jmillwrites.

To buy the book, please visit BookShop.org.


I have one copy of Out of Character to giveaway to a reader of this blog! Here are the details:

  1. Leave a comment on this post about something relating to the above interview and/or why you want to read the book.
  2. Make sure I have a way to contact you (e-mail or social media handle.)
  3. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
  4. Giveaway is open from Tuesday, February 7 until 11:59 p.m. PST on Monday, February 13.

Good Luck! And thanks again to Jenna Miller for stopping by to have a conversation about writing and about her debut novel, Out of Character! I can’t wait for the next book!