Midweek Mini Reviews #22

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books focusing on South Asian women.

A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose by Samra Zafar

A Good Wife is about arranged marriage and domestic violence, knowing that it comes as no surprise that it was a difficult read for me. Still, I felt like it was a necessary read as even today domestic violence and sexual abuse is still prevalent, especially in Asian communities where unfortunately, more than often than not it is swept under the rug. I appreciated how Samra doesn’t sugar-coat the abuse she faced as well as the reality of what happens when you leave a marriage and the mixed feelings when your marriage ends. And it was refreshing to hear her path to being free wasn’t just an easy and straight road. Instead she was constantly plagued with doubts and even backslides at one point. However, this just makes her tale all the more inspiring and powerful, especially when she gains the strength and motivation to finally stand up for herself because of her father and daughters’ love and faith in her. More than just a survival story, A Good Wife is also the story of the importance of having a community and social support system. It’s also a heartbreaking read, but also one with some hope as Samra continues to tell her story and work to help those in situations like the situation she was in.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters appealed to me as it’s about travelling to a country where you look like the locals on the outside, but on the inside you’re different because you were born/grew up elsewhere. I also appreciated how the Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina were all complex and well-developed characters, and how the book looks at the challenges and issues women travellers face. The novel’s themes of sisterhood, culture and travel is also obvious in how the chapters are laid out. I loved that each chapter started with the girls’ late mother writing to them as it provided greater insight into who she was in addition to giving the readers some background and context about why she wanted her daughters to do the things on the itinerary she made just for them. This also made me feel like I was joining the girls on their pilgrimage and that I was right there with them every step of their journey. The conflict between the three sisters felt authentic and I truly empathized with each of them as they all had their own issues and struggles which, when not dealt with directly only exacerbated their various misunderstandings with one another. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a refreshingly empowering read. What I enjoyed most was how it touches upon issues like dysfunctional family dynamics, cultural representation in the media, female feticide, sexism and misogyny while still maintaining a good amount of lightheartedness thus making it the perfect vacation read.

Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

 

 

 

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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Book Review | The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

Authour:
Jennifer Robson
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
December 31st 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow Paperbacks
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Jennifer Robson has come a long way since her début novel, Somewhere in France. In her latest novel, The Gown she takes her readers to two different time periods and settings. In 1946-1947 London, England we meet Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin  who both work as embroiderers at Hartnell’s, a designer who has designed clothing worn by the royals and who will go on to work on the wedding dress of Elizabeth II. Both women have tragic pasts and end up developing a close friendship over a short period. The third and last POV is that of a young woman named Heather living in Toronto in 2016. The granddaughter of Ann Hughes, Heather is unaware of her grandmother’s life before she came to Canada. However, upon her grandmother’s death Heather find herself in possession of a box with beautifully embroidered fabric which leads her back to England to uncover her grandmother’s past life.

I was initially drawn to this book in spite of the fact that it differed from Robson’s earlier books because I was intrigued by the fact that it would be about the people who made the wedding dress of the Queen today. The writing was beautiful and I truly felt like I was right there, inside the work rooms at Hartnell’s. Robson always take great care to research the setting and characters for her books, and it absolutely shows here. I loved how the women who were front and center in this book were also independent as well. Ann and Miriam’s story had me feeling so many feelings, both had experienced tremendous loss and their strength and resilience was incredibly inspiring. Seeing both women bond over their losses and support each other was truly heartwarming and I loved how their friendship changed both of them for the better. Heather’s story was also interesting and perhaps more relatable to me given her age and the fact that her story takes place in the present day. I enjoyed the subplot with her and Daniel, Miriam’s grandson although I wish we got to see more of how their romance developed.

A heartfelt book, The Gown is a perfect book to cozy up to during the winter holiday. Whether you’re a fan of the royal family, royal weddings and/or historical fiction The Gown is an exquisite look at the often unacknowledged but integral women who work behind the scenes to create their piece of royal history. 

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 | Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Authour:
Kathy Wang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 30th 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Family Trust centres on Stanley Huang, a proud and complicated man who is on his deathbed. We are the introduced to those closest to him, including his son, Fred who has vast ambition and an even bigger ego to boost, his daughter Kate, who is trying to balance her professional life and family, Linda who is his highly accomplished ex-wife and finally Mary, his younger second wife who is also his primary caregiver. Each has their own reasons for feeling anxious about Stanley’s death, and all these reasons along with their current personal obstacles and issues are slowly revealed in their individual chapters.

Of all the characters, Kate was my favourite as her story resonated with me even if I’m not a mother as a result of the two of us being around the same age. I enjoyed seeing a female character in a high powered job who is incredibly capable yet still has doubts about her own abilities and actions. Her story was also refreshing considering the fact that after her marriage collapses the events that follow are not what the reader would typically expect. Linda’s story was also compelling as she’s an older woman trying to navigate what she truly wants in life especially with the freedom she has. In the end, I was satisfied with both of their character growth in addition to the resolution of both of their story arcs.

The other characters in the book were not as likeable, however I appreciated how Wang was able to portray both Fred and Mary as sympathetic people.  As a result, even if you do not agree with their motivation and actions, they were tolerable since they felt like human beings who truly believe that what they want is reasonable. 

Initially I found that Family Trust dragged and I truly was hoping for more excitement. However, as I gradually read on and more was revealed about Kate and Linda since it gave the book a more feminist tone which I definitely appreciated. I love how the true stars of the book were both professionally successful and self-sufficient women and how the book shows us the challenges and discrimination faced by even women who were considered well off. A thoughtful character-driven family drama, Family Trust may appeal to anyone who enjoyed Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. the World and/or Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest as it’s another biting look at just how crazy a family can get when it comes to money.

 

 

 

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 | The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Authour:
Beatriz Williams
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
July 10th, 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Beatriz Williams’s The Summer Wives was one of the titles from the Buzz Books 2018: Young Adult Spring/Summer sampler that I was excited to read the rest of the book after finishing the excerpt. A tragic love story and a gripping mystery that is wrapped up in this family saga, The Summer Wives is the story of two women from two generations, one is a grown woman who faces consequences for her reckless choices as a youth and is forced to do whatever it takes to survive while the other is a young girl who grows up to be a movie star.

The writing is captivating, and the central protagonist Miranda is a well-developed character with a fascinating history, which made me want to get to know her more despite her being a slightly unlikable person. The story overall is also a compelling one filled with plenty of drama, secrecy and of course tragedy. There is so much tragedy that affects both the working class residents and the privileged families on the island, and it’s what makes The Summer Wives a story that completely consumes the reader, begging for their full attention in the worst yet maybe best possible way.

Other than Miranda, who truly is the star of the book, the other characters remain fairly flat and in the background. That being said, I did adore the sibling dynamic between Miranda and Hugh Jr even though they have just met for the first time. Their relationship has such a laid back and easy rapport which makes it a stark contrast to the majority of the other families and relationships on the island.

I went in to The Summer Wives expecting your typical historical fiction read with a side of romance and was definitely not ready for all the soap opera drama in the book. I would’ve preferred a happier ending for the characters in The Summer Wives, although I’ll admit the book ended in a fairly satisfying and realistic way. Even though I probably won’t be in any hurry to pick up another Beatriz Williams book, The Summer Wives is an acceptable novel to escape into for the summer and on the beach if you enjoy the historical family drama of the wealthy with a touch of darkness.

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 #5

  

 Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson 

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I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Robson’s first two novels from her The Great War series so I was excited to finally get the opportunity to meet her and get an ARC of her newest book, Goodnight from London which is actually part of a new series set during the 1940s.

Goodnight from London like Robson’s past novels is extremely well researched and you truly get a feel for what it was like for a female war correspondent. Which was an interesting as its amazing just how far Ruby’s male coworkers went in order to protect their pride and bring her down. I loved how the writing and descriptions of all the sights and sounds whisked me away on a London adventure with the heroine as I’ve never been to England before.

If you’re looking for romance there’s not much of it here as its all very slow burn and takes a backseat to Ruby’s professional life. However, there are great friendships, work relationships  and family bonds that are formed and it was lovely to see Ruby finally find a warm, loving and supportive place that she could settle down in and call “home”. I’m definitely looking forward to the next Jennifer Robson book!
Publisher Social Media: Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

What Remains: Object Lessons in Love and Loss by Karen Von Hahn

whatremains

I first came across this title in the House of Anansi catalogue and the synopsis had me curious to learn more. Fortunately, I was able to get an ARC of it at OLA while waiting for their Ian Hamilton signing.

What Remains by Karen Von Hahn is a memoir about a daughter, recalling her larger than life, dramatic mother. It’s also a fascinating look at the writer’s life and upbringing as well as her mother’s life and how each of their personal circumstances made them who they were and are. I thought it was unique for the authour to use objects that were significant to her and/or her late mother as starting points for each of the chapters in the book and as a way to examine the writer’s family history and significant relationships. I also appreciated the fact that unlike most other memoirs I’ve read, this one takes place in Toronto, which allowed me to see what the city and neighbourhoods were once like back in the 1970s and ’80s.

Recommended for those who are all too familiar with having grown up with a (somewhat) maddening and overburdening yet glamorous mother, or those who like those types of memoirs and wanting to get a glimpse at the life of the privileged in Toronto during the 1970s and ’80s.

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 | The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

hategameAuthour:
Sally Thorne
Format:
ARC; 372 pages
Publication date:
August 9th 2016
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media:
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
When I first heard about Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, I thought it would be the perfect summer read for me since I do love a good romantic comedy. Furthermore, my contact at Harper thoroughly enjoyed it, describing it as “a romantic comedy movie in a book, think a movie with the likes of Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron”. (By the way I would totally watch that) Anyways, just as she predicted I did end up enjoying The Hating Game.

One of the reasons I enjoyed it was that I could relate to the characters who both work in an office environment in fairly administrative roles. Additionally, if you are a book nerd too, you’d be able to appreciate the fact that Lucy and Josh both work for a large publishing house that was merged from two smaller publisher houses. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the situation reminded me of when quite recently, Penguin and Random House merged and became Penguin Random House. Anyways, there are numerous book and publishing references that I book bloggers and publishing nerds would appreciate.

Another time I found refreshing about this book was the relationship between Lucy and her boss, instead of a stereotypical evil boss Lucy as a boss that truly looks out for her well-being and wants to mentor her. There are, however, numerous stereotypes and the CEO that Josh works for could definitely fall into the “horrible” boss category. That being said, while the story is predictable, the banter between the characters is amusing and the chemistry between Josh and Lucy is definitely hot and steamy. And while Josh made me uncomfortable in the instances where he became jealous as he was kind of terrifying, he does help Lucy stand up for herself and she does bring out the softer side to his personality. All in all The Hating Game is a rollicking ride of a novel that is basically catnip to readers who are fans of the hate “turned to” love trope.

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

Words of Asia | The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. She currently lives in the States with her husband and their three children as well as their African Grey parrot. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was her debut novel, and her second novel, When the Moon Is Low is out late this year.

Pearl-That-Broke-Its-Shell

Where Does it Take Place?
Set in Kabul, readers get to travel back to some of the smaller rural villages as both women move around for different reasons. This also gives readers great insight into how life is vastly different for the women living in the big cities in Afghanistan compared with the women who live in rural villages, where it’s harder to monitor and regulate how things work and how women are treated.

What’s it About:
The Pearl That Broke It’s Shell is a story about two women from different generations who lives in Afghanistan. Shekiba who disguises herself as a boy once her parents and brothers pass away in order to protect herself from her father’s very traditional, and disapproving family. She is also Rahima’s great, great grandmother. In present day, we meet Rahima who is one of many girls in her family. As her family has no sons, and dad is sick and can’t be man of the house, her aunt comes up with the idea to disguise herself as a boy by telling Rahima the story of her great aunt, Shekiba.

My Thoughts:
I love reading about the experiences of women in South Asian countries, and when I heard about The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi I just knew that I had to read it. And I’m glad that I got the opportunity to read and review this important book on my blog.

While many of us may be somewhat aware of situation and often the mistreatment for many girls in Afghanistan, I wonder if many people also knew of the concept of bacha posh? I for one did not know about it. Bacha posh, is basically when young girls who haven’t reached puberty yet are allowed to dress up as boys which allows them a great deal of freedom that isn’t normally afforded to them as girls. I thought this was an interesting concept, and it was even more fascinating seeing two women taking part in bacha posh and how their experiences differed as they did it during different times and for different reasons.

Of the two women in the book, I found that Shekiba’s journey fascinated me more. I felt more invested in her character as she gets to experience many different things that were uncommon for women during her time. Though it’s unfortunate as to what happens to her, I think it illustrates the harsh reality for women during her time. So while I disagreed with her choice, and found it difficult to understand how she thought that would be the solution I kind of get her desire for more freedom. On the other hand, I was less interested in Rahima’s journey though she does go through her own set of hardships and tragedy. Nevertheless, I adored her relationship with with her Aunt Shaima. Shaima is the one who tells Rahima the story of her Great Aunt Shekiba and thus forms a connection between the two women. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell though is filled with much obstacles and hardships for both the women it’s about, is ultimately an uplifting story about earning your happy ending.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Historical and literary fiction about the experiences of women living in countries where there is great inequality and they are viewed as “less than” men. Also if you love inspiring stories about women who find strength to live their restricted lives as much on their own terms as possible in the times and country they were born into.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, 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 | After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson

afterwarAuthour:
Jennifer Robson
Format:
Trade Paperback, 353 pages
Publication date:
January 6th 2015
Publisher:
William Morrow
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“From now on, she resolved, she would try to remember that life could be more than work and study and serious-minded contemplation of society’s failings. She could know joy, and light, and relief from sadness.” (p. 141)

For some reason if truth be told I tend to enjoy historical fiction that has been marketed towards fans of Downton Abbey even though I have no intention of starting that show. Nevertheless, Jennifer Robson’s Great War series is no exception, and though I loved the first book, I was extra eager for her second book After the War since it features Charlotte’s story.

I adored the Lilly, who was the protagonist in Somewhere in France. However, I found Charlotte a much more relatable character for the reason that she an educated woman, and she does not wish to be married just for the reason that it is what women during her time were expected to do. And while I do love romance, I appreciated the fact that we become acquainted with Charlotte as a person outside of her relationships while witnessing her transform into an independent woman and an activist. This makes the romance in the book even more fulfilling since Charlotte and Edward’s relationship is based on their mutual respect of one another. From the start, they both push each other to be the best versions of themselves.

I also loved how this book seamlessly switches between the present i.e. events after the first book and the past to when Edward and Charlotte first met and when she was Lilly’s governess. It was quite sweet to observe the lengths Edward went to ensure his sister, Lilly received a superior education. And I also absolutely adored getting a glimpse at a different type of family dynamic, especially with Charlotte and her parents. It refreshing to observe warm and loving family relationships, especially after witnessing how mostly distant, cold and stern Lilly and Edward’s parents were towards their children (even though it’s probably what was commonplace at that time and for families of their social status). The best example that truly illustrates this point is an incredibly touching scene in the book between Charlotte and her father that definitely made me tear up a bit.

All in all, I loved this book since I got to revisit my favourite characters from the first book and observing how characters such as Robbie and Charlotte bond over their similar situations. And while I found a few things to be resolved rather quickly near the conclusion, and I kind of missed the letters that were commonplace in Somewhere in France I did however enjoy watching the characters interact with each other further in person in this book. Additionally, I enjoyed reading the various column pieces that Charlotte writes on social issues that she feels strongly about.

After the War is probably one of my favourite books that I have read thus far this year, and I would highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction and those of historical romance. What’s best concerning this book is that you do not need to read Somewhere on France first though I would recommend you read both for a greater reading experience.

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

Mystery Mondays |The Execution by Dick Wolf

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Authour:execute
Dick Wolf
Series:
Jeremy Fisk #2
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 335 pages
Publication date:
January 7th 2014
Publisher:
William Morrow
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

NYPD Detective Jeremy Fisk—introduced in Law & Order creator Dick Wolf’s New York Times bestselling debut The Intercept—must stop an assassin in the pay of a shadowy cartel in The Execution, a tense thriller that superbly blends suspense, politics, intrigue and high-flying action in the tradition of Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, and Robert Crais.

Ten days after the Mexican presidential election, twenty-three bodies are discovered beheaded on the United States border, each marked with a carving of a Hummingbird. Detective Cecilia Garza of the Mexican intelligence agency recognizes it: it is the signature of an assassin called Chuparosa. Garza has been pursuing the killer for years, yet knows little about him, except that he’s heading to New York—with the rest of the world.

It’s United Nations Week in Manhattan and Jeremy Fisk can’t let grief over a devastating loss keep him from safeguarding his city. Complicating matters is the startling news of a mass murder in nearby Rockaway—and the arrival of a disturbingly beautiful and assertive Mexican cop.

To have a chance at finding Chuparosa, these uneasy allies must learn to work together and fast. As they soon discover, there’s more to this threat than meets the eye—and that justice is not always blind.

Review:

What would you do if someone close to you was brutally killed? How would you react? Would you take revenge or would you seek justice in some other way? This is something that remains an underlying theme in Dick Wolf’s The Execution.

The Execution follows Detective Jeremy Fisk shortly after the events of The Intercept as he deals with the trauma that is the deaths of his comrades including his partner and girlfriend by the hands of a terrorist. This book also introduces readers to the character of Commandante Celicia Garza, a member of policia federal and part of the security team of the Mexican president in the book. Celicia as reader will learn has her own tragic back story which turns out to have some surprising or perhaps not so surprising ties to the case in the book.

The writing throughout The Execution is razor sharp which helps to move the story along even when the little details start to feel like they are overwhelming you. Additionally the pacing is very slow and there are a lot of details at the start which can be kind of boring depending on how interested you are in the office politics of the different law enforcement agencies in USA. However the story does pick up after a while to become a very interesting and fast paced plot. More specifically for me the story picks up once we are introduced to Commandante Garza and once she and Detective Fisk meet.

The Execution is book two of what I believe will be an ongoing series, still the ending of this book was perfect as it tied things together while leaving just enough room for more books. Even if you’re not a fan of the show Law and Order but you like fast paced thrillers, I’d recommend you pick up both The Execution and The Intercept (the first book in the series) by Dick Wolf.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The Black Box by Michael Connelly

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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