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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

The weather is changing, at least it was the last time I checked. Here in San Francisco and its suburbias, we are mostly moving from 55 F to 80 F and that is enough heat for everyone to sweat through their tank tops. In such instances, when I am trapped in a particularly hot moment—a car parked out in the sun, a blast of heat as you exit an air-conditioned room—I think about this week’s pick often. 

Book cover for Saints and Strangers

Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter

If you are unaware of Angela Carter’s short stories, I recommend you remedy that immediately. Carter takes macabre fairy tales and makes them even darker than you could have thought possible. But, none of it is ever gratuitous. Nope. The way she does it is through the spinning of her sentences. You read a particularly dark passage and you think, Why, why did I love that so? And it is the writing. Oh, the writing. 

In this slim collection, Carter returns by opening with the story of Lizzie Borden, just hours before she took an ax and murdered her father and stepmother. Heat and the claustrophobia of it plays a huge part in propelling the story forward and is one of the reasons I find myself associating heat with this story. Carter takes you there, in the story where you feel as if you were standing on a sidewalk, peering into the house as the murders took place. 

But, that is not the only brilliant story in this collection. She even takes on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and a new take on the story of Tamburlaine’s wife all in a mere three pages. All her stories though are about repression in one form or the other, whether the shackles of the world or the binds we put ourselves in. Body horror, explicit language, and sex scenes frequent her stories, which is why I always say Carter is an acquired taste, a taste I feel everyone should acquire already.

An enchanting, if perplexing story collection not to be missed.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I find myself in the world of books. I am working on them, around them, arranging them, rearranging them, the verbs go on. So, when it comes time to recommend that book, one book you all should pick up this week, I find myself stumped. Me. Imagine. Until I remember there is one book that I read in one sitting on a Wednesday (at a job I no longer work at) and loved it to bits.

cover of cackle by rachel harrison

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

This book is for all you year-long witchy story, small town, wish-you-lived-in-Gilmore-Girls readers out there. And by you, I really mean me.

Our very own velocireader, Liberty rec’d this book in a guest episode of Read or Dead, and I immediately put it on hold in the library.

The story begins with Annie, who is tired of playing it safe all her life. Especially when that has led her nowhere, but with an unceremoniously broken heart. Presented with a teaching opportunity in a small town, Annie decides to take it as the fresh start she needs.

As she moves in, she finds herself oddly liking the town, her apartment, even if her home does have a bit of a bug problem. Then Annie meets Sophie, who takes an interest in Annie and her well-being. They both develop an odd, but close friendship and Annie feels herself thrive. But, something about Sophie scares the entire town, making them act warily whenever she is around. Not to mention the huge house in the woods that Sophie lives in. Or the ghosts that act as her house guests.

I do not want to spoil much about this book, but I will say that it was an odd mixture of lightness and witchiness, which I have always thought hard to achieve. Some of the events become so on the nose that they become just what you need.

It is also a book that is surprising in its themes of what it means to truly live a life that suits you regardless of whether it works for others or not. After mulling it over, I have the perfect comp for you. This book is Gilmore Girls meets Practical Magic, and if that does not make you want to pick it up, I apologize, nothing can be done.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I love a good epistolary novel. There is so much room to play around with the structure, the story, the character arcs. I think it is so because when it comes down to it, surely no one can completely monitor how people use structure and narrative in their personal letters to someone beyond what is subjective. Some of my favorites include Dracula, 84 Charing Cross Road, and the beloved Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

I have spent a good portion of my past few years being asked to recommend a good epistolary and almost run out of them after a few picks. In my very subjective opinion, we are reading through them faster than they are being written. So, when I stumbled upon one that combines the epistolary form of writing with food, I knew I had to do shout about it at the top of my lungs.

Book Cover for Love & Saffron

Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food & Love by Kim Fay

This is the story of a friendship between two fictional characters; Joan Bergstrom and columnist Imogene Fortier in the early 1960s.

One day Joan Bergstrom writes a letter to columnist Imogene Fortier. Imogene Fortier writes a column known to readers in the Pacific Northwest so is surprised when she gets a gift from a young woman in L.A. It’s a small packet of saffron with a recipe for mussels.

The fragrant saffron triggers a memory for Imogene’s husband, Francis, and awakens in him a zest for the culinary Imogene had never seen. Touched and surprised, Imogene answers Joan’s fan letter, leading to a beginning of a new friendship. As the years pass, we live their lives vicariously through their letters as they share ups and downs, highs and lows, and seek out the advice and support of one another.

What remains at the center of the letters is the friends’ interest in food: eating it, cooking it, and writing about it. Joan is a whiz at spices and the various delights of California-style cooking, while Imogene takes the recipes and adds the taste of her own region, while marveling at the new avenues Joan’s influence has opened for her, Francis, and their marriage.

The power of intentional, mindful correspondence that requires one to sit, gather thoughts, and pour a piece of oneself on paper is beautifully rendered here.

If like me, epistolary novels hold a fond place in your heart, or you love books like Dear Mrs. Bird, then this is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

This week while preparing for the next Read or Dead episode, Katie and I got to brainstorm about TV shows that we like and books that remind us of those shows. It was a fun exercise, giving ourselves angst over how little we read or watch, etc. Highly recommend.

After however coming up with a certain number of picks, I took this question up to one of my best friends whose ability to watch TV and read books in one sitting astonishes me. Not being a watcher of crime shows herself, she went on about shows like The Crown, Mrs.Wilson, etc. In one of those moments, she mentioned Fleabag and asked me to watch it. And dear readers, I was hooked. Flawed female protagonists are at the very center of my wheelhouse. As I wrap up my day thinking about Fleabag, I also think of my pick for the week, and how it features one such female.

Book cover for Straight from the horse's mouth

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Meryem Alaoui, translated by Emma Ramadan

I don’t think the protagonist in Fleabag is flawed per se but rather portrayed in a very real manner. The mix of grossness and wonder that is human existence is not glossed over in the show and that is what I loved about this particular pick as well.

This story is set in modern-day Morocco in the bustling neighborhood of Casablanca and tells of 34-year old prostitute Jmiaa. While not as distraught over her profession as her roommate, she is tired of the facade she has to put on for her mother and daughter. Jmiaa does what she needs to to keep her spirits high. The drudgery of everyday life is broken when a film director enlists Jmiaa’s assistance, eventually offering up a chance at a better life.

Jmiaa’s inner monologue manages to be sharp, harrowing, and witty at the same time. What I love about this book is how it tells the story of a real neighborhood that makes up the city of Casablanca, rather than a romanticized version of it. It is a work like which I have never read before. It is a work of translation from Arabic to English, and it seems seamless. I hope to one day read it in Arabic and corroborate the above claim. Until then, I invite you to take a trip down the streets of Casablanca and fall for the dreamers therein.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read this Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

If you know me, you probably know that I am always in a witchy mood no matter what season it is. I carry my deck of tarot cards up my sleeve (literally, it’s a pocket deck) and am always looking to turn people who annoy me into beetles. That is why when I found this week’s pick, I felt in a way I had almost manifested it.

the ex hex book cover

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

In this rom-com that is like Sabrina the Teenage Witch (the original, non-animated one—I am not ready to talk about the Netflix one), we follow Vivi. She is a burgeoning witch, living in a small town in Northern Georgia with her cousin Gwyn and her aunt. Vivi was happy until Rhys came into her life and broke her heart by leaving. But witches do not forgive injustices easily. Going against her aunt’s motto, ‘Do not mix vodka with witchcraft,’ a drunk Vivi decides to hex her ex-boyfriend. She barely practices her magic so she is sure it is all fun and games…

… until nine years later, when Rhys returns to recharge the town’s magic, and magic starts running amok. Soon ghosts, poisoned potions, and talking skulls are just a few things they all have to deal with. There is also the burning attraction between Rhys and Vivi, and all the reasons why he left years ago.

In the middle of a week where everything felt like it was falling apart, this was exactly what my heart needed. It is the perfect mix of pining, steaminess, and action, like a perfectly brewed potion. If you enjoyed Practical Magic but thought it could do a little with some light moments, then this book in its entirety is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Every week, I try and start a new book with the hopes of talking to you all about it. It is a delightful endeavor that I have come to count on. In one of these weekly traditions, I stumbled upon the pick of this week. If Cartoon Network’s Samurai Jack was a mystery book, this book would be the equivalent of that.

Book Cover for The Village of Eight Graves

The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo, Translated by  Bryan Karetnyk

Set in historical Japan in a rural village, it tells of a brutal history and how that history haunts the inhabitants of the village to date. The story starts in The Village of Eight Graves in the 16th century when eight samurais took refuge in the village only to be brutally murdered by the villagers. But just before dying, the samurais curse the villagers where every few years a killing frenzy would occur. Time and again it has, but this time the curse seems to have evolved. It is slow, methodical, almost like it is not a transient idea, but a tangible human being at work instead.

One of the three mysteries out of the Detective Kosuke Kindaichi mysteries, the detective invites the reader into the story reminiscent of an Italo Calvino novel. The dialogue amuses and the pacing of the book is one that I have not experienced in a long time.

It’s incredibly vivid and expansive in its historical detail. You get bits and pieces of Japanese history, a story behind how things probably would have been. If you, like me, were swept away by the fantastical series, Tales of Otori, or enjoy works in translation, you need to read this one. The translation is impeccable, the story even more so. 

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Aah, friendship. What a captivating concept: people not bound by blood or contract coming together. But what makes for an interesting case study is how so many friendships end: spats! betrayal! murder! Yet we bind ourselves in them anyway. How could we not? The thrill of putting everything on the line with someone without any guarantee of reciprocity. I am sold.

My pick of the week is one such book that brings into focus a friendship, and how when an external element is introduced, everything threatens to fall apart.

wahala book cover

Wahala by Nikkia May

We follow Simi, Ronke, and Boo, three Anglo-Nigerian friends trying to make it in London while staying true to their two sets of identities. Simi is struggling with taking the next step in her relationship, Ronke is having trouble locking one down, and Boo has been there and back again.

When Isobel, smooth as a gazelle, glides into their lives, she makes each of the friends question the identity on which they have based their entire life. Very soon, Isobel begins to threaten not only the group dynamics but each of the girls’ ideas of self-worth. That ends up going a step too far.

I read this book in sprints because once I would start I could not stop. I hid on the stairs and read it, held it in one hand while cooking, and randomly woke up at 2 AM to finish where I had fallen asleep.

What I feel the author has really managed to do well here is maintain the intensity, the feeling of something about to boil over, but made it immensely readable. Where you don’t realize how far you have come, and how far deep you are in. There is also non-stop subtle commentary for unrealistic standards for women around everything; friendship, motherhood (or lack thereof), and even new budding relationships. Each character could have been a representation of each of the aspects for which society holds women accountable, and the damage that inflicts.

It was also a good reminder of the fragility of the emotional state we all exist in sometimes. If you enjoyed Swing Time by Zadie Smith, this one is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I want to talk to you all about this incredibly under-rated Hindi show (with excellent subtitles) streaming on Netflix, called Typewriter. It is the story of three young friends who are on the hunt for ghosts for the thrill ride but find unexpected chance encounters waiting for them when new tenants move into the house. It is a fantastic show that balances horror with action and speaks to the sheer courage that one has as an adolescent. My pick of the week is another that reminds me of the transformative power of this kind of courage.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

book cover for Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

I have said this before and I will say it again that one of the reasons shows like Stranger Things or Stephen King’s It appeal to me is the awe I have for the courage the young characters in these stories show. When something goes horribly wrong they don’t check their locks and stay in, but rather unbolt their doors and confront the danger. I aspire to be this courageous.

Djinn Patrol is a similar story. It takes us to the bastis (slums) of India, with its tightly packed alleys underneath a smoggy sky. In this basti lives a 9-year-old dreamer, Jai, who spends his time watching the lights of the city where his mom works and watching police shows. When a classmate goes missing, Jai asks his friends Faiz and Pari to help him get to the bottom of the mystery. But, things take a sinister turn when more and more children start to go missing. It falls onto Jai and his friends to solve the mystery in time before they end up becoming the next victims.

As is usually the case with the mystery genre, the story is rarely about one thing and one thing alone. Woven into its story of trailblazing protagonists is a commentary about class, sexism, and corruption that permeates the institutions of India. But, it’s also a thrill and a delight to read because how can you not root for three 9-year olds trying to defy all odds in favor of justice?

If you have enjoyed books like The White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire, then this one is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read this Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

This weekend my husband moved my former nursing chair into my office, where it now resides as my reading chair. This movement of the chair is symbolic for me for two reasons; first being that it is extremely heavy and for my husband to carry it up three flights of steps is the truest of true loves. Second, the most important one, it completes somewhat of my autonomy: from a mother sharing her body to well a mother now sharing a billion other things, but at least has a nice place to read, all of which makes an excellent segue for my week’s pick.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

book cover for The Blue Jay's Dance

The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich

This is one of the most personal memoirs from a prolific author that has earned a spot in my heart. In The Blue Jay’s Dance, Erdrich takes on a journey inside her head and heart as she emerges from her postpartum phase to take care of her new baby while sustaining her art through writing. 

She accomplishes this by maintaining a small shed outside of her house where she takes her baby with her and writes. When the baby wakes, she stops and nurtures the baby instead. In between these moments, her mind takes respite in the nature that lingers outside her window.

There is a calm rhythm that exists in this memoir, much like reading the works of Anne Dillard and Mary Oliver. It is the simultaneous feeling of importance and redundancy in one, and it is oddly comforting. Perhaps it serves as a metaphor for the conflict that every mother lives with: to detach and attach.

One of my favorite quotes from the memoir is, “Love’s combination of attraction and despair thrills us. Our peculiar ability to be at home in the arms of one person, while always a stranger in the presence of another, is an ongoing human mystery.”

It is a poignant memoir that reminds you that you don’t have to have gone through the same experience as the narrative to find beauty in it. There is a universality in it, in the circle of life.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Here is what I love about nonfiction that revolves around a certain topic: the promise. The promise of immersing yourself in something that piqued your interest and coming out as this whole other person once you are done reading. 

My pick for today is one that transcended my expectations. So much so, that when I picked it up a second time I knew I had to recommend it to you all. 

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Book Cover for Ghostland by Colin Dickey

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

In this nonfiction account, Dickey explores the ghosts that haunt America and what deeper reasons linger beneath these hauntings. He takes a trip or researches some of the most haunted places in American history, and examines what in the history of a place actually makes it haunted. He also looks at how these stories transmute over time to fit whatever narrative is prevalent.

The legendary haunts explored in the book cover the Myrtle Plantation, the Winchester Mansion, and Amityville, as well as the notorious LaLaurie House, and a few off the beaten path, as well. It is a horror lover’s dream come true and for those of you with weaker stomachs (me), stay put because the book is never unbearably scary.

There is history interwoven with psychological musings and makes for a read that you might agree or disagree with, but will enjoy regardless. It is a mix of the tv show Supernatural when it is exploring urban legends and such, and Scooby-Doo when it is debunking them.

Next time you look at a haunted place, it will make you ask the question, according to who is a place haunted, and what are they hiding behind it all.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah