Book Review: A Good Wife by Samra Zafar

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive a signed ARC of Samra Zafar’s memoir A Good Wife. Memoirs can be hit or miss and I was hoping that this one was well-written as the blurb describing the book sounded intriguing.

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Autobiography

Blurb:

She faced years of abuse after arriving in Canada as a teenage bride in a hastily arranged marriage, but nothing could stop Samra Zafar from pursuing her dreams.

At 15, Samra Zafar had big dreams for herself. She was going to go to university, and forge her own path. Then with almost no warning, those dreams were pulled away from her when she was suddenly married to a stranger at 17 and had to leave behind her family in Pakistan to move to Canada. Her new husband and his family promised that the marriage and the move would be a fulfillment of her dream, not a betrayal of it. But as the walls of their home slowly became a prison, Samra realized the promises were empty ones.

In the years that followed she suffered her husband’s emotional and physical abuse that left her feeling isolated, humiliated and assaulted. Desperate to get out, and refusing to give up, she hatched an escape plan for herself and her two daughters. Somehow she found the strength to not only build a new future, but to walk away from her past, ignoring the pleas of her family and risking cultural isolation by divorcing her husband.

But that end was only the beginning for Samra. Through her academic and career achievements, she has gone on to become a mentor and public speaker, connecting with people around the world from isolated women in situations similar to her own, to young schoolgirls in Kenya who never allowed themselves to dream to men making the decisions to save for their daughters’ educations instead of their dowries. A Good Wife tell her harrowing and inspiring story, following her from a young girl with big dreams, through finding strength in the face of oppression and then finally battling through to empowerment.

My thoughts:

When I began reading this memoir, I did not know much about child brides, arranged marriages in Pakistan, or about the culture described in the book. I had seen women dressed to show their cultural background while walking the streets in Toronto, but had never really thought about the life they may lead behind closed doors. This memoir was an eye-opener for me. Zafar exposes not only her own experience and the loss of her dreams and innocence, but also the experience of so many women who have been encouraged into arranged marriages from a young age.

A Good Wife describes the changes Zafar experienced in her life: that from a young, independent child; to a sixteen year old who is married to a man older than her who lives across the world in another country; to a married woman living in a foreign country far from the support of her family; to the fight she took on to realise her dreams. While reading the memoir, I could not help but admire how she overcame all her obstacles. Her story is definitely an inspiration to all women – no matter what culture they are.

The memoir is extremely well-written and at no time was I bored with the story. In fact, I could not put it down and my interest was kept throughout. I felt pain when she described hurtful moments; and cheered when she worked at overcoming the obstacles to her dreams. As I completed the memoir, I could not help but feel a huge amount of respect for this woman who went against cultural expectations to be the woman she has become today.

If you enjoy reading memoirs, this is one you need to read. If you wish to find out more about the experience of child brides within this cultural context, this is a book that will add to your knowledge. If you wish to understand more of the culture of the Muslim community from Pakistan, this life story will add to your understanding. A Good Wife is a book that resonated with me and is one that I will think about for a long time.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 82nd in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart by R. Zamora Linmark

As it is ARC August, I decided to pick up another one of the Young Adult novels I was given at the OLA Super Conference earlier in thee year: The Importance of Being Wilde At Heart by R. Zamora Linmark.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

Blurb:

Readers of Adam Silvera (They Both Die at the End) and Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X) will pull out the tissues for this tender, quirky story of one seventeen-year-old boy’s journey through first love and first heartbreak, guided by his personal hero, Oscar Wilde.

Words have always been more than enough for Ken Z, but when he meets Ran at the mall food court, everything changes. Beautiful, mysterious Ran opens the door to a number of firsts for Ken: first kiss, first love. But as quickly as he enters Ken’s life, Ran disappears, and Ken Z is left wondering: Why love at all, if this is where it leads?

Letting it end there would be tragic. So, with the help of his best friends, the comfort of his haikus and lists, and even strange, surreal appearances by his hero, Oscar Wilde, Ken will find that love is worth more than the price of heartbreak. 

My thoughts:

Fans of Oscar Wilde will love this novel because of all the Wilde references in the story. The main character, Ken Z, is a Wilde fan and meets another while bunburying (i.e., taking on another identity while visiting a place where you are not well-known). Ran lives on the other side of the island and has a completely different living experience to Ken Z. The relationship between the two boys is at times confusing for Ken Z. who then turns to Wilde for advice in his imagination.

Linmark has created a world which exists on an island and is designated the North and South. The North is affluent and has many advantages including the airport, the military, free schooling, and the ability to move freely anywhere on the island. The South is poorer and is dependent on the North for many things. Even though the people in the South cannot visit the North without permission, they do enjoy more personal freedoms than those living in the North. It was interesting to make the comparison between Linmark’s created world and the society in which we live and to see how the author is subtly criticising our own world.

Linmark also makes references to prejudices in our society against the minorities when describing CaZZ, a transgender person; as well as makings references to a racial group minority when describing the culture of Cazz’s heritage.

The Importance of Being Wilde At Heart is a novel which does refer to many important social issues as well as LGBT ones. Linmark creates a world that mirrors our own – even in terms of social media and the manner in which teens interact. I did, however, find the novel to be a slow read. The chapters are broken up with images of text messages or references from Wilde’s work. These interruptions, while interesting, did not help increase the pacing of the novel.

This novel is not one of my favourites and, for me, it was an okay read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 81st in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

My daughter volunteers for a Youth programme at our local public library. One evening she came home with a handful of ARCs that she had been offered by the librarian. One of them was Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. She graciously allowed me to read it first. 🙂

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this emotional read – so much more than I expected I would!

Stella Grant has cystic fibrosis and, as a result, has spent a lot of time in hospitals. Will Newman arrives on her wing and, because he has been diagnosed with B. cepacia, he has to remain six feet apart from Stella so that he doesn’t infect her. However, Stella wants to get to know Will better and begins a campaign to spend time with him. A romance begins between the two of them; a romance which will have you reaching for the kleenex!

Not only did I enjoy the young – and forbidden – romance between the two teens, I also learned about cystic fibrosis. This is a disease that is not often mentioned in mainstream society. The descriptions of the disease in the novel led me to confirm symptoms and treatment online. I love it when I learn something new from a novel that I am reading. And I like that teens are the ones reading about this in their stories.

Five Feet Apart is a heartfelt story that describes young love and the sacrifices that are made for that love. The interaction between the two teens is written with sensitivity and really tugs at your heartstrings. It is a well-written story that you will remember for a long time after you have finished reading it. I recommend this read for both young and old.

Five Feet Apart is one novel you will not regret picking up!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars without reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 80th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry

As the next Frenzy Presents event was approaching, I thought I would focus on reading the rests of the ARCs that I had received at the previous one. Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry was one of them.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt. 

My thoughts:

Hello Girls is a story about two young women who go on a road trip and, in doing so, find out more about themselves and their inner strength. Winona finds the courage to be herself and to explore the person that she wants to be; Lucille finds the ability to give herself permission to live her own life unencumbered by feelings of guilt and duty.

The start of this novel was a little slow for me. The beginning of the story sets the stage for the road trip and is slow-paced. The storyline at this point is also a little predictable. Once Winona and Lucille begin their road trip, however, the pace picks up a little. It is then that the reader will begin to see a some character development as the girls begin to explore who they are.

For me, the novel became interesting about mid-way. The main characters were exploring who they were and, with mistakes along the way, they were discovering the type of people they want to be. Hello Girls is a coming of age novel of young women who become self-assured and who learn that they can depend on themselves to plan their life path.

Hello Girls is a perfect novel for a teen who is thinking about the type of person they want to be. This story shows that you can change the track your life is on – all it takes is courage and the support of a friend someone who is close to you.The saving grace of the novel, for me, was the second half of the novel. It is the second half that kept me reading to the end.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 79th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

I was in the mood for a romantic comedy so I picked up the ARC of the novel I had received at the OLA Super Conference: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane. Whenever I looked at the title of this story when I read it, I could not help but start singing the song by Simple Minds of the same title. 🙂

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

If there’s one thing worse than being fired from the grottiest restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else.

Reeling from the indignity of a double dumping on the same day, Georgina snatches at the next job that she’s offered – barmaid in a newly opened pub, which just so happens to run by the boy she fell in love with at school: Lucas McCarthy. And whereas Georgina (voted Most Likely to Succeed in her school yearbook) has done nothing but dead-end jobs in the last twelve years, Lucas has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but also has turned into an actual grown-up with a business and a dog along the way.

Meeting Lucas again not only throws Georgina’s rackety present into sharp relief, but also brings a dark secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows the truth about what happened on the last day of school, and why she’s allowed it to chase her all these years…

My thoughts:

Ever wondered what it would be like to meet your first love many years later? Especially if things between you did not end properly? Georgina does – and yet it seems that he does not remember her. Therefore the interactions between Lucas and Georgina seem to start from scratch – though she cannot help but remember the Lucas from her high school years.

Meeting someone from her past takes Georgina back to an experience that she has shoved into the back of her mind. In reflecting on this experience, she finally comes to realise how much it has affected her actions in the years since she graduated from high school. Acceptance of her experience helps her to change her circumstances and step out of the life that she has fallen in. The novel takes us on her journey – a journey that some people may have taken at an earlier age. Don’t You Forget About Me does focus on Georgina’s story and, as such, we read a complete development of her character.

I love that McFarlane focuses on the story of her female character. Yes, there is a love interest and the feelings of confusion and attraction that come with it. But there is also the story is about the feelings, hesitations, desires, and dreams of a woman. We read about more than just a relationship between a man and a woman. We read of her interactions with friends, her interactions with her ex, and her interactions with those at work. We also read of her difficulties with her ex and how she deals with it.

I enjoyed reading Don’t You Forget About Me. The novel was a perfect read for a lazy summer’s day. I enjoyed the character building of Georgina and her interaction with the various characters in the novel. The story made me smile at some of the antics described. McFarlane has written a perfect modern romantic comedy that you will not regret reading.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 78th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I picked up Jodi Thomas’ The Little Teashop on Main. The cover of the ARC attracted my gaze and, as I enjoy reading stories of this genre, I chose to bring it home with me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A rainy-day ritual—a tea party between three little girls—becomes the framework of not only their friendship, but their lives. 

Blonde, curly-haired Zoe is openhearted, kind and free-spirited, and dreams of becoming a famous actor in New York City. Shy Emily struggles with mental health but has the heart and soul of a writer. And Shannon—tall, athletic, strong—has a deep sense of loyalty that will serve her well when she heads off to military college.

As Zoe, Emily and Shannon grow into women—forging careers, following dreams and finding love—they’ll learn that life doesn’t always unfold the way they want it to, but through it all, the one constant is each other, and their regular tea parties. And when the unthinkable happens, the girls must come together to face the greatest test of all.

My thoughts:

The novel spans many years and begins when the friends were five years old. Thomas, however, does not take us through every year of their lives. Instead we learn more about Zoe, Emily and Shannon as adults. In addition, we read the thoughts of some of the people in their lives. Told from the point of view of many characters, we are able to see into the mind of each and how each person affects the life trajectory of the women.

Thomas takes us on the journey of three women’s lives. We read about their aspirations, their failures, the fulfilment of their dreams, and the love they experience in their lives. We read about a friendship that is so strong that it spans decades and even distance. I loved that this friendship was an important part of the story. The love and romance between two people and a potential partner is explored while the love between friends is not forgotten.

The Little Teashop on Main is a light read with plenty of romance (if you are looking for steamy sex scenes, however, this one will not deliver). The novel doesn’t delve too deeply into it characters – though as a reader, you will feel a connection with the main female characters. I enjoyed the story and it is perfect for a lazy and relaxing afternoon.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 75th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

My friend and I have started reading books together and discussing them. Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is one of thoses books that I have been telling her to read. In order to have a profitable discussion with her, I decided to reread the book.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist.

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind. 

My thoughts:

I LOVED reading the book again! (If you want to read my original review, please click here.) The novel has so much in it to discuss with a buddy: prejudices and reasons for them; the growth of someone as they let go of their own pride; the struggle to become non-conformist; workplace difficulties; social expectations. These are just a few of the issues my friend and I have discussed. We were also able to link the story to some of our own experience even though we are not a part of the Muslim community.

Rereading Ayesha At Last has made me love the story even more. I appreciated once again the characters that Jalaluddin has created; and smiled, unreservedly, at the subtle references made to Pride and Prejudice. The story is humorous, prods at social norms, and has become one of my favourite rom-coms.

Once again, I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 70th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

I was so excited to receive an ARC of Postscript by Cecilia Ahern. I love her writing and could not wait to start reading it. I normally try to read the ARCs near the time of publication – but I could not wait with this one!

Publication date: 19 September 2019

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

When Holly Kennedy is approached by a group calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, her safe existence is turned on its head. Inspired by hearing about her late husband Gerry’s letters, the club wants Holly to help them with their own parting messages for their loved ones to discover after they’re gone.

Holly is sure of one thing – no way is she being dragged back to the grief she has left behind. It’s taken seven years to reinvent herself, and she’s ready to move on with her life.

But Holly comes to realize that when you love someone, there’s always one more thing to say…

My thoughts:

Postscript is a perfect sequel and is as beautifully written as PS. I Love You. I enjoyed reading more about Holly and her life 7 years after she had lost her husband. Life goes on after death, and this is what is shown in this novel. However, a loved one is always with you despite their death; and this, too, is shown in Ahern’s latest writing.

As with the first novel, Holly is the centre of the story. Even though she is in a relationship with another man, her romantic relationship is not what drives the story. Holly still has things to learn and in this novel she grows even more. Our personal growth does not stop at a certain age. Instead our life experiences and the people we come into contact with help to mould us into the people we are. In Postscript, Holly comes into contact with people who need her help. She gives her help – but with trepidation and plenty of uncertainty. And yet, in helping these people, Holly discovers that they help her too. In helping these people, she is able to grow as a person.

As always, Ahern’s writing is spot-on. Her words pull emotions from the reader (I do admit to tears forming in my eyes) and encourage you to become invested in the story. As I was reading, the characters were so vivid in my mind, and so real. Ahern is definitely a master at characterisation.

If you loved PS. I Love You (either the film or the book), you will enjoy Postscript as much as I did. This novel is definitely one you need to place on your TBR!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 67th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Cecilia Ahern’s publisher, Harper Collins, sent me an ARC of the sequel to PS I Love You and before I read it, I wanted to read the first novel. Even though I had read the novel before, I had read it many years ago and wanted to refresh my memory on details.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry.

Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. 

Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. 

As the notes are gradually opened, and as they year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing — and being braver than ever before. 

Life is for living, she realizes — but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

My thoughts:

I loved this story when I first read it and with the re-reading, I love it even more. The story is about love of a soul mate – not a perfect love, but a love that has endured the day to day arguments and frustrations that couples experience. Unfortunately Gerry dies and leaves Holly alone. Holly is devastated and we read how she learns to cope without her love. The notes that Gerry has left her guide her through her grief and help her to create a life without her soul mate.

PS I Love You is not only a story about a lost love; it is a story that describes the voyage of a woman who her entire adult life has relied on another person to help her make decisions and help her through the ups and downs of life. During her grieving process, Holly learns about herself and who she truly is. She comes to realise more about herself as well as more on the other people in her life. She learns to see things through her eyes, and not through the eyes of her partner. In addition, Holly discovers her inner strength.

This novel is not a romance like many others. Instead it is about a love that has been experienced; the growth of a woman to find her inner strength; and about the grieving process. Re-reading this story has allowed me to appreciate even more Ahern’s storytelling prowess. Now I look forward to reading the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 66th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

I had seen The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren all over Instagram as people read the book and stated that it was a good story. I decided to give it a read.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

My thoughts:

The Unhoneymooners was the perfect rom-com read. It was a humorous story that highlights prejudices and the way we assume what others are thinking. Misunderstandings can morph and escalate into feelings of almost hatred. This pseudo-hatred is what exists between Olive and Ethan, and one which ensures that neither one of them will back down from an unexpected holiday. Spending time together, however, leads Olive to an understanding that it is her own insecurities that began the love-hate relationship between them.

Olive not only comes to an understanding of her relationship with Ethan but she also learns a little more about herself during, and after, her unexpected holiday. Her self knowledge comes from self-reflection as a result of her experiences. As in all modern romantic comedies, the heroine is able to grow without the aid of the male protagonist. Instead, he is the catalyst that encourages self-reflection and self-realisation.

I enjoyed reading Lauren’s latest novel and recommend it if you are looking for a light read that will make you laugh and leave you with a sense of satisfaction at the end.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 65th in my book pledge for 2019)