The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

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My Review:

If you love the 80s, music, tradition, England and love, you will want to read The Music Shop right away!  Frank had an odd childhood; growing up he called his single mother by her first name and, the only thing his not so nurturing, nontraditional mom ever taught him about was music.  Now, a single man outside of London, Frank owns a small music shop on a run down street.  He only sells vinyl records; refuses to keep up with the times and offer cds or even cassette tapes.  He has given up on the possibility for love and seems content in his role in life as a music expert. Frank matches customers and friends to songs he thinks they need to know.  He is quirky and old fashioned, but likable and has a reputation for being a good man and helping lots of people.

One day a beautiful, mysterious woman shows up at his shop
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One Station Away by Olaf Olafsson

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My Review:

Reading this book I was pleasantly surprised…it was not what I expected, knowing the author, Olaf Olafsson, a successful businessman, is the Executive Vice President of Time Warner and was responsible for introducing Sony PlayStation.

 One Station Away is a thoughtful story about Magnus, a Yale neurologist, and three important women in his life; his patient, his fiancé and his mother.   He conducts research on head trauma patients who appear to have no mental capabilities but in fact may be conscious and communicative.  He spends many evenings holding his patient’s hand and feeling powerless to help as he thinks of ways to try and connect with her.  Magnus struggles with the recent loss of his
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I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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My Review:

I couldn’t help but get caught up in the nail-biting suspense and the misleading plot twists as the talented author, Lisa Jewell kept me guessing until the end in her latest novel, I Found You.
Present day Britain, Lily’s husband is missing; he went off to work in the morning and never returned.  Young and Ukrainian, Lily doesn’t know her surroundings and has little knowledge of her new husband’s friends and family.  She is extremely upset and worried and reports him missing to the police.   They don’t take her seriously and think he may have just decided to leave her. Lily is convinced he would never do that, she pushes them to look deeper,  and once the police inform her that his passport was fake, she is compelled to investigate his disappearance on her own.

Alice, a scattered, yet kind hearted mother lives by the beach with her 3 kids from different fathers.  She discovers a mysterious man sitting on the sand by the ocean for hours and once a storm moves in she cautiously approaches to give him a jacket.  He has lost his memory and has no idea who he is or how he got there.  Alice calls him “Frank” and she and her children welcome him in to their home while she tries to help him regain his memory.

In 1993, Kristy is on an annual family beach vacation with her parents and her older teenage brother, Gray.  They meet Mark, a nice young man, on the beach who is staying with his aunt.  Mark, 19 years old, shows interest in Kirsty and wants to spend more time with her.   Being 15 years old and having no dating experience, excited yet cautious, she agrees to go out with him. Things don’t go well…there is trauma, tragedy and heartbreak.

The missing husband, the unidentified stranger and the charming teenager,,,… these complex characters make you wonder how well do you really know someone.  Jewell keeps you guessing as the three stories get closer and closer to connecting, and what fun it is to try and solve all the mysteries before the truth is revealed.  An enjoyable literary escape!

93504.jpgAbout the author:

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Lisa’s Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/LisaJewelloff…

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

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A beautifully written story about a flawed family who’s memories and hopes over time get confused with reality.  Ingrid, a college student, and Gil, her professor, have an unconventional love affair leading to pregnancy. This forces Ingrid to give up her academic goals in order to marry Gil and raise her two daughters, Flora and Nan.  Gil’s primary focus is  writing and all his family responsibilities are neglected while his relationships go unnurtured.  During the couples years together, Ingrid writes letters to Gil about how she is feeling about motherhood, their marriage, and what she discovers about him, but instead of giving him the letters she hides them in his books.  Then one day she is gone.  Did she drown like many are saying or did she run away from the life she had with Gil and her young daughters?

Years later the daughters return home to take care of Gil who has been in an accident.  He has fallen while chasing a woman he thinks is his wife, Ingrid.  One daughter insists he was wrong and going senile while the other is open to the possibility of her mother miraculously being alive.  There was never any proof of death and when the girls were younger Gil had said “It is difficult to live with both hope and grief,” she may be waiting for us when we get home, or, she’s dead. “A balancing act.”  And later on in age he questioned whether it is better to live with imagination and hope or to know the truth. Ultimately he told his daughters it is not good to “have an imagination which is more vivid, wilder, than real life”.

Gil was the proclaimed writer yet he only wrote one book, which Ingrid spawned and dictated to him.  She wrote all the letters to him expressing her feelings and recounting their courtship and marriage.  He was a dreamer, a philanderer and a collector of books with writings in the margins.  His interest was in the handwritten notes; they told him about the reader.  He said, “Without readers there is no point in books, and therefore they are as important as the author, perhaps more important.”   Ingrid gave up her hopes and dreams and struggled with marriage and being a mother and Gil’s lack of success as a writer, husband and father made for a heartbreaking story.

Author Claire Fuller delves into love, a dysfunctional marriage, and contemplates the value of truth and living with unrealistic hope.  The complex characters deal with their own selective memories and ambiguous loss where there is no closure.  Swimming Lessons was an engrossing, thought-provoking novel.

Nadia Hashimi – Author Obsession

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It is very exciting to discover an author who’s novels are so compelling, educational and engrossing that I want to read everything they have written. Nadia Hashimi is one of those brilliant and heartfelt authors. Her writing is smart and rich in history and traditions. Over the past few years she has published three fantastic novels, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, When The Moon Is Low, and A House Without Windows. She also wrote a YA book, One Half from the East which came out in Sept. 2016.

 

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Below are excerpts from the author’s bio on Goodreads…

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. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family.

Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.

Nadia attended Brandeis University where she obtained degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. In 2002, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s.

It was a bittersweet experience for everyone, finding relics of childhood homes and reuniting with loved ones.

Nadia enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and became active with an Afghan-American community organization that promoted cultural events and awareness, especially in the dark days after 9/11. She graduated from medical school and went on to complete her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. On completing her training, Nadia moved to Maryland with her husband where she works as a pediatrician.

She’s also a part of the “Lady Docs,” a group of local female physicians who exercise, eat and blog together.

With her rigorous medical training completed, Nadia turned to a passion that had gone unexplored. Her upbringing, experiences and love for reading came together in the form of stories based in the country of her parents and grandparents (some even make guest appearances in her tales!).

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The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was released  in 2014.

As stated in Goodreads:
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-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl That 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?

 

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When The Moon Is Low was published in 2015.

As stated in Goodreads:

Mahmoud’s passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she’s ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister’s family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe’s capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.

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A House Without Windows was published in 2016.
As stated in Goodreads:
For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.
Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.
A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

 

My comments:

In A House Without Windows, Nadia Hashimi shows us how honor and integrity pay a significant role in the lives of Afghan women. She also gives us an indication of how men rule the court system and how women’s prisons are full of modern Afghan women who have fallen victim to acts of violence and misfortunes by men. The people of the country have great respect for spiritual leaders, sorcerers and special powers/magic-like spells, and family honor is of utmost importance and runs deep. Even though this novel takes place in current times it feels old fashioned with superstition a real part of the belief system of the people. I love a mysterious crime and a court case. When it is set in a tradition rich, male driven country with multiple, strong women characters with flaws and good intent, I am in heaven!

Nadia Hashimi’s writing is brilliant and A House Without Windows, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When The Moon Is Low all take the reader on intense, soul seeking journeys with strong, determined and deep thinking women of Afghanistan.

 

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One Half from the East is a YA novel published in 2016.

As seen in Goodreads:

Internationally bestselling author Nadia Hashimi’s first novel for young readers is an emotional, beautiful, and riveting coming-of-age journey to modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh—a preteen girl dressed as a boy.

Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune.

Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room.

One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh.

Now Obayda is Obayd.

Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more.

But their transformation won’t last forever—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Clare Mackintosh – Author Obsession

Nothing beats a heart pounding psychological thriller to keep you looking over your shoulder! Clare Mackintosh has done it twice with her novels I Let You Go andSee You. I loved them both!  Be prepared for the twists and turns every step of the way…and don’t forget to breath!

 

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As seen on Goodreads:
In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

 

 

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As seen on Goodreads:
You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you’re going.

You’re not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015.

 

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As seen on Goodreads:

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant and is the founder of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. She now writes full time and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children.

Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, is a Sunday Times bestseller and was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club, and was the winning title of the readers’ vote for the summer 2015 selection, and ITV’s Loose Women’s Loose Books. Her second novel, I See You, is a number 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Clare’s books are translated into more than 30 languages.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy.

 

The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

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Love, loss, war, religious conflict, sacrifice, and hope, The Memory of Us is the best kind of emotional tearjerker. In 1930’s England,  Julienne, a young, fashion conscious, Protestant girl deciding on her goals and enjoying an active social life in search of the perfect escort learns her parents have been hiding the fact that she has an institutionalized deaf and blind twin brother, Charles. Overwhelmed with this secret and unbeknownst to anyone she sneaks away to visit him and meets the gardener’s son, Kyle, who is kind to Charles and they develop a friendship. Julienne is attracted to Kyle but he is sworn to celibacy as he is studying to become a Catholic priest. The unlikely couple go their separate ways as Julienne goes to nursing school and Kyle to the seminary although they can’t forget the attraction they both feel for each other.

Their paths cross again and unable to break free from their secret courtship, Kyle leaves priesthood to marry Julienne against her parents wishes. And then the war…You could never predict what happens next.

The star crossed love, the arduous parental relationships, the brutality of war, the religious discourse, personal secrets and the unabashed decisions to protect oneself and loved ones all combined into what is a bestseller! This incredible debut had me crying and surprised and hopeful… and awake way past my bedtime to read it!

According to Goodreads “Camille is an award-winning real estate agent in San Antonio who, along with her husband of 18 years, home schools their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawaii to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries), and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it does’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel, and her second book, “Before the Rain Falls” will be released in spring 2017.”

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