Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

By Ayisha Malik
Published by twenty7
Available in ebook
Forthcoming in paperback

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Sofia Khan is in need of a husband…or at least that’s what her family think. They are desperate for her to get married, her boss is demanding she writes a book on Muslim dating and her boyfriend wants her to move in with his parents.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, Ayisha Malik’s debut novel is a funny and witty story of Sofia as she tries to find (and even lose) love, and deal with her demanding family.  Think of the family from East is East and you’ll know what I mean. Sofia’s personal life is chaotic – her sister is getting married, her father is trying to hid the fact that he’s still smoking, and her mother is obsessed with pleasing everyone. Mixed in with her publishing job, in which she must write a dating manual, and her complicated friends. Sofia must find her own path in life but she is brave enough to make the jump and escape society’s expectations?

Sofia is a flawed character but this makes her more likable to the reader. The chatty style makes Sofia feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, and I found the characters comforting. Sometimes you need some light relief from everyday life, and I can promise you that this book will give you this escape.

On many occasions this book reminded me of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Both books are similar in tone – chatty and friendly but structurally Sofia Khan is Not Obliged fits with modern life with Sofia’s story told through blog entries, texts and extracts from Sofia’s book in progress.

Malik explores the push and pull between modern life and traditional customs with Sofia’s battle to not find love. Yet, this book isn’t all light hearted fun. Serious issues are tackled with polygamous marriages, dating outside the religion, the way Muslims are perceived by non-Muslims. This fast paced, engaging novel will entertain and educate you.

If you’re looking for a book to cheer you up on these drab and drizzly autumn evenings then this is the book for you.

I was kindly sent a paperback version of this book.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Real Reason Why Writers Don’t Admit To Being A Writer

Quite a few writers don’t like to tell other people aka civilians, when asked their occupation, that they are a writer. It has nothing to do with how many novels you’ve had published or the fact you may prefer to be called ‘story creator’ or ‘word wrangler’ or that once the word ‘writer’ has left your lips then the magic will vanish. The real reason is that you end up getting in a conversation just like the one below, and there’s no escape.

I’m afraid this is a true story.

“So are you still writing?”

“I’m just redrafting-”

“I’m actually working on a novel, and it’s rather good if I say so myself.”

The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer takes another gulp of wine.

“My epic novel will span across different fantasy worlds and will be a game changer as there is nothing out there about the power of the female in fantasy fiction.”

I should probably point out that this is a male ‘writer’ – one of those arrogant ones who stand their chest out, and for some strange reason points out their chin to maybe make himself look more ‘literary’. This ‘writer’ is the sort of person who you want to put a pin in and watch them deflate.
The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer resists shakes his shoulders and saying ‘non-readers are not allowed to be fucking writers’ and just smiles politely and replies “sounds interesting.” She has a shed load of fantasy books with female protagonists in her head which have been published and turned into films so this ‘writer’ must be living in a bubble.

“Can I send it to you when I’m finished?”

“I need a wee.” The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer wanders off to a quiet corner to weep. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

My Books Are In Storage, Again

My books are in storage, again.

They seem to spend more days in boxes than on the bookshelf. This was not something I was planning on doing especially after last year’s ordeal of moving twice, and having to stay in a hotel while the builders finished the house.  I thought it would be a house where my desk would stay assembled for more than two years, and maybe the book collection would start containing some picture books. At the end of last year, I thought I knew where my life was heading, and who I was heading there with but it turns out this is not the case.  I have no words left to go into the details.

For the past six months, I have been heartbroken, angry and sad. Last week the keys were handed over to the new owners, and yet there was no final goodbye. I stood and waited but couldn’t wait any longer.

Family and friends have been there, listening to me, handing over tissues, keeping me busy, making me laugh, giving me pep talks. They know who they are, and I want them all to know I appreciate all of the support and love they have thrown my way. Don’t worry this post isn’t going to become all self-helpy or start to fill up with metaphors about fog and broken hearts. I promise!

Funnily enough, knowing I had books to review has kept me blogging or I would have closed down this blog.

I have been trying to write but I don’t seem to be able to write endings to any of these stories. At least my novel needs redrafting and not writing! Redrafting I can do, and redrafting I have been doing although it is s-l-o-w but I am making progress.

Today I finished chapter eighteen, which is a relief, as this chapter had no shape when I read it a few months ago. I highly recommend reading your writing months (or even years) after the initial round of writing will definitely give you perspective.

Chapter 18 was all over the place – conversations with no location, characters appearing from no where, an ending which didn’t fit with the rest of the chapter. These have been fixed, and the chapter feels balanced.

I guess I need to open up the document for chapter 19 and see what state I left that…

The next blog post is a funny one so stay tuned…

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Book Review: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets
By Eva Rice
Published by Headline
Available in paperback and ebook

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is the book equivalent of eating sweets. Sometimes you need something sugary and full of innocence.

Set in the 1950s, Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love but life isn't going the way she wants. A chance encounter with Charlotte means Penelope's life will never be the same now she has a new stylish friend in her life.

This is a light-hearted, gentle read, making it the ideal book if you want fancy an afternoon curled on the sofa, snuggled inside a duvet.

Glitzy parties, grubby cafes, gossiping girls and boys with bikes. This book is full of period detail in 1950s London. The first generation of 'teenagers' have arrived - celebrity crushes, falling in love with every boy, dancing to records, and dreaming of living in another country. Penelope must find her way through the minefield of adolescence as well as finding a way to make her mother happy.

Around Penelope and her friends, are obsessed with being wined, dined and dancing to rock 'n' roll but the older generations are still recovering from World War 2. Penelope's mother is still in mourning years after her husband died in the war, and left behind their crumbling mansion with no income to help with the maintenance. Rice explores the push and pull of each generation and the way culture has infiltrated their lives. Obligations to past generations has a hold over Penelope and her family and they must work out if they want to break away, and form their own future.

The publisher, Headline has released a 10th anniversary edition which includes a short story on how Penelope's parents met as well as an introduction from the comedian, Miranda Hart. It would have been nice to have had a front cover overhaul as I'm sure with a jazzier cover this book would also appeal to readers who like the 'young adult' genre.

You can buy The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Guest Post: Colette McBeth's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we have Colette McBeth popping over to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A. Earlier
this year I reviewed her novel, The Life I Left Behind and it is a roller-coaster of a book. You can read my review here.


Hi Colette, thank you for stopping by and taking part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A. Congratulations on the publication of The Life I Left Behind in paperback.

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Lady McBeth’s Books by the Sea

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?

Overlooking the sea in a place where it was hot during the day and chilly at night so I could light a log fire.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
The books would choose the reader, a bit like the wands choosing the characters in Harry Potter, so each customer would find their perfect book match every time.

What sections would you have in your bookshop?
One for psychological thrillers obviously and next to each thriller, a lighter, funnier, book to compliment it. I’m a firm believer in lightness and shade!

And what sections would you ditch?

Any celebrity biographies by people younger than twenty five. I know that’s very prescriptive but it’s my bookstore and I feel it’s my duty to save readers from them.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Instead of a display table with cook books, I’d have the chefs make their favourite dishes for my customers to taste because, a) we’d know if the recipes actually worked before we forked out for the books, and b) no one would have to leave to eat lunch.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
Roald Dahl would run a children’s event every week and every child who came along would have to invent a new, rude sounding word like snozzcumber. There aren’t enough of these words in circulation.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, The Life I Left Behind, and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?

If you buy the book I’ll let you have a slice of my cake (see below)

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Lemon meringue pie. It makes the world taste better.

You can buy The Life I Left Behind from your favourite bookshop.

Former BBC correspondent Colette McBeth is the author of Precious Thing, and this year’s The Life I Left Behind, as well as a member of Killer Women.