Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's that time, time to hop!!

Book Blogger Hop
Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year? Delores Phillips author of The Darkest Child. The children in that book have an awful childhood, something that is totally foreign to me. I reviewed it a couple of months ago:

Here are a couple of blogs I came across:

Lending a helping hand

Normally I rant on Thursdays, but not today. A few days ago I was asked to spread the word about an e-book for charity. If you're interested or know anyone who might be, have a look at the info:


To mark the 20th anniversary of its hardcover publication, To Speak for the Dead, Paul Levine’s bestselling legal thriller, is now available as an e-book, with all proceeds going to charity. The novel introduced Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, who is as likely to punch out a witness as cross-examine him. In To Speak for the Dead, Lassiter defends a surgeon accused of malpractice after his patient dies during routine surgery. When evidence is uncovered that the surgeon was obsessed with his patient’s wife, Lassiter suspects his client is innocent of malpractice...but guilty of murder. Add a sexy widow, a deadly drug, and a grave robbery to the stew and you have the setting for Miami’s trial of the century.

To Speak for the Dead was translated into 15 languages and adapted into an NBC World Premiere Movie in 1995. All royalties from the e-book edition will go to the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports cancer treatment and research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

“I’ve had three dear friends lose a child or a spouse to cancer in the last few years,” Levine says. “This is a cause close to my heart.”

Seven Lassiter novels were published in the 1990's. Since then, Levine has written two stand-alone thrillers including last year’s Illegal, plus the four-book Solomon vs. Lord series. Additionally, he wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama JAG, and co-created the Supreme Court show First Monday, starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna.

“To Speak for the Dead got me out of the courthouse, or at least on the other side of the Bar,” says Levine, a former trial lawyer. After signing his initial two-book contract with Bantam in 1988, Levine quit the practice of law and began writing full time.

“I’d read Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent and Carl Hiaasen’s Tourist Season, plus all of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books,” Levine says, from his Studio City, CA hillside home. “I was influenced by their rich characters and powerful themes, and in Carl’s case, his subversive humor. Those books convinced me I wanted to be a writer.”

Jake Lassiter will return in an original hardcover next year with the publication of Lassiter.

More information at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Q&A with author Wendy Raven McNair

Here are a few questions I had for Wendy Raven McNair author of Asleep:

1. Why do the characters have such a connection with food? Food holds a wealth of symbolism. It's the common thread that binds us because all humans need food to live yet it's regional and every culture has its own beliefs and traditions around food. So food is a great way to reveal things about the characters and the story. For instance the opening breakfast scene reveals the social dynamics in Adisa's family and the dinner scene features some traditional African American and southern dishes. Micah's African dishes are a reflection of his time in Africa and the dishes used during Adisa's kidnapping are tied to the stories Victor tells her.

2. Micah often goes to Africa as part of his FLEET training. Why Africa? Micah reveals that "in addition to being the cradle of civilization, (Africa is) the birthplace of the first superbeings." I was emphasizing that fact as a logical progression of the story.

3. Is Victor good or bad? It's hard to tell his true intentions? Will he play a bigger role in the next book? Many people are intrigued by Victor and his motivations which thrills me because he's a very complicated character. I believe it's up to the reader to decide if Victor is good or bad. He'll definitely figure prominently in book 2, AWAKE, and more of his background will be shared but that won't necessarily make categorizing him any easier.

4. Why make Victor white? Prejudice figures significantly in human nature and I thought it would be interesting to re-figure this in the story. So both Adisa and Micah have close ties to a "white" individual however, the prejudice they exemplify is different based on their background. Liz was raised in the earthbound culture so she operates under racial prejudice but Victor is from the superbeing culture and they don't have racial prejudice, it's not logical to them. However, they have prejudice against earthbounds as a whole because they consider them an inferior species despite the two groups' ability to inter-breed with each other. This is revealed more in book 2, AWAKE.

5. Since this is just Book I, do you have it planned out in your head what's going to happen to Adisa and Micah? Yes, it's planned out to the very end. Before I finished book 1, I knew how the final book in the trilogy would end. The challenge now is sticking to that plan because sometimes the story starts veering in different directions that pull me off my original idea. So the story is still evolving but it has to stay true to all that has already been told.

My take on: Asleep

Books for the tween set are all the rage right now. The Twilight books seem to appeal to teenagers and adults. I see grown women on TV with rooms dedicated to this stuff. I tried to get the appeal. I read a little bit of Twilight and watched five minutes of the first movie. I must say I don't get the appeal. I was a young adult the last time I read a young adult novel. I've had a brain lock on them for years, until now. In May, I met Wendy Raven McNair at BookExpo America. After a little talking for a bit, I said I would read her book Asleep and post a review.

The tween books I've seen in most years seem to appeal to a certain set. I don't see enough popular Young Adult books targeted towards African Americans. I'm sure they are out there, but don't get as much exposure as Twilight, Linger, Hush, Harry Potter, etc. Asleep is set in modern day Atlanta with a predominately African American cast of characters.

Fifteen-year-old Adisa Summers loves her family, loves food and also has a deep love for superheroes. Her twin sisters Kylie and Kelly are in their own world. Her mother wants to feed the world and her father wants to protect Adisa from all the boys in the world. But now Adisa has her eye on the new boy in town, Micah Alexander. But he's not like the other boys in town. One moment Micah is stoic and rigid, and emotional the next. Micah begins to haunt her dreams, after years of not dreaming. Awkward moments between the two become tender. Long talks over food cooked by Micah, seduce her senses, but Adisa can tell Micah is holding something back. Moments of danger for Adisa force Micah's secrets to the surface. During a storm Adisa wonders if her eyes are deceiving her as the image of a flying Micah comes toward her. He saves her from a falling tree.

I had to step back and absorb Adisa's reaction to her boyfriend flying. " 'Don't touch me,' I spat out and he immediately halted. I was livid. 'You knew I spent years immersed in superhero fantasy and suffered for it. How could you, of all people, question my commitment to safeguarding your true identity.' " I had to remember this is fantasy. Had this been me I would have run for the hills. But with Adisa's character it rings true. All of her life Adisa has always wanted to be a superhero, so naturally she's jealous of Micah. He couldn't always fly. Before Micah's powers came to fruition, he was 'Asleep.' Now he is awake, journeying back and forth to Africa learning how to harness his power with FLEET. Micah tries to maintain a relationship with his 'earthbound' family while learning how to be a superbeing with his white twin Victor. I couldn't tell if Victor was good or bad. He kidnaps Adisa in effort to save Micah's life, but Victor's motives don't always ring true to me.

While Micah begins revealing his secrets, Adisa starts to discover secrets within  her own family. Long buried secrets that could effect her for life. Since this is the first book in a series of three, this is just the start for Adisa and Micah. I'm not sure how to describe this book. There's fantasy, romance and suspense. For my first foray into the world of Young Adult I did like it. Although, I wish the fantasy part of the novel had come quicker. I felt it was little bit too long. But since this is the first book in the series, I guess more time is needed to introduce the characters. I am curious what happens next!

Rating: Give it a try

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information to Wendy Raven McNair, go to

Monday, July 26, 2010

A tale of two covers

The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship 

Still reading Todos Santos by Deborah Clearman and just started Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss. A review of Asleep and blog Q&A with author Wendy Raven McNair will be posted in the next day or two. But today we are discussing the covers of The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel. The one on the left is the hardcover edition and the one on the right is the paperback, which will be out in September. I have the hardcover edition. I find it to rather plain. Just an egg?? I love eggs but a picture of one does nothing for me. With this book I was drawn in by a description sent in an e-mail. I think if I saw it in the store, I would walk right past it. The paperback cover looks far more engaging. The color of the cups and pans draws me in. I think color in general attracts me most to a book cover. Perhaps that's why there's such a deep contrast in the two covers? What does everyone think? Which cover would draw you in?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Let's hop around!!

Book Blogger Hop
Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: What book are you currently reading? Currently, I'm engrossed in three books. Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair. It's a young adult novel. I haven't read a young adult novel since I was a young adult, but so far so good. I'm about 50 pages into Todos Santos by Deborah Clearman. It's too early for me to have formed an opinion. Ditto on The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel. The Recipe Club appealed to because I can read a potentially great book and get some good recipes along the way!! It's definitely a challenge to read three books at once. I'm beginning to worry about my pace. I see so many other bloggers posting reviews everyday. But then I remember I just have to be me. I'm reading at my own pace!! Happy reading!!

Check out some of my recent posts:

Here are a few blogs I came across:

When will it end?

My air conditioner isn't cooling off my room fast enough!! It feels like hot soup in NYC!!! Discuss......

P.S.: After a few errands and a trip to the gym, I am dedicating Thursday and Friday to reading. I hope to finish Asleep by Friday. There will be a review and Q&A with the author.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's that on the cover?

Todos Santos
Still reading Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair. Now I'm about to dive into Todos Santos by Deborah Clearman. Todos Santos Cuchumatán is a city in Guatemala, one I had never heard of until this book arrived in the mail. The bottom half is rather colorful. I'm thinking that's a woman on the cover. Maybe she's a shaman. The colorful headpiece radiates from her head all the way to the bottom. With her marriage in trouble, the main character Catherine Barnes is embarking on a journey to explore new material for her next book. Maybe that's her on cover!! Can't wait to find out!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My take on: Life After Yes

After years together, he surprises you with a romantic getaway!! What are his intentions? Could this be the moment? Yes it is!! While in Paris he melts your heart with a romantic proposal!! You scream out "Yes!!" You're living in the moment. You are filled with euphoria!! Now what do you do? That's question haunting Prudence "Quinn" O'Malley in Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley.

Quinn is a young, modern Manhattan attorney struggling in the aftermath of the death of her father on Sept. 11. We never meet her father, but he plays a pivotal role throughout the book. She seems to have it all. A fiance, her own apartment and what a lot of us long for -- NO STUDENT LOAN DEBT. After that romantic Paris proposal from her fiance Sage McIntyre, Quinn has a rather strange dream. A dream that she will constantly analyze. The dream takes place in a courtroom with white handcuffs, three grooms, including a former boyfriend, her deceased father, her mother and brother Michael, Britney Spears and Nietzsche. Is this dream an omen? Is happiness attainable for Quinn when her mind is full of doubts?

Is Sage the one? Or was it her former boyfriend Phelps? Perhaps Quinn is taking it too seriously like her friend Kayla said, "All of a sudden you're a believer? You think psychic powers are tingled during REM?" Quinn finds many ways to drown out her thoughts and grief, mostly with alcohol. Alcohol is the one vice Sage wishes Quinn could give up. No chance of that happening as long as he continues to be a 'Mama's Boy.' As a lawyer she is constantly analyzing everything, making Quinn question if that's the way she will be forever. Alcohol isn't Quinn's only crutch, there is also a flirtation with another man, a betrayal and ...... bacon! Yes bacon cooked by Sage seems to cure all ills.

Quinn's love of bacon is one of the many moments of levity in the book. A little salty snack to forget the day's troubles. What's wrong with that? Her friend Kayla, also a lawyer, never met a drink she didn't like. One minute Kayla is the life of the party and the next she is passed out drunk. From the subject matter, one might think that Life After Yes is just another chick lit novel. I don't think it is. Not everyone can relate to Quinn's character. Right off the bat I can tell she is in a different tax bracket than most people, including me. But Rowley has created a character that is very relatable. Quinn, like everyone in life, is flawed. She doubts her decisions, and then wonders if it was a mistake. Quinn also wonders if she even has the right to be happy. Does she deserve Sage? All questions that we ask in our own lives.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of Life After Yes from the publisher at the request of the author's publicist. To learn more about Aidan Donnelley Rowley visit her blog:

My take on: Vexation

I have to admit until recently I had never heard of the word 'vexation.' According to the dictionary it means the state of being annoyed or frustrated. In all honesty that's how I felt reading this. I wanted to like Vexation by Elicia Clegg, but I just couldn't. I read more than half of it before I had to stop. I went beyond my normal 50-60 pages because I thought this one had potential.

Vexation takes us into the mind of 16-year-old Devin Sinclair. After a stint in a mental institution, Devin is returning to her family and friends. But she is returning to them as a different person. Prior to being in the hospital, Devin was kidnapped and under the mind control of the "Grandfather." All of this sounded very intriguing to me. We are literally in Devin's mind as she fights to fit in again. Devin struggles to maintain relationships with people she thought were her friends. After months her friends have changed, and so has Devin. A cruel prank leads Devin to withdraw from her former "friends" and even her family. The only solution she can think of is to runaway. If Devin is no longer with her family, she can't cause them any harm, especially her baby sister Jessica.

Devin forms a new life and makes new friends in Utah. It's around here where the book lost me. After awhile I couldn't take the constant change in perspectives. I don't mind books being told from several points of view, but it is hard to follow when it is within the same chapter. Several times the chapter changes voice from Devin, to her friends and others. One point the characters are awake and carrying on conversations, then it shifts to their dreams. We go back and forth with time. The constant time shifts and the shifts in voice just turned me off. Plus the copy I received had spelling mistakes in it, but it's possible I got an uncorrected proof. Perhaps in time I will go back and find out what happens to Devin, but right now I have to walk away.

Rating: Meh

Notes: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time to hop around!!

Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: RIGHT THIS INSTANT, WHAT BOOK ARE YOU DYING TO GET YOUR HANDS ON (PAST, PRESENT, OR FUTURE)? I'm never one to give into hype. But I think I'm going to given and buy The Passage by Justin Cronin. I want to know what the big deal is. Although reading 700+ pages seems daunting.

Here are a few blogs I came across:

Vacation redux

Is it really time for me to go home?? After months of anticipation vacation came and went. Don't you love waking up on vacation, and not realizing what day it is? Wonderful feeling!! Lazy days of swimming, reading and hitting the local theme parks is over. See that roller coaster over there? Just looking at it was too scary for me. Not that I'm chicken, I did get on some other roller coasters. But I just didn't have the stomach for that drop. The "Griffon" at Busch Gardens is for brave souls only!!! Time to head back to the heat of NYC!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Q&A with author M.L. Malcolm

Here are a few questions I had for M.L. Malcolm author of Heart of Lies:

1. The novel was previously published under the title Silent Lies. After reading the book I think Heart of Lies fits the subject matter. The lies Leo Hoffman tell are lies of the heart. Why the change in title?

The very experienced marketing department at Harper Collins, my new literary home, decided that Heart of Lies was a more attractive title, and if Harper is happy, I’m happy!

2. As part of your research, you used your husband's family history within the novel. Did they mind being the subject of your novel? Did they offer a special insight?
My in-laws have always been incredibly helpful and supportive. Over the years I collected many riveting anecdotes about how various members of the family had managed to escape the Nazis; these provided the makings of a great book, but I didn’t really want to write a WWII story, so I looked for a way to explore those experiences in a meaningful way within a different historical context. At one point my mother-in-law became concerned that some of my readers would think that her father had been a diamond thief, but hopefully my comments at the end of the book make clear that I simply used their experiences as a launching point!

3. Why tell the story from different points of view? Why not just stick with Leo's perspective?
When I write I am literally watching a movie in my mind, and I like changing the camera angle from time to time. Sometime it’s because that’s the way the scene came into my head and it just felt right; at other times changing up the point of view allows the reader to experience the story more forcefully. For example, when the waiter hands Leo’s letter to Martha, he has just inadvertently turned her life upside down, but we experience her pain through his reaction to it rather than being in her head the whole time, and I think that’s more powerful, in part because it’s unexpected. Like in that famous scene from, “When Harry Met Sally,” where the grandmother says, “I’ll have what she’s having,” the impact of the main characters on the people around them can add depth (and humor) to a story. Also, there are several main characters in the book, and they each had an important part of their own story to tell while the other characters were “offstage.”

4. Leo's marriage to Martha starts off with a lie. He tries to redeem himself, but his relationship with his daughter Maddy is also full of lies. Why not break the cycle by the end?
Leo gets caught up in some pretty dire situations. He lives under false pretenses, but he lies to himself as often and as severely as he lies to others, and the consequences play out in pretty dramatic and often unanticipated ways. Leo is starting to face up to all this by the end of the book, and is trying to redeem himself; he gets farther along in this process in the sequel. But life is very complex. There are no simple answers and no easy fixes. I ended the book on a hopeful note, because for both Leo and Maddy, just having a reason to hope is a pretty big change.

Notes: I previously posted a review of Heart of Lies. Check it out at:
We also have a copy available for a giveaway at: For more information on M.L. Malcolm visit:

Monday, July 12, 2010

What's on the cover?

Life After Yes: A Novel

Still engrossed in Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair and Vexation by Elicia Clegg. Just started Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley. Yes I'm attempting three books at once again, but since I'm on vacation I figure I got the time!! I'm more than 100 pages into Life After Yes and I'm hooked. If Ms. Rowley's publicist hadn't contacted me, I would have eventually read the book. But it would have taken me months before I got a copy. I saw the book reviewed on some on other sites. The cover pulled me in. More than 90% of the time it's the cover that gets my attention more than word of mouth. On this cover we have a bride, presumably our main character Prudence "Quinn" O'Malley. That red sash makes me think the bride is also a little spitfire. The cover makes me think the bride is either running away or running to her wedding. Given where I'm at in the novel I think she's running away. But I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I'm such a sucker for a happy ending!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You know what time it is, it's time to hop!!!

Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: Tell us about some of your favorite authors and why they are your favorites! I think my favorite author is Betty Smith. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my all-time favorite. I see myself in Francie because of our mutual love for books. Just the simple pleasure of a book was enough for her. I loved the movie too. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is a close second. That book gave me the opportunity to explore another culture.

Here a few blogs I came across:

My take on: Heart of Lies

Math, science and history were my least favorite subjects throughout elementary school, high school and college. When it comes to my reading choices, I tend to avoid books with those subjects. My brain has some kind of block against them. I'm worried I might have to think too much. I was glad to be wrong after reading Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm.

We meet a young Hungarian, named Leo Hoffman. He's working to rebuild his life in the aftermath of World War I. Leo has carved a career for himself working at a hotel in Budapest. His career aspirations at the time go no further than upper-level management at the hotel. But a group of influential men want Leo to tap into his hidden talent. His gift to speak several languages. He is reluctant to do so, but the possibility of a financial boon is too much to pass up. The start of the adventure takes Leo to Paris.

While in Paris he falls in love with the beautiful Martha Levy. After just a few days the two are already talking marriage. Their relationship is extremely romantic and beautifully told. Their love scenes are very sensual, but are told very tastefully. From a realistic standpoint, I did find it a little hard to swallow. Perhaps because I'm looking at it from a 2010 perspective and not 1925. I guess relationships just moved a lot faster back then. Their romance is put on hold when Leo gets caught up in a counterfeiting and murder plot. Fleeing to Shanghai, Leo builds a new life. Martha is initially heartbroken, but Leo sends for her. Marriage and a child, Maddy, soon follow. They live in a big house, attend lavish parties, and all the while Martha doesn't ask too many questions. But no matter what Leo cannot escape his past. His marriage and life with Martha is built on lies.

Some writers have a tendency to ramble on and on before they get to the point, but not M.L. Malcolm. The story is very fast-paced. For me, the historical references serve more as backdrop to the overall story. Malcolm's in-laws were part of her inspiration for the novel. It is heartbreaking to read about the bombings in Shanghai. One minute you have your family with you and the next you don't. But in the end it all comes back to Martha and Leo, their relationship is at the heart of book.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of Heart of Lies from the publisher at the request of The Book Report Network ( To learn more about M.L. Malcolm visit:  We also have copy of the novel available for a giveaway. Details at: I'm also hosting a giveaway for Mara's Flowery Arrows at:

I really don't like my iPhone anymore!!!!


After months of anticipation, my vacation is finally here. I had few last minute items to pack. Then I decided my phone has been acting up lately. Calls keep dropping. The wireless service keeps dropping. I realized it had been months since I synced my phone. I see there is a software update. Bingo!! That must be the solution. After downloading everything I think I'm done for the night. WRONG!! The update wiped out 90% of my music. I'm convinced Steve Jobs is behind this!!! So now I'm up at 3:30 in the morning attempting to put all of that music back on my phone!!! It's going to be a long night.!! Once I hit the road I will be updating you all on the joys of a seven-hour car trip!! A review of Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm will also be posted later today. Happy reading everyone!!

Update: Food along I-95 is extremely overpriced!! Chicken fingers, fries and a lemonade = $11. Feeling ripped off = priceless. I did my best to read. I'm starting to like Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair. But after staying up all night trying to put my music back on my phone, I was in and out of consciousness!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Heart of Lies giveaway

Thanks to the folks at The Book Report Network ( and HarperCollins Publishers, we have a copy of Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm to giveaway. To learn more about M.L. Malcom visit: The rules for this giveaway are very simple. You must be a follower of my blog and the first person to answer the question is the winner.

Hopefully enough of you have read this book. Where does the following passage come from and who wrote the novel?

"She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Delores on the dotted line."

Another Monday, another cover


Still making my way through Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm and exploring the world of Young Adult books in Vexation by Elicia Clegg. I'm not totally sure what's going on in Vexation, but I hope to find out soon enough. I should have a review and blog Q&A with M.L. Malcolm by the end of this week.

Next up on my reading journey is Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair. I met Ms. McNair at BookExpo America. After a little chitchat I agreed to review her novel. The cover alone is interesting. Why is this person 'Asleep?' Is she (that face looks awfully female to me!) blocking something out? Blocking out the world? A person? I know it this book leans toward paranormal romance, which is definitely out of my comfort zone. But I am intrigued by this one.

Note: Still looking for a review for Mara's Flower Arrows. Details at:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's that time of the week, let's hop !!!

Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer has added a new wrinkle. A weekly question. This week it's "What is your name and why did you start to blog?" Simple answer: My name is Jael. I started blogging because I needed a creative outlet that my daily life didn't provide. And so far, I'm having a lot of fun!!

Here are a few blogs I came across:

My take on: Sweet Dates in Basra

Sweet Dates in Basra by Jessica Jiji takes you back in time to 1940s Iraq, at the height of World War II. We meet Kathmiya Mahmoud, a young Muslim girl from the marshes of Iraq, longs to be married. Marriage could lift her out of the poverty she has known since childhood. Despite her beauty, no one wants to marry Kathmiya, leading her to believe that she is cursed in some way. Her older sister Fatimah is allowed to get married, leading to internal jealous for Kathmiya. Her parents, Ali and Jamila, believe Kathmiya is destined to the life she is already living -- as a maid in Basra.

In Basra, Kathmiya is just another servant. A servant whom no one pays attention to except when they want their tea served. Only one person, Shafiq, a Jewish boy, takes the time out to notice Kathmiya. "That boy who had asked if she was okay was the only person in Basra to really look at Kathmiya, to see beyond whether or not she could iron shirts. Her longing, she told herself, was for the forbidden friendship that scared Jamila into violence but just for the simple chance to have a conversation." Anything beyond a few words between Kathmiya could be dangerous. She comes from another culture -- Midaan -- and a relationship between the two could prove deadly. She and Shafiq could be killed for "dishonoring" the family.

Before Shafiq became smitten with Kathmiya, his everyday life was an adventure with his best friend, Omar, who is also Muslim. During this era, such a friendship was considered taboo, but to the two boys they are brothers. A bond that stands up during a time of war. Omar's father dies, and Shafiq's father steps right in to provide financial support. Jewish people, their homes and businesses come under attack, and Omar's family opens their home to Shafiq's. Shafiq's brother Naji is suspected of supporting the Communist part, and Omar is still there providing support. When Shafiq is torn apart by his feelings for Kathmiya, Omar is right there.

The novel is told from Shafiq and Kathmiya's perspective. Kathmiya's mind is consumed with finding a husband and a life beyond poverty. It's all she can talk about with her mother, who is also a maid. From Kathmiya's perspective you would never know a war is going on. Perhaps that was Jiji's way of showing how differently men and women think. While Shafiq is completely in love Kathmiya, he is also more aware of the dangers in Iraq. He worries about his safety walking the streets, being accused of Zionism or if he can every escape Iraq. The romance, which is at the core of the novel, didn't grab me. Sometimes the romance felt very one-sided. Shafiq is the one who longs for Kathmiya, while she explores other options. She tells Shafiq to his face that she has found a potential husband, and at that same time doesn't seem to realize his anguish. It's only when all those options are gone, does Kathmiya explore her feelings for Shafiq. From a cultural perspective, Jiji builds a vivid portrait of what it's like to live in a multicultural society. People didn't know who they could trust then, and in the present day I don't think it's all that different.

Rating: Give it a try

Notes: I received a copy of Sweet Dates in Basra from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information on the author and book visit: 
I am still hosting a giveaway for Mara's Flowery Arrows. For more information visit:

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

This wonderful song from the '80s was in my head all day Wednesday. I don't know why. I was five when this came out, but all I can remember is that I've never liked this song. It's one of those songs, you can never get out of your head. So I figured I should share this one with the class!! Enjoy. Now I'm off to finish the last 40 pages of Sweet Dates in Basra. Look for a review later today! Happy reading.