Saturday, July 23, 2016

Post Reading: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged - Ayisha Malik

Book Review Muslims in Literature

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged
Author: Ayisha Malik
Published: September 3rd 2015 by Twenty7
Source: Bought
Add it on Goodreads

"Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?' 

Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene. 

As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?

THE REVIEW

If I were to count the number of times I've seen myself represented in fiction, it would take no more than 60 seconds. You'd say I'm lying considering the fact that Muslims are mentioned so often in media. However, literature that is truly representative of Muslims, are few and far between.

Ayisha Malik's debut follows Sofia Khan, a Hijabi Muslim and a first generation immigrant from Pakistan living in London and working in the book publishing industry. Just bouncing back from a broken engagement with a man, Sofia is ready to swear off men. Except, she accidentally pitches a book about Muslims dating to her publicity director!

Armed with nothing but a spankin' new shaadi.com profile (for research, of course), Sofia throws herself hijab first into the Muslim blind dating scene.What follows is a heartwarming, authentic tale of a young Muslim woman in a race against time as she attempts to finish her book and maybe, just maybe find love.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

We Need #DiverseBookBloggers


DIVERSITY AMONG REVIEWERS

Most readers including myself, read book reviews before making a purchasing decision. Simply put, book reviews drive sales.

But does it matter who reviews the book? Definitely.
I regularly buy books solely based on the recommendation of trusted bloggers and reviewers. And I'm more likely to add books to my to-read list or go out and purchase a book based on the review of book blogger than trade reviewers like Kirkus Reviews.

However, libraries and bookstores are likely to choose which books to stock up by looking at trade reviews since they are long established and are high on the credibility scale when it comes to the book publishing industry. Similarly, readers who aren't active on Goodreads, social media and the blogosphere/booktube community are more likely to go to trade review sites for recommendations.

Either way, there's no doubt that reviewers (both trade or independent) have a direct influence on what readers buy. End of story.

So what happens when these reviewers aka influencers are largely white cishet, able-bodied women?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

#DiverseBookBloggers: The Diverse Books Tag




Today's tag post is an extension of the #DiverseBookBloggers Twitter movement that is being spearheaded by Naz of Read Diverse Books and Demelza Griffiths of Books ft. Politics. It aims to bring together and lift up the voices of bloggers from marginalized groups as well as allies promoting diverse books (more on this later). 

The Diverse Books Tag is a bit like a scavenger hunt. You are tasked with finding a book (that you have read or intend to) that fits each of the specific criteria listed below. The purpose of the tag is to promote the kinds of books that may not get a lot of attention in the book blogging community.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Post Reading: Danger, Sweetheart - MaryJanice Davidson

Book Review Danger, Sweetheart - MJ Davidson


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Danger, Sweetheart
Author: MaryJanice Davidson 
Published: May 10th 2016 by Piatkus
Source: Publisher
Add it on Goodreads

This city boy's about to get a taste of country life . . .

Blake Tarbell has a town to save. Rich, carefree, and used to the Vegas party lifestyle, Blake is thrown for a curve when his former cocktail-waitress mother pleads he go back to her roots to save the town she grew up in. Blake's used to using money to solve his problems, but when he arrives in Sweetheart, North Dakota, this city boy has to trade in his high-priced shoes for a pair of cowboy boots - and he's about to get a little help from the loveliest lady in town . . .

Natalie Lane's got no time for newbies. The prettiest gal to ever put on a pair of work gloves, there's nothing she can't do to keep a farm up and running. But when a handsome city-slicker rolls into town with nothing but bad farmer's instincts and good intentions, Natalie's heartstrings are pulled. She's about to teach him a thing or two about how to survive in Sweetheart. And he's about to teach her a thing or two about love.

THE REVIEW

A literary trope is the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clich├ęs in creative works.
We love them. We hate them. Literary tropes have been a point of debate among readers and reviewers alike over the years. Some see them as lazy writing and some simply adore them. And there are others who believe that plot and thematic tropes when done right, can be quite successful.

MaryJanice Davidson's Danger, Sweetheart is full of common tropes found in the romance genre. 45 of them, actually. Yes, you read that right.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Post Reading: Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom - Ensaf Haidar

Raif Badawi #FreeRaif Ensaf Haidar


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story
Author: Ensaf Haidar and Andrea Claudia Hoffmann
Published: 16 March 2016 by Little Brown
Source: Publisher
Add it on Goodreads

When Raif Badawi and Ensaf Haidar fell in love with each other as adolescents, they did so in violation of every moral precept in the strictly Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During their clandestine love affair, the young couple had no idea that, more than a decade later, Ensaf's love for Raif would attract the attention of politicians from around the world as the blogger's wife now mobilises global public opinion in an effort to save her husband from murder at the hands of the Saudi judiciary. With a courage born of desperation, she is fighting from exile in Canada to secure the release of the father of her three children, and is bringing great pressure to bear on the murderous regime in her native country.

Ensaf Haidar tells Raif's and her own story: the story of their shared liberal ideas and her fight for her husband's release.

THE REVIEW

Ensaf Haidar's Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story is the kind of book that sticks with you. Having finished it in more or less one sitting, I couldn't stop thinking about it for a long time. Days after having turned the final page of this powerful non-fiction piece, I was scouring the web for Badawi's work, Haidar's interviews and updates on the trial.

I was obsessed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Post Reading: The Obsession - Nora Roberts



ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Obsession
Author: Nora Roberts
Published: April 14th 2016 by Piatkus
Source: Publisher
Add it on Goodreads

She changed her name. She changed her life. But someone won't let her go. The brand-new novel of love, drama and hope from legendary Nora Roberts. 

Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world. 

Now, at last, she has decided to put down roots. The beautiful old house on Point Bluff needs work, but Naomi has new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton - gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart. 

But as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her. Someone in town knows her terrifying secret - and won't let her forget it. As her new home is rocked by violence, Naomi must discover her persecutor's identity, before it's too late.

THE REVIEW

With over 200 books under her belt Nora Roberts has mastered the art of story telling. However, when you release this many books it's only natural that your books get somewhat formulaic. Nevertheless, it's formula that works pretty well for Roberts. Whenever I'm in a reading slump I can count one of Robert's contemporaries or her In Death books to pull me out so it's no surprise that I enjoyed her recent release, The Obsession.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Muslims Represented in YA Fiction

ISLAM, FICTION AND MEDIA

I can't quite remember a time when I didn't read. I progressed from Ladybird books to Enid Blyton to Nancy Drew to Jeffrey Archer to Jane Austen and then much later to Suzanne Collins. Despite devouring hundreds of book, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen myself portrayed in these books

I identify as a South Asian Muslim. And the handful of books that have portrayed people of color? They have always gotten it wrong.

Misrepresentation is not just a problem relegated to literature. A study released by 416 Labs reveals that the New York Times portrays Islam/Muslims more negatively than alcohol, Democrat, cocaine and cancer (WAIT. WHATTTT?!!) among other benchmarked words. It's no secret that the media often favors sensationalism (who cares about facts and stats, amirite?!) over balanced coverage. But what's surprising is prominent 'feminists' like Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a movie that reinforces white superiority, erasure of Afghan women and the role of white saviors in 'rescuing oppressed Muslim women'. Not only are warped representations of Islam and muslims being propagated by media but now racist statements being tossed about in public by fear-mongering politicians. And it doesn't end there. We have Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other pseudo-experts on Islam who perpetuate offensive and untrue ideas about Muslims.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

#OwnVoices - Is it my story to tell?

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign initiated in 2014 has brought about a significant shift in publishing trends. This is wonderful.

Except, the stats suggest that things may not be wonderful as they appear to be.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Post Reading: The Word for Yes - Claire Needell



ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Word for Yes
Author: Claire Needell
Published: 16 February 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: ARC from Publisher
Add it on Goodreads

At once honest and touching, Claire Needell's debut novel is a moving look at date rape and its aftermath, at the love and conflicts among sisters and friends, and how these relationships can hold us together—and tear us apart.

The gap between the Russell sisters—Jan, Erika, and Melanie—widens as each day passes. Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.
And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.

THE REVIEW

The Word for Yes falls short for me because of multiple reasons - An anti-climatic ending, poor character development, lack of depth and a somewhat stilted writing style. The book itself felt like a emotionless narration of a series of events with no sense of direction.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Word Contessa - A Rebranding Story

People change. Passions change. So it's only natural that your brand evolves too as times goes on. I have been blogging for over 3 years at Say It with Books and I loved it.

Until I didn't.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you felt that your blog's theme/name/niche does not fit you anymore? That you have outgrown something that you previously loved?

THE WORD CONTESSA BLOG BRANDING STORY

In the months leading up to my third blogversary, I realized that I was simply not feeling it. This wasn't just a blogging slump. I considered spicing things up a bit and tried numerous things. I flirted with the idea of self-hosted WordPress which I tried and HATED (loved the bazillion plugins but it was not for me!). I soon realized that my issue was not going to be sorted by a simple font change or migrating to WordPress. After a good two months of going back and forth, I decided to rebrand my blog. It was incredibly liberating and motivating to rethink my content, my blogging voice, blog design and blog name.

Apart from the obvious name change and design overhaul, I have decided to clean up my categories to identify my ideal niche and to bring in topics that I like to write about.

  • Book Reviews: Pretty self-explanatory. I will be looking at switching up my review style a bit and I hope to also review more adult novels along with young adult fiction.
  • Book Talk: I like the idea of discussing the portrayal of real life in fiction so you'll be seeing more posts like my recent discussion Redefining Strong Women in YA Fiction.
  • Blog Talk: During the day I work in PR so I'd like to share my experience in blogging, social media, marketing and brand management along with some organizational tips.
  • Flash Fiction: I hope to sit my ass down and start working on my book this year so I'll be sharing some snippets, short fiction pieces as well as any anecdotes about this whole process.
  • Life: Everything non-blogging, non-writing, non-reading goes here! I hope to get to know my readers and fellow bloggers better this year so this category is the first step towards that.

Shoutout to some incredible people who helped me through this process:

  • Misaki at Three Words who helped with all my hosting + domain change queries! She was patient and brilliant during my (temporary) move to WordPress was super smooth despite me not liking the whole WordPress interface etc.
  • Adele, the super talented tumblr artist who created the gorgeous header artwork!
  • Hazel at Designs by Stay Bookish who helped with the blog layout and all my coding needs.
  • My real life besties + blogging besties + my mum who helped me throughout my blogging identity crisis, helped me pick color palettes and gave incredible feedback! Love y'all! :)

MOODBOARD + COLOR PALETTE


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Post Reading: Leverage - Joshua C. Cohen


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Leverage
Author: Joshua C. Cohen 
Published: 1 February 2011 by Dutton Children's Books
Source: eBook Bought
Add it on Goodreads

The football field is a battlefield

There's an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on - and off - the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy - including the most innocent bystanders. 

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school's salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.
THE REVIEW

One of the biggest misconceptions of anabolic steroid usage is that it is solely used by athletes as a performance enhancing drug.

But in fact, half of the users of steroids aren't even athletes. These “mirror athletes” use steroids in order to achieve an ideal” body. This practice roots from prevalent adolescent body image issues that are often perpetuated by misguided internalized messages in pop culture. Often, boys are obsessed with bulking up in order to fit in with what they see as societal ideals.

An astounding 57% of teenagers admit that they felt compelled to take the drugs what with leading health” magazines constantly featuring ripped guys.

The percentage of teen athletes who do not receive any education about what the side effects of steroids: 85%

The percentage of high school boys who admit to having tried steroids at least once: 11%

Joshua C. Cohen's Leverage is a mature Young Adult novel that focuses on an issue that is often ignored - Steroid usage among adolescents. But Leverage goes above and beyond your average sports fiction novel.

Social hierarchies in school, dismissal of male victims of rape, bullying, substance abuse, abuse of the power and authority, speech disorder - No stone is left unturned. It's an incredibly hard book to read but also hopeful in its own way. Narrated in distinctive dual POVs of a gymnast and a football player, Leverage is a homage to beautiful friendships found in unlikely places.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Redefining Strong Women in YA Fiction


Last night I finished reading Kathy MacMillan's recent YA fantasy novel, Sword and Verse. While the novel itself was underwhelming, what's remarkable about the book is MacMillan's protagonist, Raisa. There's no denying that YA fantasy has now become synonymous with katana-wielding rebels and ass-kicking assassins. So of course, I assumed that Raisa would be another Celaena Sardothien or Kristin Cashore's Katsa. I couldn't have been more wrong. Raisa's weapon of choice is her ability to read, something that's forbidden to all except a chosen few in the kingdom of Qilara. And THAT I find is quite a refreshing change.

Katniss Everdeen revolutionized the way we viewed female heroines. Until 2012 mainstream pop culture saw very few heroines that could be defined as “strong”i.e., heroines who were more than just sidekicks, token love interests and sex symbols. Suzanne Collins hitting the bestseller lists brought on an onslaught of smart as well as tough as nails heroines. While previously female protagonists were seen as mere props to the plot or sex symbols, things now seem to be heading towards another extreme. There has been an influx of authors are building up on physical strength of a heroine while completely forgoing emotional strength. By trying to inject strong heroines into fiction, we seem to be forgetting that strength comes in many forms. We seem to be forgetting that strength comes from within and that a woman does not have to be like a man to be strong

Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's a wrap, 2015.

Well, hello 2016.

2015's been a pretty eventful year for me with it's fair share of ups and downs. And as sad as I'm to say goodbye (I AM GETTING OLD, YO), it feels great to start afresh. It's been only 7 days and my life seems to be getting a major overhaul! I hope to tick a LOT of things off my bucket list in the upcoming months (before my birthday-NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHIN') so fingers crossed. 

Speaking of 2015, I thought I'd share a few things that I particularly loved about the past year + what to expect on the blog this year!

Favorite Reads of 2015




All the Bright Places | Damsel Distressed | I Call Myself a FeministPantherSix of Crows

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Post Reading: Thicker Than Water - Kelly Fiore

Word Contessa Thicker Than Water Kelly Fiore

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Thicker Than Water
Author: Kelly Fiore
Published: 5 January 2016  by Harper Teen
Source: ARC from Publisher
Add it on Goodreads

Cecelia Price killed her brother. At least, that’s what the police and the district attorney are saying. And although Cecelia is now locked up and forced into treatment, she knows the real story is much more complicated.

Cyrus wasn’t always the drug-addled monster he’d become. He was a successful athlete, but when an injury forced him off the soccer field and onto pain medication, his life became a blur of anger, addiction, and violence. All CeCe could do was stand by and watch, until one day she found a solution.

THE REVIEW

> 15 MILLION - The number of people in the US ALONE who abuse prescription drugs.
50% - The percentage of young adults who believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs.
54.2% - The percentage of prescription drug users who get them free from a friend/relative.

Horrifying. 

As appalling as these stats are, they are also very real.

There's no denying that drug abuse is a prevalent issue among young adults so it is downright shocking to find out that very few YA books address drug and substance abuse