Interview with Author: Sonia Faruqi

Hey Readers,

Today is a post that is part of the book club that I co-host on Instagram, @monstersandstrangerworlds. Our December book pick was THE OYSTER THIEF by Sonia Faruqi, and we were lucky enough to be able to interview the author.

– THE INTERVIEW –

MASW: I noticed as I was reading that the merpeople’s society was very similar to ours, down to having detectives, police forces, government systems with a registry of people, and even misogyny. I found it interesting that they would have come up with the same concepts of society as the humans on land. Why did you choose to have the merpeople’s government and society so similar to ours? 

SF: The underwater world bears some similarities to our world but it is also different. For instance, Coralline is an apothecary but her medical work is quite different than medicine on land, based more on natural remedies and, of course, based wholly on algae. It is worth noting that different human cultures also have things in common with one another, especially the basics – police and government – so it is not surprising to have these in the water. Misogyny is not a value of merpeople; just as some humans are misogynistic and others are not, it is the same in the water. There is a diversity of perspectives.

MASW: After reading the behind the scenes look that is provided in The Oyster Thief, it sounds like you spent a lot of time researching for this novel, how long did you spend researching to be able to write this book? And as you did your research did you have to change any of your big ideas for the story like you had to change skin tone plans due to the lack of light in the ocean?

SF: The research was continuous and woven in before and during the writing. I didn’t have to change the big ideas much but was able to add more depth to the existing ideas. For instance, all the animals and algae you’ll see mentioned in The Oyster Thief are true-to-life. Even the names of all the characters are scientifically grounded, drawn from the sea and the stars. The Oyster Thief is also current in its themes. For instance, the book contains a premise of underwater diamond mining that was fictional when I started the book but has recently become fact.

MASW: There is a sexual assault that happens in the book just as Izar and Coraline are starting their journey. For me, I felt like all it did was allow Izar to be the hero when he saved her, its very reminiscent of rape culture that we have now. Why did you feel it was important to have this scene in the book?

Coralline has never left home before, and there are real consequences of going to dangerous places swarming with shady people, such as Hog’s Bristle. In addition, sexual assault is a real issue human society is contending with. With regard to the story, Hog’s Bristle is a growth experience for Coralline – she overcomes her fear of wielding daggers and becomes more self-reliant. It is true that Izar saves her in that scene but, shortly after, she has the confidence to save him. The Oyster Thief is not a “damsel in distress” story; she saves him at least as often as he saves her!

MASW: There are quite a few female characters in this novel, Coraline, Rhodomela, Abalone, and Rosette, and yet none of them are healthy relationships. There is a lot of women on women hating in this book, especially between Rhodomela and Abalone, and Coraline and Rosette, constantly competing for the male in questions attention. Why did you have the female characters interact like this and what kind of message do you think that sends to the reader?

SF: A lot of behavior stems from fear and love. Abalone’s criticisms of her daughter Coralline stem from her love of Coralline combined with her fear that Coralline will have a difficult life if she chooses to be different. Rosette’s behavior stems from her love of Ecklon and her fear that he will choose Coralline over her. Fear and love are emotions that fuel us all, for better or for worse.

MASW: At the end of the book, Izar is still keeping secrets from Coraline, even though they are in love and happy together, are you setting us up for a sequel?

SF: It is possible there will be a sequel, yes!

MASW: What inspired the story?

I love the water and the idea of an underwater civilization of merpeople.

MASW: Have you written previous works before The Oyster Thief?

SF: Yes, Project Animal Farm (2015), a work of critically acclaimed investigative journalism about the global food system. The book was selected as a finalist for three literary awards and was endorsed by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, Temple Grandin, and CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey.

One night, I arrived at the doorstep of a dairy farm looking for a rural volunteer vacation. I had no idea then that the visit would mark the beginning of a journey that would ultimately wind all the way around the world. Concerned by issues of animal welfare and the environment, I decided to search the planet for solutions. My journey took me from egg warehouses in Canada to dairy feedlots in the United States, from farm offices in Mexico to lush green fields in Belize, from villages in Indonesia to bustling cities in Malaysia.

Over the course of living with farmers, hitchhiking with strangers, and risking my life, I developed surprising insights and solutions—both about the food industry and myself. You can find the prologue and first chapter here.

– AUTHOR BIO – 

Sonia Faruqi pushes the boundaries of imagination in her debut novel, The Oyster Thief, an underwater fantasy novel for adults and young adults with themes of ocean conservation. The Globe and Mail has chosen it as a “best book of the year.” The full first chapter can be found here. Sonia will be providing exclusive content about The Oyster Thief through her website and monthly newsletter at www.soniafaruqi.com. She is also the author of Project Animal Farm, a work of critically acclaimed investigative journalism about the world’s food system.

Thank you again for those of you who are participating in our monthly book club, and for Sonia Faruqi who kindly answered these questions.

– Hannah (@thewellreadfox), Hannah (@booknerdnative), Alisa (@worldswithinpages), and Lorna (@fictionalflowerday)

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Best Books of 2018

Hey Readers!

I’m here to talk to you about some of my favorite books of 2018! I read 80 books this year so narrowing it down to my top 10 was HARD. However, I was able to do it. Two books fought it out for the top spot but other than that, organizing them from ten to 2 was too difficult so other than my number one I don’t have them listed in any particular order! Anyway… on to the books!

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

I loved this true crime mixed with memoir novel about Michelle McNamara’s hunt for the Golden State Killer. I was finishing this book the day that it was announced that they had made an arrest finally after all of these years and that just made the reading experience so much better. This is one of the best true crime novels a “murderino” like me has ever read. If you like true crime this one is for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.”

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

This book was such a beautiful coming of age story of Elio and his relationship with Oliver. Call Me By Your Name was an intoxicating read, filled with romance, intimacy and was an absolutely stunning, perfect experience even when I was ugly sobbing and miserable at the end of the story. This is not the story for you if you’re looking for a love story that will fit all of your cliches, complete with a happy ending, but if you’re looking for two characters to fall in love with and then have your heart broken, Call Me By Your Name will satiate those desires.

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

An American Marriage was the heartbreaking story of Roy and Celestial, a young African-American couple whose lives are forever changed when Roy is arrested and convicted of a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. This was a heartbreaking story of love, loss of love, and the search for freedom and happiness. You can read my review of this book here!

“Sometimes it’s exhausting for me to simply walk into the house. I try and calm myself, remember that I’ve lived alone before. Sleeping by myself didn’t kill me then and will not kill me now. But this what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn’t simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier 

This is a romance that has never gone out of print in over 80 years of print. This book took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. The mystery of Rebecca and what the new Mrs. de Winter is learning swept me away and I could not put the book down. I’m already looking forward to rereading this.

“I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire.”

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

This whole series blew me away. I loved all of the characters, my favorite Slytherin, Lila Bard, peculiar coat wearing Gryffindor Kell, and cinnamon roll Rhy. And honestly, most of all – my sweet baby Holland. This series only gets better as you move through the trilogy so when you start it, make sure you have the next two on hand ready to go. Trust me.

“For the ones who dream of stranger worlds.”

A Little Life – Hanya Yanigahara

This book absolutely destroyed me. I fell in love with all of these characters so hard. This was full of really difficult emotions and while I think this is on my list of all time favorite books I don’t think I’ll be able to read it again. It was hard to get through but it was so worth it. The destruction of my heart was just so worth it. You can read my full review for this book here!

“Friendship, companionship: it so often defied logic, so often eluded the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.”

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

This book is the stunning story of Kya, a girl growing up in the swamplands of North Carolina. This book was a debut novel and I honestly don’t understand how it is that because this book was AMAZING. It was full of lush and beautiful descriptions of the swamp that my favorite heroine of the year loved so much. If you want to know more of my thoughts, check out the review here.

“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

The Hearts Invisible Furies – John Boyne

This book was so hyped when I first started my bookstagram and my book blog, and let me tell you it did not disappoint. This was the story of Cyril Avery, starting in the 1940s and going all the way through to the present day and once I started reading it I was sucked into the story and was invested right away. I laughed, loved, and cried with him as he lived his life. All of the triumphs and stumbles that he went through felt real as I was reading them and it blew me away.

“Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.”

A Place for Us – Fatima Farheen Mirza

This book was the book that contended with The Way of Kings to be my all time favorite book of the year, and honestly, it didn’t lose by much. This was the beautiful story of an Indian-American Muslim family on the day of their oldest daughters wedding. Told through a series of flashbacks and present day, it told the heartbreakingly beautiful story of each of these characters, and as I read it I fell in love with each and every one of the characters. Because of this book, I will insta buy any book written by this author in the future. For more of my thoughts, click here for the full review!

“But Imam Ali said two things: first, that we must imagine for one another seventy excuses before landing on a single judgment, and also, on that night, he told his companions to refrain from condemning a man, even as he staggered by showing proof of his sin, because they could not know if he would repent when alone, or fathom what existed in his heart.”

The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson 

This was my favorite book of the year, and honestly my favorite series. This book also solidified Brandon Sanderson as my all time favorite author. I loved everything about this book and this story, I loved it so much I wrote a full review of the whole Stormlight Archives series that you can read here.

“Words aren’t meant to be kept inside, you see. They are free creatures, and if locked away will unsettle the stomach.”

So those were my top 10 best books of 2018. What were some of your favorites?

– Hannah

 

December Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

It is the end of December and almost the end of the holiday season. With the holiday season came a lot of family events, cleaning, and the end of my school term… this resulted in having less time to read and to blog but I was able to finish up my year with some great reads. And while I wasn’t able to blog as much as last month, I was able to get a little bit of blogging done this month as well.

Here are some of those posts that you should check out if you missed them:

A review I posted about a book Atria Books was kind enough to send me, a historical fiction/thriller novel that was an ode to storytelling.

A review of a beautiful magical realism story of a boy raised by wolves, full of hope and whimsy.

A list of what I was lucky enough to receive for Christmas!

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Now for an overview of the books I read this month:

FullSizeRender 3.jpg Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

This was an atmospheric fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. This was my first Diane Setterfield novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had as many twists and turns as the river at the heart of the novel.

IMG_4223.JPG The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

This was Monsters and Stranger World’s second book pick. It is almost a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but with our male lead character turning into a mermaid instead. With the themes of ocean conservation, the first fantasy novel set fully under water was an enjoyable read but not my favorite.

IMG_5279.jpg Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

This was my favorite book of the ones I read this month. This tale of a boy raised by wolves filled my heart with hope and love. The writing is gorgeous and the story filled with whimsy. I immediately handed my copy to my mother to read the minute I was finished.

*bonus book I’m currently reading*

IMG_5272.JPG Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I am about half way through Elantris, Brandon Sanderson’s debut fantasy novel. While I am enjoying it, it is obvious it is a debut novel. It is harder to get through and has an overwhelmingly political plot. For someone who enjoys politics this is a great story but if one is looking for more fantasy this may not be the pick for you.

 

What books did you round out the year with? Stay tuned for a 2018 wrap up post where I’ll talk about all of the things I did this year and all of the books I read!

– Hannah

 

 

Huge Christmas Book Haul

Hey Readers!

Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate! I got spoiled this year with books for Christmas and I wanted to share with you a list of all of the books that I got this year!

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  • The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  • Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Book Two)
  • Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Book Three)
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book One)
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book One)
  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book Two)
  • The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book Three)
  • Scythe by Neal Schusterman (Arc of a Scythe, Book One)
  • Unwind by Neal Schusterman (Unwind Dystology, Book One)
  • The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book One)
  • Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book Two)
  • Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book Three)
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (Wax and Wayne Series, Book One)
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Skyward, Book One)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
  • The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (The Poppy War, Book One)

 

If you’re interested in a short description of each of these I have some exciting news! I started my very own Booktube channel and my first ever video is showcasing my book haul! I’ve linked it here, so go check it out!

What books did you get for Christmas?

– Hannah

Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Hey Readers,

I went into Ruth Emmie Lang’s Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance not knowing very much about it and I have to say I’m kind of happy I went into it that way. I knew that it was about a boy who was raised by wolves who seems to have some magical abilities and that it was a mix of fantasy and magical realism and with that, I was sold.

“Don’t leave anything you can’t come back to.”

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is the story of Weylyn Grey told through the perspectives of some of the people in his life who love him. Each chapter rotates between different perspectives however the novel is also split into books, and each of those books only focuses on two of the characters. I feel like that’s a convoluted way of saying what I’m trying to say, but I felt that while there were a lot of different perspectives in the novel, the fact that we were only focusing on two at a time helped keep it from getting overwhelming, and helped the story flow.

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This novel has a classic “once upon a time” feel to it. It reads like it is a modern day fairy tale with the different relationships that Weylyn Grey has, not only with humans but the animals that become his family, like Merlin the magical pig.  Lang writes Weylyn’s story full of vivid and beautiful descriptions and brimming with hope. It made me cry all of the happy tears.

“Actually, it’s kind of a love story.”

I will say that the only reason I didn’t give this book a full 5 stars was that I wish that we had gotten some more depth when it came to the magic that Weylyn had.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: Once Upon A River

ONCE UPON A RIVER
BY DIANE SETTERFIELD
http://onceuponariverbook.com/
Atria Books Hardcover | 480 pages | ISBN: 9780743298070| December 4, 2018 | $28.00
eBook: 480 pages | ISBN: 9781501190230| $13.99

 

Hey Readers,

I was lucky to receive an advanced reader copy of Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield this month from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield is fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. It is the story of three missing children, and when one is returned under mysterious circumstances, three families are left wanting to claim her as their own. I had never read any of Setterfield’s works before, I had no idea what I was getting into but with words like atmospheric, magical, and fairy tales, being used to describe it I knew that I had to read it.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and they all are interwoven in some ways. Some are there for you to dislike, others like Robert Armstrong and Rita whom you can’t help but love. I also loved how the river felt like it was in itself its own character. Not only did the river guide the story along but it almost seems to react to what is happening in the story, ebbing and flowing with the changes and twist and turns of the story.

One of my favorite aspects of the story was its quiet discussion about grief. Without going too much into it for fear of spoiling anything, all of a sudden we are talking about grief, and the hard ways in which we do and don’t process grief, and I was shocked that I had not noticed it until that point.

At first, I thought this was a book that I was going to fly through, and I think I made an error for the first half of the book in not slowing down as I was reading it. As I started getting towards the middle of the book, I slowed down significantly, I took my time with the prose and the language and let the words wash over me. This book has a river at its center, and just like a river, the turns and courses that it might take and the changing currents, I never knew where this book was taking me. This is a slow burning novel, more character than plot driven, it’s a novel that is worth slowing down and letting the story guide you.

Overall, I wish I had gone into the novel with the awareness that it was a slow burn and not a book that one should devour and binge. Skimming will be your worst enemy when it comes to Once Upon A River, you may realize that you’ve missed something important tucked away in those beautiful descriptions. This is a novel that I would recommend if you’re in the mood for allowing yourself to be swept away in the magic of the river that is and is not the river Thames and if you love rich and traditional storytelling.

And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world that you came from. This river which is and is not the river Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Hannah

  

Grab your copy of ONCE UPON A RIVER:
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Osmegh
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2NLDxDy
Books-a-Million: https://bit.ly/2pVMjFI
iBooks: https://apple.co/2P3BQpX
Indiebound: https://bit.ly/2PCzriX
Kobo: https://bit.ly/2P3QFIV
Google: https://goo.gl/iQtXgG
Nook: https://bit.ly/2CkjJp3

November Monthly Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

I can’t believe that it is already time for another monthly wrap up. This month/this year seems like it has FLOWN by. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. I had an amazing reading month and a pretty good blogging month too. Despite being crazy busy, spending about a week sick, being halfway through my second to last class for my bachelor’s degree, and with the holidays, I read eight books and wrote four (five if you count this one) blog posts!

Here are some posts that you may have missed that I suggest you check out:

A review on a dark thriller read I read in October.

My dream cast for an upcoming Amazon TV show for a fantasy series that I am currently reading.

A (spoiler-free) review on my favorite fantasy series… ever.

A review of another book I read in October which also happens to be one of the most depressing and beautiful novels I have ever read.

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Now, for some brief thoughts of the books I read this month:

IMG_3527 Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

I read this as the first pick for my book club, @monstersandstrangerworlds, which is run on Instagram with some of my favorite book friends (@worldswithinpages, @booknerdnative, and @fictionalflowerday – check them out!). I will have a full review once we’ve had our discussion on our Instagram page but this was an enjoyable read. I read it in about two sittings.

IMG_3946 The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

I spent about a week sick this month and I read this cute and sexy romance in one day. It was the perfect light reading that I needed. I didn’t love it as much as I loved The Wedding Date, Guillory’s first novel, but I really enjoyed it.

IMG_3967 The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

This was the second book I read in a day when I was sick. It is a quick thriller that is good enough to keep you turning the pages, however, I didn’t connect with the main character and a lot of what she did bothered me.  I also didn’t *love* the ending.

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The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

I really enjoyed this trilogy, I flew right through the series in about a week. It was by no means my favorite fantasy series, there are some problematic tropes in the novels but I had fun reading them. Also, at what point do you become old enough not to fall for the bad boy? Because I’m here for the Darkling, not gonna lie.

IMG_3768 Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

So in truth, I snuck this one in right under the radar because I just finished up this collection of short stories today. This is Adjei-Brenyah’s first book and I really hope that it isn’t the last because these stories were something else. The stories are razor sharp, deep, dark and captivating. These stories look at racism and capitalism and with Adjei-Brenyah’s unique voice they should be considered mandatory reading.

IMG_3700 The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 

This is my one re-read of the year, and I can not tell you how much I had forgotten about this book. SO much happens in this first book, and I am completely in love all over. As I’m reading it I just keep remembering details I had completely forgotten about and I’m sitting here just waiting for Nynaeve and Lan cause I ship them HARD.

 

What books did you read in November? Let me know in the comments!

– Hannah