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Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

The witches at the Enchanted Emporium have posted their last review of the year and it is a beautiful and dark book to end with. With scheming gods, a frozen Russian landscape and an unforgettable hero, Baba Yaga it has to be one of my favourite novels this year.

The Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf

This is the last review of the year unless another book sneaks in from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. A stunning copy of The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore arrived on the bookshelf courtesy of Random Things Tours. As usual, when a witchy book arrives there was a scrabble between the staff to see who would read it first. Willow won.

Scroll down to see her unbiased and honest review.

Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Book cover for The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore Jade coloured background with gold lettering, gold stats and white snowflakes. A black stylisied crow flies in the sky and a nordic black house is at the bottom with white fir trees.

Title: The Witch and the Tsar

Author: Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Historical fantasy, folklore

Release Date: 8th December 2023

Blurb

As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread…

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Monday Merry Meet: Heidi Swain

The witches and Rosa of the Enchanted Emporium have been busy in the last few weeks sharing their reviews on some wonderful reads and chatting to authors including Heidi Swain on Halloween. If you’d like to catch up with all the gossip of the shop, grab a cuppa and head over to their blog. They’d love you to say hello

The Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf

Happy Samhain! The witches’ favourite time of year. It’s also the only day they wear the iconic witch’s pointy hat. While Willow dons a black hat that shimmers purple in the Emporium’s lights, Amber’s is a more subdued affair. Made of brown felt, it is battered, twisted and entwined with autumnal leaves and toadstools.

Both are ready for trick or treaters that maybe brave enough to wander down Black Cat Alley for some of sweets including Willow’s homemade enchanted lollies. Lucky for them, she refused Amber’s suggestion to hex a few to keep things interesting.

The emporium’s shop window is a blaze with flickering pumpkins, shrouded with cultivated cobwebs, the ghosts are enjoying the possibility they maybe seen. Vincent, the large ginger Maine Coon and ghostly Black Cat are on guard waiting for their special guest, Heidi Swain.

This Sunday Times bestselling author is one of Rosa’s favourite writers so…

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Monday Merry Meet: Rachel Burge

Down at the Enchanted Emporium the witches of Whitby, Willow and Amber are chatting to author Rachel Burge about their book, Waking the Witch, writing and the Arthurian legend that inspired the YA novel.

Every Monday they chat to another author so why not subscribe to their blog so you don’t miss out on the gossip and writing advice.

I’m hoping next year, you’ll be able to read Willow’s story, A Blend of Magic and meet the team properly.

The Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf

Ever since we read Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge, we’ve been wanting to know more about the author and how the story came about. So imagine our joy when Rachel Burge popped in for a drink at the Emporium.

Why not grab yourself a cuppa and take a break to catch up with her too?

A mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream, pumpkin and leaves illustration
Pumpkin and coffee by Image by Irina Alex from Pixabay

Monday Merry Meet: Rachel Burge

Willow: Hi Rachel, come through to the back and have a seat if you can find one. Sorry for mess. Amber has been creating the perfect pumpkin for the window display and we have an excess of them everywhere. In fact, you can take a pumpkin or two with you when you go home, if you’d like?

Amber: Carving pumpkins isn’t as easy as I thought and seeds and gloop go everywhere. If you let me use magic…

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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

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Book Review: My Christmas Number One by Leonie Mack

This book stands out as one of the best Christmas novels I have on my shelf for its chemistry between characters, musicality, portrayal of disability and vibrant location. I can’t wait to see what Leonie Mack writes next.

From Under the Duvet

I am excited to finally share my review for My Christmas Number One by Leonie Mack. I had planned to post my review late last month but when I was given an audio copy to listen to, I jumped at the chance. Scroll down to see if Amazon’s claim this book is ‘The perfect uplifting festive romance for 2020’ is true.

Book Review: My Christmas Number One by Leonie Mack

My Christmas Number One by Leonie Mack

Title: My Christmas Number One

Author: Leonie Mack

Narrator: Gloria Sanders

Publisher: Boldwood Books and Boldwood Books Audio UK

Release date: 10th September 2020

Genre: festive women’s fiction, romance

Blurb

There’s nothing quite like a Christmas love story, to get you in the mood for celebrating…Cara doesn’t do sexy and she only does ‘Happy Christmas’ under duress. She is, after all, a serious musician, and her stubborn streak is born from her…

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