genre romance

Like Water for Chocolate

"Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance and bittersweet wit. 

This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother's womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way."

(A special thank you to book club member, Aisha Esbhani for the suggestion.)

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The Longing of the Dervish

Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal, a literary award given to the best contemporary novel written in Arabic
-and-
Shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2015

"A bittersweet historical novel set in 19th century Sudan during the uprising of a Sudanese religious leader who declared himself as the Mahdi — or guided one — against the Ottoman Empire & the English-Egyptian government. 

Freed slave Bakhit is let out of prison with the overthrow of the Mahdist state in Sudan. On the brink of death, the memory of his beloved Theodora is all that has sustained him through seven years of grim incarceration—that and his vow to avenge her killing.

Set against a backdrop of war, religious fervor, and the monumental social and political upheavals of the time, The Longing of the Dervish is a love story in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Lyrical and evocative, Hammour Ziada's masterfully crafted novel is about sorrow, hope, and the cruelty of fate."

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Baltasar and Blimunda

Written by the Portuguese recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature in his trademark sinuous writing style filled with uniquely long sentences & digressions, José Saramago has written "'a romance and an adventure, a rumination on royalty and religion in 18th-century Portugal and a bitterly ironic comment on the uses of power.' —The New York Times

Portugal, 1711. The Portuguese king promises the greedy prelates of the Church an expansive new convent, should they intercede with God to give him an heir. A lonely priest works in maniacal solitude on his Passarola, a heretical flying machine he hopes will allow him to soar far from the madness surrounding him. A young couple, brought together by chance, live out a sweet, if tormented, romance. Meanwhile, amid the fires and horrors of the Inquisition, angry crowds and abused peasants rejoice in spectacles of cruelty, from bullfighting to auto-da-fé; disgraced priests openly flout God’s laws; and chaos reigns over a society on the brink of disaster.
 
Weaving together multiple story lines to present both breathtaking fiction and incisive commentary, renowned Portuguese writer spins an epic and captivating yarn."

(A special thank you to book club member, Fernanda Guarnieri for the suggestion.)

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The Piano Cemetery

"The Lázaro family are carpenters who would rather be piano-makers. In the dusty back room of their carpentry shop in Lisbon is the 'piano cemetery', filled with broken-down pianos that provide the spare parts needed for repairing and rebuilding instruments all over the city. It is a mysterious and magical place, a place of solace, a dreaming place and, above all, a trysting place for lovers. Peixoto weaves the tragic true story of the marathon-runner, Francisco Lázaro, into a rich narrative of love, betrayal, domestic happiness and dashed hopes."

A mix of literature, magical realism, & romance, the Piano Cemetery is loosely—very loosely—based upon the life of the first Olympic contestant to die during an event. With dreamlike sequences & narrations by both the Olympian & his dead father,  the author showcases a different kind of contemporary fiction.

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HWJN (aka Hawjan)

HWJN or Hawjan as it's sometimes known was the #1 selling Saudi novel in until it was banned for blasphemy. 

The Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue & Prevention of Vice raided bookshops pulling the book from the shelves because it treats jinn as beings that co-exist with humanity, & tells of a romance between a human & a jinn. (In Arabian mythology, a jinn is an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels, able to appear in human & animal forms & to possess humans.) Translated into other languages, the book has become a favorite around the world & is now again available for purchase in Saudi Arabia.

"People often listen to the legends of spirits and genies (jinn) with awe and horror, but this story is different and redefines our understanding of the jinn world. Hawjan is a young jinni is in his early nineties who lives in a world which exists parallel to ours. As human populations expand, Hawjan and his family find their village invaded by the parallel human dimension forcing them to live in a villa now haunted by humans. Hawjan’s efforts to avoid the human family fail and he finds himself madly in love with Sawsan, a medical student who is gentle and brilliant...but also barely a quarter of his age and human. 

Living in a different dimension, Hawjan is unable to let Sawsan know about his feelings until he learns how to communicate with her through the Ouija board. He then discovers she has brain cancer. As Sawsan's health deteriorates, her father becomes easy prey for a sorcerer who tricks him into believing that Sawsan’s illness is the result of the "devils" who haunt their villa. A deadly battle ensues. Eyad, a colleague of Sawsan agrees to allow Hawjan to posses him in order to help save Sawsan & her family. But who will win?"

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Ruby Red

Translated by Anthea Bell, the foremost translator of German literature in the world. And she thinks Ruby Red is just "charming!"

"'This book was so much fun! Magic, romance, and time travel. A great start to a series that will appeal to the awkward adventurer in all of us.' -Diana DeVault

'Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth who, in the middle of class, takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.'"

(I usually don't like YA, but this trilogy was a great set of light, fun reads. The narration is also good if you get it in audiobook form.)

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