Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell - Book Review

From the cover :

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.
But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.
Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

My thoughts :

I enjoy a novel that transports me across continents to another time and place and allows me to feel and empathize with the people in a situation so varied from my own. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is successful at bringing to life the struggles of women in Afghanistan, a land so far removed yet brought to our attention by the recent history and the coverage in the news. Hashimi's novel gives a human face to the news reports of the politics and wars. It opens the reader's eyes to the suffering and resilience of people. 

By telling both the modern story of Rahima and the earlier story of her ancestor Shekiba, Hashimi is able to tell both histories of the country. Separated by a hundred years, their stories are not that different. Both women lived at a time of change and progression (albeit slow) for the country and for the women who live there. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is often heart breaking and painful. Ultimately, it's a powerful story of personal triumph and of being brave enough to make choices to change one's destiny or naseeb.

While at times the novel's pace tends to drag, overall The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a beautiful and haunting story of the subservient and enslaved women who occupy the embattled country and will do what they can to survive and advance.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is published by William Morrow and released in May 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Friendswood - Book Review

From the cover :

Friendswood, Texas, is a small Gulf Coast town of church suppers, oil rigs on the horizon, hurricane weather, and high school football games. When tragedy rears its head with an industrial leak that kills and sickens residents, it pulls on the common thread that runs through the community, intensifying everything. From a confused fifteen-year-old girl beset by visions, to a high school football star tormented by his actions, to a mother galvanized by the death of her teen daughter, to a morally bankrupt father trying to survive his mistakes, René Steinke explores what happens when families are trapped in the ambiguity of history’s missteps—when the actions of a few change the lives and well-being of many.

My thoughts :

In Friendswood, debut author René Steinke tells the story of the people that live in the town. It’s familiar to those from small towns. The people are connected. They have histories with one another that bind and divide. But like people anywhere, they have complicated pasts, heartaches and dreams. They have suffered. They have passions and are passionate about their causes. They hide. They choose the easy path. They choose to take risks. They just try to survive.

Friendswood is a morality play with complicated leading actors. While exposing their weaknesses and failings, Steinke also shows them in the sympathetic light to her readers. People are more than their choices and yet our choices often define us. Will we be brave? Will we be cowardly? How will we justify our choices?

Causing the reader to ponder and reflect, Steinke weaves a story with powerful themes and harrowing outcomes. As a mother of children who are growing up and too quickly becoming teenagers, the plot line surrounding the high school students was disturbing and caused me to think about my own possible reactions and the way I will educate both my sons and daughters.

Friendswood is a definitely page turner from a talented new author. It’s rich and complex; exquisite and controlled—a model of brilliant literary fiction.

Friendswood by René Steinke is published by Riverhead Books and released on August 14, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of Friendswood. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Story Hour - Book Review

From the cover :

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.
Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn’t need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.
But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.

My thoughts :
In her latest novel The Story Hour, Thrity Umrigar offers a unique perspective on the plight of the emigrant. Lakshmi is struggling to break free from the bounds of her oppressive husband but as she recognizes her own talents and capabilities and learns to act for herself, she is also give power to face her secrets and overcome their chains.
The strongest aspect of this very readable and enjoyable novel is the characterization. Neither Maggie or Lakshmi are perfect characters. They are flawed. At times they make horrible choices. Umrigar creates very human characters who are not villains yet do not always act in the best interest of themselves or others. They are at times abrupt, impulsive and narcissistic yet they are worth rooting for. There is the opportunity for redemption and restitution. 
The story is powerful. Umrigar grants insight into the human soul and the strong emotions and influences that often motivate us to act contrary to the best interests of others. Thrity Umrigar is a very talented writer. She has a way with words and she has a deep understanding of human nature. She combines these talents to create a lovely masterpiece in The Story Hour.

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar is published by Harper on August 19, 2014. 

**I received a complimentary copy of The Story Hour in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books Goals

I realized last night that Bout of Books starts today. I haven't had as much time to read lately. I've been terribly busy spending the last days of summer vacation with my kids and also preparing them for school. However, school starts tomorrow and I plan to spend some extra time catching up more books.

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

My goals for this week are fairly conservative. I'm trying to be realistic.

Today I'm starting to read Five Days Left the highly anticipated debut novel from my fabulous Twitter friend Julie Lawson Timmer.

 Then, what better way to say goodbye to our summer vacation with The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn.

And then if I have time, I'd love to squeeze in the rather thick We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

We've done the shopping. 
She's got bright new shoes.
She got her hair cut.

This girl is ready for kindergarten.
She had her assessment today and I asked if I could take a picture.
She started hamming it up.
Watch out world, this girl is something else.