Monday, 22 May 2017

Book Review: The Other Half of Happiness

The Other Half of Happiness
By Ayisha Malik
Published by Zaffre
Available in paperback and ebook

Sofia Khan is back, and she's ready to fight for happiness no matter the cost. Eloping isn't all it's cracked up to be once her mother finds out. A 'real' wedding must be arranged... but this wedding is going to need a groom and Connell has gone into meltdown.

Ayisha Malik's second novel follows on with Sofia's adventures through life with funny moments as she battles with her Muslim family's traditional values and the way she wants to live her life. Last time, in Sofia Khan is not Obliged, Sofia fell in love with her next door neighbour, Conall who definitely did not meet her family's expectations - Irish and white not a good Muslim man that they were hoping for!

In The Other Half of Happiness Sofia has eloped with Conall and now they live Karachi while he makes a documentary but something is niggling away at Sofia - her happy ending just doesn't seem right. She's missing her family, her friends and London and Conall is distant, fully absorbed with his work leaving her in their shared house on her own. There are secrets bubbling on the surface - pride and principles battle, forcing Sofia and her love for Conall to the brink.

Secrets, deception and lies wreak havoc with Sofia's life. Coming back to London not only means dealing with her family but it means trying to find a place to fit within her family and social circle now that she's a married woman. Not only does she need to still deal with her family's high and demanding expectations but she needs to take back control of her own life, career and happiness. Ayisha has written a romantic comedy with a feisty modern narrator with many touching moments and laugh out loud segments. Sofia is a honest, down to earth character and everyone can relate to her naive wisdom.

Funny and smart, this book will have you wanting to hug Sofia as she soon realises that there might not be such a thing as a 'happy ending'. I'm really hoping for a third installment because I feel like Sofia's story isn't complete.

The Other Half of Happiness is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by the publisher.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

April's Book Adventures

Talk about let the side down in April - I only managed to read three books but one of those was a doorstopper of a book so that counts as two - can we can agree on that so I can feel better about only reading three.

Well... I have a really great excuse! I've been distracted with painting my kitchen. I normally stick to neutral colours but this time I went for a eggshell blue and I don't want to blow my own trumpet too much but the kitchen feels fresher. At the moment I don't want to rip out the cupboards so I've cleaned them down and the kitchen doesn't look as dull as it used too. I did rip a hole in the lino so I need to find some time to replace it or even investigate what's underneath.

I did finish redrafting one of my chapters, and now I only have three left! Three! But this current one is a complete mess and if I'm honest, I need to start from scratch. So the end is in sight but it's complicated...

Right, so what three books did I read? Some great ones! Oh, you want more details... well, here you go!

Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch
This is the second installment of the Rivers of London series. DC Grant is still investigating strange occurrences in London's back streets. He finds himself tangled up with mystical creatures and going head to head with evil. This is a fun novel, and Ben Aaronovitch really is the next Neil Gaiman.

The Other Half of Happiness - Ayisha Malik
This is a hilarious book as Sofia Khan continues her journey for happiness. In the previous book Sofia fell in love with the guy next door much to the disappointment of her Muslim family. Here, we see her battle for a happy ever after. Sofia is the Muslim version of Bridget Jones. I'm hoping for a third installment! A fuller review will be on my blog soon.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair - Joel Dicker
Sometimes you want a long, long read which pulls you into a complex story, and this book delivers this. This thriller follows Marcus as he tries to prove his old professor is innocent of murder as well struggle with writer's block and the demands of fame. There are so many twists and turns in this story, and the writing is sharp and addictive. I really liked the way writing is compared to boxing and it wasn't something I considered before (I thought boxing was punch, punch, punch and then the opponent falls over - don't roll your eyes - I know differently now - we all have wrong impressions about professions - how many of us think writers just write, write, write and then get published).

"Writing a book is like loving someone. It can be very painful."

"You should prepare for you writing as you prepare for a boxing match... In the days leading up to the fight, you should be training at only seventy per cent so the rage that explodes on the day of the match has been allowed to slowly simmer and rise within you."

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Book Review: Behind the Mask is Nothing

Behind the Mask is Nothing
By Judy Birkbeck
Published by Holland House
Available in paperback and ebook

Judy Birkbeck's debut novel explores the potency and allure of cults which on the surface appear to be friendly groups, offering to enrich lives. Behind the Mask is Nothing is full of tightly wrapped tension where the reader can see the characters getting deeper and deeper into trouble but are helpless.

Stef is in crisis. Her teaching job is become more about paperwork and people pleasing rather than teaching children and she also suspects her husband is having an affair. Their marriage is drifting apart, having arguments over the slightest things and she is finding explicit messages on his phone from an admirer but he keeps denying the affair.

Stef is drawn into a community on a remote Exmoor estate run by the couple's counsellor with promises of fixing Stef's marriage. Here is a space where she can forget her job, the pressure to be a mother and wife, and learn to find inner peace with her troubles of that's what she thinks this community is about...

Birkbeck explores the power of manipulative communities and how they coax vulnerable people and abuse the authority, slowly controlling every aspect of their members lives. Stef's search for meaning and faith draws her more into this cult and its strange practices. I enjoyed the way that Birkbeck explores the effects of Stef's behaviour on her family, and they way they are pushed away and how the family falls apart as the cult's manipulation pushes it way through the tiny cracks in this family dynamic. Stef's life is consumed by the cult and her family are helpless on the sidelines.

A parallel story of Stef's grandmother weaves through Stef's story. She is writing her memoir about her time in Berlin when she was in the Hitler Youth group. Guilt and nostalgia make her more concerned for Stef. She can see the way the group are twisting reality and making Stef more detached yet she can also relate to the fact that Stef has found acceptance and faith.

This novel is full of paranoia, mistrust and warped realities. At times the reader is left not knowing which is reality is the truth and which one has been manipulated by the cult to draw Stef further into their clutches. Behind the Mask is Nothing is a novel that will keep twisting the tension until the end.

Behind the Mask is Nothing will be available for order from the 17th May.

I was sent a copy by the publisher.