Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Bad Muslim Discount by Sayeed M. Masood

 

*Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book- 

Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, The Bad Muslim Discount is an inclusive, comic novel about Muslims immigrants finding their way in modern America.

It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalism takes root within the social order and the zealots next door attempt to make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. Ironically, Anvar's deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother adjust easily to life in America, while his fun-loving father can't find anyone he relates to. For his part, Anvar fully commits to being a bad Muslim.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl living in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. When Anvar and Safwa's worlds collide as two remarkable, strong-willed adults, their contradictory, intertwined fates will rock their community, and families, to their core.

The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, poignant, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed M. Masood examines universal questions of identity, faith (or lack thereof), and belonging through the lens of Muslim Americans.

My thoughts-

When I am looking for a debut novel, I always look for stories that will help me gain perspective on different types of people. I grew up in a household from the time I was a toddler with a Pakistani Muslim step dad, so sometimes I can relate maybe on a higher level to these types of stories than most white people can, but I also don't pretend that I know exactly how they feel, especially actual first generation immigrants so there is always something new I can learn, even in a culture I am familiar with. I absolutely loved this book. Parts of it were incredibly difficult to get through, not because it wasn't well written, because it was, but because of the content, but it was necessary to the story. We can't just brush over the challenges in life for the sake of a pretty novel wrapped up with a neat bow (I say this because I saw a review about this same novel being too difficult to read for sensitive readers. It is a story that needs to be told none the less). The main characters were all relatable, they were all fallible humans, struggling with living their lives, and that is something I think most adult people can relate to, even if not on the same drastic level as these characters. Anvar keep's the story moving as the character that ties everyone together and lightens things up with his humor which was much appreciated. I like that the story begins with Anvar in Pakistan and Safwa in Iraq during their earlier years. It really helps depict why the characters are the way they are. I thought this an excellent debut, and I look forward to more stories from the author in the future. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Where it All Lands by Jennie Wexler


*Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Sliding Doors-esque novel that reveals how our choices define us and how no matter the road, love can find its way.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane's dad. The bitter separation of Drew's parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they've always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

Told in dual timelines, debut author Jennie Wexler's Where It All Lands delivers a heartbreaking and hopeful novel about missed opportunities, second chances, and all the paths that lead us to where we are.


My thoughts-


I love when I come across a book like this one. I always find it interesting to have a book with dual time lines to see how things could have turned out based on how time unfolded. I like the way it began with a tease of the ending and we had no idea how we were going to get there. I also liked that it kind of showed that things were going to go how they were going to go in either time line and it didn't necessarily matter the choice that was made, sometimes things change but sometimes they don't. Sometimes there is a different route to get to the ending, but maybe it is always your destiny. I know this review is cryptic but I don't want to ruin the plot line of either time line.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA. It was a quick and interesting read.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Tables & Spreads by Shelly Westerhausen with Wyatt Worcel

 

*Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Tables & Spreads is a must-have cookbook and resourceful styling guide from bestselling author Shelly Westerhausen, author of the bestselling Platters & Boards

More than 60 easy-to-prepare recipes plus behind-the-scenes insight into creating a beautiful, inviting table for every occasion. Including tips on choosing a theme, styling your food in creative ways, and achieving that "wow factor" with linens, flowers, music, and more.

There are 20 visually striking spreads that range from Ladies Night Lettuce Wraps to a Christmas Morning Dutch Baby Party, Dips for Dinner, and a Boozy Bloody Mary Bar.

Rich with gorgeous and instructive photography, Tables & Spreads is inspiring yet totally accessible, perfect for home cooks who like to host gatherings of all sizes, and those who loved Shelly's first book, Platters & Boards.

My thoughts-

I really love to enterain people at my house when I am able to and I have recently got into making charcuterie boards as well. I like making them for dates nights for my husband and me as well, but I am not incredibly creative on my own and the boards I have made are getting a little boring. This book isn't solely about making boards, but food (and drink) spreads in general and there are some incredible recipes and ideas in here that I can't wait to try. There are menus broken down by event and I find that to be a big help. I also liked the beginning section and found it to be informative about the different utensils and things you may be using like the different kinds of cheese knives. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys entertaining or who just enjoys making fun things in the kitchen. 

Love in Lockdown by Chloe James

*Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

What if you met the right person at the wrong time?

Sophia is afraid lockdown will put her life on pause – just as she was she was going to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.
 
Jack is used to living life to the fullest, and is going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until that night he hears a woman crying from the balcony beneath his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile back on her face.
 
Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.
 
Can they fall in love during a lockdown?


My Thoughts-

I know a lot of people are not ready for book set during the pandemic because reading fiction is an escape for most people and I completely get that so this book may not be for everyone. I thought the premise sounded adorable and I don't mind current events finding their way into my fiction, especially if there is a nice component of romance to go with it, and this had romance in droves. I also found the characters in this book to be likeable and relateable and I absolutely loved the great humor spread throughout the novel. There were places here and there where the book lost its momentum and I found myself a little bored or skipping over parts, but overall it was a cute story set in this crazy time we are living in. I can only hope there are some people who have actually had these meet cute scenarios happen to them this last year and that they will have a great story to tell from this not so great time in history we are living through. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a light hearted romance. 



 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

 

*Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

My Thoughts-

I LOVED Emma Lord's debut novel Tweet Cute, so I was incredibly excited to see she had another novel out. I really think she may be becoming one of my favorite YA authors. You Have a Math is completely different than her first, but just as engaging. I loved the geneology aspect of it, since I am intrigued by ancestry and the whole secret sister thing added a fun element of suspense as you move through the book and wonder exactly what happened. This book was equal parts funny and pull at your heartstrings emotional. If you haven't discovered Emma Lord yet, and you like the YA genre, immediately go out and get both of these books to devour!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

*Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

My thoughts-

I love historical fiction, but I tend to stick to my favorite go-to time period which is the WWII. Sometimes I may veer out of this era to something interesting that grabs my attention but I will admit the last time I remember reading a book set durng the Dust Bowl/Great Depression era was in high school for my senior research paper when I very begrudgingly read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I haaaaaated it. I don't think I even finished it and because it was such a long project it turned me off of books set in that same era. I figured if anyone could write a book about it that would hold my attention it was Kristin Hannah and I was right. I couldn't put it down. The book was interesting from start to finish. It was set in Texas (which may have been more interesting to me than Steinbeck's novel set in Oklahoma, because I am a Texan) and California and deals with not only a family's particular struggles but also protests about unfair wages and living conditions. I found it to be such a great book that all these many years later it made me feel like maybe I should give The Grapes of Wrath another chance.  Kristin Hannah's historical fiction is always excellent. I recommend it to anyone who loves history. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Beginning French Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse by Les Américains


 *Disclosure of material collection- I received the book in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-


The trouble started when their dream came true.

First they took French. Then they took leave of their senses. They bought a 400-year-old cottage in rural France from an ad on the Internet. Their “completely restored” farmhouse certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked, the walls cracked, and the electricity fizzled whenever they switched on the kettle.

This is the wry and witty memoir of les Américains, Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter Sara. Their dream of being French leads them into uncharted territory where "oh la la" takes on a whole different meaning.

Before they can even move in, a freak accident destroys the interior of the house. An ancient wisteria threatens to uproot the kitchen floor. The wildlife continually tries to take up residence, and the pool becomes a watery hole that swallows up euros. And then there’s Jacqueline.

The only way les Américains can salvage their sanity is by adopting a simple, time-tested mantra: “Have a setback, have a drink.” Soon they’re buying rosé by the case.

Whether you’re a traveler, foodie, Francophile, or home-improvement veteran, Beginning French will enchant you with its vivid portrayal of part-time life in southwest France. Home chefs will enjoy the 12 Dordogne-inspired recipes, and English speakers will appreciate the interactive glossary of French terms.


My thoughts-

Traveler? Check. Foodie? Check. Francophile? Huge Check! This was definitely a book tailor made for my tastes. I enjoyed living vicariously through Eileen and Marty and their daughter as they welcomed us into their vacation home in a remote part of France through this memoir. They shared the good, the bad, and the ugly because owning a second home across the ocean isn't all butterflied and rainbows (those home improvements though! I can certainly relate as we have had to do a major remodel at our home this year...I can not imagine having to deal with that in another country at a second home!) but in the end I think Mary and Eileen wouldn't have it any other way. If I were ever to have a second home elsewhere France would probably be the place. I love that their neighbors welcomed them with open arms and that even when there is a language barrier, communication is still able to happen somehow or another. I truly loved this memoir. Definitely read this one is you're missing traveling this year, particularly like me if you were supposed to be in France this year. It's not the same thing, but it's a nice hold over until I can be in the city of love once again.