the jade lily

If you loved The Book Thief or All the Light We Cannot See, then I am 100% positive you will not be able to put The Jade Lily down. You will probably end up reading it non stop (like I did) and you will honestly thank me later once you have finished reading it (you are welcome). I have read a fair share of WW2 inspired fiction books but this one simply blew my mind away.

Blurb: In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. 

In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself. 

A compelling and gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

What I liked about it: After reading a few chapters, I found myself googling locations that were repeatedly mentioned, such as the Shanghai French Concession and Shanghai Ghetto. I could not believe I had never heard of Holocaust refugees fleeing to Shanghai. The more I read, the more of an eye opener this book became for me.

It was fascinating following the parallel narratives and time frames moving between Shanghai (1938) and Melbourne (2016). Kirsty Manning’s brilliant use of descriptive imagery made me feel as if I was being transported to Vienna and Shanghai.

I was heavily invested in both narratives but felt more connected with Romy’s character and story. I particularly enjoyed reading about the use of herbal medicine and her heartbreaking journey from Vienna to Shanghai, and then from Shanghai to Melbourne.

This book was so beautiful and sad. It gently tugged on all of my heart strings, one by one, and left me wishing for more in the end. I really hope this ends up as a film adaption.

What I disliked about it: The first few chapters were a little slow but that definitely did not stop from giving this five stars!

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

I recommend this book if you are interested in:

  • Holocaust fiction
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Australian fiction
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the namesake

For the past year, I have been going through a phase where I have predominantly been reading books that focus on South Asian characters. I was excited to tick this off my reading list. This was my first time reading a book by Jhumpa Lahiri and it certainly will not be the last. I fell in love with The Namesake just by looking at the title and book cover (yes, I am of THOSE people and I regret nothing).

Blurb: The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world.

Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.

What I liked about it: The plot and character struggle were the two key factors that inspired me to read this book in the first place. The Namesake revolves around an Indian boy named Gogol, who is growing up in America and hates his awkward name. Throughout his life, he desperately tries to cut off all roots with his Indian-Bengali heritage, so he can blend into the American culture. As I was reading the first few chapters, I was immediately reminded of several “Gogols” that I have met in my school, college, university, workplace and Pakistani community. I could think of so many souls that are still deeply ashamed of their culture, traditions and identity that they refuse to be called by their Pakistani or Muslim name.

Jhumpa Lahiri has a flair for writing in a way that makes you feel as if you are sitting right next to the character. It was easy to get into the story and I didn’t lose interest for even a second. I absolutely love reading books about the South Asian immigration experience so this was a highly delightful read.

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

What I disliked about it: Of course, at times, I simply wanted to yell at Gogol for disrespecting his parents and taking his culture and identity for granted. But Gogol is a flawed character, just like any of us. And I guess this is the reason The Namesake was such an enjoyable read. The characters are raw, honest and flawed.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

The book was both predictable and unpredictable. I enjoyed reading every single page. It was a beautiful, heart wrenching read that made me both happy and sad. I recommend this book if you are interested in:

  • Indian-American fiction
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Book to film adaption
  • Culture and identity

the woman in the window

This was clearly one of the most anticipated books of 2018 on social media. As I am not a huge fan of mystery/thriller fiction, I was not overly keen to give this book a read at first. The title seemed cliched and unfortunately I am one of those people that judge books by their titles. However, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy from HarperCollins Publishers so I knew I had to read The Woman in the Window to see what the hype is all about.

Blurb: Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbours.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

What I liked about it: The book is fast paced, I finished reading it within a few days. It is a real page turner filled with several plot twists. There wasn’t a single page where I felt like putting the book down. Even though some of the twists were quite predictable to the reader, I was hooked and really enjoyed the timing of the twists.

“The world is a beautiful place,” she insists, and she’s serious; her gaze is even, her voice level. Her eyes catch mine, hold them. “Don’t forget that.”

What I disliked about it: The cliched title annoyed me. The beginning of the story almost reminded me of The Girl on the Train. Nothing original about using a female protagonist that is an alcoholic and prone to hallucinating as a result of medication. At times, the protagonist’s misuse of alcohol and pills got pretty repetitive to read.

The author also made a lot of references to classic black and white films. It was a cool tactic at first, but then it soon became unnecessary and boring.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐/5

It was definitely an enjoyable read and I am glad I finally got around to reading this. However, I don’t think this book was groundbreaking. It was overly hyped up and the twists were nothing new in the world of mystery/thriller fiction. I recommend this book if you are interested in:

  • Suspenseful mystery fiction
  • Psychological thriller fiction
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Female protagonist

the pearl that broke its shell

I remember the last time I finished reading a Khaled Hosseini book, I desperately began my search for similar books set in modern day Afghanistan. Back in 2015, I was casually scrolling through my Goodreads feed when I accidentally stumbled across Nadia Hashmi’s books. I was stoked to find a best selling Afghan-American female author and immediately added all her books to my wish list. Fast forward three years later, I have finally finished reading The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.

Blurb: In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

What I liked about it: The book is set in both the early 20th and 21st century. It focused on various themes such as child marriages, arranged marriages and gender inequality in the traditional Afghani culture.

I had no idea the bacha posh concept existed, so I enjoyed learning something new from this culture.

The viewpoint and setting between the two protagonists, Rahima and Shekiba changed frequently so that aided in keeping the story interesting.

I didn’t realise until the very end that this book is loosely based on historical events, so that was definitely a bonus for me because I absolutely love historical fiction.

“I was a little girl and then I wasn’t. I was a bacha posh and then I wasn’t. I was a daughter and then I wasn’t. I was a mother and then I wasn’t.”

What I disliked about it:  The first third of the book was incredibly slow for me. At times, I struggled to find the motivation to continue reading any further and I even put away the book several times (which is super rare for me).

I think the main issue for me was that I did not feel well connected to any of the characters. The author introduced way too many characters and did not focus on character development very well.

For example, in the beginning we are introduced to a character named Abdullah who appears to be quite important to the protagonist, Rahima. I was pretty keen to learn more about him throughout the book but he ended being mentioned only on the first few pages and that was it. I found it pretty disappointing in the end when I realised he was only meant to be a minor character.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐/5

I had very high expectations when I started reading this book. I thought I would finish reading it within a few days. I was so wrong. It took me several long months to finish this book (partly my fault because I didn’t set enough time aside to read).

It wasn’t a bad book, it just was not what I had expected. These are just my views and you will probably end up liking it way more than me. I recommend this book if you are interested in:

  • Afghan fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Strong female protagonists

book recommendations

A lot of friends have been recently asking me for my top recommendations on what to read next. So instead of copying and pasting the same text message over and over again, I thought it might be a better idea if I did a quick blog post to share with you all.

BOOKS

  1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  2. Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam
  3. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  4. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  5. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  10. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  11. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  12. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  13. Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Moghaded

I have rainy mood and some of my favourite songs playing in the background as I am writing this. For some reason, writing this list is making me want to re-read some of these books badly. I am so incredibly attached to this list of books. I could go on and on about these. I wanted to write a quick sentence next to each book explaining why I am recommending it but I thought maybe that would be boring you unnecessarily.

I really hope you find this useful. Please let me know if you end up reading any of the above! Happy reading xx

the favourites (part two)

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The follow up post to the favourites (part one). Hope it inspires you (and I) to write again.

april love letters

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the things that would have changed by then

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the notes to no one

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first the apology, then the thank you

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the favourites (part one)

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Up until recently, I refused to read my old blog posts. My number one blog rule for myself has always been: once it has been posted, it must not be read. Why? Because I often end up feeling slightly awkward and embarrassed after reading what I have written. I have no idea why.

However, times have changed and this rule no longer exists. These days I find myself thinking a lot about my old blog posts. My blog has always been my happy place and it saddens me that I haven’t been able to write much lately.

I miss the times when I didn’t have to think too hard about writing a new blog post. The words just seamlessly flowed into my mind and I found myself writing new content regularly (back in 2016). This year, I have been so busy looking after my baby that I honestly haven’t paid much attention to my blog.

Today, I have decided to share the links of my most favourite blog posts and photography that I have posted since 2015.  A gentle reminder to myself that I need to write again like I once used to.

a certain book

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and time will stand still

we will paint the world with our love

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after all this time? always.

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waiting to be found

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dear friend

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mellow sunday

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the art of letting go

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three hundred and sixty five days

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crispy days and starry nights

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P.S. thank you to those that still read my blog and continue to encourage me to write. You guys are amazing and you know who you are!

12.39 am

Firstly, Ramadan Mubarak to you all! Can’t believe it has been 7 days already. The fasting is Alhumdulillah super easy in Australia so the days are flying by rather quickly. I’m absolutely loving each moment of Ramadan and don’t want it to end!

In other news, I would like to believe that I’m currently experiencing an unfortunate phenomenon known as the bloggers block.

To put it simply, lately I have had a million ideas for my next blog post but when I actually sit down and begin to write, I feel that my content will not be good/interesting/worthy enough to be read. And so my ideas end up in my drafts folder and eventually they end up in my trash folder.

Feeling quite guilty so in order to overcome my bloggers block I am aiming to write two blog posts every month.

Now onto my really exciting news: besides getting back into blogging, I’m trying to get back into writing my very first fiction novel (yikes!). I have wanted to do this for such a long time and I have no idea why it has taken me so long to finally do it but I’m finally feeling motivated to make a start.

Things I am uncertain of:

  • should it be young adult fiction or adult fiction?
  • should it be written in first point of view or third point of view?
  • should it be humorous or serious?
  • should it be happy or sad ending?

Things I am certain of:

  • will be a novel and not a short story
  • will be based on what it is like growing up Pakistani in Australia
  • will have multiple protagonists (so far have three in mind)
  • will be based on people I have met
  • will be titled: Chasing Light

So there you go. That’s what I will be working/thinking/writing/aiming towards as of now. I have thought about writing a novel for many years but it has always been a simple thought. InshaAllah I hope I can turn this thought into a draft manuscript by the end of this year 😊

P.S. photo taken at the 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road

the revisit

Just wanted to let the whole world know that I am currently having a super wild Saturday night at home. It has been incredibly windy in Melbourne today so my family got extra lazy and we decided to stay in for once and deplete our supply of the yummy caramel mudcake I baked the other night (it tasted way better than the store ones and I’m not at all trying to be bias here).

As soon as my little one started to nap, I made myself a nice cup of tea, put on some stripy long socks (pretty sure I bought these when I was 16) and spent half an hour mindlessly colouring in. It felt blissful staying at home for once on a Saturday night and revisiting old hobbies such as colouring in, reading books, bullet journaling and of course blogging.

I finished reading The Namesake last month and absolutely loved it. The film adaption was alright, although I probably wouldn’t watch it a second time.

I’m now reading The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and honestly finding it a very slow read so far. It seems like a promising read but I find the book and font size a tad too small for my liking so I can’t really concentrate on the story for too long.

Normally I aim to read a new book each month but this year I have had a slow start. That being said, I’m aiming to read at least 12 books this year but hopefully more once I return to work later this year (commuting to and from work is the most ideal time for me to read).

Today’s little self care session reminded me how important it is to sometimes have a cozy night in and spend some time mindlessly colouring in and reading with a hot cup of tea!

11.11 pm

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My Deathly Hallows bullet journal is certainly not as pretty as it used to be once upon a time, but I am still madly in love with it. This is the most practical everyday journal I have ever used for my to do list, calendar, goals, wish list, ideas and basically anything and everything that comes to my mind. I always bring up and recommend bullet journals every time I am in a conversation with a friend. Why? Because this stuff ACTUALLY works.

It helps you get tasks done immediately and motivates you to be more organised. I used my bullet journal aggressively when I was planning my wedding and of course when I was counting down to my baby’s arrival. This year, I am simply using it to keep my mind decluttered and organised.

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Besides bullet journaling, I am trying to get back into reading. I am currently reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I am only 100 pages in and I absolutely love it so far. It’s one of those books that you can relate to easily and it makes you smile and cry.

I love everything about this book so far. You know the feeling when you finally come across a really good book and don’t want it to end so you purposely read it really slowly? Yes, that is exactly how I feel about this book. Highly recommend to everyone looking for a new read!