All about Books, Book review, Uncategorized

Book Review: Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

Today I’m excited to share my review for Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi. This is a different type of book I usually choose to read but I’m trying to expand my reading style. Scroll down to see if my hopes for this novel were achieved.

Book Review: Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

Book Cover: Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
Dark Blue cover with the outline of an Afgantistan city  landscape
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

Title: Sparks Like Stars

Author: Nadia Hashimi

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Fiction, Historial fiction

Release Date: 2nd March 2022

Blurb

“Suspenseful…emotionally compelling. I found myself eagerly following in a way I hadn’t remembered for a long time, impatient for the next twist and turn of the story.”—NPR

An Afghan American woman returns to Kabul to learn the truth about her family and the tragedy that destroyed their lives in this brilliant and compelling novel from the bestselling author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, The House Without Windows, and When the Moon Is Low.

Kabul, 1978: The daughter of a prominent family, Sitara Zamani lives a privileged life in Afghanistan’s thriving cosmopolitan capital. The 1970s are a time of remarkable promise under the leadership of people like Sardar Daoud, Afghanistan’s progressive president, and Sitara’s beloved father, his right-hand man. But the ten-year-old Sitara’s world is shattered when communists stage a coup, assassinating the president and Sitara’s entire family. Only she survives. 

Smuggled out of the palace by a guard named Shair, Sitara finds her way to the home of a female American diplomat, who adopts her and raises her in America. In her new country, Sitara takes on a new name—Aryana Shepherd—and throws herself into her studies, eventually becoming a renowned surgeon. A survivor, Aryana has refused to look back, choosing instead to bury the trauma and devastating loss she endured. 

New York, 2008: Thirty years after that fatal night in Kabul, Aryana’s world is rocked again when an elderly patient appears in her examination room—a man she never expected to see again. It is Shair, the soldier who saved her, yet may have murdered her entire family. Seeing him awakens Aryana’s fury and desire for answers—and, perhaps, revenge. Realizing that she cannot go on without finding the truth, Aryana embarks on a quest that takes her back to Kabul—a battleground between the corrupt government and the fundamentalist Taliban—and through shadowy memories of the world she loved and lost. 

Bold, illuminating, heartbreaking, yet hopeful, Sparks Like Stars is a story of home—of America and Afghanistan, tragedy and survival, reinvention and remembrance, told in Nadia Hashimi’s singular voice.

My Thoughts

I signed up for this blog tour weeks ago when the world seemed a more stable place so I was concerned that my current emotions would have a negative impact on how I viewed this novel because I expected I’d struggle to read about more troubling times and horror. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This novel is special. I instantly made a connection with mischievous young Sitara as she gazed at stars and studied the constellations and was sucked into her world. Seen through a child’s eyes, the horrific events of 1978 are heart stopping but the book is littered with the wisdom of her father and others throughout. These little gems not only helped Sitara get through but provided me with moments of calm and hope. Current world events made this book more meaningful and drew me in further. I couldn’t put this book down; full of tension, emotion and love I needed to know what happened next as it explored important topics of grief, guilt and trauma.

To my shame, my knowledge of Afghanistan was limited to the news, but Nadia Hashimi’s words gave me a much-needed history lesson and insight into the region’s complex politics that’s still relevant today. She brought the beauty of the palaces, gardens, settings and culture to life making it more shocking to read the devastating events of a coup and beyond. All the characters have depth and vibrancy. I won’t be forgetting Tilly, Boba or Sitara in a hurry.

The most recent timeline in the story is 2008 with the depicted Afghanistan showing hope and a more positive future so I couldn’t help but wonder what the places discussed are like now and what impact last year’s events would have on Arayana.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes. I know many people are seeking an escape in uplifting, cosy reads at the moment, as I was before I read this, but I’m so glad I didn’t shy away from reading when the world made a horrifying turn with the Ukraine war. It is an eye opening, emotional and beautifully written novel that gave me an insight into a different Afghanistan than the one represented on the news and its beauty and characters have captured my heart.

This is a book for my forever shelf and I’ll hold the wise words of Sitara’s father close as they have given me something hopeful to cling to in these troubling times.

Author Biography

Photo of Nadia Hashimi
Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, surburbs. She is the author of three books for adults, as well as the middle grade novels One Half from the East and The Sky at Our Feet.

Website: www.nadiahashimi.com

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy reading and stay safe!

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

Today’s review is for the gorgeous The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield, a magical novel based in the time running up to the French Revolution.

Book Review: The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

Book Cover for The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield
The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

Title: The Embroidered Book

Author: Kate Heartfield

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy, historical

Release Date: 17th February 2022

Blurb

‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’

 1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.

The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless.

When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences. In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives. But every spell requires a sacrifice.

 And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

My Thoughts

Harper Voyager excel at designing book covers that catch your eye and lure you in as if they are enchanted like many of the articles in this book. The cover made me need this book even before I became intrigued by the blurb. I love books with a magical twist but my European history is dire and my knowledge of Marie Antoinette is patchy so I did worry the plot would go over my head. I love historical fiction but with an attention span of a gnat, I have a tendency to get confused. There was no need for my concerns. With a list of main characters at the front and immersive plot I was thrown into the lives of Charlotte and Antoinette after they discover  an embroidered book of magic. The spectacular blend of magic, history and sense of place kept me enthralled.

It is an epic read of 656 pages where the two sisters have to journey through the complex politics of these turbulent times while balancing family and societal expectations when their central reason is to do anything is to do the best for their respective countries. It’s told with empathy and made me consider questions about power, class and influence.

The palaces and characters were brought to life and it was a highly visual experience reading it and would make a wonderful tv series under the right director.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes, The Embroidered Book is one to read, keep and treasure. It is as beautiful inside as out and though it’s a work of fiction it gave me a platform to build my knowledge of this era while I was immersed in magic. Full of imagination, magical world building overlaid by historical fact it is a must for fans of both history and fantasy.

It is a book for my forever shelf and will be popular for visitors to the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf.

Author Biography

Photo of Kate Heartfield
Kate Heartfield

Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022. Her debut novel won Canada’s Aurora Award, and her novellas, stories and games have been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, Sunburst and Aurora awards. A former journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: The Runes – Grounding in Northern Magic by James Flowerdew

My first introduction to runes was at the Jorvick centre in York as a child and they invoked a sense of mystery and magic, yet the pouch of runes I have had for the last 20 years have sat in my drawer unused. Unlike tarot cards which felt instinctive, I’ve never really connected with them and the booklet they came with was dry and hard to grasp. When I saw this book, I hoped it would allow me to learn about my runes in a constructive way. Scroll down to see if this was achieved.

Book Review: The Runes, Grounding in Northern Magic by James Flowerdew

Title: The Runes A Grounding in Northern Magic

Author: James Flowerdew

Publisher: The Magic Road

Genre: SPIRITUAL / MAGIC / MYTHOS

Release Date: 23rd September 2021

Purchase: Amazon

ISBN: 9780993227226 (PAPERBACK)
ISBN: 9781914090455 (EBOOK)

Blurb

The runes are more than an ancient alphabet. They are a key to the wisdom of the ancient peoples that used them in both language and magic.

THE RUNES, A Grounding in Northern Magic by James Flowerdew aims to help you on your first steps to divining with The Runes and using the magic of these ancient peoples. Actual practical success and failure is also shared candidly in the hope that the reader can learn in a safe and steady manner. All combined into a neat guide to Runic practices and the inner workings of this ancient alphabet.

Full of direct references to ancient texts, as well as ripping yarns and poignant anecdotes, this book demonstrates Rune magic and the underlying principles and culture that inform it, as well as some general magical practices.

This guide helps make sure that the reader’s first steps into Runic mysticism are on solid ground and allows everyone who wishes to work with The Runes to make intelligent choices of their own.

My Thoughts

First off, this book is beautiful with many illustrations which are a delight to look at and along with stories help make the information enclosed more accessible. The book goes beyond what each rune means, for very good reasons. Runes are complex items and not something to use lightly, as James Flowerdew discusses. He gives a balanced overview of the runes history, including their dark uses in the second world war and the far right, as well as where runes fit in magical systems and whether runes are right for you. There are then clear instructions on the runes’ uses and magic.

There is a lot of information to take in, but the tone and language takes a topic that from my experience can be dry and complicated into something understandable, interesting and highly readable. It has left me wanting to learn more.  

This book maybe titled The Runes, but it offers so much more, including discussions on the Pagan ideas surrounding the runes and the different gods. This book has left me feeling more positive and less daunted about using my runes, especially now I know instead of them being an elitist tool, runes were for the everyday person.

Would I recommend?

Yes, if you are a beginner interested in runes and Northern magic or more experienced, this is a book to read. It went beyond my expectations and gave a balanced insight into not only the meanings of the runes but their history, connections to the gods, and their uses. With stunning illustrations, it was a joy to read and a book I know I’ll return to again and again.

With its connections to magic, the North and divination, this will be a hit with the visitors to The Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf.

Author Biography

James Flowerdew

Discovering the runes in his early teens, James is an avid folklorist and historian with a particular focus on ancient pagan cultures.
He is a practising neo-pagan with an emphasis on the Northern Tradition, but likes to see that as part of a larger global discourse that spans back to Neolithic times and hopefully distantly into the future.
Trained as an artist and illustrator, James Flowerdew currently writes and paints in Edinburgh.

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Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Unravelling by Helen Forbes

Today I’m excited to share a book that made me glad I was a book blogger. There are so many books out there making it easy to miss some gems but because of the invite to the blog tour of Unravelling by Helen Forbes I found one.

Book Review: Unravelling by Helen Forbes

Book cover: Unravelling by Helen Forbes
Unravelling by Helen Forbes

Title: Unravelling

Author: Helen Forbes

Publisher: Scolpaig Press

Genre: Crime, Psychological thriller

Release Date: 15th July 2021

Purchase: UK https://amzn.to/3hDz8EJ / US https://amzn.to/2XqDZlU

Blurb

A forest of secrets 

Two bodies are found buried in a Highland forest, a place that haunts the dreams of Kate Sharp. Her mother, Ellen, died when Kate was a child. Does the forest hold the secret to her death? 

A secret journal 

Kate discovers her mother’s journal, and the tale of a tragic unravelling begins to unfold. Ellen’s story is one of fear and hope, love and loss, set against the imposing background of Craig Dunain, a psychiatric hospital where she should have been safe.  

Unravelling the truth 

Someone else from Ellen’s past is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them. Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search. Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?  

Beautifully written, cleverly plotted, and meticulously researched, Unravelling is a captivating tale of family secrets. 

My Thoughts

This is a book with depth and soul. While I was reading Kate’s story as she grieves for her grandmother, and discovers secrets from her mum’s past, I tried to pinpoint what the theme of this novel was. Was it a crime, thriller or family drama? When I began Ellen’s story it hit me, it’s all of those things but fundamentally it is the story of a mother and daughter and the bond that exists between them even when they are separated by grief and time.  

It was Ellen’s story which focuses on her time in Craig Dunain, the psychiatric hospital that changed my view that this was a 4 star book; I would have to give it a 5. It captivated me with the characters, deep insight into Ellen’s mind when she suffers from episodes of schizophrenia and paranoia, and the atmosphere of the hospital. It felt real and made an emotional impact on me.

The tension increased as the secrets of the past were revealed and people from the past collide with the present.  I couldn’t put it down.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes. Unravelling is an emotional, immersive and powerful thriller with an authentic voice that gives an insight into schizophrenia and life in an institute. Ellen and her world will forever be in my heart and influence how I see things in the future.

The topics of trauma, PTSD, and abuse are dealt with sensitively, but they are impactful so if you are a reader that these maybe a trigger I would avoid.

Author Biography

Author Helen Forbes
Helen Forbes

Crime fiction was not what lawyer, Helen Forbes, expected to write.  As a single parent and mature law student, she used her limited spare time to write contemporary and historical fiction.  It was a chance remark at a writing club that led her to develop a short story into her debut crime novel, In the Shadow of the Hill, featuring DS Joe Galbraith. The novel is set in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and it was described in one newspaper review as having ‘more twists and turns than the road to the isles, making it impossible to put down.’  The novel and characters proved popular with readers, leading to the publication of a second book in the DS Joe Galbraith series. Madness Lies is set in Inverness and North Uist.  Helen has now taken to crime with a passion, and has published two psychological thrillers. Unravelling is set in Inverness, against the background of a former psychiatric hospital. Deception is set in Edinburgh, and tackles the themes of domestic violence, prostitution and trafficking. Helen has also completed a further thriller set in Edinburgh, which she hopes to publish in 2022. Queen of Grime’s main character is a crime and trauma scene cleaner with a big secret. It is gritty and dark, but also funny and uplifting. Helen hopes to expand Queen of Grime into a series.

Social Media Links –

Facebook Author Page https://bit.ly/3mzghfD

Twitter https://twitter.com/foreva48

Website https://www.helenforbes.co.uk/

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

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All about Books, Book review

Book Review: A Plethora of Phantoms

Book Review: A Plethora of Phantoms

Book Cover for A Plethora of Phantoms
A Plethora of Phantoms by Penny Hampson

Title: A Plethora of Phantoms

Author: Penny Hampson

Publisher: Dark Stroke

Genre: Ghost, LGBTQA romance

Release Date: 20th December 2021

Purchase: http://mybook.to/plethoraofphantoms

Blurb

What makes Freddie shiver? Is it the spooky happenings in his family’s stately home? Or is it Marcus, the handsome antique dealer who Freddie thinks he can’t have?

Freddie Lanyon has it all: a loving family, a privileged background, and a stately home filled with antiques. What his family don’t know is that Freddie is desperately unhappy.

Troubled by spirits that only he can see, Freddie Lanyon, the heir to Lanyon Park, is also in denial about his sexuality. It takes a meeting with handsome and psychic antique dealer, Marcus Spender, to convince Freddie that he might need to change. 

When Freddie’s latest purchase of an antique dressing case triggers fresh poltergeist activity, he is awakened each night by an anguished spirit seeking help. Contacting the previous owner of the dressing case leads Freddie and Marcus on a journey to Cornwall, but what starts out as a straightforward quest soon turns into a challenge to their growing relationship.

Will Freddie’s restless spectral visitor be finally laid to rest? And will Freddie find the courage to be true to himself at last?

My Thoughts

I loved this paranormal romantic novel for the acceptance by the protagonist, Freddie, that ghosts are real. It gave the book an added authenticity and allowed the story to develop quickly without him having to overcome his disbelief that the strange goings on maybe of supernatural origin. I also enjoyed the main spectre having an obsession with tidiness rather than destruction. It was a refreshing change.

Freddie was a believable character and I could feel his distress at not only keeping his psychic ability secret but also not being comfortable coming out because of his title and aristocratic heritage. The friendship and chemistry between him and Marcus made me turn the page as they went on a quest to dig into the history of the dressing case. I’ve read The Unquiet Spirit, her previous book and liked the connection between Freddie and its characters. Overlapping characters always add depth to a novel and helps immerse the reader into the fictional the world. I’m looking forward to reading more novels in this series.

Would I recommend?

Yes. Discovering the history behind the ghost rich manor and chemistry between the two heroes is a joy to read and pure spooky romantic escapism. It’s ideal weekend reading or for evening after a stressful day.

It’s on for the bookshelf at The Enchanted Emporium and will be fought over by the ghosts and witches in the Witch’s Yard.

Author Biography

Author Penny Hampson
Penny Hampson

Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and  three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a  historical mystery/romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

For more on Penny’s writing, visit her blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/

Twitter: @penny_hampson

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pennyhampsonauthor

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

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