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

Uncategorized

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…

View original post 561 more words

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, flash fiction, Short story, Uncategorized, Writing journey

Flash fiction for #DystoniaAroundThe World: The Priest Hole

Yesterday night, I limped over the 200 miles of writing milestone so I am sharing with you, The Priest Hole, the first tale from Mexenby Hall. It’s publication is much later than I imagined but dystonia is predictably unpredictable and I should have realised as soon as I pledged to write 1000 miles the #DystoniaAroundTheWorld challenge it would fight back in the worst way by affecting my vision. Days have been lost but like all travellers on an epic adventure, I am just moving forwards one step at a time.

Flash Fiction: The Priest Hole by Kate Kenzie

 

candlelight-1077638_1920

Darkness cloaked the narrow passageway. The small candle’s flame flickered with every exhalation and cast little light as Nell gingerly eased herself towards the steep spiralling steps. Her worn uniform and thin borrowed shawl offered little protection against the bitter cold emanating from the damp stone walls.

The privilege Nell felt earlier when summoned to the Great Hall and took into the Lady’s confidence after only a few weeks of employment seeped away as the walls constricted and the rising stench of unemptied chamber pots forced her to question her easy compliance. The Lady hid her true faith well. Any rumours rippling through the staff of clandestine visits from the cast out priest were quickly stamped on by the sharp tongue or slap from Cook and the staff’s forced attendance to the dreary church service every Sunday while the Lady stood in the family pew crushed any lingering doubts. Nell never guessed until she heard the simple request and now she wanted to return to the warm wood panelled room with the crackling fire she lit earlier to retract her agreement, but the clunk of the entrance closing sealed her fate.

Clutching her bundle close to her pounding chest, she swallowed down the wave of nausea, licked her dry lips, and rolled back her shoulders; she could do this and stepped down into the abyss. The twisting staircase plummeted into the depths of the property and she wondered whether the priest had traded the raging flames of Hell he feared for an icy, stagnant equivalent. A hacking cough echoed upwards. She froze and listened. Would the sound penetrate the thick walls of Mexenby Hall and alert the visitors to his presence? Would it lead to his violent demise? And hers? She made the sign of the cross with the candle and prayed. It remained silent except for a shuffling below. He was close. Nell hastened her descent: the sooner she delivered the bundle, the sooner her role as a small cog in the bigger machine would be complete and she could retreat to safety.

The dancing flame illuminated the bare and compact room. A dark shape rose from the corner, uncurling itself to reveal a bent figure hidden beneath a thick cloak. A hand clawed with arthritis beckoned her over. Fear grabbed Nell and the words announcing the arrival of food caught in her constricted throat. She wanted to flee, scramble up the way she came but her feet refused to comply. A cold draft wrapped itself around her ankles, shackling her to the ground as the figure approached.

“Come child,” it crooned. The voice was smooth and mesmerising. “You have nothing to fear. Not you.”

The hand grasped hers. Nell pulled, but the hand clenched hers tighter into a vice grip.  Nell’s eyes widened; the hood flung back,  revealing an elderly woman whose mass of white hair was braided into a long tail, and her blue eyes pierced deep into Nell’s soul, pinning her into place. A searing heat radiated up her arm. The bundle fell to the floor, unravelling, sending small loaf and apple rolling into a puddle. The scurry of small feet told her it had not gone unnoticed, but Nell could not take her eyes off the woman before her. The Old Crone of Mexenby. A legend of nightmares and fairy tales. A toothless smile emerged from the folds of the wrinkled face.

“It’s true. They don’t lie, even when the truth feels impossible. They don’t lie. You are the one. The one that can save us all.”

steps-1153008_1920

 

You can find out more about the dystonia challenge to raise awareness for dystonia and keep up to date on my progress here. Here is to the next 100 miles and hopefully I will be a step closer to reaching my target of £250.

Happy writing and stay safe!

Love

just Kate

Dystonia UK: https://www.dystonia.org.uk/

My fundraising page: https://www.dystoniaaroundtheworld.org/fundraiser/katekenzie

My team’s progress: https://www.dystoniaaroundtheworld.org/fundraisers/dunedystoniauknortheast

Uncategorized

A Writer’s Life: After Rejections A Magical Boost

Rejections are part of a writer’s journey. We have all heard about how hard it is to find an agent or publisher for the manuscript you have spent hours on and given part of your soul to write but I don’t think anyone quite prepares you for emotions you feel when one arrives in your inbox. This time last year, the idea I would have a complete manuscript to submit seemed unlikely. I had received positive feedback from my first 1:1s at the RNA conference, but my word count was lacking. With The End now reached and submissions to agents began the dreaded rejections have appeared in my inbox. I thought I was prepared after listening to agents and publishers talk about the criteria and slush pile, but I was amazed at how low you feel when you read the words it’s not for us. Thankfully, I have my tribe of writers to rely on to lift the mood and remember each rejection is a rite of passage in the transformation of becoming an author. As they stack up, it is proof I have finished my book and had the courage to send it off into the world. It is a sign of how far I have come from; in my local writing group I was scared to say my name, never mind share my work with others, and now I can chat about my characters and read aloud my flash fiction.* Rather than aspiring to be a writer, I am one. Next step up the ladder is the coveted title – author.

 

*I am still scared to speak to people I don’t know, but that is another work in progress.

 

My reward for finishing A Blend of Magic – a painting of The Enchanted Emporium by Jess Titcombe

 

Another way to battle the low after receiving a rejections is to highlight and collect the positives you have heard about your work. Stick them in a file,  a book or copy them on a trusty post-it note to remind yourself someone liked it or loved a character.  A comment I have nearby from my NWS reader:

Everything needed for a cracking good story is here in this full length draft.

Along with the positive feedback from my first beta reader, it gives me hope that with polish and changes it can become a novel readers can enjoy.

 

How do you deal with rejections? All tips are welcome.

Stay safe, keep writing and reading!

Love

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Book Review: Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye

From Under the Duvet

Christmas is not Christmas without reading or watching A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The Muppets version starring Michael Caine is traditionally watched on Christmas Eve by the whole family but other versions are watched too throughout the month. On 1st December, I take my illustrated version of the tale off my forever shelf for its annual read. This well-known story is perfect for Christmas with its cruel villain, lessons on love and redemption as well as its powerful festive imagery. So I jumped with glee when I was offered the chance to read the prequel Miss Marley: A Christmas Ghost Story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Miss Marley Miss Marley: A Christmas Ghost Story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol

Title: Miss Marley: A Christmas Ghost Story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol

Author: Vanessa Lafaye

Genre: Festive, general fiction

Publisher: HQ

Release date: 1st Nov…

View original post 552 more words