China Dolls by Lisa See

* Picture from Amazon*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 10

Plot: This book is about three young Asian women who are trying to achieve stardom in the years up to and throughout World War II.  The women are joined together by their common goals but are each hiding secrets from each other that threaten to tear them apart.

Opinion: I was not a fan of this book.  The only reason I rated it as high as I did is that I somehow managed to finish it, although I’ll be honest, I wanted to quit reading about halfway through.  I thought that the plot seemed to go nowhere and there was a very weak attempt to create drama, but it came across as pettiness.  Also, the main characters got on my nerves and didn’t seem real.  The book is told from the vantage point of each of the three main characters, and even when I was reading from a particular character’s viewpoint, they still weren’t likable.  I was disappointed because this book sounded really good and I’ve enjoyed Ms. See’s other books.  If you are looking to read one of her books, skip this one and read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan instead.

Next book: Abridged Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) by Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab At-Tamimi

2016 Goals and TBR

I always set a Goodreads goal and this year I’m going for 24 books.  While this is dramatically less than in years past, it’s more than I read this year.  I’m hoping to exceed this, but given the amount of free time I’ve had recently, I want my goal to at least be attainable.  In addition to the Goodreads goal, I also have a yearly TBR.  I know that the amount of books on this TBR is greater than anything I’m likely to read, but I’ve found when I have a short TBR, I end up reading stuff not on the list because I’m not in the mood for what I’ve got on the list.   By making my list so long, I was able to stick to it for the most part this year and hope to do the same next year.  Anyhow, here’s the TBR list broken down by genre:

Islamic

  • Dajjal – The AntiChrist by Ahmad Thompson
  • Muhammad Messenger of Allah by Qadi ‘Iyad Ibn Musa Al-Yahsubi
  • Burnishing the Heart: Selections from the Qur’an for Self-Awareness by Abdulwahid Hamid
  • Miracles of the Prophets by Abdul Mum’im Hashmi
  • The Ideal Muslim Society by Dr. Muhammad Al-Hashimi
  • Abridged Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (S) by Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab At-Tamimi
  • Early Days: Stories of Creation & The Early Prophet Adam to Yoonus by Ibn Katheer

Memoirs

  • Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
  • Bengali Girls Don’t by L.A. Sherman
  • American Gypsy by Oksana Marafoti
  • I’ll See You Again by Jackie Hance
  • Banished by Lauren Drain
  • A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans
  • My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure by Shawn Decker
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in Mumbai’s Undercity by Katherine Boo
  • First Darling in the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood by Thifty Unrigar
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Fantasy

  • Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey
  • The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques
  • Entwined by Heather Dixon
  • Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
  • The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
  • Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
  • Song of Susannah by Stephen King
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Classics

  • What Maisie Knew by Henry James
  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  • Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic

  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons by Sinclair Lewis
  • It Can’t Happen Here by
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Graphic Novels

  • Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
  • Saints by Gene Luen Yang

South Asian

  • Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
  • Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai
  • Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair
  • The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
  • In the Convent of Little Flowers by Indu Sundaresan

African/African American

  • Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful by Alan Paton
  • Philida by Andre Brink

Far Asian

  • The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim
  • The Red Chamber by Pauline A. Chen
  • Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
  • The Scent of Sake by Joyce Lebra
  • The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

Middle Eastern

  • Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mojha Kahf
  • Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
  • Bone Worship by Elizabeth Eslami

Historical Fiction

  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Purge by Sofi Oksanen
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  • The Wild Princess by Mary Hart Perry
  • London by Edward Rutherford
  • The Clan of Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Nonfiction

  • Trail of Tears by John Ehle
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
  • The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
  • The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston
  • Flu by Gina Kolata
  • No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses by Peter Piot
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for omen Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn
  • The Faithful Executioner by Joel F. Harrington
  • The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Londoners by Craig Taylor

Other

  • Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Something Blue by Emily Griffin
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

 

2015 Recap

The year is coming to an end, so I wanted to do a recap of my reading.  I wanted to read 35 books and only managed a pathetic 18.  Work just got too much in the way for me to read as much as I wanted, but I am glad that I at least managed to read more than one book a month.  My favorite books of the year were The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas, Positive by Paige Rawl, and Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty.  My least favorite book was Prophecies and the Third World War by Khandakar Shahryer Sultan.  Although I didn’t read as much as normal and fell disappointingly short for my Goodreads goal, I liked the books I did read overall.  I think since I knew I didn’t have much time to read, I was more selective in what I did spend my time on.

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

* Picture from Amazon*

Format read: Hardback

Genre: Memoir

Rating: 6 out of 10

Plot: This book is about a young woman who grew up in a Hasidic family but yearned to be a part of the gentile world.

Opinion: I’m conflicted about this book.  I thought it was an engrossing read, but the author came off as very bitter and it seemed like she had nothing good to say about the environment she grew up in.  Second, I’ve found out that there’s been some questions raised about the author’s veracity, which knowing that she’s writing about an insular group whose active members are unlikely to read this and as a result unlikely to challenge what she’s saying just rubs me the wrong way.

Next book: China Dolls by Lisa See

Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty

* Picture from Amazon*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 8 out of 10

Plot: This book is a gypsy family in the years leading up to World War II up to the end of the war.  The family struggled to survive in a world that was increasingly dangerous for gypsies.

Opinion:  Overall I enjoyed this book.  I was deeply engrossed in the story and stayed up late to finish it.  There were some slow parts, but not enough to make me want to put the book down.  I think this is a good book for those who are interested in historical fiction, particularly World War II historical fiction.

Next book: Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

Life in al-Barzakh from Death until Resurrection by Muhammad Mustafa al-Jibaly

* Picture from islamicbookstore.com*

Format read: Hardback

Genre: Islamic

Rating: 8 out of 10

Plot: This book is about Barzakh, or the time in the grave.  It talks about what happens to both believers and nonbelievers in the time between death and the Day of Judgment.

Opinion: I enjoyed this book.  I thought the editing was good, and I liked how the author explained this topic in a way that didn’t require an intense background of studying before beginning.

Next book: Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

* Picture from Amazon *

Format read: Paperback

Genre: South Asian

Rating: 6 out of 10

Plot: Udayan and Subhash grew up so similar to each other that people mistook them for twins instead of just brothers.  As the boys grow up, Udayan is drawn into an extremist group and ultimately makes a decision that destroys his family.

Opinion: This wasn’t my favorite book by Jhumpa Lahiri.  While I was drawn into the story, I felt like it dragged at points, and I was frustrated by the behaviors of several of the characters in the story.

Next book: Life in al-Barzakh from Death until Resurrection by Muhammad Mustafa al-Jibaly

Positive by Paige Rawl

* Picture from Amazon *

Format read: Hardback

Genre: Memoir

Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: Paige was infected with HIV by her mother who unknowingly carried the virus.  While she was fortunate to have been diagnosed a year after treatments became available, she still suffered through bullying about her HIV status after she let it slip to a girl she thought was her best friend.  This memoir is the story of how she overcame the stigma of being HIV positive and the bullying to be an inspiration to others.

Opinion: I thought this book was well-written and a must-read for teenagers or those who work with teenagers.  It’s surprising that someone of her generation would still deal with the stigma of HIV considering they’ve lived almost their whole lives in a time when there have been treatments available for HIV.  I’m glad she was able to use her situation to be a blessing to others.

Next book: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

* Picture from Amazon *

Format read: Mass Market Paperback

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 10

Plot: This is the 5th book in the Dark Tower series and continues to follow the adventures of Roland Deschain and his friends on their quest of the dark tower.

Opinion: I thought this book was a long build up to nothing.  I felt the plot moved very slow, the writing was awkward in parts, and there was a lot of plotting and planning but the big fight scene I was led to expect never happened.  I want to know what happens so I’m forced to continue the series but this book was so boring for the most part that I’m half tempted just to look up what happens and be done with it.

Next book: Positive by Paige Rawl

Enjoy Your Life by Dr. Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Rahaman Al-‘Arifi

Enjoy Your Life! - The Art of Interacting with People... as Deduced from a Study of the Prophet's Life (Dr. Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahaman Al-'Arifi)

* Picture from islamicbookstore.com *

Format read: Hardback

Genre: Islamic

Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: This book goes over how to interact with others in a manner that creates positive feelings from them.

Opinion: I thought this was a pretty good book, but I was under the impression that it was about how to live a better life, but it spoke of that only in terms of a person’s interactions with others.  I think if you are looking for a book for tips to improving interactions with others, this is an excellent book for that, but if you are looking for more of a self-help type book, that’s not this book.

Next book: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

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