Book Review

The Henna Artist Book Review

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review. Receiving diverse books from publishers makes my heart soar.

I was six years old the first time I had Mehndi (henna) placed on my hands. I was in Pakistan at the time with my parents, and we were watching a henna ceremony from the lobby in our hotel. I was mesmerized by all the dancing, singing and by all the girls running around with henna on their hands. I begged my mother to go ask them if I could get henna done on my hands as well. It was the henna artist that caught my eye and saw me pulling my mom towards the ceremony. She walked up to us holding her tube of henna and asked me if I wanted a design on my hand. My mom loves to tell me how I let go of her hand and followed the henna artist into the ceremony as if I was an invited guest. While I don’t remember the exact design she drew, I do remember being fascinated by the end product. My mom’s favourite part of the story is how I created such a scene because I was so excited that the bride herself invited us to the wedding two days later.

Reading “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi reminded me of this memory. I have loved Henna from that moment twenty-six years ago. I knew I needed this book in my life just by reading the synopsis. This story transported me to 1950’s India as we follow a woman’s quest at an independent life through her art.

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(photo from @khanlibrary)

Synopsis:

Lakshmi was seventeen-years-old when she escaped an abusive marriage and set off on a journey alone from her 1950’s village to the city of Jaipur. She begins a decade long career of adorning wealthy women’s hands and bodies with henna. Lakshmi becomes well known for her beautiful designs and slowly begins building towards her dream of an independent life. Everything comes crashing down when her husband tracks her down with a thirteen-year-old sister she never knew she had. The story follows Lakshmi and Radha as they both navigate their new relationship.

This was such an incredible book to read around International Women’s Day. Lakshmi was a character I rooted for from the very beginning, even when she was making choices that I did not agree with. The author made her so human, which means she was flawed but also living under the weight of a painful past, a difficult present and often times what felt like an impossible future. Her dream of being financially independent and living in a house built from her hard work was admirable and it was a dream that felt so fragile, like a house of cards that a small gust of wind could topple over. “The Gossip-Eaters” as the author calls them had such a huge role in the book. I think the author did a phenomenal job in portraying how people’s words could have a lasting effect on a person’s life. The author also did a great job in depicting the hardships of different caste members, of the poor and unmarried women at the time.

The Characters:

The characters felt so real to me. The author did a great job in humanizing many of the characters, including the ones I wanted to hate. She excelled at showing the driving factors that can lead people to make bad decisions, which left my feeling sympathy for many of them. Lakshmi and Radha’s relationship was both beautiful and complex. These sisters really grew together, and while there were times when I felt the just as protective and frustrated with Radha, I began to understand her and how vulnerable those teenage years can be. Malik was by far one of my favourite characters. I smiled every time he called Lakshmi “Auntie-boss”.

Final thoughts:

Overall this book is immersed in culture, history and female empowerment. I always talk about how diversity is important in the publishing world and I’m really happy that books like these are being published. There is so much you can learn from this book and I have a feeling you will end up wanting to get henna done right after. I know I’m thinking about it right now.

Happy reading bookworms!

 

Book Review

Undercover Bromance Book Review

“Who are we?” Mack said, standing all. “We’re the Bromance-Fucking-Book-Club.”

I received this highly anticipated book at 5pm yesterday and finished it that same night. It was that kind of book…you know the kind that pulls you into this vortex where nothing else but you and the book exist.

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(Picture from @khanlibrary)

Synopsis:
Liv is a sous chef at one of Nashville’s top restaurants. But when she witnesses her boss taking advantage of a coworker she is both fired and blacklisted from the culinary world. She vows to expose her boss by herself, but Braden Mack has other plans. Mack, the founder of the Bromance Bookclub, jumps on board to help Liv whether she likes it or not.

This book brings to light the importance of the #metoo moment with the heart wrenching moments with the survivors. It also has many laugh out loud moments including a particular scene involving a rooster attack that had me howling with laughter. It’s the perfect balance!

“Whatever was broken in that person, it was their wound. You don’t have to carry the scar of it for them anymore. You’re allowed to let it go, Liv. All of it. Let yourself be loved and let it go” – Lyssa Kay Adams

I did not like Liv in the first book so I was worried about reading her book. I was surprised when I started liking her by page 50. The character growth is impeccable. Here we have a character who sees the world in black and white, but slowly learns to see the shades of grey. Her anger bubbles to the surface when she sees social injustice and privileged men taking advantage of women and getting away with it. Her anger blinds her into seeing things as simply as exposing the predator no matter what the cost. The real growth is when she puts herself in the victim’s shoes and understands what it is like to go up against someone with power. Liv wants to do things her way, mainly due to her trust issues, and I loved seeing her realize that it takes a village and watching her shed her armour and accept the help. I realize a lot of people may still find Liv irritating, but I’m here to remind you that in real life people are often just as complex if not more.

“You shouldn’t have to care about a woman to recognize that the sexual degradation of all women is a problem. You should recognize that it’s wrong simply because they’re humans” – Lyssa Kay Adams.

Braden Freaking Mack.
This guy….
Where do I begin?
When you read about good-looking rich athletes what comes to mind?
I imagine you would think of a macho hero with a touch of arrogance, a lot of charm and a bad boy image. Well, this might be a part of who Mack is but it is not the whole story. Mack is the founder of the Bromance Bookclub and loves romance thrillers. He is the guy who is not ashamed of his love for romance books and openly discusses how those books became his love manuals. He is a walking textbook on the dangers of toxic masculinity. While I really liked the development of his relationship with Liv, I think I enjoyed his friendship with the bromance bookclub bros even more. I love how those bookclub meetings are their safe space where they can talk and be vulnerable without any judgement.

This book was so much fun to read. The banter, message and character development was very well done. I’m excited for the third book of this bromance club!

Happy Reading!

Book Review

The Authenticity Project

“Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead? The one thing that defines you, that makes everything else about you fall into place? Not on the internet, but with those real people around you?”-Clare Pooley

I love it when a random book catches my attention and surprises me in the most unexpected ways. The Authenticity Project completely surprised me and left me feeling all kinds of emotions. I absolutely love character driven stories, and this book introduces us to a whole group of characters that I became deeply invested in towards the end. The themes of mental health and authenticity were really well explored through these characters.

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This is a story about a green notebook that brings a group of six strangers together. A word that kept coming to my mind when I was reading this story was serendipity. There were so many cute moments that took place all thanks to a notebook that asked readers to be brave and put their real self forward. It is not hard to imagine that such serendipitous moments could actually happen in real life if we all shared our authentic selves with the world.

I have to say that I absolutely loved each one of these flawed characters. I must also confess that every time I read Monica’s chapter I could not help but imagine the Monica from Friends. Did that happen to anyone else? The author really created an interesting character with Monica. The story she wrote in the green notebook about wishing for her own happily ever after lead to such an incredible chain reaction of events. Through Alice’s story we see the flip side of how the grass may not always be greener on the other side and sometimes happily ever after can look very different from what we imagine.

Hazard was such a complex and interesting character to read about. I’ll admit that I did not much like him in the beginning of the book but he really grew on me by the end. The same could be said about sweet old Julian. His story particularly gutted me and left me wanting to know more. A special shout out to Mrs. Wu and Lizzie. Those two characters were just the cherry on top of this sundae.

My only complaint about this book is that it had to end. I was so invested in all these character’s stories that I just wanted to know more about what happened to them down the line. I was hoping the ending could have given us a sneak peak into the future, but that is just my curiosity and inability to let this story end. I’m really impressed by the overall delivery of the story. It takes a talented writer to pull off having so many characters introduced in the story and making them all memorable. 

Happy Reading!

Book Review

Little Women Book and Movie Review

Whenever someone asks me which author I would love to have a conversation with, my mind always drifts to the authors that are no longer with us but who were well beyond their times. One of these authors is Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. In a time when marriage and domestic life was perceived as a woman’s main role, Louisa May Alcott created a female character with big dreams to write and to make her own way in the world.

I remember two things from when I read Little Women twenty years ago:
1) I am Jo March.
2) How fun it would be to become a writer.

Here are my thoughts after rereading Little Women twenty years later:
1) I am Jo March.
2) I must keep writing even when it’s hard.

You do not have to be a writer or even a woman to appreciate this story. It is a timeless classic that is sure to appeal to people from all walks of life. I’m so happy that this was the first book I read at the very start of the new year and decade.

The March Sisters:

Little Women revolves around the four March sisters as they navigate through the years of their youth and the struggles of being poor and having their father away at war. Each sister is very different in their own way with dreams they wish to accomplish and hardships they learn to overcome.

20200112_141015.jpgJo March:
“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.”

Beth March:
“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping..”

Meg March:
“Meg is like a turtledove, which represents love”

Amy March:
“Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always dropping down into its nest again”

Meg dreams of what life could be were she rich and did not have to work. Jo longs to be a writer and struggles to control her temper. Beth is the grateful little dove that does not take any moment for granted and enjoys playing the piano. Amy is the little artist who learns to look beyond the superficial. The bond between the sisters is truly heart warming. Despite all their quarrels and moving on to different stages in their lives, they always find a way back home to each other.

Jo March Book vs. Movie:

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.” ― Louisa May Alcott,

I love that feeling when you are reading a book and one of the characters becomes more and more relatable to you. Then as you close the book and put it aside you realize “I am that character”. This is what I felt when I was reading about Jo March. While I must admit that Jo is much more adventurous and brave, I feel like we have aligned over the years with our love for writing. The scenes with Jo dealing with the crippling self-doubt as well as being protective of her writing were really raw. You can tell that the author was writing from personal experience that only a writer would know.

BOOK AND MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD:

I know there are many people who wish Jo and Laurie ended up together. I remember wishing for the same thing as a teenager. Maybe there was a small part of me that still wished it would happen as I reread the book. I never really understood why Jo ended up with the professor in the end. It just seemed unlike her, despite the deep connection she felt for the person who was supportive of her literary career. He felt more like a mentor than a love interest. I felt that there could have been a better ending for Jo, but I never knew what it was until I watched the most recent movie of Little Women.

The Ending of the Movie:

If you have not watched the Little Women movie yet STOP READING!
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I had finished my reread of Little Women and went to see the movie the very next day. I loved everything about it and felt the characters were well cast. But it was the ending that stole my heart. Before I discuss the ending, let us take a step back and explore the vision Louisa May Alcott had for her beloved Jo.

In the many articles I read, it was revealed that Louisa may have felt pressured into giving Jo a more traditional “happily ever after” at the request of her readers and publisher. Her original vision for Jo was one that reflected her own life. Louisa decided to please her readers by giving Jo a happily ever after involving marriage and children.

“Women Have Minds And Souls As Well As Just Hearts, And They’ve Got Ambition And Talent As Well As Just Beauty. And I’m Sick Of People Saying That Love Is All A Woman Is Fit For” – Jo March from the movie version of Little Women.

The movie did something absolutely remarkable that left me smiling and thinking, “yes, this feels like something Jo March would have done”. In the movie we see Jo negotiating the terms of her book “Little Women” that is the story of the March Sisters. She reveals to the publisher that she turned down both men in her life, as chronicled in her book. The publisher encourages her to change the ending for her character by accepting the professor’s hand in marriage. The movie ends with Jo, single, watching her book getting printed and bound.

“I’d Rather Be A Free Spinster And Paddle My Own Canoe.” – Jo March from the movie Little Women.

I absolutely loved this little twist in the end because in many ways it honoured Louisa May Alcott’s vision for Jo March decades after the release of the book. Critics have called this version of Little Women perfect for this generation, and I cannot agree more. At the end of the day, Jo lives her dream of becoming an author and remains independent like she always wanted. It also leaves it open to the interpretation that this young girl realized her dream and there could always be a possibility of love in her future, either with someone coming into her life or from the words she writes on the pages. Either way, it is her choice to make.

I also love how Meg reminds Jo that women can have different dreams that are equally important. Jo dreams of being independent and Meg dreams of getting married and staring a family of her own. I loved this exchange between them because it shows the way things should be: marriage as a choice and dream rather than a social obligation.

“Just Because My Dreams Are Different Than Yours, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Unimportant.” – Meg March from the movie Little Women.

This classic will always have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart. The movie is my favorite version for all the heart and soul that went into creating the world of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and staying true to her vision.

Happy Reading Bookworms,

Shazia.

Book Review · Bookish Thoughts

The Last Chapter of the Decade

Have you ever wondered how the books you read shape your life?

We are a mere four hours away from the New Year and a new decade, which means I’m in my pyjamas eating biryani and reflecting on the incredible things that I have experienced these past few years. Looking back on the decade, I know that a lot of my time was spent reading books. People often ask me how I can read so much. How do I find the time? Don’t I get sick of reading? The truth is reading is such an integral part of who I am and the person I have become. I make time for it because I need books like I need air. Think I’m exaggerating? Get ready for my monologue.

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A Decade of Reading:

When you read as many books as I do, you tend to see your own life as a book. Your age becomes the current chapter of your book. The cruel people you meet in your life become your villains. Those unexpected surprises in life become your plot twists. Milestones become your happily ever afters. Except your book never really ends does it? It can’t while you’re still alive. So you have sequels, those books that take off right after a cliffhanger or your current happily ever after. Is this metaphor falling apart? Still with me? Good. I relish in book metaphors so let’s keep going with this.

My Life, My Book:

If I can look at the last decade of my life as if it were a book I would say that there have been many surprising plot twists along the way. There have been extraordinary highs and devastating lows. There have been quite a few villains and many secondary characters that became friends. I imagine the book of my life would be a hardcover midnight blue volume with my name written in golden embossing. The pages would be frayed, dog-eared and delicate, because life is never neat and a worn book is always one that had a good shelf life (just look at my childhood copies of Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice).

You Are What You Read (does that make me a serial killer?):

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I really believe that the books I have read helped me make sense of this messy thing called life. Every story, villain and lesson from the books I read in the past ten years helped me put things into perspective and sometimes gave me the courage to be brave with my own life. I slayed my own dragons and took leaps of faith thanks to the inspirational words I read in some truly beautiful novels. Sometimes I would see myself in the characters I was reading about. I would understand their struggles and insecurities. Reading about these fictional characters overcoming their struggles made me feel hopeful about my own. Of course I read the occasional true crime book and that just makes me want to hide under my blanket fort and never speak to a stranger again. The lesson from these books: use criminal profiling to assess for sociopathic tendencies in sketchy individuals. (I can actually see my friends rolling their eyes at this). The moral of this long blog post: there are many life lessons to be found in books. 

Here are some of the lessons I learned from these incredible authors over the years:

Lessons From the Last Decade of Reading:

Lesson from Jane Austen:
Never settle in any area of your life and do not be so quick to jump to conclusions. (Poor Mr. Darcy).

Lesson from J.K. Rowling:
Do not let the muggles get you down and to hold on tight to your patronus during dark times. (Fun fact: my patronus is a squirrel. Shooting those dementors away with rabies).

Lesson from Sarah J. Mass – Author of A Court of Thorn and Roses
Do not let the hard days win and to choose your inner circle wisely.
And find yourself a Rhysand (this may prove to be difficult).

Lesson from Khaled Hosseini – Author of A Thousand Splendid Suns
Wonderful things happen when women support each other and true friendships mean you are there during the tough times and the good times.

Lesson from Frances Hodgson Burnett – Author of A Little Princess
You will meet many villains in your lifetime. Almost all of these villains will be adults.
Stay strong, have faith in yourself and never let their words and actions destroy your inner peace.

Lesson from Paulo Coelho – Author of The Alchemist
You need to go after that thing you want most in your life. Find your passion, pursue it and life will realign itself to help you get there. (This book inspired me to move forward with my writing).

Lesson from Paul Kalanithi – Author of When Breath Becomes Air
This book really was a stepping-stone in helping me become comfortable talking about death. As a pediatric nurse, I have seen death and this author’s story helped me find a way to become comfortable enough to speak with grieving parents and grieve with them.

Lesson from Jeannette Walls – Author of The Glass Castle
Your quirky family is forever and there is a power in owning your story and sharing it.

Lesson from Vex King – Author of Good Vibes, Good Life
Friends and toxic people will leave. Let them go and allow life to fill that free space with wonderful new things. This is probably one of the greatest lessons I learned in 2019 and so grateful for it.

Lesson from Leigh Bardugo – Author of Six of Crows
You may be different and people may not understand your way of life or who you are and that’s ok. They don’t have to understand you for you to be happy with your life. Rock on weirdo!

Lesson from Michelle Obama – Author of Becoming
You should always be evolving. Take chances. Break out of your comfort zone. You will be amazed what doors open for you.

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I really do believe that we are all one book away from changing our lives. Whether you are a parent reading stories to your baby, a new reader looking for the right book or a long-time reader like myself, I hope you find that book you need in your life. My wish for 2020 is to finish writing my story that I hope will find its way into a reader’s heart one day. 

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and may this year bring you the plot twist you are waiting for in your story.

Happy reading bookworms!

Shazia. 

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.