Book Review

A Letter to Author Leigh Bardugo

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Dear Leigh,

Here we go again. This dance you and I have has become all too familiar. You know, the one where you make me anxiously await your next book release, and then I read it and you stomp all over my heart in the best possible way of course. Why do I keep coming back for this kind of emotional distress you may ask? I don’t know, I guess I like torturing myself or maybe you have a magic way of making sure I come back for more. Either way, I have a bone to pick with you.

How is it that you make me care so much about all these characters? How do you make them feel so familiar, like a long lost friend? I did not set out to like Alex Stern from your recent book “Ninth House”. In fact, I was so sure that she would be one of the characters that I would dislike. How naive I was to think such a thing. When have I not become emotionally attached to one of your characters? Answer: never. I did not even realize when I started liking Alex and when I started mentally applauding her and yelling out “YES QUEEN!”

Then you go and introduce me to Darlington. You have a way of making all the brooding men in your books vulnerable, layered and heroic. You also have a way of ripping out my heart and squeezing it but lets not get into that right away. I loved the dynamic between Alex and Darlington. Thank you for letting me accompany them on their creepy adventures.

I also have to thank you for the lack of sleep and all the times I jumped out of my skin when I heard a noise in the middle of the night. You basically took the thing that scares me the most and turned into something even more terrifying. How does one make ghosts scarier? Those “Grays” gave me chills and a few of them may have haunted my dreams. You made me want to sing those spells that cast away the Grays that might be lurking around (FYI those songs do not work for annoying humans unfortunately).

I wonder, have you ever thought of becoming a tour guide? No? It’s a shame because I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of your Alma Mater. I felt like I was one of those students in the background passing by the beautiful buildings of those secret societies, not knowing what magic lurked within. I feel as if I may never look at a school campus the same way again, thanks for that!

I must say that you approached truly devastating and all too common issues like drug abuse and sexual assault in such a powerful manner. My heart broke for Alex repeatedly and all I wanted to do was offer her a blanket, a cup of tea and a beautiful view from her window (preferably one without Mr. Bridegroom lurking around). You did a phenomenal job in giving me a look into Alex’s childhood and making me understand what lead her to become so angry and mistrusting. You also filled me with hope when Alex started knocking down her walls and letting people in.

You have outdone yourself once again Leigh. I feel like we are on a first name basis because of all the times your stories made me cry, cheer and shout in frustration. As I place Ninth House in my bookshelf next to your other books, I will not say goodbye to Alex Stern. I know we will meet again very soon. Looking forward to the next round of emotional turmoil.

Yours truly,

Shazia, mourning reader.

 

 

 

 

Book Review

Now Entering Addamsville Book Review

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t know about you guys but the moment Starbucks unleashes the pumpkin spiced latte frenzy is the moment when the Halloween hype begins. Is it just me that drew up this correlation? Maybe I have too much time on my hands. Anyways, with Halloween around the corner I tend to lean towards books with a slight creep factor. I say slight because I’m a big chicken and cannot read anything that will lead me to suffer through nightmares about ghosts haunting me.

“Now Entering Addamsville” is a contemporary young adult book that is described as a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stranger Things. That description alone was enough for me to squeal once I was given this book at the HCC Frenzy event a couple of weeks ago. I finished this book in two days and it was a nice escape into the supernatural town called Addamsville.

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Synopsis:

Zora Novak is not liked by the people of Addamsville. So when someone murders the high school janitor by burning down his house, people immediately make Zora suspect number one. Zora acts suspicious as it is but that is mainly due to her secret job of hunting the creatures that are responsible for starting the fires. With everyone watching and recording her every move, Zora enlists the help of her historian cousin Artemis to clear her name. The only problem? A well-known ghost hunting show begins filming in Addamsville and interferes with Zora’s investigation. 

Spooky Ghosts and a Creepy Town

I’m not a fan of ghost stories, but I really enjoyed the way the author wrote this book. The supernatural part was not overdone, which allowed the author to explore and build on Zora’s relationships with her family and friends. I liked the idea of how some of these characters could see the ghosts, while others could only feel them. It was different from the ghostbuster stories I have read in the past. 

The ghost stories themselves were not terrifying, but they were quite creepy. The history and description of the small town definitely gave it an creepy feel. I loved the way the author described the eerie woods and and other areas in which the ghosts lingered. It made me feel like I was walking around the streets crowded by ghosts. The whole ghost hunter TV show storyline was also interesting to read. It really showed how the obsession with pursuing the supernatural can get out of hand. The arrival of a media crew also tackled the idea of tourists being drawn to small towns and how that impacts the town and its people.

Female friendships and family:

“When your mom disappears, your dad goes to jail, and the whole town hates you on sight, sometimes you get it in your head to start doing stupid things to ease that anger.
Stupid things like hunting firestarters alone.” – Francesca Zappia

I think the heart of this story is Zora navigating her feelings towards her family and friends. Zora spends a lot of the time feeling alone. Being practically raised by her sister and rejected by most of the town makes her feel lonely and unwanted. Seeing her reconnect with her family and form a friendship with her cousin was a heart-warming part of the book. You could clearly tell that behind all of Zora’s sarcasm and rebellious ways is a young girl who is lonely. I liked seeing her character develop along with all the secondary characters.

Overall, this book will get you in the mood for Halloween. While I know there are many of you out there who are braver than me and enjoy more of the scare factor, this book had a lot of heart and should be given a chance for that alone. It’s not easy to write a story that has supernatural elements, a mystery and focusing on the family dynamic. Somehow, the author managed to weave all of these themes into a fun story with a couple of action packed scenes that got my heart racing. Recommended for this Halloween season!

 

Happy reading bookworms,

 

Shazia.

Book Review

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I never truly believe stories about meet cutes in the subway because of how much I despise being confined in a small, moving space with other humans. How is it possible to meet your soulmate when you are trying to master the art of staying balanced while summoning all the power not to karate chop the teenager whose schoolbag is lodged in your kidney? And don’t even get me started on the unpleasant odours. So I was pretty hesitant when I heard about this romance that starts off in a subway. However, this one line from the excerpt of “Our Stop” made me laugh and decide to read it:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

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Our Stop is a romantic comedy about an early morning commuter named Daniel who develops a crush on fellow commuter Nadia. The ever so shy Daniel keeps seeing Nadia on the 7:30 am subway and gathers the courage to leave her a message in the London newspaper section called “Missed Connections”. Nadia is curious about this mystery Train Guy and answers back creating a whole chain of events that neither of them saw coming.

Coincidence or Fate:

I am finding that rom coms are spending more time with the idea of fate bringing people together. This was especially true for “Our Stop” as it seemed the entire universe and its inhabitants were working together to have Nadia and Daniel meet. It was as if the universe was pointing big flashy arrows that the characters were not noticing.

Maybe it is my pessimism or cynical ways, but I found some of these coincidences to be a bit far fetched. I kept saying to myself “but really? This wouldn’t happen in real life”. I’m not complaining though. This was a feel good novel and such happy coincidences or serendipitous moments were fun to read. And lets be honest, who doesn’t love the whole stars aligning aspect of rom coms?

Vulnerability:

I think one of my most favorite aspects of this book was the fact that Daniel was not perceived as this macho man who was charming 90% of the time and had his way with the ladies. I loved that he was emotional, grieving and insecure. Many rom coms that I have read tend to paint a picture of the female lead being a hot mess but in a cute way. On the other hand, the male lead is portrayed as having it all together and finding the awkward ways of the female lead to be cute. In time you find out that the male lead does in fact have some insecurities, but they are still depicted as being stereotypically “manly”.

In “Our Stop”, Daniel is a man who is not afraid to admit that he wants to find his soulmate. He grieves for the loss of his father and struggles with panic attacks. He fears putting himself out there and worries his crush will reject him. It was such a breath of fresh air to read about a male character who is not afraid to get in touch with his emotional side and being unapologetic in his quest for love. The world of romance needs more Daniels.

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Overall, this was such a cute and refreshing summer read. I have to say that this book was great for a day of reading under the sun. I miss summer already!

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

 

Book Events · Book Review

Frenzy Presents

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend HCC Frenzy’s Fall Preview at the HarperCollins office in Toronto. Frenzy Presents is a fun and interactive event that allows book bloggers and bookstagrammers the chance to get a sneak peek at some of the most anticipated fall releases. As usual, I was beyond excited and counting down the days till I get to meet my fellow bookworms and the incredibly kind staff at HarperCollins.

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Even though this was my second time attending Frenzy Presents, I was just as excited as the first time. There is something wonderful about being in an environment where everyone genuinely loves books. There was no judgement as I stroked the spines of the books or as I ran like Usain Bolt to stand in line for an ARC. It was all accepted and encouraged by this lovely community.

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Frenzy Fall Releases:

The staff of HCC did a very thorough and fun presentation of twenty-three upcoming books. I was happy to see quite a few books by diverse authors in the mix. That is one of the things I absolutely love about HarperCollins. 

Each of us received three advanced copies of the books presented and I was really happy with the books I got in my swag bag. Each one of them seems quite different from the books I have been reading lately. Here is a quick look at the three books I received:

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Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron:

This book is about a girl named Arrah who is born into a family of witch doctors. Arrah yearns for magic of her own and trades years of her life for a bit of magic. But when children start going missing and a demon king begins stirring, Arrah is faced with the price of magic to set things right. Based on this description, this story almost feels like a Grim Brothers fairy-tale. This book is up next on my TBR. RELEASE DATE: Sept. 3, 2019

Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Waymouth:

This book is an alternate historical fantasy set in reimagined 1800’s London where magic is contained in six houses and controlled by an oppressive king. Spending years in exile after her father was killed for treason, Violet returns to save her house and stop the dark magic’s destruction. I love magical realism and this story seems quite different from the other magical books I have read lately. RELEASE DATE: Sept. 10, 2019

Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia

This book is described as a contemporary mystery with a Stranger Things vibe. When Zora is framed for a crime she did not commit, she sets on a mission to prove her innocence. This proves to be difficult in a small town that is obsessed with ghost stories and getting people to see the truth begins to feel impossible. As a fan of Stranger Things, I was sold on the description and cannot wait to dive into this one. RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 2019.

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur

One of my favorite parts of Frenzy Presents was meeting Author Jasmin Kaur and hearing her read some of the poetry from her new book. I absolutely love it when an author’s work speaks to me and this is exactly what happened when I was listening to Jasmin read. After hearing her first poem, I knew I needed this book in my life.

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This book is a beautiful collection of poems as well as a short story exploring the life of an undocumented single Punjabi mother living in Canada. Jasmin’s words stay with you long after you close the book. I was really excited to get my hands on an advanced copy and I was so taken in that I finished the book in one day. My full review will be shared closer to the release date, which will be October 1st.

The Frenzy Squad

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When I attended my first Frenzy Presents earlier this year I had no idea that I would make friends with such incredibly kind and fun bookworms. The best part about this event is getting the opportunity to meet and hang out with these wonderful friends of mine. Frenzy may be over, but I love how this event allowed us to come together and stay in touch over bookstagram. I’m really grateful for this community.

A big thank you to HCC Frenzy and the amazing staff at HarperCollins for showing us bookworms a great time. Looking forward to the next event.

Happy Reading Bookworms,

Shazia. 

Book Review

The Turn of the Key Book Review

Thank you to Simon Schuster Canada for sending me an advanced ebook copy of The Turn of the Key in exchanged for an honest review. 

When it comes to books with the creep factor, I tend hesitate and think before reading because:

  1. I have an overactive imagination and begin wondering if that noise in the middle of the night is the same sound the character was hearing before he or she got bludgeoned. 
  2. I watch a lot of true crime drama so creepy fiction just makes me overly stimulated and go on extra high alert. 
  3. I scare very easily (just ask my friends who enjoy seeing me jump out of my skin when a bird flies too close to me).

Despite my hesitation with creepy books, anything written by Ruth Ware is on my automatic purchasing list. My all time favorite book by this author is “In a Dark Dark Wood”, but I can honestly say that “The Turn of the Key” may very well be her best work yet. I was completely hooked and found myself sitting down for a long stretch of reading time to unravel the whole mystery.

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Synopsis:

Rowan Caine is on a desperate job hunt. The universe seems to be on her side when she comes across a job listing for a live-in nanny with an extremely generous salary. She makes her way to meet her employers in a lavish and technologically savvy house in the Scottish Highlands. Rowan takes up the challenge to live in this home and care for the three kids. What she doesn’t realize is that she walked into what will soon become the biggest nightmare of her life as she is accused murder and sent to jail.

Nail biting suspense:

Ruth Ware has a way of writing that makes you sit on the edge of your seat. You feel something big is coming with the way she writes, just like how you would feel with dramatic music during movies. She gets into the character’s head and makes you understand how and why they are scared. It’s the kind of writing that makes the world around you go silent as you feel the suspense build up. You know those scenes where the character decides to investigate by walking alone into a dark room or attic. Meanwhile you’re sitting there thinking “Dude, DANGER! Abort mission! Turn around and run”. Well, Ruth sure knows how to write these scenes to raise your blood pressure and have you yelling at the character to stop being so curious. 

Ruth also has a gift of describing things in a way that makes you feel something is off. The way she spent a couple of pages describing the Heatherbrae House and all of it’s cameras and control panels made it extra unsettling. I immediately knew she was building towards something being wrong with this house and the people living in it. Every sound that Rowan would hear in the middle of the night made my heart race just a bit more. It was a superbly written suspense.

The Characters:

Nothing scares me more than creepy children. Let’s be honest, every horror movie with child ghosts are ten times scarier (at least that is the vibe I get from the trailers I “watch” though my hands that are covering my eyes). The children in this book are no different. Something as simple as a statement whispered by one of the kids gave me chills. It’s not that they were portrayed as being scary. You were just given a vibe that something was not right, which made them eerie.

Our main character is quite deceptive, and you learn this as the story progresses. I felt like I was getting more information about Rowan just based on her reactions to situations and her interactions with people. There is also quite a big surprise with this character towards the end that I did not see coming. I literally gasped, looked around and realized nobody else was reading along with me and therefore I could not discuss it. So got right back into reading but made a mental note to harass my friends into reading this book so I could freak out with them on a later date. 

Overall Thoughts:

I think what made this book enjoyable for me was that you go into it knowing what happened to the main character in the end. I love working our way back to how something happened and getting bits and pieces of information until you see the whole picture. The ending was quite different from any other of her books. I personally enjoyed it as it got me thinking and asking more questions about the outcome. If you like your thrillers being dark and suspenseful then this book is definitely for you. 

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

Book Review

Daisy Jones and The Six Review

No matter how many times Google tells me that Daisy Jones and The Six are not a real band, I will go down with this ship believing they are real. Try to convince me otherwise. It boggles my mind that these incredibly flawed and talented characters are fictional. It just can’t be possible. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid does some kind of magic with her words because this is the second book I have read of hers that makes me turn to the internet to find proof of these characters existence in our world.

Daisy Jones and The Six was one hell of a ride. I did not know what to expect when I realized that this book was written entirely in an interview style narrative, but I was pleasantly surprised right off the bat. This book takes us into the glamorous and destructive world of a “fictional” 70’s rock and roll band (I swear I’m still in denial about this being a made up band). Read on for my spoiler free ramblings about this epic musical reading journey.

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Synopsis:

Daisy is a neglected and lonely girl sneaking into clubs, doing drugs and dreaming of becoming a singer/song writer. She has the look and the voice, so it is only a matter of time before she gets noticed by the right people and enters the music industry. The Six is a band lead by the talented and tortured Billy Dunne. The band is starting to make a name for themselves when Billy gets lost in the world of drugs and booze right after he finds out his wife is pregnant. History is made when Daisy and The Six come together and make an album that rocks the world. But nobody knows what happened behind the scenes of their success, until now.

This book is a chronicle of their time together in a band as each member and people close to them sit down for an interview revealing all the devastating and wonderful moments they shared under the spotlight.

I Really Love that Rock n’ Roll:

“Dancing Barefoot in the snow,
Cold can’t touch her, high or low
She’s blues dressed up like rock ‘n’ roll
Untouchable, she’ll never fold – Taylor Jenkins Reid. 

The way the characters described that rock and roll lifestyle felt so believable and real. I really enjoyed how each character was portrayed as being deeply passionate about their craft and how they described what the music meant to them. Everyone from the guitarist to the lead singer was connected to the music in a way that seemed so vulnerable. The act of writing a song based on past mistakes or hopes for a better future were really well described. There was also a lot of drama between the band members, as expected, but it was really well written and explored. You get to see the experiences through multiple perspectives and that is what makes for a great big picture.

“And, baby, when you think of me
I hope it ruins rock ‘n’ roll
Regret me, regretfully” – Taylor Jenkins Reid 

It blew my mind that the author actually wrote original songs for this book and how each song was like reading the personal diary of the characters. I’m convinced the author had to be some kind of rockstar before becoming a best-selling author. How else can you write such deeply moving songs? How? I have too many questions. There was so much emotion in the songs that I began wondering what it would actually sound like with the drums, guitar and keyboard. I also found myself wondering what Daisy and Billy would sound like together.

Major Themes and Characters:

“It’s very vulnerable, being an artist, telling the truth like that, like we’re doing now. When you’re living your life, you’re so inside your head, you’re swirling around in your own pain, that it’s hard to see how obvious it is to the people around you. These songs I was writing felt coded and secret, but I suspect they weren’t coded and secret at all” – Taylor Jenkin Reid.

You really get a sense of how high and low fame can take a person. Billy and Daisy’s struggle with addiction was a major theme of this book. While Billy goes wild and then works his way towards sobriety, Daisy falls deeper into the world of addiction. The interactions between Billy and Daisy were full of tension and I live for that kind of character relationship. Through that tension, these two come together to write and perform brilliant songs. They are both deeply flawed characters that make many mistakes, but I still found myself rooting for them to come to terms with their feelings and fears.

I also loved the relationships between the women in this book. Often times you come across female characters that compete and try to sabotage one another. I actually expected this in a book about musicians and fame. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with female characters that support one another instead of tearing each other down. Besides Daisy, Karen and Camilla were two other female characters that shined in their own way. These three characters were strong, confident and unapologetic about the way they wanted to live their lives. The comradely between them was really refreshing.

My Thoughts:

I never imagined that a book written in interview style could make me feel all the emotions and keep me glued to the pages. I know readers like the whole “show instead of telling” type of narrative but in this case the telling really worked. I think its because I felt each character had a distinct voice in the transcript. When Daisy was interviewed, her answers were always heavy and filled with pain. When Billy was interviewed, there was something so apologetic in his answers. Like he just felt sorry for everything he was and did. I felt the same with the other band members. They all felt real to the point where I could almost picture them being interviewed. I cannot recommend this book enough and I really do hope that Daisy Jones and The Six reunite and put on a show (just let me continue believing they are real ok? Please let me have this).

I picked up this book while attending the Penguin Random House Ice Cream Social event at Bookcon earlier this summer and would like to send out a big thank you to them for bringing this book into my life. What an exciting ride!

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

 

 

Book Review

Where the Crawdads Sing Book Review

Let me just start off this post by confessing something: I actually Googled whether crawdads can sing. I also Googled what a crawdad is but that’s beside the point. All this to say “Where The Crawdad’s Sing” is a book that had me looking up all the wonderful and weird things you can find in the marsh. It also had me feeling all kinds of emotions and rooting for the main character. It is a story about prejudice, loss, loneliness and self-resilience.

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Synopsis:

The locals call Kya Clark “Marsh girl”. At a young age, Kya watched as her family walked out on her, leaving her to survive on her own in the marsh. While the marsh is her home and all the creatures become her friends, Kya yearns for human connection. Everything changes when two young men from town fall for her and she opens her heart to the possibility of love and all the pain that comes with it. When one of the men is found dead in the marsh, all eyes and suspicion turn to the mysterious Marsh girl.

All The Feelings:

“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.” 
― 
Delia Owens

 It takes a truly gifted author to make you feel the emotions that the character is feeling. Kya’s loneliness leapt off the pages. The author describes both the beauty and the isolation of the marsh, with Kya right in the center of it. You are taken through Kya’s childhood when she watches her mother walk away, followed by her siblings and finally her abusive father. You follow her as she quietly watches throngs of friends on the beach from behind the bushes, wondering what it would feel like to be part of a group like that. You read along her internal dialogue as she hopes her mother will come back to her. It is heartbreaking. So when a boy by the name of Tate rows his way into the marsh, your heart leaps with joy that Kya might finally get the connection she wants so badly. It is both beautiful and sad reading about Kya’s first experience with love.

Unique Reading Experience:

This book is very poetic. The way the author uses metaphors to describe the environment makes you feel like you’re in the marsh seeing the dragonflies and feeling the wet earth under your feet. There is so much interesting information woven into the story about the life on the marsh from the creatures to the land itself. I learned a lot about the feathers of different birds, the mating patterns of several animals and all the channels of the lagoon.

All this comes from Kya’s perspective as she navigates the land from her early years well into her twenties. It is such a fun way to learn as you see the character discovering and learning things for herself. The book also includes beautiful poetry that Kya collects. All I will say is pay close attention to these poems as they play an important role in the end. I was quite surprised and it just tied everything together in a way I did not expect. The murder mystery was just the cherry on top of this beautiful sundae of a book. I love a good mystery, and the author managed to develop Kya’s character so wonderfully while keeping the suspense of the ongoing murder investigation alive. I was completely surprised by the turn the book took, and I loved it. It was one of those books where I finished it and felt complete peace over how it was all wrapped up.

Overall Thoughts:

Very rarely do you come across a book that has poetry, a murder mystery, a love story and lots of science. I read this book in two days and immediately wanted to read another book by this author. What really stood out for me was Kya’s loneliness and self-resilience. It is truly a story worth reading and one you will not soon forget. I read some rumours about a possible movie deal happening with this book? I can’t confirm this but if it is true all I can say is I’ll be there on opening night ready to share my googled knowledge about crawdads with whoever comes along with me (I feel for that person already).

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

Book Review

Star-Crossed Book Review

Thank you to Crown Publishing for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank my lucky stars I got the opportunity to read this story.

Some books deserve a spot amongst the stars.

This book is one of them.

“Star Crossed” by Minnie Darke is one of those books that surprises you, makes you break out into a goofy grin and allows you to ponder on questions related to destiny. On the surface, this book is about a woman who plays astrologer by changing the horoscope of the person she loves in an attempt to get him to see her. At its core, this book is about fate, the choices we make and how ultimately everything around us is happening for a reason.

I’m a Taurus but I don’t believe in horoscopes. I always smile politely when people tell me how surprising it is that I’m a Taurus since my personality does not match this sign. The only thing I know from Astrology is that Mercury tends to be in retrograde quite often or maybe not often enough. Is that a bad thing? Feel free to educate me folks!

I truly enjoyed this novel as it did not push the reader to believe in astrology, rather it showed us how life will unfold the way it is meant to no matter how hard you try to control the outcome.

This book can be described in many ways:
A love story
A comedy
Exploring friendship
Following ones passion
Belief in Astrology
Fate vs. free will
Tons of Shakespeare references

It is all these things sprinkled with stardust.

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(Picture from @khanlibrary)

Synopsis:

Justine is an aspiring journalist who bumps into Nick, her childhood sweetheart. When she keeps crossing paths with him, she wonders if this is just a coincidence or if it has a bigger meaning. Nick believes in Astrology and takes the advice of an Astrologer who writes for a magazine. The same magazine, as it turns out Justine works for. So what does Justine do knowing that she already missed out on being with Nick years ago? She decides to take fate into her own hands. Justine changes Nick’s horoscope readings in an attempt to guide him back to her. However, Justine fails to take into account how her altered readings will affect not only Nick’s future, but also the other readers out there who look to the stars for guidance.

Sagittarius and Aquarius:

“Did it necessarily follow that if you set your course by a false guide, you would end up at the wrong destination? Or, did fate have complicated ways of making sure that you ended up where you were supposed to be, anyway?” – Minnie Darke

Justine (Sagittarius/nonbeliever) and Nick (Aquarius/believer) are a hilarious duo. What made me laugh was how Justine firmly believed that horoscopes were hogwash but then attempted to play astrologer for Aquarians. It was both funny and nerve wrecking to read Justine sneak around her office to revamp the horoscope. Their friendship was endearing but there were times I wanted to be their mother and clunk their heads together to knock some sense into them. You realize early on how easy things would be if they were just honest about what they were feeling, but Justine was too scared and Nick was too confused and focused on advice from the horoscope.

While I could not relate to Nick’s firm belief in Astrology, I could relate to the struggle of following his passion and looking for signs telling him what step to take. He came across as a person who did not trust his own ability to make decisions. You could also feel Justine’s agony as she watches Nick drift further away from her and his talent. She came across as a person who is impulsive but so deeply in love that she could not see the wrong she was doing.

The Orbit:

“There are choices within choices within chances. It’s all so complicated and tangled. How does anything ever go the way it’s supposed to? – Minnie Darke

What I loved about this book is that it follows not only Nick and Justine, but also others in their orbit. Justine’s readings not only affected Nick but many other readers who find themselves in situations where they look to the stars for signs as to what to do next. The book jumps to these other characters and how collectively they either cross paths or play some kind of part in setting off a chain of events. They all get an amusing bio along with their sign, occupation and hobbies. It’s such a fun way to be introduced to these other characters.

All this makes you think about how things happen the way they do and how sometimes it is the smallest detail that sets off a sequence of events. I like how we get to explore the lives of others and how we get to connect the dots to see how they all fit into the story. Even though there are many secondary characters that are introduced, I never found it confusing. I would go as far as to say those parts were the most enjoyable. There is nothing I love more than starting small and putting together the big picture.

Overall Thoughts:

I was all starry eyed as I came to the end of this story. There is no doubt that I started this book knowing things will definitely be going wrong for home girl Justine. I was anticipating disaster but I still enjoyed the way it all unraveled. Minnie Darke is such a gifted writer as she makes the characters come alive on the pages through their funny bios and antics. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia (Taurus): Reader of books, writer of stories and nurse of babies. 

Book Review

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors Book Review

Here is a little fun fact about me: all you need to say is “Pride and Prejudice” and you will have my undivided attention. I’ll be ready to list all the reasons why I love awkward Mr. Darcy and discuss the antics of the Bennet sisters. I have read the book numerous times and I even keep my old copy on my nightstand. I have watched the movie so many times that I have lost count. While we are on the topic of the movie I just need to say that Matthew MacFadyen is the real Mr. Darcy for me. Sorry, not sorry to all the Colin Firth fans.

I have also read quite a few retellings of Pride and Prejudice and a good number of them have disappointed me, until Sonali Dev came around with her refreshing take on this classic. Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors not only brought diversity into the story, but also a gender swap with the female lead having the personality of Mr. Darcy. These two changes were enough for me to pick up this book and dive right it.

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(picture from @khanlibrary)

Synopsis:

Dr. Trisha Raje is a renowned neurosurgeon. Despite her success, Trisha is the black sheep of her influential immigrant family after making a mistake that almost jeopardized her brother’s political aspirations. After years of standing on the family sidelines, Trisha has a chance to redeem herself as long as she plays by the family rules.

DJ is an aspiring chef who is new in town after dropping everything to come to the aid of his ill sister. The Rajes hire DJ as a chef for an important political event and it is there that he meets the beautiful and arrogant Trisha. DJ’s pride is immediately wounded during his first encounter with Trisha. While her arrogance is infuriating, DJ realizes she may be the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

Trisha and DJ:

“The truth was, he was right about many things—things she could change, like how she treated people. He was also wrong about a few—things she could not change, like who she was” – Sonali Dev

These two characters were so well developed and the author did a great job with the gender swap. It’s rare to read about a female character that embodies the personality of Mr. Darcy and I would say the author really knocked it out of the park with this one. Trisha is every bit awkward as our beloved Mr. Darcy. Her heart is in the right place and she is only ever truly herself around those she trusts. Making Trisha a doctor was perfect for this role as her confidence and pride in her job can come across as arrogance. I loved the character growth as we see Trisha bring down her walls and begin showing her true self. 

Just like our precious Lizzie Bennet, DJ has got a way of making quick judgments about people. He suffers from some serious tunnel vision around Trisha as he interprets everything she does and says as arrogance or coming from a place of privilege. I loved reading about him seeing the error in his ways and putting his prejudice aside to see the real Trisha. These two made me laugh out loud but they also made me feel frustrated most of the time. I wanted to mother them into being normal around each other. Thankfully they figured it out after a long, and sometimes hilarious battle. 

There is so much character development in this book, but what I also love is how we get a glimpse into the lives of other characters. We get the backstory of both Trisha and DJ’s siblings. I especially enjoyed reading DJ’s sister, Emma’s story as she battled with her illness and the difficult medical decisions she had to make. I was also thrilled to see that we had a villain named Wickham in this story! These little salutes to the original classic gave me life.

A Pride and Prejudice Remix:

You do not have to be a Pride and Prejudice fan to enjoy this story. It would be wrong to classify this book as just a retelling. It is so much more than that. This book has comedy, drama, a love story and a lot of flavor. Seriously, the foodie in me was drooling every time the author described one of DJ’s delicious dishes. The mark of a great author is when they make the reader hungry, not for actual food though it did happen in this case, but hungry for more from world they created. This is how I felt once I finished the book. I wanted to know what would happen with the secondary characters along with Trisha and DJ in the future. I was not ready to say goodbye to these characters or the story. I highly recommend this book that will surely add some flavor into your bookshelves. 

Happy reading bookworms!

Shazia.

65000168_2243365769262287_3012229447093846016_n(Cartoon of me by @maddie.bookish.art)

 

Book Review

The Chai Factor Book Review

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me a copy of The Chai Factor in exchange for an honest review.

There were three factors that made me pick up and read “The Chai Factor” by Farah Heron:

  • It was advertised as a multicultural rom-com.
  • I’m a chai enthusiast and addict.
  • I never read a rom-com involving a barbershop quartet. I also had no idea what that was and relied on Google to educate me.

While this book did not feel like a romantic comedy to me, it still did focus on many important issues such as Islamophobia, sexism, prejudice and homophobia. If you were to read the excerpt of this book you would not know that the book covers these topics. In fact, I was surprised every time the author introduced us to situations revolving around those themes. I personally enjoyed reading about the bigger themes of this book more than the actual romance.

Synopsis:
Amira Khan is a thirty-year-old grad student in the male dominated field of engineering. She leaves her campus and returns to her family home for some much needed quiet time to work on her final project. But when she arrives home she finds out her grandmother has rented their basement to a barbershop quartet. While Amira is annoyed by their distracting presence, she has a hard time denying her attraction to one of the men in the quartet, Duncan. Amira becomes overwhelmed with her project deadline, her feelings for Duncan and the growing injustice she is witnessing in her world.

64598051_691574131302866_8504612206216740864_n(Picture from @khanlibrary)

It is interesting reading a book that not only focuses on the prejudice from the outside world, but from within the character’s own world as well. On top of dealing with the ignorance and hate from others, Amira has to confront the prejudice and hate within her community. This is especially the case when she becomes friends with a gay couple and sees the homophobia from her own grandmother. 

The Characters:

Amira has gone through a lot as a brown, Muslim woman. A lifetime of discrimination and feeling like people were making her a Muslim ambassador to educate the ignorant ones can be exhausting. It is enough to build a wall around yourself to protect against all the hate. Amira is a character that is not afraid to educate and put ignorant people in their place. While this may be a quality that I admire and aim to practice myself, I found Amira sometimes found problems when there were none and pounced without thinking things through.

This is especially true with many of her interactions with Duncan. She constantly berated him when he tried to help and was just plain rude to him for a good chunk of the book. I understand having experiences of being discriminated due to the color of your skin and your religion can leave you feeling a bit defensive. Trust me, I sometimes have to tell myself calm down and get more information before laying it on people when I’m included in a discussion about Islam that is going a bit wayward. However, I don’t think it excuses being so rude and treating her love interest so poorly. I understand that she built a wall to protect herself but the rudeness made me wince many times. That is not to say that Duncan is perfect. He walks around with a lot of guilt over how Amira is treated and somehow tries to play victim or make excuses for others.

“She’d grown weary of dealing with the preconceptions people had about her when they saw her or learned her religion.” – Farah Heron.

The times that I did enjoy seeing her anger bubble to the surface was when she told off a bigot, put a sexist co-worker in his place and confronted closed minded people from her own community. These scenes were great and I was cheering her on. I felt that this level of anger was enough for the book and the love/hate relationship between Amria and Duncan may not have been necessary. 

I enjoyed the friendships she forged with the barbershop quartet and how she inadvertently got pulled into their complicated lives. The relationship between Sameer and Travis was endearing and I liked seeing Amira’s softer side while she interacted with them and stood up for them.

Overall review:

I started out with a lot of hope for this book and while I did not lose interest while reading it, I still had a hard time getting past the main character’s antics. It was definitely one of the bigger downsides to a book that would have otherwise been a great read. Nevertheless, this book does focus on important issues that I feel many readers would relate to and learn from. Diverse books are so important and I applaud the author for bringing forward diversity in the cast and opening the door to different people’s struggles. Take a peak in and learn something new. 

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.