Book Connections, Review

Five Diverse Books I’ve Read in 2019

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Reading can take us beyond what we experience from people and events and culture immediately around us. These books did that for me. I think after the mass shooting we saw happening in the mosques in Christchurch New Zealand, I challenged myself to be more aware of picking up books that helped me explore the wondrous diversity existing in our world.

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Ayesha at Last is set in Toronto, Canada and is about Ayesha and Khalid, both belonging to a Muslim community. It’s a romance that is full of twists and turns, has humour and a tad bit of revenge which I always enjoy when a baddie gets his desserts. Ayesha and Khalid have a love/hate thing going on, plus interfering relatives to add to it. I loved the diverse aspect of the Muslim religion, how they live and what’s important to them. Not everything in the story is completely wrapped up for every character, which really just made it feel more real. I’ll certainly want to read another book from this author – this is a debut novel, with flavourings of pride and plenty of prejudice.

book coverPride Prejudice and Other Flavors is set in California, however it involves a high ranking Indian immigrant family and DJ Caine a chef who is a mix of Indian/African. While the two main characters have their share of pride and prejudice, the book also touches on the prejudices white people have towards those with darker skins. The many tasty flavours of Indian cooking is a large component. I enjoyed this read, it explores the roles in family, sibling relationships, illness (Trish the heroine is a neurosurgeon) and betrayal. It does have romance but its more mainstream than outright romance. My kind of read.

book coverThe story of three sisters, who visit India, in response to their dead mother’s request. Each has a secret or challenge they are hiding from the others. While they have not been that close, due really to growing up circumstances, the trip eventually bonds them together. I liked the Indian setting and the cultural values shown. Some very shocking from my viewpoint. I liked though how the book highlighted and dealt with the issues raised. The only question I still wonder about is the sore ankle the eldest sister had. It went nowhere. Excellent on audio -the narrator did a very good job on the whole and added to my enjoyment of the book.

Book coverField Notes on Love has  two delightful main characters who come from diverse backgrounds. Hugo is bi racial and has throughout his life had to put up with slurs, but with the support of his siblings (one of sextuplets) Hugo has come through it well. Mae is the wonderful daughter of two Dads and with the side support of a special Nana she too is a well balanced individual. They both have dreams and throughout a week long train trip they will discover what that really means. It is YA and I loved the read.

Book CoverThe Stationery Shop of Tehran is partially set in Iran and shares the story of the coup of 1953. A prime minister who had been elected democratically was ousted by the Shah,and foreign powers! All because of oil! This story gives insight into a family life and the love of two people whose lives are disrupted by this event. It’s sad because two young people who love each other are separated by others. Who? Well it will take them many years to realise. In the meantime they have lived good lives but what might have been? I liked this story even though it was a little outside my usual.  I especially liked the insight into Persian life and cooking.

Review

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev

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Published: Kensington
Date:  26th December 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 352
Genre:Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

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A Distant Heart takes up the story that was started in a Change of Heart. Now the focus is on Rahul the police officer chasing down a criminal ring who steal hearts on the black market.

Rahul has suffered much loss in his life, he comes from a poor family and has always fought his way courageously through life. Growing up he made friends with Kimi, a young girl who has severe immune problems She’s locked up in her safe “tower”. Eventually it will lead to heart failure and the need for a new heart.

The book moves between their younger lives together and their lives now. I found that a little disconcerting, yet it filled in the background of both of them. Kimi is much loved, her parents take great care of her in their way, but is their way best? Her father – Kirit, has told Rahul that Kimi can never be his, and even though Kirit knows Kimi sparkles around Rahul he will not give his blessing.

However Kirit is being blackmailed and the person who was shot in the last book and severely wounded is now more or less up and about and out to do damage to Kimi and Rahul.

Kimi has many challenges to face down, many truths to come to grips with, and the way she does tells how strong she is and how wise. Rahul because of all the losses he has experienced has learned to act often out of fear, to dampen down his feelings and live within a self imposed wall. Can he become a whole human being and learn to live with a heart that accepts that fear is not the way for living.

I enjoyed reading the book, seeing the case solved, justice meted out and Kimi and Rahul finding their happy for now.

Review

The Bollywood Bride. Sonali Dev

The Bollywood Bride
Sonali Dev
Published: Kensington Books
Date: 29th September 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Ria Parkar is Bollywood’s favorite Ice Princess–beautiful, poised, and scandal-proof–until one impulsive act threatens to expose her destructive past. Traveling home to Chicago for her cousin’s wedding offers a chance to diffuse the coming media storm and find solace in family, food, and outsized celebrations that are like one of her vibrant movies come to life. But it also means confronting Vikram Jathar.

Ria and Vikram spent childhood summers together, a world away from Ria’s exclusive boarding school in Mumbai. Their friendship grew seamlessly into love–until Ria made a shattering decision. As far as Vikram is concerned, Ria sold her soul for stardom and it’s taken him years to rebuild his life. But beneath his pent-up anger, their bond remains unchanged. And now, among those who know her best, Ria may find the courage to face the secrets she’s been guarding for everyone else’s benefit–and a chance to stop acting and start living.

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The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev is a second chance romance, with a ten year gap in between. Ria has pushed Vikram away from her, for very good reasons from her viewpoint, and has then pursued a career in the movie world of Bollywood.  Although it would seem her career is built more on one kind of movie only and her beauty. Her roles are all those of the bride. She is the darling of the Bollywood movie going world. However like all movie stars she has the paparazzi out to make their money from her movements. Up until now she has managed to stay apart, but now one has caught her doing something that could be twisted and bring her into disfavour.
Ria is a little bit of a mystery, she has had a dark past and that dark past preys on her, so much so she is unable to choose happiness for herself and thinks she is protecting those she loves by keeping her secrets close to herself. 
Vikram has been hurt by Ria’s rejection of him and has spent many years travelling around, although in that absent time he has learned many skills he now has gathered together to make him a force to be reckoned with in the business world. He has a love for children and has set up a Khan Academy type website.  His love for children really worries Ria, because she believes she may never have children, and carries a deep dark secret in relation to this.
As in her previous book I loved the richness of the Indian culture and the closeness of family in this book.  Ria’s aunt and uncle and their families were a lot of fun and full of care and kindness.  They have been a rock for Ria nearly all her life. 
The connection between Ria and Vikram is real and believable. I thought the scars that Ria carried and the exploration of her family’s darkness was a great idea, although I was not always hooked in by the way Ria dealt with it. Perhaps I wanted too much. I loved how Vikram  helped her take the final step that enabled her to move forward.  I thought his support was heart warming.
I enjoyed this novel and really look forward to reading whatever Sonali Dev has in store for us in her next book.  
3.5 stars
An interesting interview with Sonali Dev over at All About Romance.
Review

A Bollywood Affair Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair
Sonali Dev
Publisher: Kensington
Date: 28th October 2014
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

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A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev was a wonderfully romantic read, at times it hit my heart deeply,  to only then find me bursting into laughter the next.  I would love to see this made into a movie!  It is set in both India and the USA and tracks some of the things that happen when cultures merge and traditions are honoured long past their used by date.
Mili is a delightful character, she has an open loving heart, ever loyal and living in hope that one day her husband from a marriage when she was only four years old will one day come and claim her.  However she doesn’t waste away waiting.  She courageously obtains for herself an education in both India and the America.  The only family she has is one grandmother back in her home village.  Mili works washing dishes to send her money back home.  
One day into her life comes Samir, and her life is never the same again.  He has come for reasons Mili doesn’t know and so begins  a developing friendship with him and something more.  He finds that with this young woman that he can sit and write his next movie script that has been so far eluding him.  Samir is a bit  of a playboy, but in actual fact he cares deeply about people – his brother and his wife, his mother and the larger household.  However as he shares more and more with Mili, he is invited by her to open up more and face the wounds of his past.
The first half of the book moved slowly although it was not boring.  Once I was past midway I was fully entranced and just read until I finished.  By then I was fully into the Indian culture and various words used and it was all so heartwarming, heart breaking, and humorous that I had to read on.  I loved all of Samir’s family, they were wonderful.  
This book is about tradition, expectations, eastern and western values meeting, family values, forgiveness and love.  Above all else, love.  I do so hope Sonali Dev will continue to write more such books.
4 stars