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 · 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

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

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.

 

 

Book Events

Bookcon 2019: A Celebration of Storytelling

Question: How does one go back to regular life after experiencing a weekend of book heaven in New York City? Asking for a friend….ok fine, I am that friend. Help!

Bookcon 2019 was a dream come true. Over the past few years I have always watched videos and looked at pictures of this magical book convention held in New York and wished I was there. I’m not a spontaneous person, but this year I very quickly decided I wanted to experience this festival for myself and before I knew it my tickets for New York were booked. It was the best impulsive decision I have ever made. Spending the whole weekend with people who love books as much as I do made for an unforgettable trip.

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Bookcon is a two-day event held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Each year readers, authors, publishers and writers come together to celebrate the love of books. Attendees get to meet authors, have their books signed, snag some book merchandise, attend author panels and get their hands on advanced reader copies of highly anticipated books. There are booths selling books and merchandise and creative writing workshops. Most importantly, attendees get to meet and connect with the amazing people who share the same passion for reading.

The Crowd of Readers:

Walking into the Jacob Javits Convention Center was enough to get me excited. This place was huge and everywhere you turned you either saw a bookworm power walking/running to some location or authors faces on banners hanging from the high ceiling. The crowd was unlike anything I had ever seen in my life. There were so many people that at times it became a bit claustrophobic but you could also feel the collective excitement in the building. The lines were monstrous. I was walking for what felt like forever to find the end of the line that kept snaking and looping around corners. Half the time I could not even tell where the line began and ended. I found it mind blowing that people would chose to wait in line over two hours for a single book. That is dedication, but it also takes away time to see the other incredible things happening at Bookcon.

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As soon as the doors opened, I power walked to the booth that was having one of my favorite authors signing her new book. I got to the booth in literally three minutes and I was told their line was capped. I walked away deflated, but tried to shake it off and power walked to the next author signing which also ended up being closed. I was frustrated but then I reminded myself there was still so much to see and experience and so I roamed around without much plans for the next two hours.

Funny thing about letting go of control and plans: you stumble upon some pretty amazing things. Those two authors I missed out on in the morning? I randomly bumped into them when I was just walking around aimlessly on the showfloor and managed to have a conversation with them. I also ended up in the right place at the right time and managed to get in lines for advanced reader copies (ARCS) and meet a few authors to get my books signed. 

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(Meeting Stephanie Garber author of the Caraval series)

62055303_316937232541580_9193188136274886656_n(Meeting and getting my book signed by Brigid Kemmerer) 

Panels and Socials!

I think a lot of people get caught up with the possibility of getting new books and free stuff that they forget about the amazing panels that are offered. Watching authors talk about their writing process and what it was like for them to create the characters we fell in love with makes for an incredible session. It is also a nice way to catch your breath after the chaotic scene on the show floor. Sure getting free books and swag is fun, but the panels are so interactive and fascinating. 

I got a chance to see the amazing Leigh Bardugo in a panel as she discussed the release of her new book and answered questions from the audience. There is something great about seeing the author’s personality shine during these panels. Leigh was an absolute delight as she gushed about our favorite characters and her future books.

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A new friend I made informed a couple of us that Penguin Random House would be having an ice cream social event at Bookcon. We were given a warm greeting and offered flower necklaces as we socialized with other bookworms. There were stunning bookstagram displays at each table and cute photo ops. We were offered ice cream and popcorn and given generous swag bags. Again, this was a nice breather from the crowds and lines. For me, this was one of the best parts of the event as I got to meet so many nice people. Not ashamed to admit that I walked around for the rest of the event with my flower necklace on…and during the Uber ride to the hotel…and when I drank tea in the hotel lobby. I love flowers, ok?

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(Spotted: bookworm in her natural habitat. Seriously though, look at how happy I am)

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(All the swag bag up for grabs)

61537303_305828137031543_81176750205173760_n(Our swag bags had so many goodies!)

Book Merchandise:

I was really proud of my taste in comfortable shoes because there were many booths at this event. I’m not the best with navigation so half the time I was spinning in circles and trying to imagine myself in the map I was holding. Needless to say, I was lost 90% of the time. Being lost was actually an advantage because I stumbled on many fun booths that were doing giveaways with games.

61978948_424195821694887_4180485943452499968_n.jpg(I’m a simple person: I hear a wheel spinning, I run towards it) 

There was so much cute merchandise that I had to remind myself that I would be travelling back to Montreal soon and did not have the space for more items. However, there are some things I could not leave behind. I could not say no to Hogwarts house lanyards, mugs with bookish quotes and journals. I mean how could you turn your back on these items? I stuffed them into my overly packed tote bag and backpack and moved on to the next booth. There are so many companies now that are adding a bookish touch to merchandise. I lost count of how many tote bags, t-shirts and socks that I saw with fun quotes from books printed on them. 

Bookish Friends:

The best part of Bookcon is meeting the incredibly kind people within our book community. I was so grateful to have met such amazing people over the weekend. It felt like I have known them for a while as we talked about our Bookcon experience. A couple of us were in a group chat together before the days leading up to the event. We kept each other posted on what we were doing throughout the day and I eventually met a few of them during panels and shopping at booths. It was great having a group to discuss and plan with but it was even better to meet them in person both at the event and after for dinner. I’m so happy to have met this lovely bunch. Thank you for making my Bookcon experience even better! 

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(Tired bookworms at the end of Day 1 of Bookcon)

62044627_2396642663902884_2602241601413578752_n(snapshot of us at the Penguin Random House icecream social)

My First Bookcon Experience:

Overall, this past weekend was epic for me. I had only planned to attend day 1 of Bookcon, but I enjoyed myself so much that I returned for day 2. I’m really glad I decided to return because amazing things happened on the second day, but I will save that story for another blog post.

I was definitely in my element and managed to make a fool of myself in front of authors as I fangirled like a child. I have no regrets! Despite the long lines and the very enthusiastic and sometimes tumultuous crowds, I had the time of my life. At the end of the day, our love of books is what makes people become overly excited and eager. In general, everyone was really kind and I loved striking up conversations with people all around me. Bookcon was the highlight of my trip to New York and I’m definitely going back next year to experience it all over again and to be reunited with this incredible community.

Until next time bookworms,

Shazia.