[770]: The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

It’s 1953 in Tehran. The country, for the most part, was governed by a democtratic prime minister. But it was in the grips of communism, regardless. Demonstrations happened every day, kids at school were divided in their ideologies. Roya, idealistic though as she was, remained somewhat detached. Her days were filled with family, school, and a once a week trip to a stationery shop where, for at least a couple of hours, enabled her to luxuriate in the words of Rumi.

Then one day, with a blast of cold wind, in came Bahman, ‘the boy who would change the world’. He had a penchant for politics. He was staunched in his belief that his country will remain unaffected by the pressures of globalization. He was handsome, charismatic, idealistic, and he shared Roya’s love for Rumi’s poems. The shop owner, seeing the palpable connection between the two, decided to intervene. Thus the relationship, albeit, short-lived, blossomed until Bahman’s proposal of marriage.

Then on the eve of their marriage, and on the night of the coup d’etat, Bahman disappeared. Desperate, Roya did everything she could to find him. Broken-hearted, not only for Bahman’s betrayal but for her country’s demise, Roya left Iran to study in America. It would be 60 years later would have the chance to find out why he never showed up at the meeting place they agreed to meet.

This novel is so sublime; quiet in its beauty. And despite the strife the country went through over the years, it still managed to paint Iran in all her glory. I can barely imagine this Iran, some sixty odd years ago. A country that somewhat progressive, depending on who was at the helm. In the backdrop of Bahman and Roya’s story was a history lesson of how many times their government was manipulated by outside forces, and how their people fought long and hard for peace and independence. Ideologies change over time; factions switch from one belief to the next so the country went through years of upheaval politically and socially.

They had one immovable force in their way: the dreams of a mother who favours status over the happiness of her own son. They were apart more than they were together. But even with the separation, their lives were governed by the memories of each other. And yet, their loved endured through decades. They each married different people but 60 years later, it’s as if nothing has changed.

The Stationery Shop was one of those unassuming novels that makes your heartache in the subtlest of ways. It spoke of a bravery for Bahman and Roya to move forward in their lives even though they know they will not be together. Roya’s life in America was not always the easiest. Being Middle Eastern and a woman at that, lent for some prejudice with which she had to contend. Bahman, on the other hand, grew to care for the woman his mother chose for him to marry. But despite the pretense, the memories of their young love was a ghost that haunted them.

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On the Night Table [55]

So I stumbled a little bit last week with my postings. What happened was, I weighed myself last Monday and the results showed that things are digressing. Subsequently, I went hard at the gym, increased my cardio a little bit by walking at lunch for an hour or after the gym at night. Yeah, I know. I went a little nuts. But if you don’t know it yet, I worked hard to lose 50 lbs in the last two years so it would be a shame if allow myself to fall back into bad habits. Rest assured, I’m making sure to manage my time better so I don’t neglect blogging again.

This week’s reading queue includes a book that I wanted to read for Fall, a book by an indie author, and a book that was sent to me for review that I thought I’d read already but apparently, I haven’t.

The Order of Nature is written by a Canadian author who drew from his experiences travelling in parts of Africa. In some countries of the continent, homosexuality is a taboo thing that could lead in imprisonment or worst. This is a book about a gay couple who was prosecuted for their sexuality and their experiences as they fight for their freedom, and ultimately, for their lives. I saw this book on YouTube as a book recommendation for fans of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, but I fail to see how something as heavy as this could be compared to Simon, to be honest. Simon’s problems seems so small somehow, that is, in comparison to imprisonment or death. Regardless, curiosity won out so I ordered a copy.

Girl, Wash Your Face is a book that I talked about in my Fall TBR. I want to get this out of the way. It’s a slight book, and like I said, the general consensus is that it was nothing groundbreaking but I want to read it anyway.

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee was a book that was sent to me last year for review. I was sure I read and reviewed it, but I guess I haven’t considering I can’t find where I wrote my review. Perhaps it will come back to me once I start reading it.

R E A D L A S T W E E K

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin | Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin | Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin was a great family saga. Just a little weirded out that the story present point in time was decades well into the future. Like, 2079? So weird. Lol. 4/5 Stars.

I already talked about Giovanni’s Room last Saturday and how disappointing it was. I didn’t like the main character at all. He used people and deserted those who’ve helped him. He was spoiled and very entitled. 2 out of 5 Stars.

Serpent & Dove was great. It’s been a while since a read about witches and magic so it’s a great re-introduction. 4 out of 5 Stars.

Bear Town by Fredrik Backman | Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit | Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

Bear Town was so good. It’s a commentary on why women are terrified to come forward when they’re sexually assaulted, essentially rape culture and how men and women alike contribute to the narrative. It was a community who found themselves divided into two: those who believed the girl who was raped, and those who don’t. 5 out of 5 Stars!

Call Them By Their True Names discusses all the things that are wrong with America. Racism, classism, violence against coloured people, the corruption in the current government…and a partridge in a pear tree. You almost have to start over and erase the entire history in order to fix what’s wrong with America. Because, damn. It’s deeply rooted and has gone on since the birth of the country.

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins was fantastic. Really enjoyed the first book to this series. On to the next series from Ms. Jenkins!

DNF! My first DNF of the year belongs to Ms. Nora Roberts’ Undercurrents. This is a new release. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far with this as it deals with abuse. It’s not for those with weak stomachs.

Let me know if you’ve already read any of the books I’m going to be reading this week. If so, did you like it?

I hope you’ll have a great week, y’all.

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Listening Library [3]

This week is a little light. I chose to actually pick up physical books to read instead of relying on audiobooks.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin | Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins | The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci | At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin was a disappointment. Not for the writing, but for the character himself. He was selfish, spoiled, and a user — in other words, no redeeming quality to him whatsoever. It’s really tough to enjoy a book when you despise the character. 2 out of 5 Stars

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins is the first book to her Old West series, which is the story of the girls’ Aunt Edie and Uncle Ryan. This was quite interesting as they were a mixed race couple. I especially love how determined Edie was to make a life for herself, with ambitions of owning her own restaurant. But she was so unlucky. Enjoyed this one. 4 out of 5 Stars.

The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci is a Hungers Game type of novel in a fantasy setting. I haven’t read this one. But I downloaded it from Audible. It’s a 20-hour book. Might listen to it the whole weekend.

At The Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino is a novel about the people who tasted Hitler’s food for poison first before he ate them. Looking forward to starting this one!

So these are all the books I downloaded on audio this week. I’m endeavouring to read my physical copies in the next little while as I have quite a few.

Have you read/listened to any of these?

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[769]: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Full disclosure: this book wasn’t in my radar until Jimmy Fallon featured it as a summer read for his book club. And while I don’t usually take any celeb’s reading suggestions to heart, there’s something about this book that called on my bibliophile sensibilities. And boy, was I happy I picked it up. This was an enduring, heart-captivating read about family, mental health, friendships, love and forgiveness for the people we love no matter the veracity of how they wronged us.

This is a story about two families whose lives are irrevocably connected regardless of time and circumstances over the years. We first meet the two patriarchs of the Stanhopes and the Gleesons in 1973. Besides being in the same profession (cops), they have nothing in common. But somehow, they end up living right beside each other. Behind closed doors, one wife dealt with the loneliness of young motherhood (Lena, Francis’ wife) while the other lived with mental instabilities that isolated her even in her home (Anne, Brian’s wife).

Years later, a friendship between Francis’ youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter blossomed. When they were both fourteen, and during one of Anne’s episodes, a violent crime was committed that would change the trajectory of their lives. What followed was years of loneliness for both Peter and Kate as they tried to deal with the fallout of the tragedy that struck their lives.

This is one of those books that no matter how ugly your connections were, fate somehow, someway, intervenes. That regardless the distance or how many years have passed, the connection can’t be severed. As in the case of Peter and Kate. Because of how their stories were intertwined, they’re never too far away from each other’s thoughts. And while Kate tried her best to move on, Peter, being the sensitive soul that he was, couldn’t. He loved Kate right from the beginning, and vice versa. Despite their families’ wishes to not see each other, and the mental and emotional baggages that came along with them, they were irrevocably tied.

My heart ached for Peter. He was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned by his own parents. Even though both were physically present, they had emotionally checked out from his life since his knowing years. His mother suffered from a mental illness that made her unstable. She was abusive at times, catatonic, most days. But on her good days, she was a mother who doted on Peter. His father, on the other hand, did his best. And unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t strong enough to carry the load. He left Peter in the care of his brother, George — who gave him the emotional support of a father.

In the end, and in the rubble of years of heartaches and disturbing pasts, love survives. Forgiveness endures. Family remains. I think those were the foremost lessons I have gleaned from this book. There are no villains here. Just people surviving from one day to the next.

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On the Night Table [54]

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin | Beartown by Fredrik Backman | Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures by Cain, Thompson & Postlewait|

Happy Monday, all!

I had another outstanding reading week last week. Thanks to the very Fall-like weather, I was not motivated to go to the gym, so I ended up reading under the bed covers. Chalking that up to self-care. Lol. I read a total of eleven books. ELEVEN. Books. Yes. But to be fair, I read two shorties and one graphic novel: Finding Langston & I’m Afraid of Men, and Fence, Volume 3. So technically, I only read 9 books which, I guess would match my total from a week a go. Still an astronomical number, though.

So today, I thought I’d share what I want to get to this week. I started Serpent & Dove on Friday night. I’m conflicted. While this book started out great, I’m getting a little bored with it as I go along. I wish the plot would move a bit faster. Beartown by Fredrik Bachman is one I started a while ago but I had to put it down for whatever reasons. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a non fiction about three doctors wholly involved in Doctors Without Borders. Basically, they tell theirs stories and experiences about being in the frontline of conflict. Can’t wait to finish all three this week.

Here are the books I read last week:

Fence, Volume 3 by CS Pacat | Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick | The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandi | The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary | Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome | My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Montfegh | Vox by Christina Dalcher

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya | Breathless by Beverly Jenkins | Odd One Out by Nic Stone

If I have to pick a favourite, I say it’s a toss up between The Flatshare and My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Let me know if you’re interested in any of the books I read last week.

xoxo

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Listening Library [2]

I honestly have more luck with my weekly downloads in my Libby than I do with my regular purchases. Out of all the books I downloaded last week, only one of them remain unheard (The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes). I so wish my library stocks more new releases. My credit card could use some breathing room. Lol.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin | Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan | Odd One Out by Nick Stone | Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin follows a family from Connecticut and their strong bond amid a family crisis or two. I’m a huge fan of family sagas so this is right up my alley.

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan. This book gave me the “A Man Called Ove” vibe for the simple facts that they are both at the same age as they ruminate about their past loves.

Odd One Out by Nic Stone 1/5 stars. Follows the story of three friends as they navigate through life on the path to self-discovery. I loved about three-quarters of the book, then hated the ending.

Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises by Rebecca Solnit is a collection of essays about violence against women. In the hands of the people they love, the police, and random acts of violence. This will be an anger-inducing, life-affirming commentary about women, more often than not, suffer the greatest at home.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya | Finding Lanston by Lesa Cline-Ransome | Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer | Breathless by Beverly Jenkins

I’m Aftraid of Men by Vivek Shraya. Such a powerful, own voices read. 4/5 Stars.

From Goodreads:

“A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century .” 

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. LOVED this one. 5 /5 Stars. This was a sad, heart wrenching read about a boy who gets bullied in his school.

Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer. I love me some M/M romance from time to time. This one follows two swimmers who are opposites — one openly gay, and the other, closeted. Excited to read this!

Breathless by Beverly Jenkins. I liked this one, too! 4/5 Stars. This is book 2 of the Old West series. Looking for the first book. I might have to use one of my Audible credits.

So these are the downloads that will keep me company on my walks and keep me sane during my workweek. Lol.

Happy listening!

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Best of the Best: Non Fiction Reads

I have been making a concerted effort to read more non fiction novels for the last couple of years. It’s tough to get into for sure, but when I pick a book from this genre, I know it’s something that I absolutely want to read. I don’t get into the habit of picking what’s popular, though that’s not necessarily true in most cases: see Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I’m also a creature of habit so books that I tend to get into are either about politics or feminism.

Today, I thought I’d share with you the top 3 novels that have graced my bookshelves this year. These are the books that made such an impact on me; they made me think. And as in the case of one book, strengthen my conviction.

VISIONARY WOMEN: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World by Andrea Barnet.

If you’re like me who has a vague sense of who these women are and would like to learn more about how they essentially changed the world, pick up this book. Here, you will learn about their impact in our environment. From urban planning, conservation and protection of the chimpanzees’ ecosystem; to the banning of highly toxic pesticides, these four women are the heroines who fought relentlessly to make our world a little bit safer. This is their brief autobiographies focused on their contributions to the world as we know it.

BEASTIE BOYS BOOK by Michael Diamond, Adam Horowitz et al.

This book was extraordinary in all sense of the word. But the only way to enjoy this fully is by downloading the audio book and reading the physical copy at the same time. The audio book contains an amazing star-studded narrators while the hardback itself is a treasure trove of a multi-media feast. I’ve not read anything like it. I was only a semi-fan before but after reading it, I’ve become obsessed. The Beastie Boys’ contribution to hip-hop is truly extraordinary. These threeJewish boys from Brooklyn brought with them their own brand of rhymes and beats. Their humble beginnings and their collaborations with a few household names in both Rock and Hip Hop genres are the stuff dreams are made of. They also addressed/apologized for sexism & misogynistic lyrics in the past. Check out my Instagram for a complete look at this book.

NOTORIOUS RBG: The Life and Times or Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik. Illustrated by Ping Zhu

There are women whose stories inspire you. And there are women whose lives make you feel empowered and insignificant at the same time. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with the four women of the first book of this post, are those women. They fought against all odds at a time when women’s places are definitively at their homes and not on the streets in protest, or as in the case of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, in the law courts. To be instrumental to the institution of equality laws in your land at a time when women working was an incongruous as stay at home dads, was mind blowing and awe-inspiring to say the least.

SPECIAL MENTIONS: Becoming by Michelle Obama, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss & the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and A Model for America’s Future by Peter Buttigieg.

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[768]: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Vivian, a ninety-year-old woman looks back at her life as she pens a letter to her best friend’s daughter. In an attempt to explain the connection she formed with her father over the years, she recounts her life as a woman whom, at first, couldn’t find her place in the world.

Confounded by her lack of prospects in both marriage and career, her parents shipped her off to New York in the care of an eccentric aunt. Peg owned a dilapidated, struggling theatre far and away from the vicinity of Broadway. In New York, she will discover freedom to be herself surrounded by women who will show her independence as well camaraderie borne of survival and artistic creativity by way of theatre. Starting in 1940, her story spans through decades of love, friendships, ruined relationships, war and heartbreaks.

In 2006, Eat, Love, and Pray was one of my favourite non-fiction novels. It was a book about a woman who showed great courage to leave what was familiar and venture all over the world to find herself. It was honest and awe-inspiring. It spurred on a curiosity for her other work. Unfortunately, I was convinced that Eat, Pray, and Love was a fluke — in my own opinion, anyway. So I never did find out exactly how versatile her writing was. City of Girls might’ve done its best to convince me to finally dive in to her backlist, though.

This book felt like it had two faces: the first half aimed to tell the story of women living in a commune above a theatre whose lives were, for the most part, untouched by men. To be clear, men were present but they held very little relevance to the occupants of the Lily theatre. They were side players in the periphery of their lives — which, I thought, was fantastic and one that I’ve rarely read about.

But with the entrance of Peg’s ex-husband, and the emergence of a play that eventually helped put Lily back on the map of theatre-goers, men were, all of a sudden, catalysts to the heartbreaks of the women in the theatre. Don’t get me wrong, women had choices here. Their lives turned out the way they turned out because they chose the paths they chose. I’m not facetious enough to strongly believe all men were evil in this novel. I just found it odd that things started falling apart once men started playing a bigger part in the second half of the novel.

Overall, City of Girls was a fantastic historical fiction in the tradition of The Great Gatsby. Elizabeth Gilbert introduced us to a set of extraordinary women in their own rights, flaws and all. And while the novel was very dense in its heft, her style induces a cathartic zen attributable to good writing. It felt like slipping into warm bath water. Familiar, comforting and a balm to one’s soul.

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Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 222

I may have mentioned how much time I’m spending watching book tube videos lately. One of the pitfalls of diving into the abyss that is book tube is that it makes me salivate over books, therefore forcing my twitchy fingers to order stuff online. Once again, I found myself clicking my pay cheque away with an order from Book Outlet. So here are the books that somehow found their way to my house. *facepalm*

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting | All Our Todays by Elan Mastai | All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover | And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Housseini | American Panda by Gloria Chao | Contagion by Erin Bowman | The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini | Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace | Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave by Darynda Jones (not in the picture)

I’ve read The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting — which was overwhelmingly disappointing; All Our Todays by Elan Mastai, and Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave by Darynda Jones. I know I have to re-read Summoned again because I realized I haven’t written a review for Net Galley.

R e a d L a s t W e e k

I read a total of 9 books last week. My favourites being, The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir and Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper. I also finally picked up a Historical Romance from Ms. Beverly Jenkins. I didn’t realize it was book 3 of her Old West series, but that’s okay. No need to read the series in order, I don’t think. I downloaded book 2, which is Breathless so I’m going to listen to that sometime this week. I enjoyed Tempest, truly. I love how the heroine completely defied all the norms you would expect from a woman of colour especially at that time. I’m looking forward to broadening my reading horizon in this genre. I re-read Red, White and Royal Blue in audio form — loved it! The narrator did Henry’s accent justice. Anyway, here are the rest of the books:

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty | Texas! Sage by Sandra Brown | How to Stop Time by Matt Haig | When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton.

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir | Tempest by Beverly Jenkins | Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston | The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones | Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

So that’s my reading update/book haul last week. I hope your week is going swimmingly well so far. Happy Hump Day!

xoxo

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[767]: Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk

I mentioned on my inaugural Listening Library post about how wonderful my Libby app has been. How it affords me the practice of perusing books, reading them, then buying a copy if I may so choose. This is one of those serendipitous occasions when I loved a book so much that I just had to get a copy.

I love a great whodunnit novel, but more so when it features a female detective. Nikki Griffin is one such character and more. She has this almost supernatural ability to stay level-headed during the most stressful situations. Even while she’s getting tortured and beaten to within an inch of her life. She has the strength and prowess of an MMA fighter and is probably the kind of person you would want in your corner if you happened to find yourself in an abusive relationship. In fact, besides being a bookstore owner, that’s exactly what she does: she hunts down violent, abusive men and give them a taste of their own medicine.

I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for a PI, but I’ve read a few of them whose traumatic dark pasts were the catalyst as to why they are in the profession. Nikki’s, however, seemed like the source of her superpower, so to speak. She has a brother who’s so far gone that she has no choice but enable his drug addiction. I also think that the guilt she carries of how he turned out plays a factor. She loves and cares too much for all the women she helped and the brother who is the source of both her strength and weakness.

It seems like I’ve only talked about Nikki and not about the case that is the crux of the novel. Basically, she was hired to follow an employee suspected of selling company secrets. But slowly but surely, she uncovers something far more sinister than what was let on. Allow me to be a bit of a nerd here for a moment. If you’ve seen Captain America: Winter Soldier, the premise of what Nikki uncovered was similar minus the super weapon that could target them The creation of a technology that will enable the government or any factions to eliminate suspected terrorists and supposed government enemies without due process.

The investigative part of this novel was done quite well. The twist was a surprise and didn’t feel like it was contrived. Overall, Save Me From Dangerous Men was a fantastic debut. A fast-paced, badass pulp fiction of a novel with an equally badass character. What’s more, she can freaking recommend a book on a dime. She’s well-read, fierce, and a kick ass vigilante/assassin who uses her smarts as much as she uses her muscle.

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