A Place for Us: Book Review

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza published in 2018.

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“A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from. In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent’s faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.”

This is the first book released under Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, and I don’t think she could have chosen a better debut novel.

This book is divided into four parts. The first part opens up with the wedding of Haida, Layla and Rafiq’s oldest child. Immediately there is tension between the family due to Amar, the youngest in the family, making an appearance after running away three years prior. The second, and by far longest, part takes us back and explains exactly why Amar left, which has a lot to do with his relationship with his strict father. The third part goes back to Haida’s wedding, the reader now having the knowledge of everything that’s happened in the past. Finally, the fourth and in my opinion, the best part, we explore all the past stories that were told in the prior parts of the novel from the fathers perspective. Here, we learn that the hardened exterior that his children witnessed throughout their childhood may have just been a façade for the emotions that he was unsure of how to handle.

The majority of books that I read are very plot centred, and when I say that I mean my main motivation to continue reading is to find out how the plot is going to develop. A Place for Us is a rare exception where I continued reading solely for the characters and how they would continue to develop. I had a genuine interest in all of their lives and really wanted the best for them, almost as if I knew them in real life. Whether you yourself can strongly relate to the characters, each member of the family is portrayed so flawlessly imperfect in such a realistic and authentic manner that you’ll find yourself immensely caring for them.

The novel started off a bit slow for my liking, yet others might view this as a leisurely plot. As I mentioned above part two was the longest, since it covered the better part of the family’s troubles. Yet I felt that some parts dragged on and could have benefited from a bit of light editing. The pace did pick up significantly around part three when family secrets were revealed and past endeavours were exposed. Another small detail that irked me was the transitioning between perspectives so freely. The main point of views switched between Hadia, Amar and Layla, also altering between different periods of their life. Since it was not apparently clear when the POV’s were switching, I was confused and found myself backtracking to figure out whose perspective I was witnessing the story from. These are minor complaints though that can be worked through quite easily.

Mirza, despite being so young, possesses such a unique wisdom and gracefulness about family, religion and culture. Even better, she managed to masterfully weave these together to create the heartbreakingly real narrative of a modern Muslim family living in America. She touches upon the impact of 9/11 as well as the more recent political glutton that is President Trump. The pressures of devoting yourself to religion is what creates the gap between Amar and his father, something I’m sure must be common nowadays. Both the beautiful and cruel aspects of faith are highlighted in this timeless story.

Part four was by far my favourite. Anyone knows that I’m a sucker for the character trope of the strict and hardened authority figure concealing their true emotions, mainly because they don’t know how to express their true emotions. This Rafiq in a nutshell. Throughout the entire novel, the reader saw him through the lens of his children and wife as the uncompromising leader of the family, but part four allows us a glimpse into his mind. Here, we see him struggling to find a balance between his love of Islam and the love of his family, not to mention his almost palpable desperation to connect with his estranged son. It was beautifully written and the perfect way to end this novel.

A Place for Us has the potential to translate so well into a diverse array of cultures and religions. The raw emotions portrayed by Mirza are applicable to each and every one of us. If you’re still unsure about picking up this book, I’ll endorse it for the same reason that I recommended The Hate U Give; if you can’t find something to relate to in this, you’ll definitely find something that you can learn from it.

August’s Poem of the Month

I feel like this poem needs no introduction. You’ve all most likely heard it before and will most definitely recognize the poet. She has inspired generations of writers and paved the way for women, black women specifically, to thrive and grow in the field of poetry. This was one of the first poems I read as a little girl, and I remembered feeling so empowered, both as a writer and a woman. I hope every little girl has the opportunity to read this and feel pride in being female.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou 

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”
Feel free to check out Caged Bird Legacy, a website created to keep Dr. Maya Angelou’s memory alive.

The Perfect Mother: Book Review

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy published in 2018.

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“They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time. When the women go out for drinks at a hip neighborhood bar, they’re looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.”

This is both the best and the worst book for a mother to read.

The May Mother’s are a group of women who gave birth to their children in the same month of May. They meet to discuss their new daunting roles of mothers and exchange advice on their newborns. The regular members are Francie, Nell, Colette, Token (given this nickname because he’s the “token male” of the group) and finally, the mysterious and beautiful Winnie Ross. Yet when the group convinces Winnie to go against her better judgement and join them for a night of drinks, her son Midas is taken from his crib. The police are proving to be incompetent in solving this case, and soon the whole country has an opinion about the infant abduction. Was it an act of terrorism? Revenge from an old stalker of Winnie’s? Or maybe Winnie has something to do with this herself? Even besides the detail of who did this, how irresponsible was it of this new mother to leave her newborn at home to go drinking? As the press preoccupies themselves by pointing fingers and placing blame, the police stray further away from finding Midas, so one of the May Mother’s stars to take things into her own hands. Secrets are revealed, people are killed, and tensions are high on the search for baby Midas.

The characterization was definitely not ideal for me. It took a while for all the main characters to gain a sense of individuality and a strong personality. I kept getting all of their jobs, husbands and kids confused. Since they’re all in similar situations (new, nervous mothers), it’s difficult to distinguish between Francie, Nell and Colette. Eventually, I did get them sorted out, but I attribute that mainly to time. If you read about any character for long enough, you’re bound to remember certain things about them, even if they aren’t particularly memorable.

This is labelled as a thriller, but I didn’t really find it that thrilling for the majority of the novel. I felt as if it sort of plateaued for most of it, just an endless search for Midas with very few major twists and turns or any sort of heavy action scenes. I kept waiting for some minor peaks of action to spice up the story, yet the only bit of noteworthy action was the final reveal at the end. Then it was approximately forty pages of intense drama with an abrupt happyish ending.

Speaking of the big twist, I wasn’t too impressed by it. Was I surprised by the reveal of what happened to baby Midas? Somewhat. Was I absolutely blown away by it? Not really. Actually, when I was telling my dad about the general plot of the novel, he guessed part of the ending so you can interpret that any way you’d like. My exact thoughts while taking in the ending was, “Oh, that’s it?” Also, it left some unanswered questions, which is quite annoying, especially in a thriller/mystery novel that dedicates about two hundred pages to creating questions that need answers.

I will say it did have an interesting commentary on modern motherhood that was intriguing to read, even as someone who isn’t a mother. The external pressure to be the perfect mother (hence the title) is presented with a contemporary flair with hints of traditional doubt. It ranges from a parenting website sending daily “mommy advice” of how the perfect baby should be acting, to the underlying disdain of using formula milk versus breast milk. Reading this book is just a constant reminder that trying to keep a little human alive is hard enough without a world of strangers telling you that you’re doing it wrong, so we should appreciate the work that mother’s do.

I heard some people describe this book as “disturbing”, but to me, that’s a bit of an ambitious adjective for The Perfect Mother. Besides the whole plot point of a newborn being kidnapped, there are very few scenes that I would describe as disturbing. Maybe it’s because I’m adventurous when it comes to potentially unsettling books (check out my review for Girls Burn Brighter—that one was a doozy), but this definitely was not the most disturbing book I’ve ever read, if anything I found it rather tame.

Molloy has achieved writing a very average book. All the characters, plot and writing style are just fine to say the most. If you’re looking for a novel to introduce yourself to the thriller genre that has little to arguably no disturbing scenes, this would be a good one to check out. Yet if you have a strong stomach and are searching for something with a bit more bang for your buck, it might be worth skipping this one.

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Surprise Me: Book Review

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella published in 2018.

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“After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years…and panic sets in. They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.

This book stayed true to its name because it definitely surprised me.

The reader follows Sylvie as she navigates through her picture-perfect life with her husband Dan and two young children. This is until they get the news that they’re going to live for another sixty-eight years, which is a dauntingly long time to be married to one person. To fix this dilemma, Sylvie starts to implement a plan to regularly surprise her spouse, and he to do the same towards her. After one momentous surprise, her husband Dan starts to stray away from her, both physically and emotionally. The only logical explanation Sylvie can think of is that he’s having an affair with an old flame. It also doesn’t help that there’s tension between Dan and her parents, even though her father died in a car accident years before. Sylvie is convinced that Dan is jealous of the abundant charm and wealth that her father possessed. As the gap in their relationship grows, Sylvie is driven to discover a family secret that she did not see coming.

Unfortunately, this book did not start off on the right foot for me. I did not like the characters at the beginning, specifically the main character Sylvie. I found her annoying and spoiled, the kind of person I would try to avoid in my real life. I mean, what grown adult calls their parents “Mummy and Daddy”? (Is it a British thing?) Either way, I found myself raising my brows and rolling my eyes that Sylvie’s mentality for most of the novel.

So because the main character has all these qualities, it spills over into the actual narrative of the book, since it’s written from her perspective. The writing style sort of sounded like a thirty-something-year-old trying to sound younger while gossiping over a wine lunch. This sort of quirky-ness could be charming for a bit, but for me, it grew old quickly. Maybe I’m just not the target demographic though, which I can accept.

Now I do understand that the character was created to be imperfect for the sake of the plot, because (without spoiling anything) she goes through somewhat of an epiphany near the end when secrets are revealed. After this breakthrough, her personality does a 180 turn and it’s almost as if a new person is narrating our story. The character development in Sylvie was ideal because her eyes were opened to becoming the best version of herself that she can be, which, granted, wouldn’t be possible if she hadn’t started out annoying and spoiled. It’s just that it took almost three hundred and fifty pages for the secret to be revealed that caused her big change in attitude, and I was getting a bit impatient.

Regarding her father, Kinsella made it quite obvious that something was going to happen with him. There are countless times throughout the book that it’s mentioned, either in dialogue or Sylvie’s inner narrative, how absolutely spectacular, amazing, wonderful, beyond perfect he was. Every single positive adjective in the English language was used to describe Sylvie’s late father, so you don’t have to be a literary genius to know that Kinsella wasn’t being subtle when setting up a future plot point revolving around her father. That being said, she did throw some curveballs when the actual secrets were revealed, so that was a delightful way to shake up the story.

The last one hundred pages or so was definitely an improvement from the first three hundred, as I eluded to above with Sylvie’s character development. Not only did I warm up to the characters, but the theme became much more solidified. I quite enjoyed the theme of focusing on the present and it was delivered really well near the end. Kinsella wrapped up everything in this book nice and neatly.

Surprise Me tricks you into thinking it’s a quirky love story of a happy couple trying to spark up some excitement in their marriage. Problems slowly start to trickle in though, starting off with a light suspicion of infidelity, to something a bit more serious. Sadly, for me, it took too long for this build-up to go anywhere substantial. Even though the character development was well done, it didn’t make up for the lack of plot development until the end. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, summer read that will inspire you to live in the present (but also want to skip to the future of the book when the plot becomes relevant) consider picking up a copy of Surprise Me.

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Beartown: Book Review

Beartown by Fredrik Backman published in 2017.

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“People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.”

This novel is the physical embodiment of this vine.

Beartown is the name of a small community that revolves around hockey. The junior boy’s upcoming hockey finals are not only a source of pride and joy but future economic stability. So the weight of an entire town of individuals is on the shoulders of a group of seventeen-year-old hockey playersno pressure though. The star of the junior team is Kevin Erdahl, a hockey phenomenon that is headed straight for the big leagues. This is all until he rapes fifteen-year-old Maya at a party. Oh yeah, to make things worse, Maya is the daughter of the general manager of the hockey club Kevin plays at. The reader watches this town fall apart in the name of the very sport that they claimed brought them together

A hallmark of a good book for me is a great opening line, and Beartown definitely provided this,

“Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there”

Not only does this provide an element of anticipation and motivation to keep reading, but I love how in the last line Backman uses the word “we”, adding a sense of inclusion, almost like the readers are part of the story. My attention was immediately grabbed and made me excited to continue with this story.

I usually talk about characters, but there are so many people in this book that there really isn’t a main character. Normally this might be confusing and scattered, but in this case, it made the novel more unique since the town itself is taking the role of the protagonist. The citizens within Beartown are so intertwined in each other’s stories that it transcends one single character. The town itself has a heart of its own and therefore leads most of the plot.

I should probably also include a trigger warning for this book. For a book primarily about hockey, it covers some heavy topics such as homophobia and as I mentioned above, rape. Backman handles both topics gracefully though, so if you do have a history with either of these subjects, it still may be worth approaching this book with heightened caution.

For example, there’s an eloquently written line about rape trauma that caught my attention,

“For the perpetrator, rape lasts just a matter of minutes. For the victim, it never stops.”

As if the actual act of rape wasn’t enough, the aftermath was almost as horrifying. Not only do people turn against Maya, but they view Kevin as the victim. I could go on and on about the many ways this book made my blood boil, from people accusing her of lying, to blaming her for everything, and even people consoling his parents. It was the toxic masculinity and unwavering loyalty that had these town folks idolizing a teenage boy simply because he was good on the ice. In their eyes, he could do no wrong, which is extremely frustrating to witness. I found myself physically clenching my fists in angry, and even had to take a break from it so I wouldn’t get myself too worked up.

The reason I was getting so upset is because of how real this situation is. Backman perfectly captured the language people use when discussing rape. I was specifically reminded of the Brock Turner case, and many other situations like this that probably go without a trial. It’s a tragic look into the lives of many women (and men) who are the victims of rape.

Now I will say the story did seem to drag in some places. The actual climatic incident didn’t happen until almost 200 pages in, and even beyond that new characters and plot points were being introduced. The first one hundred pages or so was leading up to the semifinals (the lead up to the actual finals didn’t last nearly as long). So put plainly, some parts of this could benefit from a bit of mild editing, but overall I’m not complaining.

The ending was bittersweet, and that’s the best way I can put it without spoiling anything. I probably wouldn’t have written it any differently; Backman even used the story technique of writing about the characters life ten years in the future. This is a particularly interesting move since he has another novel published called Us Against You, which is the continued story of the Beartown community after the incident. The aspect I love most about this is that nobody has to pick up his sequel for this story to be finished, but it’s the choice of the reader if they want more. You won’t be losing anything from the original book if you choose not to read the second. I love the freedom Backman allows his readers, and because of that, I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of Us Against You.

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How to Walk Away: Book Review

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center published in 2018.

“Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her; a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that life might find her in the last place she would ever expect.”

This might be my favourite title for a book because it represents the story in both a physical and emotional way.

The novel is from the point of view of Margaret, a young woman who has her entire future mapped out. In a grand gesture to propose, her boyfriend practically forces her to fly in the plane that he’s piloting (even though she had a fear of flying). He ends up crashing the plane on landing, and while he walks away without a scratch, she is left is third-degree burns on her neck and paralyzed from the knees down. Margaret is now faced with a totally different future than she expected, and the reader follows her through conflicting emotions of despair and hope.

First thing I usually touch on in these reviews is characters, so let’s discuss. The voice of Margaret is very powerful yet relatable. She has this dry sense of humour that resonates well with me, yet it also leads to the unavoidable dark thoughts one might have if they were in her place. I’m so glad that it didn’t have the sickeningly inspiring commentary that a lot of tragic stories have, as Margaret’s character told it as it is. It’s awful. It’s something that no one would ever wish to go through, no matter how “wise” or “enlightened” you come out on the other side. It’s like most things terrible things in life when it happens, you just deal with it and move on best you can.

Speaking of characters, Center had this incredible ability to flip my feelings about a character, specifically Margaret’s mother, Linda. She is made out to be the villain at first, yet it’s later her vulnerable side is revealed through exposing her past faults. I went from hating her presence to wanting to comfort her, a giant leap for a side character in a grander story. I was thoroughly impressed.

Prefacing the novel, Center opened her acknowledgments by saying that she had to do massive amounts of research for this book, and you can definitely tell by the events that take place. Like I mentioned before, it’s realistic in the mix of positive and negative emotions. It’s the epitome of the saying “You don’t know what you have until you lose it.” I caught myself wiggling my toes a lot while reading this, and thinking of all the times I’ve used my legs, and all the times I will use my legs in the future. If there’s ever a book to read that will put you in your place and allow you to feel grateful, it’s How to Walk Away.

There was a scene that reminded me of one of my favourite books, The Catcher in the Rye. I have no idea if this minimal connection was intentional, but I noticed it and it warmed by heart. For those of who have never read The Catcher in the Rye, the main character Holden makes an observation about time while visiting the Museum of Natural History. He remarks that every time he visits it, he’s changed in some kind of way as a person, yet the museum stays the same. There’s a scene in this book where Margaret feels a remarkably similar feeling about her grandparent’s cabin for the first time after the accident,

“Being back here was exactly as bad as I’d feared. Everything was the same as it had been since my grandparents had bought the place in the sixties. The screen porch door still squeaked and slapped. The gopher hole by the back steps hadn’t moved. The pear trees my grandmother had planted still rustled in the breeze.

The only thing different was me.”

I love this scene for more than just its relation to Holden, but for its relevance in everyone’s live. We all have a place like Holden’s museum or Margaret’s cabin.

A major aspect of the story I didn’t mention in my personal summary was that Margaret ends up falling in love with her physical therapist, Ian. Their journey of healing by each other’s side is heart wrenching and genuine. Though my favourite part is that the story did not revolve around this romance, it was simply another aspect of Margaret’s story. This story had so much more to it; identity, estranged families, rocky recoveries and more. He is not the prince that comes to save her, but just someone that helped her save herself. I will admit, some scenes with him were a bit too cheesy for my taste, such as on the boat near the end, but I’ll also say that this story is so bleakly realistic that maybe Margaret deserved a few fairytale moments. Some parts near the end even made me cry a little bit.

I want to be best friends with Margaret and her sister Kitty. I was itching to help them and for them to help me at the same time. In fact, I feel like I do know these characters as if I just sat down with Margaret for an afternoon and she told me her life story. I think everyone should immerse themselves in her world and try and learn a little from her. The heartbreak and desperation were almost palpable, yet the hope that ultimately founds its way to Margaret is awe-inspiring to the extreme and definitely worth the read for anyone who can get their hands on this book.

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The Queen of Hearts: Book Review

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin published in 2018.

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“Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life—both professionally and personally—throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.”

Don’t be fooled by the title, this book has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland.

Instead, it focuses on two women, Zadie and Emma, who met and formed a strong friendship while in medical school. Now, they are both successfully working in the medical community and have grown families of their own. The past is behind them, yet it threatens to resurface when an old colleague and fling of Zadie’s gets transferred to Emma’s team. Both women want nothing to do with him for their own reasons, yet he seems desperate to contact Zadie. Through the majority of the novel, it is unknown what he did that caused Zadie and Emma to have such a strong hatred for him, and the past is slowly unravelled as the chapters swapped between present day and their past experiences in medical school.

Let’s begin by discussing what I enjoyed about this book. The characters were structured rather well and the relationships between them were believable and genuine. The two main characters were the cliche opposites attract trope; Zadie being warm-hearted and emotional while Emma is stoic and self-controlled. Their personalities balanced out well and they bounced off each other well during dialogue scenes. This coupled with the causal and easy to follow writing style made for a generally straightforward read.

Another aspect I respected was the medical perspective. Obviously, since both of the main characters are doctors (Zadie a pediatric cardiologist and Emma a trauma surgeon), there were a lot of scenes set in the hospital. Me being the biology nerd that I am relished in these scenes, and since the author is an emergency medicine doctor, it’s guaranteed that all the information is relatively accurate. I liked that I could trust all the information that was being thrown at me instead of having Google handy so I could double-check its legitimacy.

Now that’s about all the positive things I can say about The Queen of Hearts. Not to say that the rest of this review is going to be negative, just somewhat neutral. For some reason, I took me longer than usual to read this book, despite saying before that it’s quite the easy read. I wasn’t gravitating towards it during my spare time like most books, and I wasn’t cancelling plans so I could stay home and read it like I have with some really amazing books. It almost got to the point that it felt like a chore to pick it up, the only reason I kept coming back to it was just to finish it. I would have left it unfinished if it wasn’t for the ominous secret that kept being referenced.

Speaking of secrets and rumours and drama, this book is chock-full of it. It reminded me a lot of Grey’s Anatomy, which I’m not a huge fan of (yet if you do love that show, I’m assuming you’ll enjoy this book more than I did). And normally one might think this is a good thing, yet the secrets and rumours and drama need to live up to their expectations and have that shock factor if you’re going to allude to it for over two hundred and fifty pages. The big reveal near the end was not much of a twist for me considering it’s pretty predictable. I was expecting much more for all the build-up that Martin provided, and frankly reacted to discovering the truth by thinking, “Oh, that’s it?” Granted, what the characters went through was not pleasant in the slightest, it was not nearly as traumatic as I was expecting.

Finally, there was an array of topics that I wish the author paid closer attention to, the two I’m going to be talking about are suicide and poverty. Both these sensitive subjects were mentioned throughout the pages of The Queen of Hearts, but not in the way that I would have hoped they were. I felt as if they were only utilized to push the story forward or to justify Emma’s actions. The topic of suicide could have been handled a bit more tactfully and they only briefly brought up Emma’s past with poverty as an excuse for what she did. I don’t mind when authors tackle touché subjects, I just think they should be covered with the respect they deserve.

This book sort of threw my reading schedule off balance. I usually read about a book a week, but this one took me a lot longer to get through. I don’t know why but I wasn’t pulled towards reading this book like I am with others. Maybe it was the fruitless drama that bordered on cliche medical drama television. So here’s the upside: if you really like Grey’s Anatomy, I’d definitely recommend this book for you. But if you’re like me and prefer realistically heavy medical plots that focus on difficult subjects, you might be better off leaving this on the shelf.

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