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Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Wow, what an amazing book. I have been intrigued by stories about women and their lives in Afghanistan and the Middle East for years. This one was a mix of an incredible story, or shall I say two stories of parallel lives a century apart, and the nightmare which is the life of many women in that nation. When I read these stories, I am incredibly grateful that I was born into the nation of Canada where women are treated as equals and have the same rights as men.

Can you imagine a life where you are completely under the rule of the male of the household? Can you imagine a life where you are not allowed to go out even to shop for food without a male companion? And what do you do if there are no men in your life? Well, you can starve to death. Can you imagine a life where if you violate laws you will be executed, stoned to death? Take a moment and imagine yourself in that situation. They are throwing rocks at you, hitting you and inflicting incredible pain upon your body, over and over until you are finally knocked out and killed. Good grief! What kind of world is that?

This story has all of it in it. The stoning, the fears, the loss of freedom, the beatings, the hopes and desires for something better. All mixed in together and covering more than just one woman’s life. The year is 2007 and the place is Kabul under the Taliban. Rahima is a young girl whose family is ruled by a drug-addicted father. The girls of the family rarely get to go out or to school. So they resort to an age-old tradition which personally, I had no idea existed. They dress Rahima up as a boy and send her out into the world as a male member of the family. The tradition is called bacha posh. But because Rahima learns all about the freedoms of men, she is almost ruined when she goes through puberty and suddenly finds herself married to a much older rebel fighter, a warrior who has successfully defeated Taliban. Her life descends into a living hell.

This is one of the best books I have ever read, especially one which outlines the day-to-day life of the average Afghanistan woman and their cultures and thought processes. It’s almost an ethnological study of their world. If you want to know what’s really going on in Afghanistan from a guts level, this is the book for you.

And, bottom line, this was extremely well written. Nice job for a first time author. Well written, well developed. Nice timing and flow. As an editor and crazed literary reader, I give it a five star rating. I couldn’t give it any less. ***** This isn’t just a story, it’s the kind of book which should be studied in school. I remember those kind. They were often life changing. This is one of those books. I plan to read her others.

Amazon.com Blurb:

“Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi’s literary debut novel is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate that combines the cultural flavour and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.
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?”

I hope you will seek out a copy and read this. You won’t be sorry.
Lynne

 

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Book Review: The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton

Book Review: The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton

Anyone who knows me, knows I am seriously addicted to library book sales. They are for me an opiate addiction. Very deadly. So it’s not surprising that at one of those things held somewhere in the Lower Mainland, I picked up a copy of The Moai Murders by the late, Canadian author, Lyn Hamilton. FYI Moai is pronounced Moe-Eye.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Ms. Hamilton, but I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the last. I’m glad she wrote several before her untimely death. It had all of my favourite story contents in it: humour, action, adventure, history, mystery, a great plot and a well written storyline.

Hamilton had a nice, dry sense of humour which was sprinkled liberally throughout the story. The editing was pretty good, though there were a few typos missed. And you know I’m a stickler for typos. It kept me stumped right to the very end. And that, is a rarity where I am concerned. I love to profile books, TV shows and movies. I honestly couldn’t figure this one out, but then neither could the heroine, so I don’t feel so bad. Lol!

The only slow part of the story happened at the very beginning. The forward, titled Veri Amo—presumably named after a relatively famous woman from Easter Island who lived from 1830 to 1936, according to Stephen R. Fischer’s work Rongorongo: The Easter Island Script: History, Traditions,Texts—got me thinking and I had to read it twice. When Chapter One jumped into the present, I had to go through it twice as well to get the ball rolling. Once the characters started on their adventure, it was a great read. There were a lot of characters, but each was important to the plot. If you get momentarily lost, go back and check it again until you are caught up. It’s worth it.

Here’s a brief outline of the story from Amazon.
From Booklist:
“Antiques dealer Lara McClintoch and her friend Moira Meller head to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to celebrate Moira’s return to health. When they reach their hotel, they find it’s the site of the Rapa Nui Moai Congress–an academic conference to exchange information on the moai, giant stone carvings that populate the island. After the two join the conference, planning to attend the lectures and field trips, one of the attendees is found dead, thought by police to have been trampled by wild horses. Lara disagrees with the verdict and begins her own investigation as further participants die. Fascinating details about the island’s history and the moai enhance this ninth adventure in the archaeologically rich series.” Sue O’Brien of the American Library Association.
Here’s a couple of links to interviews with her.
http://poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.ca/2008/02/canada-calling-lyn-hamilton.html
http://typem4murder.blogspot.ca/2009/01/sundays-guest-blogger-lyn-hamilton.html

http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/oct03/a-conversation-with-lyn-hamilton-10036
I thought it was important to include some of Lyn’s obituary in this. If you read it, you will see she was an amazing woman who made a huge impact on a lot of people. We should all be so lucky.

“LYN ELIZABETH HAMILTON August 6, 1944 – September 10, 2009 Smart, funny, creative, strong, loyal and brave – Lyn was all these and more. Beloved daughter of John (deceased) and Gwen Hamilton and cherished sister and sister-in-law of Cheryl Hamilton and Michael Cushing. She is also fondly remembered by the Collins family, her uncle Harris (aunt Elizabeth is deceased) Collins and cousins Peter, Kelly and Nicki. Lyn had many friends. A group of the closest helped her celebrate her 65th birthday last month with a party filled with laughter and love. Lyn kept her battle with cancer private, but the few friends who knew provided wonderful support during her illness. She had a great career, moving back and forth between public service and the private sector, working in public affairs, communications and program management. Then at the age of 50, she decided to add a writing career, using her lifelong interest in archeology to create a mystery series. The first of 11 novels, The Xibalba Murders, was published in 1997 and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award for best first crime novel in Canada. The eighth, The Magyar Venus, was nominated for an Ellis for best crime novel. These books feature feisty heroine Lara McClintoch, who owns an antiques store in Lyn’s hometown of Toronto and travels the world for her business, solving murders along the way. Lyn managed to write and promote most of her novels during vacations, unpaid leaves and weekends. The books reflect her passion for heritage and culture, her sense of humour and her love of travel. She was Director of Public Affairs for the Canadian Opera Company, where she worked with many others to bring a new opera house to reality, an accomplishment that gave her much joy. Before that, she was Director of the Cultural Programs Branch in the Ontario government. In her earlier days in the government, she worked on women’s issues and was particularly proud of a ground-breaking public awareness campaign on domestic violence. She was involved in education and mentoring of new writers. Over the years, she worked with over 100 authors on their manuscripts. She was writer-in-residence for the public libraries in North York and Kitchener. She taught a mystery and suspense writing course at the School for Continuing Studies at her alma mater, University of Toronto.”

This is a five star *****read. Purchase or borrow it with confidence.
Have a great day!
Lynne

Book Review: Spellbound by Patricia Simpson

Book Review: Spellbound by Patricia Simpson

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This winter I’ve had one of the worst colds in years. I’ve spent almost ten days in bed now, and am barely starting to feel like a human being instead of a snot-filled zombie.
As most of you know, I’m a total book addict, but as an editor, I unfortunately seem to spend more time editing than reading for fun. So while I’ve been recuperating, I’ve also been reading some of the books stored on my kindle.

I couldn’t decide what to start with, so went to the bottom of the pile on my iPad and found this little number.

I’ve never read anything by Patricia Simpson before, but I must say I’ll certainly be checking out more of her work. I understand this is a self-published book. That always makes me nervous, especially in this day of indie publishing where everybody and his brother thinks they are a great writer and editing often means just checking for spelling and punctuation. But apparently, Ms. Simpson knows the meaning of the word and takes it seriously.

This was an extremely well-written piece. I caught only one typo near the end of the novel, and from what I can remember, only one misuse of a word. (It’s bollocks, not bullocks. That shows the American in the author.) It was darn near to perfection as far as the proofing was concerned.

The content was well done and the story-line was pretty plausible. Yes, there were a few vague moments of mystery and unexplained paranormal events, but the excitement level made up for it. And even though the ending seemed rushed—I’d have liked it dragged out and given a bit more explanation of what seemed like a pretty miraculous event to satisfy my inner Sherlock—it at least made the romantic aspect of the story come to a happy end.

I’m giving it a four-star rating **** just because as an editor I would have had Ms. Simpson fill in the paranormal blanks for those who need the facts sorted out. Like myself.

It’s five star ***** for excitement and very hot love scenes which had no porn in them—yay! I hate porn in the middle of a good love scene—but were written beautifully and made for a few fast page turns. There were the appropriate villains, more than one so we had to really think, and the hero was wonderful. I loved Tara the heroine’s thoughts and how she responded to the otherworldly events she was being drawn into. I probably would have reacted the same way.

There were only a couple of uncomfortable dialogue lines which seemed trite and not well thought out, but most of it was well done. I didn’t like the cover of the kindle edition. The fellow on the cover certainly held no resemblance to our hero, Hugh. I love the hard copy cover. That was great!

So, if you want a fast and interesting read with a lot of action, some romance and some otherworldly adventure, this is the one I’d choose.
Nice job.

Lynne

From Amazon.com:

“From award-winning author Patricia Simpson comes a haunting time-travel. A week before her wedding in Scotland, Tara Lewis stumbles upon a hidden tomb and accidentally awakens a spellbound knight. But Tara refuses to acknowledge the chivalrous shade. She doesn’t believe in the spirit world-or true love for that matter-until the touch of the handsome knight awakens her troubled heart. To gain his freedom, the knight must recover a valuable Psalter and deliver it to its rightful owner. But completing his quest proves difficult. Hugh finds himself hopelessly attracted to the woman who freed him and duty bound to protect her-from an ancient enemy, a modern threat, but most of all from a forbidden love that could ruin both their futures. As Tara’s wedding day dawns, she and Hugh must make a fateful choice. Will they keep their promises or follow their hearts? Or will the ancient spell that binds them destroy their one chance at happiness?”

Product Details
• Paperback: 264 pages
• Publisher: Patricia Simpson (February 14, 2009)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0982344244
• ISBN-13: 978-0982344248

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Biography:
Patricia Simpson grew up in the wilderness of Western Montana, where it meant a 3-1/2 hour drive just to buy shoes. When she was young, the iPod hadn’t yet been invented, and there were no radio stations in the area, so on the many long drives for shoes, Patricia amused herself by reading novels or creating her own stories in her head. She was encouraged to write by her sister, who always asked to be read what she had written so far that day, her Egyptian-born English teacher in junior high, and then again by a creative writing professor at the University of Washington. Instead of seeking a writing degree, Patricia chose to pursue a BA in Art and has worked as a graphic artist/web developer at the University of Washington since 1982. Patricia still enjoys painting almost as much as she loves to write.

Ms Simpson has won numerous awards for her fiction, including Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, Career Achievement Award, and has been a finalist in the RITA awards and for Best Indie Paranormal of the Year.

Her Scottish husband encourages her to accompany him on his frequent business trips around the world, and whenever possible Patricia goes with him to scope out spooky historical places to use as the settings of her books.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spellbound-Patricia-Simpson/dp/0982344244

Book Review: Queen of the Night by J. A. Jance

Book Review: Queen of the Night by J. A. Jance

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First of all, I have to state without hesitation, I love J. A. Jance’s books. I’ve read almost all of the Joanna Brady series, and some, more than once.

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That being said, I have mixed feelings about this particular offering from the author.
I got lost almost immediately in the profusion of characters and opening scenes, each of which sounded like the start of a different novel. It took me awhile to determine what was going on and sort everyone out. I had to start the book a couple of times and go back and reread. Maybe it was just brain fog on my part, but even at the very end, I was momentarily confused, trying to remember who one of the characters was.

There are a lot of people in this book. Some are pretty amazing, and I can definitely see how they all fit together, but I kept praying someone would get killed off so I had fewer names to recall. Thankfully, murder mysteries usually satisfy that goal.
I also felt there were almost too many plot lines. But, they were all necessary—I think. At least everything wound up connected, somehow, in the end.

It was an interesting, suspenseful read, that’s for sure. And yes, very reminiscent of Tony Hillerman, whom the book was dedicated to. But, there were things as an editor which I would have liked to have seen changed. Too many “thats” for a fiction work, and way too much past perfect tense, plus too many characters, and plots, and openings.
Would I recommend it? You betcha. But be alert and keep your memory working. You might want to take notes or you could lose track.

I would say it’s a three star based on the confusion and editing points, and a four star based on thrill factor.

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Here’s a link to Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/hfp82bd

And Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/jogxn45

Have a great day!
Lynne

Book Review: Blood in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope

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Blood in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
#5 in the Cotswold Mysteries series

 

ISBN 978-0-7490-0730-0
Published by Allison & Busby Limited
London, W1T 4EJ
http://www.allisonandbusby.com
2008

 

 

Five stars all the way *****

I found this book in our complex library and I must say it was a great read! Although the first chapter seemed to drag a little, I persisted and soon the plot action picked up. The main characters—of this book and the series–are Detective Superintendent Phil Hollis and his ladyfriend, Thea Osborne, who has taken a temporary job house sitting in the quaint village of Temple Guiting. Along for the ride is Hepzibah, Thea’s cocker spaniel, plus a few miscellaneous critters, including horses, fish and a python, all of whom are part of the house sitting gig.
Most of the characters are introduced pretty quickly in the story. There are plenty of quirky locals to satisfy the reader’s interest, plus some connections to the Knights Templar and dead Saints who have died in very weird ways.
Within 24 hours, what was supposed to be a holiday for DS Hollis and Thea, turns into a physical nightmare for both of them, when Phil puts his back out during a romantic interlude in a feather bed. As I lie here with my own back in spasm—mine from heaving furniture around– I can totally relate to everything poor Phil endured. Especially his criticism of the soft feather mattress that certainly didn’t help the problem. He referred to it as “lethal” and I would have done the same.
The agonizing trip in Thea’s car to the hospital, the next day, ends with Phil being told he must stay still and let his “slipped disc” heal, a process which might take as long as three months. So he will have to take some serious time off work. He is not amused. By this time we have also learned Thea is less than sympathetic and not a good nurse. Poor Phil would rather be solving murders than lying around in pain feeling rotten and sorry for himself. Thea suggests he try to see the humour in the situation. Her suggestion is answered with a snarl. (I can certainly relate.)
Thankfully, the universe steps in and a strange event involving a fallen tree uncovers a skeleton entangled within its roots. DS Hollis cannot let the officer in charge of the discovery proceed without his involvement, and so the mystery begins. Who is this person? What happened to them?And how did they get there?
What follows is a complicated, entertaining search for the truth. Phil’s back takes a series of turns for the better and then the worse. I cringed along with him.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. They are available on Kindle, so I will probably pursue the e book venue; that way when one runs out, I’ll have the rest waiting.
Highly recommended. Lots of fun. Written in the British punctuation style. Plus a few words in there I had never heard before. Love it when that happens.
Enjoy!
V.L. Murray

 

Announcing the release of my book trailer for A Hallowe’en Tale

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I just spent the last week working on a book trailer for my e short story A Hallowe’en Tale which was released in October of 2012. It was a fun experience. I used the moviemaker app on my iPad.
Here’s the youtube link to the little film. I hope you enjoy it!

Lynne