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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

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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Book Review: The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson

It’s only a week until the book I’m reviewing is released and I can’t wait any longer especially when I’ve seen on social media the unique signed copies that are available at Tea leaves and Reads and Bert’s books. If you like the sound of The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson and need to treat yourself, you may want to pop over to pre-order soon. Scroll down to see why I’m excited about this romantic novel.

Photo of quirky signed copies of The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson

Book Review: The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson

Book cover The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson
The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson

Title: The Start of Something

Author: Miranda Dickinson

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Romance

Release Date: 3rd February 2021

Spotify playlist: https://t.co/S79z2ICdAP

Purchase:

Tea Leaves and Reads – March book box

Bert’s Books – signed copy

Amazon – Kindle

Blurb

Lachlan Wallace is stuck at home after a car accident stalled his army career. With months of physiotherapy still to endure and only his rescue dog and cat for company, he’s taken to gazing out of the window, watching the world spin on without him. And then he notices a vase of flowers on the windowsill of the apartment opposite his. Drawn to their hope and colour, he decides to reach out and sticks a message in his window…

Bethan Gwynne is a stranger in a new town. Bringing up her son Noah by herself, she is slowly rebuilding her life, but loneliness is one obstacle she has yet to overcome. She’s intrigued by a glimpse of her neighbour in the apartment across from hers – and then, one evening, she sees a message in his window just for her:

WHAT ARE THOSE FLOWERS CALLED?

And so begins a love story of two people reaching out, daring to trust a stranger…

My Thoughts

I discovered this book by chance when I came across Miranda’s Chatty Night on Facebook and she was discussing it.* I was excited to be accepted for an advanced copy and had high expectations for it and I wasn’t disappointed. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

As someone who has been shielding throughout the pandemic, this novel hit a nerve; the loneliness of being in four walls is gripping despite having had years of being used to living in a reduced environment and this book captured the feelings well. Simple things like seeing flowers in the window or a surprise letter can make a huge difference to the day. They add excitement and a sense of belonging. As soon as Lachlan and Bethan began communicating via letters in the window I was invested in their relationship.

Bethan and her flowers brought light and sunshine to the novel despite her challenges, but it was Lachlan I connected with. His emotions around his accident and situation took me back to the early days of my illness and disability. His feelings were captured well.

There are many memorable characters but one who stood out is Noah. With his stone collecting dragons, he shone. Life and books are always better with dragons.

I enjoyed watching the relationship between Bethan and Lachlan grow but I did have to stop reading midway as my heart ached too much.  I could see what may happen and I didn’t want either of them to be hurt.

Would I recommend?

Yes,  Miranda Dickinson has the ability to tap into the characters and bring them alive so they connect to the reader. The Start of Something is an uplifting story of loneliness and hope and reminds you small changes and reaching out to others can make a big difference. Loneliness is crippling for many, and has been heightened in the last couple of years, so Bethan and Lachlan’s tale shows a way forward; It is possible to improve people’s lives and communities with simple gestures and love.

I loved this book for its message, the characters who will be forever in my heart and on my bookshelf when I receive my physical copy. The Start of Something may not be accepted on the Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf but it will be the first book in the upcoming Rosa’s Box of Romance so the customers of The Enchanted Emporium can enjoy and spread the word.

 *If you ever need an hour of fun and bookish chat and community, pop over to Miranda’s Facebook page on Weds night – it’s a uplifting treat.

Author Biography

Photo of Miranda Dickinson holding The Start of Something
Miranda Dickinson

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. Born in Wolverhampton, in The Black Country, West Midlands, she grew up in Kingswinford and dreamed of one day writing a book that would reach the heady heights of Kingswinford Library… Her first novel, Fairytale of New York (2009) was discovered on Authonomy.com – HarperCollins’ site for unpublished authors. Within three weeks of its release, Fairytale of New York had entered the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers List, where it remained for five weeks – making it the world’s first crowd-sourced bestseller. The novel was also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 at the Pure Passion Awards.

Miranda is a six-times Sunday Times Bestseller, with Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take a Look at Me Now, I’ll Take New York, A Parcel for Anna Browne and Searching for a Silver Lining, a Christmas novella, Christmas in St Ives, is a festive treat and prequel to her ninth novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea. The Day We Meet Again has won critical acclaim and is much loved by readers, most recently publishing in the US and Canada, taking her words Stateside for the first time.

Miranda is an international bestseller in four countries and her books have been translated into sixteen languages. To date, she has sold one million books worldwide. Her latest book is Our Story, out now.

Miranda is the founder of WriteFoxy – resources, vlogs and inspiration writing days for writers of all ages and abilities. Her popular vlogs feature her own publishing journey for each new novel, together with advice for authors and lots and lots of hats!

Miranda lives in Dudley with her husband, Bob and daughter, Flo. She is also a singer-songwriter and recently released her first solo album, About Time.

Social media

WEB: www.miranda-dickinson.com
MUSIC: www.soundcloud.com/mirandadickinson FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/MirandaDickinsonAuthor INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/wurdsmyth
BLOG: www.coffeeandroses.blogspot.com
STORIES: www.septembers-cafe.blogspot.com
TWITTER: www.twitter.com/wurdsmyth

Thank you HQ Stories providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews

Today I’m pleased to share my book review for a historical fiction novel The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews.

Book Review: The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews

Book cover for the The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews
The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews

Title: The Hidden Village

Author: Imogen Matthews

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Historical fiction

Release Date: 17th Jan 2022

Purchase: https://geni.us/B09LVLB82Fsocial

Blurb

A Nazi soldier slams his rifle into her father’s head. From her hiding place, Sofie stifles a scream as tears roll down her face. Suddenly she can’t take it any more. ‘Stop, stop!’ she sobs, rushing out and pushing the soldier away. And then freezes, as he snarls and whips the gun round to point at her…

Holland, 1943: the Nazis are in occupation. German soldiers patrol the streets, and each week more families disappear without trace, never to be seen again. So when armed soldiers storm Sofie’s house and threaten her father at gunpoint, she knows their time – and luck – has run out.

Fleeing in the middle of the night to hide in a neighbour’s secret attic, the constant threat of a German raid means they can’t stay long. So Sofie’s parents make the heart-rending decision to send their daughter away. Concealed in the woods is a secret village, built by the town as a haven for Jewish families like Sofie’s. Remote, cold and bleak, yet filled with the hopeful laughter of children playing, it is the one place Sofie has the chance to live.

But rumours of the hidden village have been swirling, and the Nazis are determined to find it. As soldiers patrol the woods in ever-greater numbers, snow cuts the villagers off from the outside world and starvation sets in. Sofie knows what she must do, even though it means putting herself in danger. And when the worst happens, Sofie is faced with a terrible decision – save the village, or save herself…

An absolutely heart-breaking and gripping WWII historical novel based on the true story of an entire town who put themselves in danger to keep strangers safe. What happens will restore your faith in humanity. Fans of Fiona Valpy, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice will never forget this incredibly moving tale and the real-life heroes who inspired it.

My Thoughts

It is not often I read historical fiction unless it is in a dual timeline, but this book begged to be read. A friend has Norwegian roots and listening to her family stories made me interested in reading more about this time. The Hidden Village threw me straight into the action with children playing innocently and Germans approaching the village. I continued reading with a sense of trepidation because we all know the atrocities they bring with them.

Told in third person, this story focuses on three main characters; young Jan who is still in his childhood but longs to be seen as older, Sofie a teenager whose future is looking bright until she is forced to hide and Sara Jan’s mother, whose husband helps set up the hidden village. The three viewpoints give a good overview of life because of their different stages of their lives and place in the community. Through Sofie’s eyes we see live in the forest, Sara experiences the goings on in the town battling to keep the Jews safe and Jan is a go between connecting the two.

Community is a key theme in this novel and despite the never ending threat of discovery, it was uplifting to read how powerful this sense of community was, which enabled the village to stay safe and fed during this time. Though the novel was harrowing in places, it was never graphic in it’s portrayal of the Nazi brutality and relied on the reader’s imagination and description of the sounds of hobnailed boots on floorboards to rank up the tension.  

The villagers’ loss of liberty and possessions and having to rebuild a community made me reflect on the important things in my life and be more grateful for what I have.

Would I recommend?

Yes, The Hidden Village gives a fascinating insight into life in Holland during the second World War and shows the horror of the time and the courage displayed by those who stood up against the evil of the Nazi regime. It is uplifting and shows love, and everyday things and emotions still occurred despite the dangerous threat of discovery. Perfect for those who love historical fiction and WW2 memoirs.

Author Biography

Imogen Matthews

Imogen Matthews writes novels based on true stories about the Netherlands during the German occupation in World War 2. Some stories she discovered by chance, others are based on her Dutch mother’s own experiences of hardship and survival during the Hunger Winter of 1944-45.

Her first novel, The Hidden Village, is set in the Veluwe woods, a beautiful part of Holland that Imogen has visited frequently over the past 30 years. It was in these woods that she discovered the story of the real hidden village which provided shelter in underground huts for Jews during WW2. Imogen retells the story of the hidden village with characters drawn from real life and from her imagination.

Within weeks of publication in 2017, The Hidden Village became an international bestseller, ranking at the top of a number Amazon’s most-read book lists.

Following on from The Hidden Village comes Hidden in the Shadows, which has the pace of a thriller yet is also a love story. It tells the story about two young people who are brutally torn apart and must find a way to be together against all odds.

Imogen’s third WW2 novel, The Girl Across the Wire Fence, is set in Amersfoort, Netherlands, and is based on the unforgettable tale of two young lovers who risked everything to keep hope alive in the very depths of hell – the little known Dutch concentration camp called Kamp Amersfoort.

Imogen’s WW2 novels are published by Bookouture, a digital imprint of Hachette.

Learn more about Imogen’s story in this video: https://youtu.be/2YO0IWJSjj0

Author social media

www.imogenmatthewsbooks.com

Facebook: @theHiddenVillagenovel

Twitter: @ImogenMatthews3

Thank you Bookouture 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: The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

My first book review of the year is a book I looked forward to ever since I knew it was written, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman. This is book four and the conclusion of the Practical Magic series but with a witchy world full of wonderful characters with many backstories to explore a reader can always wish for more.

Book Review: The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Book cover for The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Title: A Book of Magic

Author: Alice Hoffman

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: fiction, fantasy, witchlit

Release Date: 6th Jan 2022

Blurb

‘Full of Hoffman’s bewitching and lucid prose and vivid characters, The Book of Magic is ultimately about the very human magic of family and love and actions that echo through generations… it casts a spell’  —Matt Haig

THE STUNNING, UNFORGETTABLE CONCLUSION TO THE BELOVED PRACTICAL MAGIC SERIES

For centuries, the Owens family has been cursed in matters of love. When beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the sound of the deathwatch beetle, she knows that it is a signal. She has finally discovered the secret to breaking the curse, but time is running out. She has only seven days to live.

Unaware of the family’s witchcraft lineage and all it entails, one of the young sisters of the new Owens generation has fallen in love. As the curse strikes once again, her love’s fate hangs in the balance, spurring three generations of Owens to venture back to where it all began and use their gifts to break the spell that has marked all their lives.

But doing so threatens to destroy everything the family has fought so hard to protect. How much will they give up for the greatest gift of all?

My Thoughts

I had high hopes for this book, and it didn’t let me down. From the moment Jet heard the death-watch beetle and begins a mission to stop the 300-year-old curse for good, I was hooked back into the world where reality is blended seamlessly with magic to discover whether this could be achieved.

The Rules of Magic, which follows the siblings Franny, Jet and Vincent, is my favourite novel in the series so I loved meeting them again, even if they were in their 80s. The journey to find a cure for the Owens’ curse brings the characters to Essex in England, and the descriptions and sense of place reignited my desire to visit there. It has been on my literary tour wishlist since I read Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine.

The strength of these books are the original characterisation, depth of magical world building and the lyrical prose that is littered with references to herbal references. This all adds to the central witchy theme.

It is a strong conclusion to a series about curses, forbidden love and redemption and this one in particular is an ode to books and libraries.

Though it could be read out of sequence, you will enjoy it more and be less confused with the multitude of characters if read in order. This could be done in order of the release dates  – Practical MagicThe Rules of MagicMagic LessonsThe Book of Magic – or chronologically –Magic LessonsThe Rules of MagicPractical MagicThe Book of Magic.

Would I recommend?

If like me and those at The Enchanted Emporium you love books about magic, witches and books, this is a series to read. With magical prose and storytelling, a unique collection of characters and immersive worldbuilding this novel gives a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful tale of revenge, love and redemption.

I look forward to having a physical copy on my forever bookshelf for rereads and I know as soon as a copy is put on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf, it will be on permanent loan by the witches of Whitby and beyond.

Thank you Simon and Schuster via NetGalley providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Have you read this series or watched the film Practical Magic starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock? Let me know in the comments below.

Trailer for Practical Magic

Happy reading!

Love