I went into this book with a great many expectations based on the sheer number of raving 5-star reviews I’d read for it. Although a short and enjoyabl...moreI went into this book with a great many expectations based on the sheer number of raving 5-star reviews I’d read for it. Although a short and enjoyable read, I cannot help but be saddened that my expectations were not entirely met. While the book caught me from the first page with its warm, cosy family scene which introduced Mia’s happy family and their familiar banter, I was shocked at the suddenness of the accident and their death. I certainly did not expect to have the aftermath of the wreckage described in such gruesome detail. I’m not a big fan of near-death experiences and Mia’s state of alertness in the hospital and during the surgery called to mind the Jessica Alba movie “Awake” during which a patient under anaesthesia remained conscious of all that was happening to his body. I did, however, enjoy that movie but I found it hard to enjoy this book since most of it consisted of flashes of the past and I prefer my stories told in the present. Despite these slight issues I had with the book, there are certain scenes that will forever remain etched in my memory- mostly those with Adam in them. The famous one which I’m sure most people will not forget is when the famous rock star Brooke Vega arrives at the hospital and creates a diversion so that Adam can get past the stern nurse and spend a few seconds at Mia’s bedside. My heart completely melted at that point. Of course, the closing scene and Adam’s little speech also left me a little misty-eyed. Yes, I’m a sucker for sensitive, artsy, poetic, emo rocker dudes who also happen to look completely swoon-worthy. *sigh*(less)
I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least 3 years now and, sadly, only found the time to pick it up now as part of a reading challenge I participate...moreI’ve had this book on my shelf for at least 3 years now and, sadly, only found the time to pick it up now as part of a reading challenge I participated in here on goodreads. I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading it as it has opened my eyes to a different and fresh perspective on what it means to be a Muslim. Seeing the beauty of Islam through the eyes of recent reverts to Islma, people who were not brought up with it in their lives and, therefore, did not take it for granted and place it second to their daily activities but rather strove to maintain the practice of Islam at the forefront of their daily activities, has instilled in me a certain pride in the beauty of my religion. Sadly, most of the world does not see Islam for the beautiful and peaceful religion it is. Instead, they choose to believe the false propaganda generated by the media which serves the interests of those who control the media and are therefore in positions of greater power to influence the ideas and beliefs of an unquestioning public. To declare that you are a Muslim in this day and age is to invite unfair discrimination and prejudice, to alienate yourself from those who would otherwise call you their friend and to be regarded with suspicion at every turn. However, a true Muslim places their religion before the approval of others. Seeing how much of discrimination these brave and courageous women faced when deciding to first adopt a more modest, Islamic way of dressing even before they decided to become Muslim, and the elevated levels of discrimination they faced once they had accepted Islam and chosen to take the big step of donning the niqaab and covering themselves completely, I have come to realise how easy some of us have had it by growing up in supportive, Islamic backgrounds and amongst people and friends who , although not entirely informed with regard to our religious practices, chose to set aside an prejudices they might otherwise have had and accept us for the people we are and even accommodate our religious practices where necessary. The sisters whose stories are contained in this book are truly worthy of respect for their unyielding resolve to march forward in the face of such great challenges and seek an Islamic way of life in an opposing Western world.
Important ideas that I have picked up from this book include how all-encompassing the daily practices and rituals that inform our existence as Muslims actually are. I never truly understood what people meant when they said that Islam is not just a religion- it is a way of life. Now I’ve moved a little closer to understanding how Islam can be a way of life. In our every action as Muslims, we are taught to exhibit an Islamic identity. There are Islamic guidelines on the proper social etiquette and ways of conducting ourselves in the social, business and family environments. We are provided with clear guidelines for our dressing, grooming, personal hygiene and other personal, everyday matters. Many of the sisters interviewed said that that was one of the main attractions of Islam as it provided them with such clear instructions on how to live a good, Islamic life and that the logic and reason behind many of its guidelines appealed to them. All sisters agreed that Islam served to provide them with a clear direction and granted purpose to their lives.
Another aspect of this book that appealed to me is that it provided a modern-day rationale for polygamous marriages. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had encouraged men to take wives during a time when many women were left widowed as a result of a battle that significantly reduced the numbers of men and, since these women were in danger of turning to prostitution in order to earn a living, the men were encouraged to take them in as their wives if these women would have them. Although I have never been comfortable with the idea of polygamy, I have to admit that even in today’s times there are many women who are left destitute once their husbands have passed on and cannot go on surviving without the financial support of a male breadwinner. In this book, an interesting aspect of how polygamy may benefit the modern career woman is discussed. It is stated that should a woman want to marry, but also wants to have her own space and not have to deal with a demanding husband 24/7, she could allow her husband to take another wife so that she can have some free time to focus on her studies, career, social life or just her own personal growth and development. It is important to note that a man cannot take another wife without the permission of his present wife and a man is not allowed to take another wife simply because he lusts after the other woman.
Coming back to the idea of Islam providing these newly reverted sisters with a deep contentment due to a new purpose in life, I have to admit that I grew ashamed at my own neglect of this purpose as a Muslim. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the demands placed on us in our daily lives, that we become so engrossed in our daily activities that all we want at the end of the day is to indulge in some mindless recreation- which is usually in the form of unislamic viewing of TV or listening to Music. As Muslims, we are taught that our life on this earth is fleeting and transitory, so we should not grow attached to this world as our eternal life will be in the Hereafter. Rather, we should view this world as a test wherein we are constantly challenged and have to step up to these challenges and bear them with patience or overcome them in the best manner possible. Our free time should be spent engaging in family activities, sport or other useful endeavours which will not allow us to grow complacent and lazy and deviate from making steady progress toward our ultimate goal.
Muslims are taught to never mock the religions of others, but to always show the utmost respect to the religious beliefs of others. However, while many Muslims strive to exhibit religious tolerance and acceptance in their daily interactions, it is sad that many innocent Muslims (such as the two sisters described in this book) are victims of despicable acts of prejudice and hate based on a widespread condemnation of Muslims in the post-9/11 era. Many people, sadly, do not stop to think before judging and harshly sentencing a vast majority of Muslim people to a lifetime of unfair prejudice and discrimination based on the actions of a select minority whose ideas don’t even stem from anything remotely resembling true Islam. It is my hope that someday Muslims may be able to walk the earth with their heads held high and not have to cower in a corner, accepting the baseless accusations thrown at them for fear of inciting the wrath of any government and its unquestioning public. (less)
This book spoke to me in a way that very few books have. I guess that's because the subject matter hit close to home. A young girl who seems to have e...moreThis book spoke to me in a way that very few books have. I guess that's because the subject matter hit close to home. A young girl who seems to have everything any girl could ever want, but lacks the basic right of an individual- the right to freedom. There were so many instances while reading this book that I'd have to stop on a page and ponder over what I'd just read. I loved the way the author described Ashlyn's feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, especially in her interactions with the world around her, simply because she had led such a sheltered and protected life that it's robbed her of important life experiences (essential to her growth and development as an individual). I'll always remember the way Ashlyn's feelings resonated with my own when, the morning after her failed attempt at a breakaway to go off nightclubbing, Colin invites her to go jogging with him and she sees it for the act of pity that it is and she feels insulted and ashamed at having to be pitied for not having freedom. Somewhere inside that shame was, I'm sure, a deep-seated anger at herself for not being firm enough in her protests against being so restricted in her life.
I adored Colin! He made the perfect knight in shining armour. For a young man of twenty-one, he had a great deal of integrity and discipline. I admired and respected the fact that he refused to overstep his boundaries and kiss Ashlyn while working for her father. Although I have to admit, the sexual tension could get a bit too much at times and I'd practically pull out my hair in frustration over the fact they hadn't even kissed as yet. One thing I couldn't understand, though, was why Ashlyn was still holding a grudge against Colin for tormenting her when they were little. The way it was described, whenever her reasons for disliking him were discussed in the book, it always seemed like harmless misbehaviour and not something that could emotionally scar a person for life. I just think Ashlyn made way too big a deal of it. All in all, I would say that this was a good read. It provided a strange sense of comfort and the emotions felt by the characters felt very real.(less)
I received this book from goodreads in a firstreads giveaway and I would like to thank the author, Candace Dempsey, for hosting an international givea...moreI received this book from goodreads in a firstreads giveaway and I would like to thank the author, Candace Dempsey, for hosting an international giveaway and I would also like to thank the goodreads team for providing me with the opportunity to enjoy such an engaging piece of work.
I have never before read a true crime novel and it never crossed my mind to actually ever try one, since I’m the type of reader who prefers to escape reality and enter exotic and fantastical worlds, far away from the harsh reality and nitty-gritty of life. I tend to ignore newspaper headlines and newspapers in general, but for some reason (perhaps the mention of my favourite social networking site- facebook), I sat up and paid attention when I came across the headline of an article about the murder of a British student in Italy. This tragic tale stayed with me and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I’d won a copy of a book based on the mysterious circumstances surrounding this case.
Throughout the reading of this book, I was struck by the injustice of it all. The harsh allegations made against American student Amanda Knox, who was the prime suspect and later went on to be sentenced for the murder of her roommate, were without sufficient evidence and I believe that her arrest and sentencing were as a result of prejudice (due to her nationality) and the need for a speedy conclusion to the case. Amanda’s bubbly, free-spirited and somewhat eccentric personality worked against her by serving to confirm suspicions held by authorities that she was unstable and capable of murder. While I have to admit that certain aspects of her behaviour may indicate an underlying layer of pathology, especially in a country where behaviour tends to lean towards the conservative, the fact that psychological assessments conducted on both Amanda and her boyfriend, the co-accused Raffaele Sollecito, did not come up with any results indicative of pathology serves to work against this theory. It is understandable, though, how Amanda could appear unstable after hearing accounts of an episode in a restaurant when she met her roommate’s British friends for the first time at a restaurant and randomly burst out singing at the table- an action which would create a lasting negative impression among the more reserved British students. However, it is quite obvious from descriptions of Amanda in the Italian media and from statements made by police officials, that she was often judged by her loud and assertive personality as they kept making mention of the fact that she would loudly complain of tiredness, hunger and thirst. One thing I found particularly irrelevant and confusing was why they would view Amanda’s and Raffaele’s lovebird-like behaviour with suspicion. They were often referred to as co-conspirators because they were always together and when one of them was called in for questioning, the other would naturally follow.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the quaint little hilltop town of Perugia with it's buzzing student life and party scene which provided an insider's view into the social customs and general attitude of Italians to foreigners. I particularly enjoyed getting to know each character involved in this case on a more personal level and found it funny how Raffaele was often described as an Italian Harry Potter. After viewing the photographs captured by the author of the accused and deceased as well as their families, I can see why Raffaele was described in that manner and why Amanda was described as having sweet, innocent features that could easily lead lower-ranking officers to lose objectivity in her presence. The fact that both Amanda and Raffaele could not accurately remember their alibis for the night of the murder due to drug use serves as a strong argument against the use of drugs and has taught Raffaele a lesson that will remain with him, I am sure, for the rest of his life. Reading about their time spent in isolation in prison made me imagine myself in their shoes and I realised the full import of the judgement that would be made.
I found it appalling how manipulative the wardens were by encouraging Amanda and Raffaele to keep journals in prison only to later turn around and use their written words against them. The pulling of information, pictures and videos off their facebook, myspace and blog pages to prove that they were capable of murder was one aspect of this tale that just scared the crap out of me. It shocked and disgusted me to see how the media twisted their words and used statements (even those made in e-mails, text messages and diary entries) as well as videos and pictures out of context and presented them as ‘evidence’. The fact that the public unquestioningly bought it all and were just relieved to return to a sense of safety angered me.
I believe that that Italian police made a hasty decision after coming under pressure to crack the case as soon as possible or risk being regarded as incompetent and that, in serving their own interests, they may have ruined innocent lives. (less)
After hearing people rave about this book until my ears turned sore and reading many brilliant reviews of it, I decided to add it to a challenge list...moreAfter hearing people rave about this book until my ears turned sore and reading many brilliant reviews of it, I decided to add it to a challenge list for 2011 just to make sure that I actually got down to reading it. Of course, it helped that my brother bought me the whole set of three books while on holiday overseas this year so I was further motivated to read it when I saw it lying on my bookshelf. I don't regret reading it, simply because it introduced me to an extraordinary character like Lisbeth Salander. I found it fascinating that she was able to wade through a sea of printed research information with such swiftness- we later learn the reason for her amazing ability. While she tended to exhibit a general lack of emotion towards others, it was interesting to watch her warm towards Mikael.
I have to admit- the first 300 pages did not manage to capture my interest and I was seriously questioning my determination to complete this book. However, once I made it past that 300 page mark, I literally could not put the book down. I guess the reason for this is that Mikael Blomkvist only seems to be getting somewhere in his investigation at that point. Overall, it was a good book and I look forward to reading the other two in this trilogy (when I have the time).(less)
This was my first ever Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway win, so thank you Goodreads and thank you Adnan Mahmutovic for the opportunity to read a novel wh...moreThis was my first ever Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway win, so thank you Goodreads and thank you Adnan Mahmutovic for the opportunity to read a novel which brought me just a little bit closer to understanding the plight of the Bosnian refugees and possibly even refugees the world over.
All I've ever heard about the war in Bosnia is based on newspaper and television accounts that appeared many, many years ago. However, one thing stood out clear for me and that is the fact that (as in all wars) it is the innocent people, the ones who are happy to just mind their own business and go on with their everyday lives, who suffer the most. As with the main character, Almasa, one day they have big happy families and the ordinary contentment of everyday life, and the next, they've been robbed of home and family and have had atrocious acts and various indignities performed upon their persons, only to eventually end up dead and in mass graves somewhere or have been miraculously "saved" (though who would want to really go on living after losing everything and suffering such indignities) and placed in refugee camps (but really spending most of their time travelling between these camps) and never really experiencing a sense of home anywhere. It is a sad reality that we are exposed to in the reading of this book and Almasa's story is representative of hundreds, and possibly even thousands, of Bosnian women whose worlds have been turned upside down, who've had everything worth living for stripped away from them and who have to painfully gather themselves in the aftermath of destruction and trudge through the seemingly barren landscapes of their futures with the mantra that "time is the greatest healer" being repeated over and over again in the hope of shutting out the internal screams of agony that haunt them. For me, this book of less than a hundred pages spoke volumes.(less)
This book reads as a diary, following the diary entries of a rather eccentric, opinionated and outspoken sixty-year-old British woman, Marie Sharp, wh...moreThis book reads as a diary, following the diary entries of a rather eccentric, opinionated and outspoken sixty-year-old British woman, Marie Sharp, who has long since retired from teaching and is quite happy to spend the rest of her days being old, boring and at peace. She, unlike most of her friends and acquaintances, chooses to wear her age as a badge of honour, rather than as something to be ashamed of. As the title suggests, she does not wish to join a bookclub (as many other oldies choose to do in an attempt to keep their minds active), or to take an Open University course, go bungee jumping, sky diving or even throw herself back into the dating pool (as her friend Penny unsuccessfully attempts to do). In fact, she finds the idea of sex after sixty increasingly distasteful, so decides instead to take a vow of celibacy and (seeing as how she's always been unlucky in relationships) decides to give up men for good. Then comes along her newborn grandson, who steals her heart and gives her life new purpose and meaning. With a charming gay brother-in-law and his lover, a widowed ex-crush, a scatter-brained best friend, a young French female boarder and a handsome and sensitive Polish house cleaner thrown into the mix, Marie's life is anything but boring. This was a light read which provided insight into the life and thoughts of an individual entering late adulthood, especially regarding the challenges and joys faced along with the important decisions they are forced to make as everyone in their age group seems to be dropping dead around them or becoming increasingly debilitated. This was an interesting and refreshing take on the experience of getting old and how one woman chooses to view it.(less)
An interesting look into the world of journalism and the media industry. Katya, Liz and Joanna are three best friends after forging a close bond many...moreAn interesting look into the world of journalism and the media industry. Katya, Liz and Joanna are three best friends after forging a close bond many years before while holidaying in Mallorca and still struggling with their careers. Years later, Katya is a Morning TV celebrity and a household name, Joanna is a married mother-to-be and the editor of a prestigious womens' magazine and Liz is acting Editor of a Sunday paper and in the running to become editor. Problems arise when Katya is about to be embroiled in a scandal when the identity of her secret lover in the House of Commons has been discovered by Liz' paper and, with the pressure exerted on Liz to come up with an unforgettable Splash for the Sunday's front page in an attempt to gain the coveted editorship, Liz is left with the difficult decision of running with the story to secure the editorship and risk losing her friend, or managing office politics and successfully diverting attention to another story. It was interesting in parts but mostly dragged. Katya's and Liz' sacrifice of relationships and family life for their careers, only to end up lonely and desperately trying to convince themselves that their careers make up for the loneliness, I felt, was pathetic.(less)