2019 Book 233: A PURE HEART by Rajia Hassib

A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib  
ISBN: 9780525560050 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780525560067 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984889621 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07KDYDDY3 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 6, 2019 
Publisher: Viking Books


A powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters–their divergent fates and the secrets of one family

Sisters Rose and Gameela Gubran could not have been more different. Rose, an Egyptologist, married an American journalist and immigrated to New York City, where she works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela, a devout Muslim since her teenage years, stayed in Cairo. During the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, Gameela is killed in a suicide bombing. When Rose returns to Egypt after the bombing, she sifts through the artifacts Gameela left behind, desperate to understand how her sister came to die, and who she truly was. Soon, Rose realizes that Gameela has left many questions unanswered. Why had she quit her job just a few months before her death and not told her family? Who was she romantically involved with? And how did the religious Gameela manage to keep so many secrets?

Rich in depth and feeling, A Pure Heart is a brilliant portrait of two Muslim women in the twenty-first century, and the decisions they make in work and love that determine their destinies. As Rose is struggling to reconcile her identities as an Egyptian and as a new American, she investigates Gameela’s devotion to her religion and her country. The more Rose uncovers about her sister’s life, the more she must reconcile their two fates, their inextricable bond as sisters, and who should and should not be held responsible for Gameela’s death. Rajia Hassib’s A Pure Heart is a stirring and deeply textured novel that asks what it means to forgive, and considers how faith, family, and love can unite and divide us.




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Fayrouz “Rose” Gubran has had what many may perceive as an idyllic life. She and her sister, Gameela, were raised by loving parents, Nora and Ahmad. Both daughters have received advanced educational studies, Rose in Egyptology/Archeology and Gameela in Engineering. And then when Rose was in her mid-twenties, she met an American reporter, Mark Hatfield. Mark was different from the other men she had met, they fell in love, he converted to Islam so they could get married (Muslim women aren’t allowed to marry non-Muslim men in Egypt), and eventually she was accepted in a doctoral program in the US. She and Mark moved to the States where Rose studied, became a naturalized citizen, changed her name from Fayrouz Gubran to Rose Gubran Hatfield, and eventually became a postdoctoral fellow at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Mark became a reporter with assigned articles at the New York Times but longed for the days when he was reporting on social issues from the Middle East. Gameela, several years younger than Rose, lives through Arab Spring, is no longer as idealistic as she once was, and is possibly in a relationship with a man almost 30 years her senior. After a brief return to Egypt to do a series of freelance articles, Mark returns to the States and weeks later the young man he interviewed (Saaber) is jailed for the simple act of being interviewed by a foreign journalist and attacking one of the arresting officers. Several months later, Gameela is killed in a suicide bomber attack and Mark is feeling guilty that he may have inadvertently had a part to play in her death, Rose is angry at Mark because he may have inadvertently had a part to play in her death (Gameela introduced Mark to the man that introduced him to the young interview subject), and their lives are turned upside down. The only thing Rose can think of doing is trying to uncover the secrets, if any, to her sister’s life in Egypt. Will the answers she finds to bring her peace or simply cause more pain? 

I had the pleasure of reading In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib a few years ago and was blown away by the storyline and characters. I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy of her latest book, A Pure Heart after hearing about it and I’m incredibly grateful to the publisher for supplying me with a print review copy. A Pure Heart is an amazing story for so many reasons, not just because it is well written (although it is). This story asks and answers what makes a good Muslimah (Muslim female) as well as a good daughter/sister/wife/friend. Is it possible to be good at any of these roles and have secrets or change our opinions on what it means to be righteous or pious without being sanctimonious? Is it possible to love someone and still be angry with them for a prolonged period of time? Can we ever be assured that we know someone when we don’t know their deepest, darkest secrets? Do we even need to know those secrets in order to be a good friend/spouse/sibling? There are a lot of issues presented in A Pure Heart and there’s no way too many for me to touch on all of them without revealing too much about this wonderful story. This reader enjoyed getting to know all of the characters, especially Rose, Gameela, Mark, Ingrid, Nora, Ahmad, and Fouad, as well as Saaber. I loved reading about the neighborhoods in Egypt and learning about the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that tourists never see or hear about. I’m hard-pressed to find anything that I didn’t like about this story. As an American Muslimah, it is refreshing to read stories written by Muslims about Muslims and although Islam isn’t front and center in this story, it does play a pivotal role in the lives of the main characters. I encourage you all to grab a copy of A Pure Heart to read, and I’m not just saying that as a Muslim or because the author is a fellow West Virginia resident. I’m recommending this book because it is an outstanding read and one that I think every reader will be able to appreciate. Happy Reading y’all! 


Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy from the publisher, Viking Books. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 156: THE WEDDING PARTY by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory 
ISBN: 9781984802194 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781984802200 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984890528 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07JL42SQ6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 16, 2019 
Publisher: Berkley Books


As seen on The Today Show

The new exhilarating romance from The New York Times bestselling author of The Proposal, a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick! Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend2. They hate each other

After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.





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The only thing that Maddie Foster and Theo Foster seem to have in common is their friendship with Alexa Monroe. Maddie thinks that Theo is somewhat of a prude given to mansplaining and touting his Harvard degree. Theo seems to think that Maddie’s job as a fashion stylist is a waste of time and bordering on the idiotic. To say that these two rub each other the wrong way is a major understatement, but all of that seems to change on the night of Theo’s birthday party. Maddie agrees to accompany Alexa and actually has a good time. Halfway through the evening, Alexa runs into Drew (read The Wedding Date to find out more about these two) and the romance that was on-the-rocks seems to be back on steady ground and Alexa leaves with Drew, leaving Maddie alone at the party. Maddie’s attempt to exit the party solo goes nowhere as she’s walked to her car by none other than the birthday boy. This walk turns into her giving Theo a ride home, a taunt about dancing, and before you know it, Maddie and Theo are tearing up the sheets. The next morning, Maddie and Theo agree that this was an aberration and will never happen again, but it does repeatedly. Before you know, Maddie and Theo are routinely texting. Maddie is cheering Theo on behind-the-scenes with his work projects and Theo is doing the same for Maddie. When Theo is injured by a protester during a campaign speech, it is Maddie that shows up at the hospital, stays all night, and accompanies Theo home ensuring he is well cared for and safe. Just when it seems like things are going great for the two of them, something happens and their relationship is over. This wouldn’t be a problem except Alexa is getting married in a few weeks and Alexa is her bridesmaid and Theo is her bridesman. Can you say awkward?! Will they be able to mend fences and admit they love one another without destroying their friend’s wedding?

I initially read The Wedding Party a few weeks ago when I was traveling to Florida for my great-niece’s high school graduation. Most of you know that I read about a book a day, so I felt it only proper to re-read The Wedding Party before writing this review. Okay, I didn’t really have to re-read the book since I had made pretty good notes, I just wanted the excuse to re-read it. I enjoy a good romance as much as I enjoy a good mystery or suspense read, and Ms. Guillory provides witty, sexy, romances to read with highly relatable characters. These characters are super-rich, but they are smart, well-educated, well-spoken, and hard-working. Maddie is a fashion stylist trying to grow her business and is addicted to reality television shows like The Great British Bake Off, Say Yes to the Dress, and more. Although Theo does initially come across as a prudish, mansplaining elitist, he isn’t any of those. He is exacting and somewhat of a perfectionist. Yes, he did go to Harvard, but he doesn’t look down on anyone that didn’t go to an Ivy-league college or college at all. Theo holds himself to higher standards than he’ll hold anyone else to and as the public relations person for the mayor of Berkley, he always feels that he must be better than anyone else and never make mistakes. Part of that is due to his insecurity issues and part of that is due to the double-standards held for people of color in many industries (yes, it is a real thing). I enjoyed the push/pull relationship between Maddie and Theo, as well as getting to know a different side to Alexa. Yes, there’s a happy ending, this is a romance! If you’ve read The Wedding Date or The Proposal then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Wedding Party as soon as possible. If you haven’t read The Wedding Date or The Proposal and you’re a romance reader (I don’t know why you haven’t read either since I encouraged you to read both of them, but you still have time), then go grab copies of those two books along with a copy of The Wedding Party. Take a long weekend or your vacation/staycation and read all three, you can thank me later. Trust me, you’ll be thanking me later. I’ll probably be re-reading all three while I wait for the next book from Ms. Guillory, Royal Holiday, scheduled for release later this year. Happy Reading my fellow romance readers!


Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy of this book from the publisher along with a digital review copy via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 164: THE ROAD SHE LEFT BEHIND by Christine Nolfi

The Road She Left Behind by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542004213 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781721388073 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07KYGDZRW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: June 11, 2019


Three women. Two families torn apart by secrets.

Crushed by guilt over the car accident that killed her father and sister, and torn apart by her mother’s resentment, Darcy Goodridge fled her family estate eight years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now an unexpected phone call threatens to upend what little serenity she’s found. Her nephew, Emerson, who was just a baby when his mother died, has gone missing. Darcy must return home and face her past in order to save him.

Once back in Ohio, Darcy realizes there’s more to Emerson’s disappearance—and to the sudden retirement of her mother, Rosalind—than meets the eye. As she works to make inroads with Rosalind, Darcy begins to unravel a decades-old secret that devastated her family and forced a wedge between her and Michael Varano, the man she left heartbroken when she vanished after the funeral. After carrying the scars of that fateful night for almost a decade, Darcy is determined to find closure, healing, and maybe even love where she lost them all in the first place—right back home where she belongs.







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Darcy Goodridge has spent the past eight years of her life running away from her family and life. She doesn’t spend more than one year in any job or town. She has no close friends. She doesn’t keep in contact with her family. When she left Ohio after the tragic accident that claimed her younger sister and father’s lives, she cut off all ties. Yes, she had promised her sister that she would take care of her nephew if anything happened, but she knew her mother — a well-respected judge, would never allow that to happen. Darcy is packed and ready to leave South Carolina in her rear view mirror and head to New Jersey for a new job placement, when she receives a phone call from her mother’s housekeeper and her surrogate mother, Latrice, telling her that her eight-year-old nephew Emerson has run away from home. Darcy is prepared to ignore this call for help until the one friend she’s made in eight years, an eighteen-year-old former foster child, talks her into returning home with him in tow. Needless to say, the last thing Darcy’s mother expects to see on her doorstep is Darcy, much less Darcy accompanied by an eighteen-year-old, Black male, dread wearing former foster child. Fortunately, Samson has a way about him and is able to worm his way into Latrice’s good graces and even strikes up a tentative relationship with Darcy’s mother Rosalind. Emerson is found safe and without harm, but his return home leads to a bombshell that will rock the Goodridge family. For someone that has spent years running away from the past, Darcy now must confront it and deal with all of the fallout. That fallout includes her mother’s declining health, revelations about her father and adored sister, and facing the love she left behind all those years ago. Is it possible to return home and mend the bridges we thought we burnt down?

I’m always excited when I hear about a new Christine Nolfi story. Her stories incorporate lots of realistic family drama often dealing with highly dysfunctional contemporary situations (some resolved, some not), multigenerational friendships, secrets, and romance. Needless to say, I jumped for joy (figuratively) when I received notice that I was going to be able to read and review The Road She Left Behind. I was eager to read this book in one sitting, but had to deal with a weather-induced migraine and then taking my mother out for her weekly grocery shopping. I liked all of the characters in The Road She Left Behind including the curmudgeonly and strict Rosalind Goodridge, Darcy’s mother. The eight-year-old Emerson and eighteen-year-old Samson provided some great comic relief at times, but I could emotionally relate to both of these guys. Emerson was struggling to be mature because that’s what his grandmother expected, whereas Samson was rather immature and naive for his age, but could come out with these amazingly prescient statements due to his observational skills. Samson had never been in a true family setting and expected a wealthy family to be happy. He was quite shocked to learn that Darcy’s family was anything but happy despite their wealth and privilege. Darcy and Michael’s friendship is gradually rebuilt as well as their romance. Yes, there’s a lot going on in The Road She Left Behind, but if I told you everything you wouldn’t need to read the book. If you’ve ever read anything by Ms. Nolfi, then I don’t have to tell you to get a copy of this book as soon as possible but I will anyway. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Nolfi, then The Road She Left Behind might be a good book to start with, especially if you enjoy stories with family angst, drama, and romance. For now, I’m eagerly awaiting my purchased copy of The Road She Left Behind to download on the release day and I plan on spending the very next weekend leisurely rereading this book, hopefully without interruptions.



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”