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2018, Reflections by others.

At the end of the year, we reflect. We reflect on our accomplishments, our adventures, our heartbreaks, and everything in between. In the bookish world, we also look at the books we’ve read, because ulimately, the books that you read contribute towards your growth.

My growth was encouraged by many books and authors, especially by Corban Addison (read more about it in my previous post). I also opened my eyes to the world of bookstagram and blogs – my greatest achievement of 2018. With a great interest in the bookish community, I have asked a few bibliophiles to write a little about their 2018. Here’s what they have said:

Written by Azraa Mayet:

A House Without Windows – Nadia Hashimi

Identifying myself as a proud feminist, I’ve always been particularly interested in conversation surrounding aspects of patriarchy, power and oppression.20181231_134520.jpg
A House Without Windows reignited my already existing spark of interest in such topics.

Zeba, a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. Yet, her fate lies in the hands of dishonorable men.
Guilty until proven innocent.

This novel brought about a wide disarray of emotion. On the one hand I often found myself feeling sad and disheartened about the poor justice system that Muslim women, in particular, are forced to face on a daily basis, around the globe. Whereas on the other hand, completely and utterly thrilled, almost fascinated to be able to experience such explicit realism. And then unfortunately, unpleasant feelings arising once again, for not having any solutions to help & honor such remarkable women.

“Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if you are crazy or if it is the world around you that’s insane”

– Nadia Hashimi, A House Without Windows

Written by Yasira Moolla:

Reclaim your Heart – Yasmin Mogahed

2018 has been the most challenging year of my life. I lost so many people who I never dreamed to lose. So many people walked out of my life and so many people hurt me. Yasmin’s self-help guide, helped me to find myself and my true purpose. She reminded me that no matter what difficulty you face, Allah is always by your side and if that’s not the most comforting thought, I don’t know what is.

Written by Sameera Khan, ShesBooked:

“Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy but I only let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”

– Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell.

Give me a library of books and I will devour them effortlessly, spending copious amounts of time getting to know each fictional character I find myself attached to, falling in love with a long list of fictional soul mates. Give me a real life situation with real feelings and actual people and I am rendered a complete mess. I am absolutely, inevitably and ardently clueless.

Perhaps I have an internal glitch that prevents me from having normal, functional relationships or from being an actual normal, functioning person. But I have never had the luxury of a dull ache; I’ve always been cursed with feeling too much or nothing at all. There are days when I feel absolutely nothing and there are days when I’m so overcome with emotion that I just want to sit in silence in the dark, lost in the abyss of it all. Then there’s the curse of being rendered incapable of expressing any feelings. I would choose to forgo a possibility of a relationship than have to express my feelings to another human being. The possibility of rejection is too much a fear for me to take a risk in expressing how I feel. More than the possibility of rejection is the actual expected certainty of rejection. This is possibly why I will always remain a grenade of bottled up feelings.

Read further on: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/41903032/posts/347

Written by Faatima:

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I doubt that much can be adequately said about all that this novel entails. Personally, I took from it, that happiness can literally be found in a graveyard, provided that one is surrounded by like-minded people who co-exist without a filter and rawness is the only
reality. The rest, will see to itself because when one is happy, one is able to see the path clearer.

“If you’ll pardon me for making this somewhat prosaic observation – maybe that’s what life is, or ends up being most of the time: a rehearsal for a performance that never eventually materializes.”
– Arundhati Roy,  The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Written by Dr Zaheera Jina:

The Ones With Purpose – Cynthia Jele

I must admit that I was really apprehensive to read The Ones With Purpose only because I had lost my own mother to cancer. I did not want to re-visit the memories of my mother being ill and I did not want to re-live her last moments.
I decided to read the book because I wanted to review the book.

They say that books choose us. This book found me, it gave me the understanding that I sought after my mother’s passing. The Ones with Purpose is a beautiful yet painful portrayal of family, disappointment, sacrifice, forgiveness and love; it tells the story of a sister named Fikile who dies from cancer and the intertwined narratives of those closest to her.

Fikile was The One with Purpose and so was my own mother. Fikile’s death had context – there was a past that had happened with her being there and an untold future which will unfold without her in the physical sense but through her memory and lived actions. My mother’s death did that too – her passing has left a deep void in me but at the same time, she will always be with me through that which I have learnt from her. Her life had meaning, her living had Purpose and she lived within the context of others and her life has had a ripple effect on those around her and many others not within her reach. But within my mother’s life, there was also disappointment and sacrifice and pain – and there was happiness. My mother, (like Fikile) was human after all. “The Ones with Purpose” beautifully illustrates the drama that unfolds in life through realistic characters like me and you. We all have our stories to tell and these stories involve others.

The Ones with Purpose has kept me deeply absorbed throughout my reading experience and has stayed with me for days now. It’s most highly recommended.

The Ones with purpose is on my list of Top Three reads of 2018, along with Gold Diggers by Sue Nyathi and The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa. I’m looking forward to 2019 – a year of more ground breaking African reads.

Written by Aadilah Mahomed:

Origin – Dan Brown

Dan Brown, famously known as the author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, released his new book called Origin.

Having previously read and loved his other books, I tried to get my hands on a copy as soon as I heard that it was released. And once again, I was not disappointed. The book follows Harvard Professor Robert Langdon along yet another dangerous adventure as he races against time and a myriad of people trying to kill him and the beautiful museum director, Ambra Vidal as they attempt to release a scientific presentation that “will change the face of science forever”.

Not unlike his other books, Origin is full of action and plot twists that will keep you so engrossed that you’ll find this book hard to put down. What I like about Dan Brown’s books is that they’re all set in different countries and cities and he writes in such a way that you feel like you are alongside the characters every step of the way, exploring one country after another. Being someone that loves traveling, these books feed my wanderlust. Dan Brown delves a lot into art, history, architecture and science which I feel broadens my mind and teaches me a lot more than a regular novel.

All in all, this book is definitely one I’d recommend!

Written by Zakiyya, TheBookishNerd: 

2018 was for me, a really good reading year. I have always enjoyed reading but this year I fell in love with the act all over again. I really treasured and enjoyed my reading time and I managed to read some really wonderful books which obviously helped. Each year I like to give myself a reading goal that will push me out of my comfort zone a little bit, my comfort zone being Contemporary novels.

This year I aimed to read more nonfiction books, I achieved my goal to a certain extent. I did pick up a few more nonfiction books and two of them really stood out to me: You Can Stop Humming Now by Dr Daniela Lamas and Born A Crime by Trevor Noah.

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Follow Zakiyya’s bookstagram @TheBookishNerd

Ultimately I am a creature of habit and so I did find myself reaching for Contemporary novels quite often, the genre still remains a firm favorite of mine. Titles that stood out to me in 2018 are:

  • I Am Thunder by Muhammed Khan (boundless)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (revolutionary)
  • Tin Man by Sarah Winman (eye opening)
  • The Astonishing Color of After by Emily. X. R. Pan (hope giving)
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (heartwarming)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (life changing).
  • The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

A quote from The Astonishing Color of After really stuck with me throughout the year:

“We’re not lost,” “We’re just headed somewhere different.”

These words sort of grounded me and succeeded in reminding me that there is no ‘correct’ path in life, just because you’re on a different path doesn’t mean you’re lost.

Other bookish joys came from taking pictures of books, talking to other bookworms about books and buying more books as well as appreciating reading and books in all of its forms. Overall 2018 was a very happy bookish year and I could not be more grateful for that. Here’s to an even happier 2019!

Conclusion: 

I am so grateful to have people in my life who encourage me to read and contribute towards my education and growth. My goal is to be a person who continues this cycle, and my blog is one of the tools for achieving this goal. I hope that, through each of these reflections, gives you reason to read more in 2019!

Let me know which books stood out for you in 2018, and which you will be adding to your 2019 TBR!

Happy New Year, fellow bookworm.

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Authors, Books

Corban Addison

December is here & many of us find ourselves reflecting on the year that has passed – myself included. One of the thoughts that I had while reflecting about this year was – which author could be my “author of the year?” Immediately, Corban Addison popped up in my mind.

I began reading his books in January this year and I’ve been so amazed at the quality of his novels. Each novel educated me about many injustices that I have been oblivious to before. They have impacted me the most & not a day goes by that I don’t think about something mentioned in one of the novels.

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A Walk Across The Sun

The perfect lives of two young Indian girls is destroyed when a tsunami rages through their village in India. They try to make their way towards their school, their haven, but are abducted and thrown into a horrific world filled with slavery and prostitution. A US attorney makes his way to Mumbai and experiences modern slavery and a crumbling justice system. He makes it his mission to find these girls and save them from the claws of abominable men.

The Garden of Burning Sand

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Another story of sexual abuse, this time about a rape of a little girl with down syndrome. The Garden of Burning Sand is set in Zambia, an African country with many superstitions and a shaky justice system.

An American Lawyer and a Zambian Police officer work together to ensure that justice is served. The process, however, is not simple and brings the reality of many women’s worlds into light.

A Harvest of Thorns

Buying clothes is a simple task, but have you ever considered how the clothes you wear is made? A Harvest of Thorns is a story which reminds us that slavery exists and that many chain stores and huge brands incite this slavery. The working conditions, wages, broken promises and threats provided to these workers are horrific.

This novel provides us with insight of various factories operations around the world and the clothes we wear. Since I’ve read this book in January, I find it difficult to buy an item without thinking about who has made it.

The Tears of Dark Water

While on a voyage on the Indian Ocean, father and son are kidnapped by Somali pirates. An FBI negotiator is called to arrange a deal for the release of this father and son. It’s a personal story of love, family, vengeance, justice, and cross-cultural understanding told through a fast paced thriller.

These novels written by Corban Addison are educational in terms of slavery, crime, abuse and many other injustices. The story told in each novel has either been based on a true story or inspired by a true event which makes it heart-wrenching.

Fiction has the power to really change a person’s way of seeing the world so that it really engages the intellect but that it also engages the heart

– Corban Addison

Read these novels, and I promise that you will feel something waking up in your heart – something that wants to make a change.

Addison makes it easy to help be a part of the change – a simple tap on the “engage” tab on his website provides articles about the issues discussed in the novels, as well as a way to help.

Visit http://www.corbanaddison.com to watch his book trailers and engage with the various issues.

Bookstores

Exclusive Books Sandton City

A trip to the mall is not completed until I step into a bookstore, more specifically, the hugest book franchise known as Exclusive Books. It’s the store that has provided me with many books and countless memories, and the store I fantasize about getting locked up in all night!

That’s the reason I was so eager to attend the launch of the revamped Sandton City store.

Exclusive Books sure knows how to host an event. Guests were treated to food and drinks, including a live smoothie station and ice cold ginger-beer (true South African style!) while listening to a local band performing. They definitely gave us all the African feels!

There were a few short speeches, including speeches by the marketing director and Grattan Kirk, the CEO that was beaming with pride all night. I had the opportunity of conversing with both lovely men.

Believe it or not, Mr Kirk did not always enjoy reading and only discovered the magic recently! We share the same views on e-readers – he does not enjoy e-readers because he feels that there is no relationship with it. “A book can be read and memories can be made with it – there’s just a special connection – and then it can be displayed, with all it’s memories, on a bookshelf,” is what he said about the reason he prefers a paperback to an e-book.

Sadly, the industry challenge that they are facing is that more people are straying from the habit of reading. He mentioned that it is up to us to encourage and show people the magic of reading, and I am certain that a trip to Exclusive Books Sandton City will make a reader out of every adult and child!

The ambiance of the store is incredible. From the light fittings to the bookshelves and couches everywhere, there has obviously been a lot of thought and planning has been put into this store. Everything is unique and completely beyond anyone’s imagination.

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Sitting in a coffee shop and reading a book is one of the best reading situations, that’s why Exclusive Books added coffee shops in their stores. Exclusive Books used to have their very own EB Cafe, but as Grattan Kirk mentioned, “[They] are better at selling books than making coffee.” So, they’re back to the good old Seattle Coffee Co. The best part about Seattle Coffee Co (besides them being right in the store) is that they’ve got loyalty points! Buy nine cups of coffee, & get the 10th cup free.

In a bookstore, one of the most important things to me is organisation. And Exclusive Books Sandton City has the perfect layout. Each section flows into the next, and each section is HUGE.

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This store has the largest Pan-African section in the continent. It’s the pride of the store and placed on a platform with wooden flooring, tables and chairs.

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The teacher (and child) in me was in awe of the children’s section. Huge and filled with every book from your childhood, it’s the perfect place to reminisce about story-time. Children would love this little corner and I am certain that they will be as amused as I was with the light fittings!

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The stationery and gifting collections are pretty amazing as well. The Paulo Coelho day planners and Le Petit Prince notebooks had the writer in me shaking!

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As I walked through the store, I found some lovely reads that I have added to my TBR. Some include:

  • A thriller by Catherine Steadman – Something in the Water
  • A South African thriller by Deon Meyer – The Woman in the Blue Cloak
  • A new Nicholas Sparks novel – Every Breath
  • The latest Jodi Picoult – A Spark of Light
  • Katie Khan – The Light Between Us
  • Because of the hype on Netflix, Jenny Han – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
  • By the same author of The Book Thief – Bridge of Clay
  • A humorous illustrated guide by Stephen Wildish – How To Adult

Don’t worry if none of these books interest you, there is definitely a section for you to get lost in – whether its sports, politics or a classic. Head over to Exclusive Books and grab a copy of the Every Page a Gift pamphlet to see the rest of the great holiday season deals that Exclusive Books has. There is also a R25 coupon and an exciting competition included at the back of the pamphlet.

Make your way to Exclusive Books Sandton City – the smell of Seattle Coffee brewing is what would lure you into the store, & the sight of the countless books is what will hypnotize your stay. You definitely will not leave empty handed!

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Books Galore – Linden

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I love reading secondhand books. I feel that reading a book which has been read by someone else is as personal as sharing emotions with them. So, its no doubt that I love secondhand bookstores even more than the usual bookstore.

Whenever I walk through 4th Avenue in Linden (Johannesburg), I find myself at the Books Galore bookstore. It’s a cute secondhand bookstore which caters for everyone.

Books Galore is a Johannesburg franchise, and opened up a Linden store a year ago. Eric, the owner, has an eye for vibrant areas and thought that Linden could do with a good book store (damn right) – you could buy a book and walk a few steps into a cosy coffee shop.

Books Galore is a second hand bookstore. They receive donations of books, people bring

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in books to sell to them or people exchange books with them (a sort of barter). Because of this, they have a variety of books which caters for the likes of everyone. The manager said, “we’re only as good as the books we get in”, but she is really pleased with the response that they have received from the people of Linden.

Their aesthetic leans towards the war and art genre, but they have a huge variety of thriller, contemporary fiction and children’s books. Their variety of books is something that they are extremely proud of. “People who enter this bookstore are on a journey of discovery,” said the lovely manager, because as soon as people enter, they find themselves browsing through books they’ve never considered picking up.

There are many first editions and collectors items, some of their books have even been signed by the authors! I was quite impressed with the organisation of the bookstore – their books are categorized according to genre, then alphabetically (by the first two letters!). However, the most impressive is that they cover many of their books to preserve their good condition.

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They’ve also got remarkable customer service. If you’re looking for a book, just let them know and they will be able to source it for you in no time. Or, if you’ve got a specific genre that you’re interested in, simply drop your details with them and they’ll call you as soon as something interesting comes in.

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Books aren’t the only things that you will find at Books Galore – you can also browse through a variety of records that they have. On Saturday’s they play some of the records, which just adds to that Linden vibe.

Next time you’re in the area, pop in to Books Galore. They’ve got an amazing variety of good quality books at affordable prices. I am certain that you will not walk out of their store empty-handed.

P.S. Mark your calendars, Books Galore is getting in a crate of brand new books on the 18th of November 2018.

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Books

Saffron – Compiled by Dr Zaheera Jina

My engagement preps are in full swing (!!الحَمْد لله‎‎) – hiring decor, getting an outfit, shopping all day – the lists and errands go on. But, the other day I found myself taking a breather and thinking:

“This is a step closer to marriage – do I know what I am getting myself into? What should I expect? How do I prepare myself? ”

As if reading my mind, Dr Zaheera Jina asked if I would like to read a book she has compiled and edited. Of course, I agreed (I could never say no to reading). A few days later, I had a copy of Saffron in my hands.

Saffron turned out to be the exact book I needed – the first step in learning about about marriage.

This wonderful book is a compilation of personal short narratives by various Muslim women, most of whom are South African-Indian. Each woman speaks about her experiences with marriage.

Being a Muslim woman involves a perfect blend of saffron, rituals & philosophies.

– Dr Zaheera Jina

Saffron covers a variety of topics which deal with different aspects of marriage – from intimacy to hardship, and even food (a huge part of our lives). The introduction chapter, called lived realities, discusses the importance of marriage and other important aspects such as marriage contracts and the rights of a woman in a marriage and continues to take us through the journey of a marriage.

These stories have been bravely and beautifully written, giving us an opportunity to learn about matters in marriage which aren’t openly discussed in our communities. Many points made through heartfelt stories had me considering things I have never thought about.

One of the key themes in this book is prayer and having faith, which is beautiful because it reminds us of the power of Allah. This, intertwined with the 56 stories, reminds us that we are never alone – we have the Almighty who is looking after us, and there are other women who might be going through the same journey as you.

I love how simple Saffron is – it’s not “preachy.” Instead, it’s full of stories written by everyday women of our community. I love this approach because we get to learn from their experiences – whether it’s dealing with self-esteem and mental health issues, or a difficult spouse.

I also love that Saffron is not limited to bride-to-be’s. Packed with advice and pearls of wisdom, it’s a brilliant read for those interested in getting married, those who are about to step into this new world, those who are married or even those who have been married already.

So, I definitely recommend Saffron to you. I have learnt plenty lessons from these 264 pages, & I am confident that you will too.

I would also encourage men to read this book, simply to gain an understanding of the experiences that our Muslim women go through in the marriage process.

Some of the stories will have you wiping a tear from your eye and feeling an ache in your heart, whilst other stories will having you laughing out aloud. I can guarantee that most of the stories will impact your life in some way or the other, and will leave you thinking about it at random moments during your day.

Self love is more important than people pleading (you cannot feed your family if your cup is half empty).

-Afzad Al

Go out, buy a copy, sit back with a cup of chai & read the beautiful Saffron.

You could find a copy at the following stores:

Johannesburg:

African Flavour Books – Braamfontien

Protea Books – Carlton Centre

M.I. Nana – The Oriental Plaza

Exclusive Books – Rosebank Mall, Sandton City, Bedfordview, O.R. Thambo Domestic Departures, Clearwater Mall, Menlyn

Lauduim:

Iqra Agencies

Cape Town:

Exclusive Books – Cape Town Domestic and International Departures, Canal Walk

Durban:

Exclusive Books – Gateway

Botswana:

Exclusive Books – Gaborone

The best part about buying this book is that royalties from Saffron go towards the Caring Women’s Form. So, not only are you gaining knowledge, you’re also give out charity. Two good deeds, check.

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Little bookworms

If you’ve read my previous post, you’d know that I was on practicals (student teaching) for six weeks. During these six weeks, I barely had time to read, but I spent plenty of time with children who read a lot!

I was incredibly surprised and definitely pleased to see how many children actually spend their free time reading. I used to have adult-like conversations with them – discussing books and authors. Those were some of the best conversations, and I thought “I need to share this on my blog!”. I compiled a little questionnaire for them to fill out and decided to share some of their answers with you.

Here’s what I asked and what they had to say:
(I edited their spelling, but left the grammar exactly as they have written it.)

  1. Do you enjoy reading?

“Yes! I enjoy reading because it calms me. It is very helpful in your future. Reading helps your spelling, fluency, writing and I am very interested in the stories and I just love reading” – Shayla (10)

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“Yes, because the book tells you more about the movie. Example, The Hobbit. It tells you more about the movie.” – Eesa (12)

“Yes, because I like to learn the words and improving my imagination. It also challenges your mind.” – Faizaan (12)

I love that out of a class of 20, at least 10 learners would say that they love reading. The rest of the learners would say sometimes and very few would say that they don’t enjoy reading.

2. What is your favourite book?

“It is Nancy Drew because it has mysteries and it is fascinating to see what happens and keeps you guessing.” – Shannon (13)

(Obviously my favourite answer because Nancy Drew was my childhood!)

“The BFG. It is very funny and exciting and sad” – Eesa (12)

“Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. It is my favourite book because I like to read books by Charles Dickens and out of all the books I have read, Pickwick Paper is the best.” – Thando (12)
This one made me really proud. Children reading (and appreciating) classics is not common!

3. How do you choose a book to read?

(The answers to this were super interesting! I love how children’s minds work.)

“I usually have an author that I enjoy and look out for books by them.” – Joshua (12)

“I don’t judge a book by its cover. I normally read the blurp to see what it is about or I page through the book and read a little of it to see what it is about” – Ammaarah (10)

“I choose by the topic and the cover and the back and read the first chapter” – Shannon (13)

“I look at the story and it depends on my mood or the situation I’m in.” – Shayla (10)

Other answers included looking at the thickness of the book, asking an adult for a recommendation, browsing through the books at a library or just choosing something random.

4. What book do you recommend?

“Harry Potter, novels, books with facts and animals something fun and cool” – Shayla (10)

“Any Stephan King book really. If you enjoy intense horrors his books are for you. – Joshua (12)

“To Kill A Mockingbird.” – Thando (12)

I was stunned by this recommendation. From a 12 year old. TWELVE.

“I recommend The Bodyguard Series by Chris Brandford for children of ages between 12 – 17” – Faizaan (12)

That’s what little bookworms had to say. It was truly inspiring to see children whip out a 400 page (or even a 100 page) novel as soon as they got a free moment instead of being disruptive. The fact that each child has a preference and reason behind reading, is even more inspiring.

I hope that we can take a little inspiration from these little booklovers and spend our free time doing something constructive – like reading!

Books

A Walk to Remember – Nicholas Sparks

These last few weeks have been absolutely crazy – I’m doing my practicals at a school. That leaves no time to read (or do anything fun, for that matter!). But with a long weekend in the middle of my pracs, I could squeeze in some time to read a quick novel.

I wanted something short, but I also wanted something that would be captivating and give me the satisfaction of reading a good book. Almost instinctively, my eyes fell on A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks. I’ve read this book before, and I chose to read it this weekend as I knew I would get exactly what I was looking for.

A Walk to Remember is at short novel of 170 pages, leaving me with enough time to read and do some work. This novel is an old time favourite because it is sad, yet lovely. To quote from the prologue:

“First you will smile, and then you will cry – don’t say you haven’t been warned.”

I swear, that is exactly what I’ve done every time I’ve read this novel, and you will do the same.

I love that the narration has a personal feel – almost as if Landon has written this story for me to read. This short love story is between Jamie and Landon; Jamie being the plain, religious girl who’s always being mocked and excluded, Landon being the class president and the guy with the “cool friends”.

Landon never expected to fall in love with Jamie (in fact, he promised that he wouldn’t) but as fate would have it, he did.

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However, Jamie, sweet Jamie, has a huge secret – a secret that shatters Landon’s new world and left me in tears.

This novel is filled with lessons about life and love. The most important lessons that I’ve learnt from this novel are:

  1. Never judge anyone, especially if they’re different. We’re quick to mock others or look down on those who aren’t following the norms. What we don’t realise is that everyone has a story, a reason for being the way that they are- and our judging doesn’t help them in any way.
  2. Be kind. Be kind to those who are mean to you; be kind to strangers; be kind to people, even if they can’t repay you. People will always remember how you made them felt – let them smile when they reminisce.
  3. Always have faith; miracles can happen when you believe.

This novel is perfect for beginner readers, or, if you’re like me, and have just a single weekend to do some reading. Once you’re done reading it, you could even watch the movie (although you won’t feel all the emotions the same way).

Have you read any novels by Nicholas Sparks? Let me know your thoughts!