Book Review: The Temp by Michelle Frances

temp 1Looking for suspenseful stories with strong female characters who are not breathing down each other’s neck all the time, Michelle Frances’ The Temp is for you.

For me, the main attraction of this book is its cover (a lady working on her laptop at a workplace) and the title. Not only that, I also like the synopsis. (Side note: I always go through the synopsis to get a little insight about the story before purchasing a book.)

Apparently, it appears a thriller with undertones of domestic drama where talented young woman is looking to replace a successful older woman. The narrative is told from the perspectives of two women: Carrie and Emma who have different views of each other but there is one constant in their life, Adrian, of course for different reasons.

Carrie, in her 40s, has a successful career as a producer of television programmes. She comes across a very strong, confident and smart lady in her domain. Her husband Adrian is also an award winning screenwriter in the television industry. They are content in their professional and personal lives but life takes an unusual turn which completely jolts them.

As a couple, Carrie and Adrian decide not to have children; primarily because they both want to focus on their career. However, fate has something else stored for them; Carrie gets pregnant and the problem arises when she chooses to keep the baby, and this puts her relationship with her husband off balance.

Moreover, they are prepared to start a new show which needs time and with this pregnancy, Adrian and her friend as well as managing director of Hawks Pictures Liz suggest to hire a replacement for few months. This is where Emma enters as a temp who is intelligent; and despite coming from a well off family, she has always struggled to be the daughter on whom her parents can be proud of. What is interesting is that Carrie never wants Emma to be employed as her replacement.

the tempBeing pregnant, Carrie cannot stay in the office for long duration due to pain and dizziness. Insanity and jealousy run rampage on Carrie’s part especially when Adrian, Liz and everyone in the office are all praise about Emma’s work.  The last nail in the coffin for Carrie is the birth of her newborn baby boy Rory. Her baby keeps her busy all the time and since she has no support from Adrian, she begins to drift away from her husband and her colleagues. As a consequence, she feels isolated and subconsciously put all the blame on Emma. Carrie does not realise that this is all work of her creative mind (pun intended).

British-based author Frances has established herself as a mature, knowing and new voice in the genre of psychological thriller with her bestseller The Girlfriend. Her debut novel took on the issues of unforgiveable lies and twisted relationships. Her second book deals with the relationships caught in the crossfire of all scheming and manipulation.

I do understand that the author has shown some sort of conflict between two female protagonists. Also, the book cover gives an impression to the reader of Emma being conniving who wants to usurp Carrie’s life, which is why both women will compete over Carrie’s husband Adrian. Clearly, this is not all! The book offers much more to the reader’s delight.

If you want to read full review, the link is https://www.dawn.com/news/1471385

 

 

 

Americanah: A Tale Of Race, Love And Home

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. Weamericanah all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue. I didn’t think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.”

The excerpt is from Adiche’s renowned novel Americanah. This is a powerful story about love, race and immigration. Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman living in Princeton, New Jersey, decides to move back to Nigeria after a breakup from her boyfriend Blaine. It was ten years ago when Ifemulu came to America from her home country Nigeria. During this period, she faced a lot of difficulties. The foremost obstacle was her skin colour.

In Nigeria, race was not an issue for Ifemelu, and she was never called black in Lagos; she was Nigerian. Upon arriving in the United States, she was shocked to discover that she had been labeled black; especially a non-American black. This made her start her own blog where she addressed issues related to race.

Other than that, the love story between Ifemulu and her teenage sweetheart Obinze is riveting. Their love story witnessed many ups and downs. During Ifemulu’s stay in the US, she suffered from depression and this became the reason of her detachment from Obinze. Later Obinze married Kosi and Ifemulu dated Curt and Blaine. But when Ifemulu came back to Nigeria, their love reignited. The author knows how to touch the heart chords of her readers. There is yearning for love which is engrossing.

Moreover, the author has also shown the importance of family values and blood relation in this story. Education is also central theme of this novel.

Rate: 4.5/5.

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

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Photo by writer

It took me a while to digest Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. When I first start reading this novel, I had no clue what world I was about to discover and let me tell you it was all doom and gloom. The storyline was disturbing and stayed with me for days.

The Canadian author has hit all the right buttons to stir up the reader’s uneasiness. The dystopian world she describes in the novel is stark and skewed by religious fundamentalism. Written in 1985, the story revolves around Offred, a handmaid (female slave) in the new Republic of Gilead. The Gilead was formed after attacks on US government. The totalitarian state that took control has rigid laws against women. Women rights like equality, sexual reproduction rights and general human rights are deemed punishable by the men of the society. The fictional world has food rationing, class hierarchy and public hangings for wrongdoing especially for women. Does this ring a bell?

Offred (not the real name) is part of class called the handmaids. The purpose of handmaid in the society is to conceive and bear children for the families. They are dressed in red colour and symbolism of fertility. Women here are only considered for childbirth and taking care of household. The Commander, where she lives as handmaiden, sees her as more than simply a surrogate.  Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, is naturally jealous of Offred, but she is desperate for a child so, when Offred fails to become pregnant, Serena Joy arranges for her to sleep with Nick, the chauffeur.

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Photo by writer

Offred is reluctant to accept this world and she cannot suppress her desires. This is why she thinks about her past life and how one day she can leave this dark world. The end of the story leaves you in suspense of whether Offred has found the freedom or prison.

The narration is very erratic as it jumps between past and present, and at times makes you confused due to obscure description. It is what author has emphasised to show in the novel. She wants readers to be perplexed while reading the novel because the world of Gilead is extremely disturbing and secretive.

The story is about power, fundamentalism and misogyny. It’s horrific but somewhat true to reality. I felt hopelessness and sadness while reading this story.

A word of caution: This is not a happy read. So if you want to have a nice weekend, do not pick this novel.

“Remember forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven.” – Excerpt from book

The Handmaid’s Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Vintage Fiction, London

ISBN: 978-1-0-099-74091-9

320pp.

 

Book Review: Typically Tanya

typically tanya

Photo by the writer

While attending the Karachi book fair in December 2018, I went to one of the book stalls. There I saw a book with yellow bright cover and a girl with red shades and fonts, and I instantly decided to buy the novel.

Coming back from the book fair, I began reading this novel but then I shelved it because I didn’t find it interesting. At that time, I was only five pages in and I got bored. However, last weekend, I picked this novel again and honestly I finished it in one go. With few more pages in, the story starts making sense and believe it or not, I actually find it interesting.

To be fair, the story paints a dysfunctional setup which is why I decided to try it one more time. Living in Karachi and being a journalism student myself, it was nice to read about the other side of the bridge, which is surreptitious.

Taha Kehar, an author and journalist, is based in Karachi. Typically Tanya is his second work of fiction. The first I haven’t read it, but this novel revolves around young journalist Tanya Shaukat who is juggling her way through career, love, friends and family in a metropolitan city of Karachi.

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Photo by the writer

She works in Karachi’s Daily Image newspaper as a sub editor. Her work requires her to edit the news reports filed by journalists or emailed by independent news agencies. She also writes and covers events which is assigned to her by her sleazy city editor Hassan. She is friends with Sonia and Hafiz. There are few tiny problems with her friends; her friend Sonia’s shaadi is called off and partly she blames Tanya for this as the protagonist got intimate with Sonia’s ex fiancé Saad in a drunken state. Whereas, Hafiz is someone who likes her but he is confused in his own emotions.

I also liked how Tanya’s relationship with Khirad (her colleague) developed. Though they are contemporaries, they understand each other very well, more than her friends.  Tanya’s mother is also lovable as she is full of drama and fun.

While reading this story, I felt that the writing is somewhat inspired by Saba Imtiaz’s Karachi You are Killing Me and Moni Mohsin. I like the way Kehar depicts a realistic picture about relationships, friends and workplace. The author has touched a few topics for example workplace harassment by the boss and how Tanya quits; media rule by male dominated scums, a gay man marrying to a woman because of family pressure; the blind love of Insafian for his party, and several others.

The writing is crisp and riveting which do not let you put down the book. Kehar’s knack of describing the mundane routine is exciting and funny. This book is a light read and for all those looking for something to take their minds off for a while, this one will surely not disappoint you.

I will rate this novel 3.5/5.

Book Review: I Have Lost My Way

i have lost my way

Photo by the writer

“They maybe complete strangers, with different lives and different problems, but there in that examination room they are measuring sadness the same way. They are measuring it in loss.”

The excerpt is taken from Gayle Forman’s latest novel ‘I have lost my way’. The novel is about friendships, taking chances and transforming your loss into your gain.

Has it ever happened with you that you are lost? By lost I don’t mean you lose your way to home; what I mean is that you are lost, you are at crossroads where you don’t know where to go from here. You are standing at the tipping point and you need a clue or hint from anyone any where so that you can find your pathway.

The story revolves around three young adults, Freya, Nathaniel and Harun, who have never met, find themselves in the same spot, connected to one accident in a park in New York City.  Even though they belong  from different backgrounds, different families and different lives; the only link that join them together is the quest for their identity and be content with who they are.

Freya, an up-and-coming singer, is hurt because she has lost her voice. She didn’t know what to do because this is the only thing she is good at. Harun has lost the love of his life. Nathaniel has lost the most important person to him, his father.

What is the instant connection is that all three are going through the grief in their lives. But there is also sense of fear in all of them. Freya is scared that what if she can never sing and she may lose her fans which she gains in a short time period. Harun is devoted to his family but feels the need to run away to be who he truly is, and Nathaniel has lived his whole life alone with his (mentally unstable) father who due to overdosing lost his life. He is here in New York all alone with a secret which I cannot share as it will reveal the end of the story.

The story takes place over the course of one day and is broken up with flashbacks that reveal how three teenagers have all lost something important to them. All three meet by coincidence, but they understand each other so well. And in a one day span, they have become each other’s strength; and a lighting guide for each other to help find their lost path.

I also like the diversity in the characters. Freya is a half-Ethiopian girl who has a complex relationship with her older sister, Sabrina. Harun, a Pakistani boy, is figuring out how to reconcile his sexuality with his family’s religion. He’s expected to marry a Muslim girl, but Harun is hopelessly in love with his ex-boyfriend, James. Nathaniel is blind in one eye and struggling with depression after his father’s death. All his life, Nathaniel has coped with his father’s strange childlike tendencies: his inability to live in reality and his insistence that they are a ‘fellowship of two like Frodo and Sam’ in The Lord of the Rings.

I finished this novel in two sittings and though it is slow at the start, it gains its pace after few pages. This is the first time I have read Gayle Forman and I would say she writes very well. Forman has touched on human emotion and connection; her writing is lyrical and riveting which keeps one hooked to the novel till the last page. Although this story targets young adults, I am sure young minds will love this novel and probably few adults like me as well.

I will rate this novel 3.5/5.

 

 

 

Book Review: Stephenie Meyer

meyer

If you are a fan of Twilight series and curious about Stephenie Meyer and how she came up with the idea of her novel. This book is for you.

This book also saves your time because a lot of things which have been mentioned in the book are taken from Meyer’s interviews. The chapter, where author mentioned about Forks where the protagonists of Twilight lived, is interesting. One of the best part is to know about the creative toil Meyer has to go through before becoming an accomplished novelist.

The downside of the book is its contradictions, incoherent lines and weak sentence structure. At times, it was boring and I had to skip a few pages to finish it off. There was also repetition which kind of ticked me off.

The author of this book, Marc Shapiro, who is known for writing biographies including the New York Times bestselling J.K Rowling: The Wizard behind Harry Porter, has not done a good job for this one.

It is disappointing and therefore I rate this book 2/5.

2016 Last Book Haul and Karachi International Book Fair

Call me a book hoarder or bibliomania! I love books.  I cannot resist the urge of buying

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books whenever I pass by any bookstore or book fair. I see books and I feel my legs have got stuck under some heavy object and I cannot move ahead.

This time, it happened when I got an opportunity to visit 12th Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) 2016 held in the month of December. For those readers who don’t know about KIBF, the five-day book fair is an annual event, which is organized by the Pakistan Publishers Booksellers’ Association (PPBA), with an aim to provide platform for local book-lovers like me.

KIBF is one of the country’s largest book fairs, bringing many publishing and distribution houses together with domestic and international publishers, booksellers, librarians and institutional customers.

Each year many international publishers participate in this event and this year too, publishers from Iran, Turkey, Singapore, China, Malaysia, England, UAE and other countries were part of this international event.

Coming back to my book-haul, I went on the second day of the fair. As I entered Karachi Expo Center, I was pretty excited because I was going to be with my love (read: books). It was a treat to see children and adults sharing same passion for books.

I made my way to hall number three where I went straight into Liberty Books stall. I browsed through variety of books on the shelves and then I decided to take out my list (which I had been preparing for two days) to purchase only selected books. Though let me tell you, I failed to follow my list.

Before coming to book fair, I made a decision that I would purchase less than ten books. However, I believe decisions are meant to be broken (or rules are meant to be broken) whatever, I end up spending more on books in one go and left broke.

I bought 20 books in the month of December which is quite huge after combining all the months’ purchase.

So, let me present you my last book haul for this year which I am sure will keep me occupied in 2017.

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I am going to read this for the first time and I have never read her before. The story is about two brown girls Tracy and Aimee who dream of becoming dancers. One has talent and the other has ideas about rhythm and time. A complicated childhood friendship ends abruptly in their twenties, never to be revisited but never quite forgotten either.

  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang

I got to know about this novel through Goodreads. A story about Yeong-hye and her husband who apparently seem ordinary people but when Yeong-hye seek a more plant-like existence, commits a shocking act of subversion; she refuses to eat meat.

  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Don’t know anything about this novel; the reason to buy this novel is its inclusion in the list of winners of Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2016. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain explored the legacy of Vietnam War in literature, films and the wars fought today.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

First time I saw on liberty books website and that’s it, I decided to buy this one because I was in love with its cover and after reading blurb I thought to myself, need to read this one.  The story revolves around Maurie-Laure and her father who live in Paris near Museum of Natural history. When the Nazis occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo with museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

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  • Do Not Say We have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

As soon as my eyes set on this cover which was lying on the shelf at Liberty book stall, I just picked on the spur of the moment. The novel brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy which still resonates for a new generation.

  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Winner of Man Booker Prize 2016 is the apt reason for buying this novel. According to what I have read in the blurb of this book, the narrator was raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist. His father was killed in a drive-by shooting and the son realized that there never was a memoir as claimed by his father. The son was left with a bill for a drive-through funeral of his father.

  • Thirteen Reason Why by Jay Asher

I saw its cover first on instagram which was shared by one of the bookstragrammars and therefore the book made into my list. The story is about Clay Jensen who found a strange package on his return to home. Later he discovered several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker-his classmate and first love-who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King

King had to be in my list without any doubt. I had in my mind to buy this title for long and finally I bought it. The novel is full of suspense where the main protagonist Morris Bellamy, a reader, consumed by his obsession for America’s author John Rothstein prepared to kill for a trove of notebooks containing at least one more unpublished novel.

  • Where Worlds Collide by David Waterman

I bought this one from Oxford University Press stall. It was just one of those moments when you read something and it captures your attention. Same happened with this book. The reason behind purchasing this book was its survey of contemporary Pakistani writers and their efforts to trace the itinerary of Pakistan in the 21st century.

  • Haruki Murakami novelsharuki.jpg
    1. Wind-up Bird Chronicle: The story unfolds the tidy suburban realities of Okada’s vague and blameless life are turned inside out and he embarks on a bizarre journey guided by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.
    2. Norwegian Wood: A story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, the novel takes readers to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless and heroic love.
    3. Pinball: The story is based on the writer and it’s also about rat. It’s about a quest, a brief love affair, and the three-flipper Spaceship pinball machine.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I was introduced to Kazuo through his first novel ‘A Pale View of Hills’ which I read few days back. I found his writing fresh and he has an ability to draw interest of his readers with his writing style. The words flow like a river on the pages of his novel. Therefore I got hold of his finest work which was also shortlisted for Man Booker Prize. It is a story of love, friendship and memory, which is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu

I want to read something about strategy and how the politicians and executives use this tool on every level from interpersonal to the international, with an aim to understand the physics and psychology of conflict.

  • The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

I read its review sometimes back and it was in my mind to get hands on this one for sure. So, I was enthralled to see this book in the Liberty Book stall.  The story is an intimate exploration of disjunction between exalted dreams and complicated realities.

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  • The GoldFinch by Donna Tartt

Obviously I found this title in the Pulitzer Prize List and then next I found in the book fair. The story revolves around son who is abandoned by his father, miraculously survives a catastrophe that otherwise tears his life apart.

  • Taboo by Fouzia Saeed

The title and the cover says it all. My interest to know about the world of prostitution which is considered a taboo in our society instigated me to purchase this book.

  • Keeping faith by Jodi Picoult

I have watched ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ which was based on Picoult’s novel, a brilliant story full of emotions which is why I bought this one. In this story, the author depicts the broken family and how it affects the child’s mind?

  • David Copperfield

I bought this one because it only cost Rs. 50 and other reason is its story which is both fantasy and fact, an autobiographical fiction that stood the test of time.

  • The Fool’s Tale

Less cost so why not! No other reason to buy this one, and after all I am a book collector at the end so yes, I bought it.  The story is a historical fiction, compelling political intrigue and passionate romance to create an intimate drama of three individuals’ bound-and undone-by love and loyalty.

This year, I was no good but next year, I hope to do a lot more reading and less buying. I only hope but no promise because after all I love books…