Book Review

Let’s Talk Young Adult Books

The young adult (YA) genre has really grown over the years. I was an avid reader when I was a teenager. In fact, I probably read more books as a teenager than I do now (let’s hear it for adult life, responsibilities and all that jazz). However, I believe I have discovered some of the best young adult books in the recent years. So I ask the question, is it just me or has the YA book game become stronger over the past few years?

Many of you may believe that the teen section in bookstores is filled with youngsters. I am here to burst your bubble as I have seen many people around my age, and much older, browsing the teen section for their next read. At the age of 30-years-old, I discovered some incredible YA books and nearly half of the books on my to-be read pile are from this genre.

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The Stereotype:

What do you picture when you think of young adult books?

For many people, there is this stereotypical thought of these books portraying the life of teenagers and all the troubles in this stage of life. While some of these books do follow this theme, the majority of books explore worlds and characters beyond your imagination. Clearly these characters are not living the kind of teenage life I remember. There is also a belief that these books are considered “easy” reads. I have read plenty of YA books that took all the brain power I have to remember the complex characters, follow the book map to understand the geography, try to properly pronounce words from the made up language (and fail horribly) and link together all the crazy events that were unfolding. My old brain needed rest after some of these 600 page monsters.

Fierce Female Characters:

Most of the YA books I have read have some of the fiercest female characters going into battle, learning magic, fighting against beasts and discovering new worlds. There have been times when I sat back and thought, “wow, the girl in this book is 15 years younger than me and she just defended her whole country from death by flying beasts and a psychotic magic wielding king. Meanwhile, I’m on my second cup of tea and have not moved from this couch in over 2 hours”. Sometimes these characters motivate you to do better, be more adventurous or just get off the couch and stretch a bit.

It is always refreshing to read the journey of strong female characters, and there are plenty of YA female characters that are fearless, strong and captivating on every level:
I recently read a YA book where the protagonist is a strong female pirate with a whole crew of women onboard her ship:

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I have read a book about a young princess who escapes an arranged marriage for political purposes and ends up leading armies into battle:

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I have also read an incredible series (perhaps my favorite YA series) where a helpless mortal girl who lives in poverty goes on to become a hero amongst the supernatural beings she has always feared. After suffering from immense trauma, she rises from the ashes to become one of the strongest of her kind and paves the way for the life she wants:

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YA Authors:
In these past two years alone I have discovered many incredible YA authors and follow them on Instagram. These authors are very interactive with their fans and often share what inspired them to write such enchanting stories. Some of my personal favourite authors and series are:

Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Thorne and Roses trilogy

Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows series

Cassandra Clare – Infernal Devices trilogy

Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes series

I lost sleep over these books and experienced major book hangover (yes, this is a real thing) after finishing each one of the books in these series. Let’s not even discuss the emotional distress I had to deal with. It was worth it though, I promise! Just be ready to experience every emotion and find a friend for emotional support afterwards.

YA Fandom:
I cannot even begin to describe how big and diverse this fandom is and how many fun discussions I have had with passionate bookworms. In fact, I discovered many of the above authors thanks to the YA fandom. Hours can be spent discussing new releases, anticipated books, favorite characters and books on our to-be read list. I really do believe that discussing the story with this incredible community is the best part of reading YA books.

Happy reading,

Shazia.

Book Review

Book Review – Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

First Impressions:
Have you ever come across a book with a title that makes you laugh and feel a bit hesitant about picking it up? Experience in this area has taught me to push the hesitancy aside and read the synopsis, because you never know what treasures are hidden within the pages.

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Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows definitely made me pause and laugh when I first saw the title on Reese Witherspoon’s book club Instagram page. I was hesitant, but I reminded myself that I love books that shed light on cultures, especially my own, and I might be missing out on something great. So the next time I was browsing in my favourite bookstore, I made a point of picking up this book and reading the synopsis. I realized this book was more than it seemed and I could not run to the cash fast enough. Literally ran (ok fine, power walked) to the cashier with a goofy smile on my face. You know that “I’m-about-to-read-something-great” smile. So began a journey with one of the funniest, insightful and important reads of 2018.

Synopsis:
This story introduces us to Nikki, the modern daughter of Indian immigrants who takes a job teaching a creative writing class for modest Punjabi widows. Nikki realizes that many of the women are illiterate but they have many unexpected erotic stories they want to tell. These widows do not hold back as they pour their creativity, experiences and imagination into their stories, shocking their teacher and giving her a new purpose in life. The stories that make these women feel free and empowered are the same stories that are forbidden by a group of Sikh men who call themselves the “Brothers” and appointed themselves as the town’s moral police. Nikki is about to realize how little she knows about her tight-knit community, and how many secrets she has yet to uncover.

Thoughts:
This book completely captivated me. There are so many colourful characters that jump out at you and come to life in these pages. For me, that is a mark of a talented author. The stories written by the widows were hilarious and I could not get the image of elder women with white dupattas (scarves) on their heads writing such scandalous stories. I lost count on how many times I collapsed in a laughing fit by the dialogue between the older ladies. Brilliant writing!

A big theme in this book is about traditional families and the shame attached to their daughters who step out of line from what is expected of them. The book also explores the consequences of policing women in how to behave. Womanhood is explored through many different perspectives and across generations. Culture is also explored through the eyes of immigrant parents and their modern children. Old secrets that have long been buried resurface and horrendous unsolved crimes are brought to light. From start to finish, there was not a dull moment in this book. One of my favourite take away messages from this book is that everyone has a story to tell, and that there is a writer in all of us.

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Highly recommended!

Happy reading,

Shazia.

Book Review

Where the Journey Began

Welcome to Khanlibrary!

My name is Shazia and I’m an avid reader from Montreal. I have spent most of my life with my nose in a book, making references to book characters as if they were real and spending hours researching/buying/reviewing books. There is always a book in my bag, because you never know when you will get some downtime to read, am I right? Reading books is one of my biggest passions and it all started thanks to my parents who decided to take me to bookstores early on in life.

The first book I ever read was a Sesame Street book in which Big Bird takes his very first flight to either visit Granny Bird or England. Maybe Granny Bird was living in England? The details are choppy since this was about 24 years ago (yikes!). Regardless, he was going on a trip somewhere and I was taking my first trip with my parents as well. My mom thought it would be a good idea to get me a book showing Big Bird’s travel preparation process. So I read the book with my mom and packed my bags just like Big Bird did in the book. My mom’s favourite part of this story is when I spent most of the plane ride asking if there was a book about Big Bird travelling to Pakistan because that was where we were headed. Yeah, pretty sure there wasn’t. Thankfully my parents ended the Big Bird obsession and introduced me to other books that helped shape me into becoming the bookworm I am today.

As I got a bit older, my mom gave me three books that started the book addiction:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

These books were the foundation of what would become a lifetime of reading, and probably the cause of my terrible eyesight as well. I have special editions of all three of these books and I reread them every now and then. It is interesting to reread childhood stories with the eyes of an adult. I find a new meaning in these books each time I read them.

I created the name Khanlibrary for my Instagram account where I post pictures of books I have read with little reviews. Discovering bookstagram was such a treat as I have interacted with so many wonderful bookworms from across the globe. It is the bookstagram community that inspired me to start my book blog. So welcome to my blog! I will be posting many book reviews and basically everything book related over here.

Now if you will excuse me I need to go write down ideas for “Big Bird Travels to Pakistan”. I think I have a future bestseller on my hands.

Happy reading!

Shazia.