Sunday, March 22, 2020

Book Reviews - Books with a Smile

Another round of reviews to share as I do. These were ones I read in the days after life changed for us all, so I was mindful to find things that were light and would bring me joy. This quartet absolutely did what I needed it to in that regard!

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin was just a delight of a story. It was marketed as the Muslim Pride and Prejudice, but y'all, it was so, so, so much more than that. Above all else, this really was Ayesha's story. I loved her as a character and story that was built around her. Ayesha is currently a teacher, but her true passion is writing, specifically poetry. She feels the pressure around her to get married, primarily via her cousin Hafsa's experience being in the thick of all the proposals. Even though arranged marriage is an option, Ayesha holds true to herself and does not feel like that is something she wants. The other central character is Khalid. Khalid is traditional and very much believes in arranged marriage. When Ayesha and Khalid are brought together, they find they connect in some ways, but also have some major differences. And that's where their story begins and really goes. Y'all, again, this was just such a wonderfully told love story. I loved the twists throughout (some of which are literal jaw droppers!) that really kept me turning the pages as I had to know what happened to Ayesha. To me, this wasn't really a retelling of a classic. I spent very little time comparing with the past because I was so enthralled with the here and now. I could say so many different ways (and I'll stop here so I don't) that this is just a wonderful, wonderful read.

The Multi-Hyphen Life by Emma Gannon was an interesting reflection on the importance of giving time and energy to the variety of interests and skills we each possess. It shouldn't just be within the scope of the professional work we might do and/or compartmentalizing, rather it's about looking at ourselves and this experience holistically. What I love is that this isn't a one size fits all read. Rather this is a book to offer intentional space to reflect on what this means within the context of personal interests and skills. This requires "real talk" with yourself to define what you're trying to do, but also being real about what you truly want to do. I also appreciated that this approach was grounded in care. She names that we can exhaust ourselves trying to do all the things, and that should never be the point. We have to answer these questions for ourselves with reflection and thought, then proceed accordingly. As I read, I found myself marking lots of ideas and reflections to return to as I build out my own interests and skills to best fit into my whole life. Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing for the look at this upcoming April 2020 release!

What You Wish For by Katherine Center is a book that immediately soared to the top of my to-read list as books by this author do. She has this way of writing stories about love in a way that is so different and unexpected and wonderful. This installment focuses on Samantha, a librarian at an elementary school steeped in fun tradition and innovative learning. After a beloved principal suddenly dies, Duncan is appointed to take his role. Samantha is excited as she one worked with Duncan and feels his spirit will mesh well with the culture of the school. The Duncan who shows up is very different. His highest priority is increasing school safety. With this, he looks to extreme measures to make the school more secure. Many of these measures cut into the heart of the school and the character Samantha so loves. Samantha is angered by the shift and determined to do whatever she must to save the school for the kids. Throughout, Samantha also wonders what's changed in Duncan, so this also adds depth and intrigue to the story. Again, Katherine Center has written intriguing characters that are centered throughout. Having people to root for adds such connection, and she does this masterfully. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martins Press for the early look at this July 2020 release. While you're waiting for it to come out, do yourself a favor and check out How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire!

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis was a book I thought I had figured out as I started reading. What I loved is the real story was so much different - and better! The story focuses on Emmie. As a sixteen year old, Emmie wrote a secret in a balloon. This was something she wanted and needed to share with someone. With the message, she included her email address. Weeks later, a boy named Lucas finds the balloon, reaches out, and a special friendship begins. In present day, Lucas is getting married, and Emmie is asked to be his best woman. The thing is, Emmie is in love with Lucas. She has loved how he has cared for her through the years, and she now much figure out how to navigate and share those feelings. Y'all, again, from here, I thought I knew where this story was going. I did not at all. What happens is there is more to Emmie's story, as well as the relationship with Lucas than Emmie realizes. These are important secrets and details that have never been explored or discovered or revealed. What I thought was going to be a "predictable" love story was really the story of a woman truly learning who she and those who loved her really were. As I read this one and realized more and more what this book was, I really was more captivated by it all. It was such a beautiful story, and I adored it. It's one that just made smile, and I was so here for that. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this July 2020 release.

Onto the next ones!