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Muharram 1442 Book Club Recap

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

Bismillahi ar-rahmani ar-rahim

Assalamu aleikum waramatulahi wabarakatuhu everyone! Happy New Muslim Year!

Welcome to this month's book club edition! You can read last month recap here.

This month we have six books. Alhamdullilah. Grab a drink!

  • American Spy

This novel revolves around the USA's involvement in puppet regimes and more specifically the country of Burkina Faso, The Land of the Upright Men by definition.

Summary: It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. Her career has stalled out, she’s overlooked for every high-profile squad, and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Sankara is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she’s being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent.

In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.

Inspired by true events—Thomas Sankara is known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”—American Spy knits together a gripping spy thriller, a heartbreaking family drama, and a passionate romance. This is a face of the Cold War you’ve never seen before, and it introduces a powerful new literary voice.

Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: The only reason the book didn't get a-5-star rating is because we wanted more resolution with the antagonist and because of the mention of an orisha false god that the character didn't seem to reject but seemed to indulge when likened to that orisha. Otherwise, the story is beautifully narrated and depicts Africa well at that time. Actually, it still depicts Africa's state of political affairs uncannily.

  • Starless Sea

Summary: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life

Thoughts of the book club:

PF: The writer is a great storyteller who is detailed and meticulous in her "writing game." I mean a story is a metaphor for a video game in a sense. And this simple analogy was brilliant. She brought in the book many genres and weaved them neatly together. You can see traces of Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbeans, HP Series, Narnia, etc., etc. . A true book nerd tribute. Now, I wasn't fond of the pagan elements but I have always liked stories who don't fit in one category. It shows craftsmanship. Only a few people get this genre that can be applied to any genre a writer chose so to do. I mean in real life people of unique backgrounds and interests interact all the time. And books should reflect that/this reality. Things people take for fantasy are real shirk and often discarded as not real. This take always makes me cringe... Anyway, people's stories converge and diverge time and time again. New gamers come to the table or the game while old players make a graceful exit. Above all, a mix of genres is always unique and shows how of a book nerd you are. And I'm alhamdullilah. I also liked the metaphors of the moon, owls, etc. What did you think of it?

MB: I wasn't fond of the fortune telling and pagan stuff, etc. but I just skimmed that when I came across those scenes. I also love how it's pretty much a tribute to stories and the love of them. I loved the true love element of Fate and Time and how they keep searching for each other through every iteration. I thought it was really clever with the other love story where they were separated by time anytime they walked into or out of the room. When they finally had an intimate moment, you can feel the longing they had for each other and the passion they've been starved of every time they were separated. I enjoyed that scene a lot and it makes me feel part of it, it was very sensual and beautiful! Overall, I really enjoyed the book and more so than the author's previous book, The Night Circus, which I also liked.

PF: I have added The Night Circus to my TBR list but I'm still making up my mind about reading it... lol! Thank you for sharing buddy!

  • American Dirt

Summary: ambién de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times" and "a new American classic," Jeanine Cummins's American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.

Thoughts: This book depicts the hard reality of immigrants from all types of social class—rich and poor—running from danger or other personal and ambitious reasons. Immigrants face rape, brutal killings, theft, fatigue, trauma, etc. on their journey to a better place. Yet, the better place give them unforeseen curve-balls that they still have to come to terms with and grapple with sometimes forever. Overall, it's a blessing to live in a safe country where you're legal. A luxury not everyone can afford. Alhamdullilah.

Rating: 4/5

  • Queenie

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place. 

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break-up from her white long-term boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places...including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. 

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?” - all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her. 

With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.

Thoughts: Queenie not only reflects the police brutality toward black boys and men, it also reflects the sexual brutality many Black girls face. The book also touches on mental health and finding one's confidence and footing. A must-read.

Rating: 4/5

  • The Marriage Game

Summary: After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin-starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door....

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company, Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he's forced to share his space with the owner's beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

Thoughts: The book felt juvenile at times because of the nerd in Layla but it was also sultry and adult-like in other places. Sam is an interesting character.

Rating: 3/5

  • The Love Affair of an English Lord: A Novel (A Boscastle Affairs Novel Book 2)

Summary: Award-winning author Jillian Hunter both amuses and delights with another irresistible tale of scandal and seduction.

When Chloe Boscastle is caught indiscreetly kissing a man in a park, her brother Grayson–the protective patriarch of the Boscastle family–sends her off to a country manor to stay until the scandal in town subsides.

Soon after Chloe’s banishment begins, she is shocked to learn that her neighbor Dominic Breckland, the devilish Viscount Stratfield, has been killed in his bed. But she is even more stunned to discover the dangerously handsome “victim” taking refuge in her lingerie closet one night. By some miracle Dominic has survived his attack–and wishes the world to believe him dead. Can the alluring Lady Chloe keep his secret? Dominic uses all his masculine charm to persuade her as they work together to unmask his enemy. Of course, being caught sheltering a seductive scoundrel could further mar Chloe’s already tarnished reputation. But, really, what’s a little scandal to a lady in love?

Thoughts: This Victorian style story was a delight to read. Things have hardly changed though; a woman's virtue and a man's honor are always subjects of discussion even in this age. That said, we aren't promoting scandalous ways of life or a disregard of customs. Just a fun read fit for a down and relaxing time. You can make your own conclusions after reading.

Rating : 4/5

Thank you for tuning in and reading. Dear Readers & Members, see you in

Safar 1442 AH insha'Allah.

Our Usual Book Club Questions Are:

1. What did you like most?

2. What gave you pause?

3. What didn't you like?

4. What are your other thoughts?

5. What question (s) do you have for the author(s)?

6. What questions about the book(s) do you have for the moderator or other members of the discussion(s)?

We look forward to hearing from you.

G E T  I N  T O U C H !


Books, Teas & Coffees

Until next time, subhanaka Allahumma wa-bihamdika ash-hadu anla ilaha illa anta as-taghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka. (O Allah, You are free from every imperfection; praise be to You. I testify that there is no true god except You; I ask Your Pardon and turn to You in repentance.) Aameen.


The Fofky's Book Club

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