Midweek Mini Reviews #24

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books by Palestinian American women.

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

I loved Hala Alyan’s début novel, Salt Houses. This lead to me discovering her TEDx talk, which was a spoken word performance where she talks about the cities she’s been in and their effect on her. The talk really resonated with me, so I was excited to pick up her poetry collection, especially when I learnt it was titled The Twenty-Ninth Year. Being close to but not yet 29, I was hoping to find more pieces that truly spoke to me. Unfortunately, The Twenty-Ninth Year ended up not being my cup of tea. It was darker and rawer than I’d expected, touching a lot more on topics like assault, substance abuse and loss rather than just about a young woman coming of age. There were, however, some poems that stood out to me such as “Honeymoon”, “Gospel: Newlyweds” and ‘Step Eight: Make Amends” because they showed a more realistic take on a young marriage. Honest and candid, The Twenty-Ninth Year may not be a collection of poetry for everyone, but if it is for you, then it will make you feel like you are not alone.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum 

In Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man, a woman named Isra and her daughter, Deya are the central focus of the book, however we also get to know Fareeda who is Isra’s mother-in-law. Isra’s story is particularly tragic because of the foregone conclusion that she and her husband both die when Deya and her sisters are still young since the girls are being raised by their grandparents in the present day. What’s even sadder is that not much has changed for women, as Deya is also pressured to get married after graduating high school despite it being 2008 and her wanting to attend college instead. I really liked Deya’s story, especially how it was connected to the other women in her family and it was thrilling to watch her slowly discover the truth about her mother. I also found it refreshing how none of the characters were multi-dimensional and that no one was truly an evil person. For example, by getting Fareeda’s back story we see that everyone, not just Deya and Isra have their own traumas, struggles and weaknesses. I also appreciated how it was shown that no one in their cloistered community was truly “free”, even the men have expectations and pressures thrust upon them. A powerful and well written novel, the book is made more significant once you learn that the authour drew inspiration from her own experience. And while I could have done without the epilogue, I am satisfied with the book’s hopeful ending as it was about time things started to change and move into a more positive manner for these women.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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Mystery Monday | Fate by Ian Hamilton

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Ian Hamilton, a Canadian authour of the now 11 novels in the Ava Lee series. His Ava Lee series has recently been green lit to be adapted into a TV series by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Fate is the first book in his new Uncle Chow Tung series which will star a younger version of Ava Lee’s mentor and former business partner.

What is it about? When the The Dragon Head (also known as the Mountain Master) of the Fanling Triad dies under suspicious circumstances, his seat of power is left open. Many assume that his deputy, Ma would be appointed but the triad’s White Paper Fan, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” doesn’t believe Ma is up for the job and seeks to have an election putting Ren Tengfei, the Vanguard/operations officer forward as an alternative to Ma. However, when Ma is found shot to death along with a Blue Lantern named Peng things start looking even more suspect. Could the Fanling Triad have an enemy from within?

Where does it take place? Fate starts with Chow Tung aka “Uncle” escaping from Mainland China and follows him ten years later as the “White Paper Fan” in 1970s Hong Kong.

Why did I like it? Fate is the first book in the Ava Lee spinoff series that I never knew I needed until I got it. I’m a fan of Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series and I’ve always liked the character of “Uncle” so it was only natural that I’d want to know more about him and his past. Although, Fate took a bit of time for me to get hooked, it did succeed in hooking me in the end. Once the action and pacing picked up, I became invested in the story and the characters. In particular, I liked the complicated “partnership” Chow had with Zhang, a superintendent with the Hong Kong Police Force. This was a compelling relationship as both knew each other when they were first starting out, and even though both men were mentored by Tian, who was a part of the Triad they ended up taking different paths in life. I’m curious to see how their relationship evolves as things get more complicated with each book in this series. I also enjoyed meeting “Uncle” again and seeing how he rose in the ranks. Of course, I still prefer the Ava Lee series over this one. And yet I’m looking forward to continuing the Uncle Chow Tung series in hopes that I’ll get to see more family faces from the Ava Lee series including a younger, Sonny.

When did it come out? January 22, 2019

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #20

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two “self-help” books, perfect for starting a new year.

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life by Melissa Leong

One of my New Years’ resolutions for 2019 was to learn to manage my money better. This is where my copy of Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money came in. Unlike the majority of other personal finance books that I’ve tried to pick up, but failed to get through, Leong’s book was easy to follow, light-hearted and entertaining. Part personal finance, part self-help I appreciated how Happy Go Money combines psychology and happiness research with finance tips and tricks to give the reader advice, conversation starters and tasks that the readers can start to tackle their financial goals. While a lot of the material in the book may seem like common sense, it was a good reminder for me. I love how Leong encourages people to spend money on experiences and “time-savers” and I wholeheartedly agree with her advice on opening a separate, no-fee bank account with a debit card for all your non-essential spending. I’ll definitely be doing this, as soon as I have enough money to start another account without having any of my other accounts suffering as a result. Happy Go Money is perfect for people who don’t really read “finance” books but want to learn more as it manages to mostly maintain a decent balance between being warm and friendly while still being informative.

Design Your Next Chapter: How to Realize Your Dreams and Reinvent Your Life by Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis is well-known for her home and design shows on TV. However, Design Your Next Chapter isn’t another book about decorating or painting. Instead, it is more of a self-help book that is packed with tons of tips and inspiring stories about people who’ve taken the leap and pursued their dreams. While a lot of the material in the book seems geared more towards an older demographic, there are some takeaways for younger people as well. In particular, I loved the sections that allow you to fill in the blanks with your own hopes and dreams. I also found the Ten Commandments chapter, especially the section on losing your “fear” and the section on budgeting to be incredibly useful. For anyone who may find themselves thinking “what’s next?” reading this is book is a good start and for those who are curious, Design Your Next Chapter is an easily digestible and comforting read that can be relatable to many people.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

Authour:
Olivia Hinebaugh
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 22nd 2019
Publisher:
Swoon Reads
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Olivia Hinebaugh’s The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me is an important read, especially for teenagers since even in 2018 sex ed. is under constant attack. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear about schools where the curriculum is outdated or harmful to students as happens to the characters in The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me 

The protagonist of The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me is a high school senior named Lacey who is fed up with her school’s climate of shaming students who may have real questions about their sexual health. And while she has little life experience in that area, Lacey is probably more qualified when compared with the questionable guest speakers and perhaps even a couple of her teachers as she grew up with learning everything there is to know about “the birds and the bees” from a mother who is a obstetrics nurse. 

The mother-daughter relationship between Lacey and her mother was refreshingly drama free and supportive. It was entertaining to see her mother more than ready to jump behind the antics of Lacey and her friends as they try to fight the educational “system”. In addition to being a sex-positive and health-conscious book that makes the topic of consent “cool”, The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me is also an incredible “friend group” book. There is also a bit of romance in the book, but it’s truly only a minor part of the entire book. Instead the friendship between Lacey, Evita, Theo and later Alice stood at the forefront of the book. Which is why I appreciated the fact that any potential love drama between the friends was avoided by having the characters engage in honest conversations and not fight with each other and/or act all passive aggressive. I also loved the frank way in which asexuality was discussed. Evita considers herself to be asexual, but she also struggled with discovering her sexuality, which is also common among young people in life.

I liked The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me for the fact that it tackles something I haven’t seen yet in YA novels in a non-preachy way. However, other than its interesting premise, it was only an average read for me. That being said, I hope this book gets into high school libraries as it is an excellent book about an important issue and it can help start what teens may feel to be an awkward conversation by making the topic more accessible. 

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Authour:
Soniah Kamal
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 15th 2019
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that there will always be new attempts at retelling and adapting Pride and Prejudice and that some will excel in their efforts while others will fall flat. Fortunately, Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable falls into the former of the two.

Unmarriageable takes the plot of Jane Austen’s classic English novel and modernizes it by setting it in Pakistan during the early 2000s. The “Bennets” are now the “Binats“, a family who went from well off to more middle class due to jealous relatives. I loved the changes to the family’s back story and Kamal does an excellent job at keeping the essence of the original characters and their relationships while adding her own modern twists. Elizabeth Bennet is now Alysba (Alys) Binat, a teacher at an all-girls school and a feminist who tries to teach her students and her younger sisters about the importance of being independent and getting an education. 

However, it’s not just the character of Alys. This entire novel has a feminist feel to it. I loved that the minor female characters like Sherry Looclus (the Charlotte Lucas character), Qitty Binat (aka Kitty Bennet) and Annie were given a voice in this adaptation. It was refreshing to read parts of the story from their perspective. And even though they weren’t meant to be likeable, I appreciated that we got to see the story from the Bingla (Bingley) sisters as well since it makes it clear as to what their true colours are. Furthermore, the characters are seen facing issues that are familiar to women today, including abortion and fighting against the traditions relating to marriage and the role of women including having children. All that being said, the men in the book are given little notice and as a result characters like Darsee (the Mr. Darcy character) and Bungles (the Mr. Bingley character) are not as well developed.

The other thing I loved about Unmarriageable was how it doesn’t shy away from its source material. Pride and Prejudice is not only name dropped, but referenced and discussed by various characters. In fact, the novel begins with Alys asking her class to rewrite the famous first line of the novel. In addition, Unmarriageable is also a love letter to Austen and literature in general. Both Alys and Darsee are bibliophiles and I loved that the two were able to eventually bond over their love of books in addition to their experiences of studying and living abroad even if the love epiphany on Alys side felt a bit rushed.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t getting a bit fatigued with all the Pride and Prejudice retellings. That being said, I truly enjoyed Unmarriageable especially how it veered from its inspiration. Forget what I said about the last Pride and Prejudice retelling I read as Unmarriageable now tops my list of favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptations. Read it if you are interested in a South Asian spin on an old classic or if you’re a fan of Austen and books in general.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.