The Hunting Party

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SPOILERS AHEAD

It would have been downright impossible not to notice this book given its bright yellow cover and the fact that it was plastered across the majority of the tube stations across London. It was never a question of if I would pick up this book but more so of when.

The mystery style was a little different to what was expected. I was expecting a typically laid out murder mystery, whereby the murder happens relatively early on and the rest of the novel is spent trying to figure out the culprit. However this was quite different in that although the body is found within the first couple of pages, the identity of the victim is not revealed and rather than the novel focusing on unraveling the mystery, it’s more about the characters’ past and the events that led to the murder.

As such (and understandably so) there was a huge imbalance between plot and character development. In terms of plot, when looked at objectively not much happened. Admittedly, a murder did happen but throughout the book, the progression of the plot was touch and go.

It came as no real surprise that Emma was the murderer as well as the stalker – this was something that had flashed through my mind when the stalker was first mentioned. The revelation of this was somewhat anti-climatic. Nonetheless, Emma’s chapters had been carefully written in the sense that they were not misleading or false per se, they just did not give too much away.

A couple of plot holes were also present that weren’t quite explained; yet this was somewhat minor and easily forgotten about. For example, there was nothing said about Emma trying to kill Katie or the fact that she shot Heather – none of this was mentioned in the trial.

Some of the other scenes depicted were unnecessary – they served no purpose nor were mentioned again which was a tad confusing. A prime example would be the scene that Miranda witnesses when she is alone in the wilderness between the man and woman. It was completely pointless and downright strange. The setting was atmospheric, foreboding and chilly (no pun intended). It provided that extra layer of tension amongst the characters.

As the main focus was on characters, it makes more sense to spend more time speaking about them. None of the characters were particularly likeable to the point where it did not matter which one was murdered. In fact any one of them could have been murdered and it would have made no difference. They were shallow, self – absorbed and malicious to say the least.

However, it was curious that given the strong indifference towards the characters (that also melded in to pure dislike for a few), it was difficult to put this book down. The changing perspectives gave an insight in to the minds of the characters (especially Emma, Katie and Miranda) and the different dynamics within the group. Furthermore, it was interesting to see the various interactions of the group, the hidden meaning behind the words and laughter. The characters were sketched out with depth.

A baffling aspect of the book was given all the disdain, all the hate they have towards each other,  how are these people are still friends so much so that they actually want to be in each other’s company. There’s history of course, but the question of whether that is actually enough remains.

However, one aspect that was brilliantly executed was how the story weaved in both the past and the present (there was also technically another tense embedded within the past tense chapters that delved  further in the past). Not only this, but the identity of the victim was kept hidden, with a few clues scattered amidst the chapters, which kept a semblance of mystery

Until next time fellow readers,

Saz

P.S. Two fish are in a tank, one says to the other “how do you drive this thing?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged & The Other Half of Happiness

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Basil once said (and I quote) “reading Malik’s books is like diving into a plate of steaming biriyani: comforting, filling, something that warms you all the way through.” After my initial astonishment of how well Basil’s eloquent analogy encapsulated both Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness, I started to crave some biriyani (this is clearly why I’m known to be chubs). Following my craving, I proposed to Basil that we should do a read along of both books and fully discuss on our next date over a steaming plate of biriyani. Of course, once Basil heard the word ‘biriyani’, she was game. And so, a couple of weeks later, we found ourselves in a cozy restaurant in  central  London, with a hot plate of biriyani in front of us and forks poised ready to begin our discussion. Image result for sofia khan is not obliged book cover

Sofia was ridiculously real as a character. By no means was she perfect; she had her own various flaws which she acknowledged and embraced. Throughout, she was unapologetically herself and held on to her own beliefs regardless of what others said. It was curious to see a blend of Sofia being traditional in some ways (i.e.wearing a hijab coupled with the fact that her family did not and actually encouraged her not to wear one) but in other ways, Sofia challenged tradition, preferring to carve her own way rather than follow in her family’s footsteps when it came to marriage expectations.

Speaking of marriage, it was intriguing how the different takes on marriage and dating were touched upon through Sofia’s friendship group. The relationship portrayed within friends was wholesome and warm.

It would be amiss not to speak about Naim’s character considering he plays a big part in the book overall.  Naim epitomises both confused and manipulativeness. Upon first reading the book, I was more inclined to make excuses for Naim; perhaps Sofia had read too much in to the signs – after all no label had been put on their relationship as to whether they were dating or they were simply friends. However, this is pure and utter nonsense (not the word I had originally intended to use). No matter which way you look at it, Naim  reeks of narcissism. Sadly, when it comes to some relationships, this is the reality. It was amazing to see that this was a topic that was not shied away from but rather boldly mapped out in black and white. Despite handling serious topics, humour was present throughout.

This was just another thing that made me fall in love with this book – the unpredictability.  You would think that Sofia and Naim would end up together and the plot would follow the whole cliched storyline of boy meets girl, girl does not like boy at first but boy charms her and after a few misunderstandings and trials, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Typical. And yet much to my complete and utter surprise, this book was anything but. The whole plot was refreshing. The way Connell’s and Sofia’s relationship was depicted was brilliant – surprising, natural and fresh. Nothing had been forced.

The whole cultural aspect of the book was handled in a masterly way. It was relatively easy to understand the different perspectives presented – why Sofia’s parents were pushing her to embrace the hole in the wall (HITW) situation  (honesty did not even know this was a legit thing) whereas Sofia was more against living with a HITW once married. However, something that came to mind briefly was the question of whether this culture focus alienates Non – Asian readers? Don’t get me wrong, books about different cultures need to be written and more so read.

In a nutshell, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged was a beautifully written book that explored asian culture with a frankness coupled with humour. A book that was incredibly relatable and heart warming.

Image result for the other half of happiness book coverI was incredibly ecstatic  to find out there was a sequel but then worry started to seep in. After all there’s always that fear that the sequel may just ruin the first. The Other Half of Happiness did not disappoint in the least in this respect; it navigates complicated situations with finesse and humour but has that undertones of seriousness all the way through.

Various thought provoking questions arise; some easier to form an absolute opinion on, others a lot harder. The unfolding of Sofia’s own mixed marriage made for an intriguing read – it was realistic and unromanticised – which deviated from what was initially expected. Sofia was portrayed as being more vulnerable with her (very valid) insecurities, however acknowledging that she had them made her admirable to say the least.

Another aspect of the book that was interesting to read about was the thoughts behind second marriages – especially in the case of Sofia’s mum given the circumstances. Sofia’s mum was a more prominent character than before and her complexities were explored further. All throughout the story it was made clear that Sofia’s mum was worried about Sofia being judged but did not care what people said about her. The question of whether this was fair arose. It is understandable that perhaps as a parent this stance would be taken, however, in some ways it was rather hypocritical of her.

Additionally, Sofia’s mum broke her own engagement due to the breakdown of Sofia’s marriage, which is incredibly commendable in of itself. Yet, (and it is painful to say this) she kept harping on about her own sacrifice as if she was some tragic hero who had been deprived of her happiness. In some ways, this could be conceived as being torturous for Sofia which simply put, is downright unfair. The ending was unpredictable but fitted well with the overall storyline.

In a nutshell, both books were incredible. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged being more light with undertones of seriousness whereby The Other Half of Happiness could be viewed as being the reverse. Both were beautifully written with a flair of unpredictability that encapsulated complex and relatable characters, with a fast paced storyline.

Until next time folks,

Saz

P.S. My friend recently moved in to a new house. so I bought her a housewarming gift. A radiator 🙂

 

 

 

 

Sleep

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*Major Spoilers Ahead*

Surprisingly this was a read along suggested by San* that she actually completed rather than ditching as per her usual trademark move. Over a hot steaming breakfast (porridge with a few drops of toffee syrup and some desiccated coconut sprinkled on the top for San and for myself, Weetabix with some almonds and a chocolate biscuit for some added sweetness) we discussed our various thoughts around Sleep. Much to my utter delight, San agreed to pen her musings as part of the blog.

 

Saz’s thoughts

Sleep was a psychological thriller that kept me awake during the early hours of my morning commute, piecing together the mystery.

The ensemble of characters was interesting; each character presented was damaged in their own way, making each a plausible suspect to being Anna’s stalker. Whilst revenge had always taken the forefront for being the motive, it was intriguing to see the real motive being one of a twisted sense of kindness.

Despite this, the characters were too lightly sketched and not explored in enough depth to evoke any real emotional response. The most was annoyance and some eye rolling coupled with deep sighing when chapters focused on Alex just purely because he was such a non-significant character. Besides from this, there was nothing.

Out of the bunch, the most thought provoking character was Christine – in some ways, Christine’s childhood shaped her ideas and possible obsessions around death and sleep. It could be questioned, had her father not killed her mother as a way of showing kindness by ending her suffering, would Christine have gone on to kill a handful of people under the impression of being kind?

What’s perhaps more curious to ponder over is how much Christine herself believed to be doing an act of kindness. In essence, the question thrown up after the revelation was that was her kindness a simple disguise for cold-blooded murder or was Christine genuinely in a delusional state of mind. Of course this was never explored, let alone touched upon. In any case, perhaps this was not necessary.  

The uncovering of Christine’s murder attempts was somewhat anti – climatic in many ways. Rather than figuring out her stalker and potential killer, Anna just stumbled upon damning evidence by chance. There was no tension or lead up, no imminent sense of danger.  The ending regarding Katie was unnecessary and a cheap thrill, one that I did not love. Something about the ending felt incomplete, as if everything had been brushed off.

Overall, Sleep was an easy read and by all means kept my interest but did not warrant the outstanding reviews that were plastered on the front cover.

San’s musings –

 I found Sleep to be rather inoffensive and unprovoking in its manner. It did not stir up any particular emotional response, be it excitement or boredom. The characters were a little two dimensional, and unfortunately, the character that I found most interesting, Trevor, flitted far too infrequently in and out of the pages. I also did not understand how Christine managed to not only suffocate David, but also sing him a death song, without any of the other hotel guests noticing. The chapter from Katie’s view added at the end seemed almost an afterthought, and seemed to indicate a rather ridiculous disregard of teenager’s intellectual capabilities. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it, and it was added to serve as a last thrill. At the very least it caused me to give a half amused scoff. Overall, I did not manage to see why this novel achieved bestseller status.

Happy Reading folks,

Saz & San

P.S. A couple of years ago, the doctor told me my hearing was going. Haven’t heard from him since 🙂

 *San is the sister – given that she’s been mentioned a handful of times across various blog posts, I thought it was time that her name be mentioned.

Transcription

transcription-by-kate-atkinson

Another book that was supposed to be a read along with the sister and another book that my sister had the good sense to ditch rather early on, whereas I clearly had other ideas that consisted of me primarily wasting my time.

Transcription was a book that demanded uttermost patience with both its plot pace and characters. The plot unfurls at a glacial pace, never seeming to actually amount to anything. Whilst there was certainly suspense present, this never lasted and soon fizzled out almost as soon as the build up had started. A twist had been thrown in towards the end, which appeared to be a last ditch attempt to save what little plot was there. Given the randomness of said twist, this was a fail.

However, the actual narration was one to be commended, with the sarcastic tone seeping out brilliantly throughout, inducing amusement and sniggers.

Yet, the characters were all rather iffy; Juliet’s endless fawning over Perry and wanting him to fall in love with her was a constant irritant that hardly needed to be mentioned so frequently. The other characters were enshrouded in mystery with very little detail provided. Although this may have been a reflection on how little Juliet knew them given the nature of their work, it just added to the list of reasons of why not to pick this book up. No character development, no interesting characters and certainly a non compelling plot were the main distinguishing components of this book.

I kept plodding along good naturedly, waiting for something remarkable to happen. Suffice to say, the only remarkable thing was my determination to finish winning against my sheer boredom.

In a nutshell, this book was bitterly disappointing.

Until next time folks,

Saz

P.S. Asked my date to meet me at the gym but he never showed. Guess the two of us aren’t gonna work out 😋