Sunday, October 5, 2014

Review: Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman

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Title:  Illumination Night

Author: Alice Hoffman
(Author Website) (Facebook)

Genre: Adult Fiction

Narrator: Suzanne Toren

Publisher:  Blackstone Audio,  June, 2014

Length: 7.8 hours

Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program

About the Book: (From AliceHoffman.com)

Set on Martha’s Vineyard, here is a stunning novel that brings that beautiful island to vivid life – a novel that weaves together the lives of a little boy who can’t grow, an elderly woman who needs to save someone before she passes on, a blond giant, a young couple, a teenaged girl looking for trouble. Lives of intense erotic longing, of quiet understanding, of willful determination. It is a novel of magic and mystery, and a literary event that confirms Alice Hoffman as one of our finest and most compelling writers.

Related Media: – Grand Illumination Night on Martha’s Vineyard

An Island tradition since 1869, Grand Illumination takes place on the third Wednesday of August. It starts with a band concert by the Vineyard Haven Band followed by a community sing, the lighting of the first lantern, and the lighting of all of the other lanterns.

About the Author:

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Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing.  She currently lives in Boston.

Hoffman’s first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff’s magazine, American Review.

About the Narrator:

Suzanne-Toren

2009 Best Voice in NONFICTION & CULTURE: Suzanne Toren brings a distinguishing warmth and power to her narrations. Her talents extend to both fiction and nonfiction, and in her recording career of 30-plus years she has given listeners heart-wrenching memoirs, lively history, engaging light fiction, and involving mysteries. Her skill with European and Middle Eastern languages and a degree in French literature also help her provide an essential believability to the characters she portrays.

My Review: Illumination Night is set on Martha’s Vineyard in present time.  Alice Hoffman description of the island and the interesting collection of characters are wonderful.  I have only read a few books by Alice Hoffman, but I am always impressed with her writing, beautiful and flowing.

Vonny and Andre are the parents of little Simon.  Vonny progresses through agoraphobia, she is trapped by a fear and inner turmoil in her house.  Ultimately her agoraphobia actually brings her closer to her husband.  I love how the relationship between Vonny and her neighbor Elizabeth Renny ultimately helps both women to heal.  Simon experiences tragedy and your heart breaks for this little boy. He is unsure of himself and concerned by his short stature.  I did find the beginning a little slow, but soon I couldn’t wait to put my headphones on to hear about Vonny and the others.

When the author introduced the character Eddie, a gentle giant,  I was thinking, “Yeah, Right”.   But as unlikely of a character, Eddie grows to be one of my favorite character.  He is flawed and a product of his past, but ultimately is a tender hearted young man, who found and lost love. 

Narration by Suzanne Toren is wonderful and captures the emotions of the characters.  I think the narration had a lot to do with my being draw to Vonny.  She sounded like a friend I wanted to keep in touch with.  Characters were distinct, though one of the male voices bothered me at first, but grew on me as the story progressed.   Which fit perfectly with the storyline.

My Rating: 4 – Illumination Night is a story that will stay with you due to the wonderful characters.  I still wonder what will happen to them next.  Alice Hoffman is a talented story teller with great character development.  She has a way with words that really captures you and she has an ability to create sympathetic characters. The story does seem to have a number of story lines going on at the same time, but I did not find that confusing.  The story of Eddie left me wanting for more.    Themes in Illumination Light include, family dysfunction, fidelity, fear and Agoraphobia, and desperation.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Audio book Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman was received from Blackstone Audio in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


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Title:  Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celest Ng
(Author Website) (Facebook)

Genre: Adult Fiction

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

Publisher:  Blackstone Audio,  June, 2014

Length:  10 hours

Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program

About the Book: (from Good Reads.com)

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another

Book Trailer for Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

About the Author:

Celeste

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You (June 2014, Penguin Press). She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award.  Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son, where she teaches fiction writing at Grub Street and is at work on a second novel and a collection of short stories.

About the Narrator:

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Cassandra Campbell is an actress, director, and teacher as well as an accomplished voice-over artist. Voice credits include numerous books on tape, documentaries and commercials in both Italian and English. As an actress she has performed in New York at the Public Theatre, the Mint Theatre, and the Clurman as well as many others. Regional work includes StageWest, The Berkshire Theatre Festival, Millmountain Theatre, and The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she a faculty member at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

My Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is the story of a Chinese/American family in the 1970’s in small town Ohio.  James and Marilyn meet in college and start a relationship despite their different cultural backgrounds.   Marilyn falls pregnant and the couple gets married.  Marilyn gives up her dream of becoming a Dr for her growing family.  This is a sacrifice that Marilyn had a hard time move past. James is always wanting to fit in with their community in Ohio.  He wants his children to have a different childhood than he did. He wants them to feel accepted by their school peers and community. 

The novel starts out informing the reader  that “Lydia is dead”.  While the reader knows this fact, the family does not.  The reader is there as the parents discover the fate of their eldest daughter, the child they each had aspirations for.  The reader is along on the journey as the family unravels at the lose of a child.   Celeste Ng’s telling of the story of Lee family from the point of the death of their child, through the emotional aftermath, is a great structure for this type of story.  Ng develops the characters in Everything I Never Told You in great detail.  I would have like if the  development of Lydia would have been  as detailed.   At the end I was left  wanting to know more  about the final moments and thoughts of Lydia.

The author does a wonderful job of delving into the various ways in which James and Marilyn as parents deal with Lydia’s death as well as how Nath and Hannah deal with the death of a sibling.   The reader begins to understand the family’s fragile dynamics.

The narration of Everything I Never Told You by Cassandra Campbell was very enjoyable.  She keeps a good pace and gives each character their own voice in a natural sounding way. 

My Rating: 3.5 – I would rate Everything I Never Told You higher if I found the ending more satisfying.  Everything I Never Told you is a cautionary tale about the danger of projecting your unfilled needs and dreams upon your children.  Celeste Ng skillfully addresses themes such as expectations, dreams, lost chances, family secrets and cultural isolation.  I applaud the author for a decent debut novel and look forward to checking out additional publications by Celeste Ng.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Everything I Never Told You was also reviewed on the following  blogs: River City Reading, S.Krishna’s Books, and She Treads Softly

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Audio book Everything I Never Told You was received from Blackstone Audio in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gunderkauf

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Title: Little Mercies

Author: Heather Gunderkauf (author website)

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (June 24, 2014)

ISBN-10: 0778316335

Pages: 320

Source:  Netgalley.com

About the Book: (from Goodreads.com)

In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences...

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

 
A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together

Related Media:

About the Author: 

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Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.

Heather lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her next novel.

My Review:  I love ripped from the headlines type books.  The beginning of Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf, hits a little close to home for this busy mom and overworked social worker.  I have been a social worker for the last 20 years also working with children.    Ellen is a veteran social worker and dedicated to the children she helps.  It is a hard thing to balance motherhood and a career such as social work.  Gudenkauf delves into the challenges of motherhood and being a  social worker with great insight. 

Ellen, while rushing to address an emergency on her caseload, makes a mistake that will have life altering consequences for her and her family.  Little Mercies is the story of Ellen, but also the story of a young girl Jenny.   Their stories eventually converge through some very skillful writing.  I chose to read Little Mercies due to the storyline including a social worker.  Little Mercies was the first book by Heather Gudenkauf, I have read. I was delight to discover she was originally from South Dakota, as I am.   The characters are well developed and you instantly care about Ellen Moore and her family.  The story of Jenny Briard was not as developed, but intriguing none the less. 

Little Mercies is a chilling, emotional story about motherhood and justice.    Little Mercies is an intriguing,  fast – paces read.   The story flows very nicely and hooks you right from the beginning.  You will finish this book in short order.

My Rating: 4 – Little Mercies is a ripped of the headlines story that will hit home with a lot of mothers.  Little Mercies is a fast-paced, intriguing read that you will be glad you devoured.   Little Mercies would be great book for a book club discussion, especially for my book group as we are almost all social workers.  If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult you will love Heather Gudenkauf’s book, Little Mercies.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Little Mercies was also reviewed on the following  blogs:  Tempest Books, Book Journey, Candace’s Book Blog, and I’d So Rather Be Reading  

Happy Reading!


**Disclosure – Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf  was received from Harlequin MIRA in exchange for a fair review.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You: August Edition

I hoped to blog to you from the deck, but the heat got to me and I had to retreat into the house.   It has now rained and hopefully cooled down a bit, so hopefully my evening will be spent reading on the deck.
As a book blogger, I am able to request, read and provide feedback on forth coming titles.   I love being able to do this, but some months my ambitions are larger than what time allows.  I still have a full time job which interferes regularly with my reading/blogging schedule.  Honestly, I must admit that lately what is interfering the most with my reading in CANDY CRUSH!!    Each night I head to bed to read a bit and my youngest son crawls in bed with us and wants to play Candy Crush on my kindle.  So we take turns playing each night until we are out of lives.  He is 12 and soon won’t want to hang out with mom, so I am taking advantage of this one on one time with my last kiddo at home. 
So I decided to share with you some upcoming releases that have caught my eye.    I would hate for you to miss an upcoming title due to our Candy Crush addiction!!  
Here are some books which will be available in bookstores in August, 2014 that caught my eye!
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Upcoming Reviews on Reading in White Bear Lake:
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Hope you are enjoying a beautiful day!!
Happy Reading!

*Note – if you would like to keep up with book reviews on Reading in White Bear Lake, please take a moment to like us on facebook!   If you are interested in my other loves: cooking, menu planning, organizing and my family check out our other blog, Living in White Bear Lake.   Living in White Bear Lake can also be found on facebook.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review: Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans

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Title: Walking on Water (Book 5)

Author: Richard Paul Evans
(Author Website) (Facebook)

Genre: Adult Fiction

Narrator: Richard Paul Evans

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Audio, May, 2014

Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program

About the Book: (from Good Reads.com)

In this fifth New York Times bestseller in the Walk series, Richard Paul Evans’s hero Alan Christoffersen must say some painful goodbyes and learn some important lessons as he comes to the end of his cross-country walk to Key West.

After the death of his beloved wife, after the loss of his advertising business to his once-trusted partner, after bankruptcy forced him from his home, Alan Christoffersen’s daring cross-country journey—a walk across America, from Seattle to Key West, with only the pack on his back—has taught him lessons about love, forgiveness and, most of all, hope.

Now Alan must again return west to face yet another crisis, one that threatens to upend his world just as he had begun to heal from so much loss, leaving him unsure of whether he can reach the end his journey. It will take the love of a new friend, and the wisdom of an old friend, to help him to finally leave the past behind and find the strength and hope to live again.

Related Media: – Book Trailer

 About the Author & Narrator:

Richard Paul Evans portrait

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box.  Each of his eighteen novels has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list; there are more than 14 million copies of his books in print worldwide.  His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages, and several have been international bestsellers.

Evans has won the American Mothers book award, two first place Storytelling World awards, The Romantic Times Best Women’s Novel of the Year Award, the German Leserpreis Gold Award for Romance, and the Religion Communicator’s Council’s Wilbur Award.

Four of Evans’s books have been produced as television movies.

Evans received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award for his work helping abused children.

Evans lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Keri, and their five children.

 My Review: Walking on Water is the 5th book in the Walk series by Richard Paul Evans.  This audio book was narrated by the author.  I must admit, when I realized the author was also the narrator I wasn’t terribly excited.   I have listened to other authors and the experience has been less than satisfying.   That was not the case with Richard Paul Evans.  He has a very smooth and pleasing voice to listen too.  He narrates with great emotions, which really added to the listening experience. 

While, I enjoyed Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans, my experience was probably diminished by not having read any of the previous books in the Walk series.  I am sure those who have read all the previous books were more connected with the character, Alan Christoffersen.  The last book eludes to many trials that Alan has endured in previous books, which I didn’t know the details about.   I imagine those who started at the beginning of this series were waiting for each book and felt a real connection or kinship with Alan.   Alan is a very likeable character who you hope ends his walk with restored hope and healing. 

The story starts with Alan facing some difficult issues with his father.  Allen is a very likeable character working through a number of losses towards healing.  The details of the states that Allen walks through is amazing.  The people he meets through out the last leg of his walk are interesting.   I plan on reading the previous books in this series.  I am especially interested in his walk through SD, since that is where I am originally from.   The details of the locations is obviously due to the author’s trip through these areas.  Great research by Richard Paul Evans.

My Rating: 3.5/5 – Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans is the entertaining and emotional travelogue of Alan' Christoffersen’s walk from Seattle, Washington to Key West, Florida.   While Walking on Water is enjoyable as a stand alone book, I think you will feel more connected and invested in the characters if you follow Alan’s journey from the very beginning.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans was also reviewed by the The Friendly Book Nook,  and  Bookbag Lady.

 

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Audio book on Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans was received from Simon and Schuster Audio in exchange for a fair review.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarity


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Title: The Husband’s Secret
Author: Liane Moriarity (author website)
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher:  Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam; 1st Printing edition (July 30, 2013)
Pages:  416
Source:  Kindle book purchased for book group
About the Book: (from publisher)
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died...
Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . .
 .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

Related Media:  Liane Moriarty on The Husband's Secert



About the Author:
moriartyliane01
Liane Moriarty is the author of Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot and The Hypnotist's Love Story. All of her novels have been published successfully around the world and translated into seven languages. Writing as L.M. Moriarty, she is also the author of the Space Brigade series for children.

Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter.
My Review: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriaty was the monthly selection for my book group.   I don't belive I have read any books by Moriaty prevously, but other members had! 

Cecelia Fitzpatrick finds an envelope which says on the outside  "To Wife...To be opened in the event of my death"?   Would you open it??   I would open it in a heat beat!  I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it otherwise.   The Husaban's Secret is the intertwined story of Tess, Cecelia and Rachel and how each are ultimately each effected by the contents of the envelope.  The Husband's Secret kept my interest.  I felt the story had a very good flow and kept you wanting to know more, which made for a very quick read.  

I think The Husband's Secret is a great book for a book group.  There are many moral dilemmas within the story to discuss.   I actually missed book group and didn't get to participate in the discussion.  I really wanted to discuss the ending and if others felt they would have made a similar decision to Rachel's.  

The Husband's Secret touches on themes of grief, lost, betrayal and the cost of forgiveness. 
    
My Rating: 4/5 - The Husband's Secret is very readable and gripping.  It is a book you will finish in a few sittings as you want to know how the author will resolve the events set in motion by that one simple letter intended to be read after the death of Cecelia's husband. 
 
My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing
 
The Husband's Secret was also reviewed by Aestas Book Club, Maryse's Book Blog, and Book Journey.
 
 
Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

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Title: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

Author: Nadia Hashini
(Author Website)   (Facebook)

Genre: Adult Fiction

Narrator: Gin Hammond (website)

Unabridged Length: 16.2 hours

Publisher:  Blackstone Audio, May 5, 2014

Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program

About the Book: (from good reads.com)

Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut novel, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's own fate that combines the cultural flavor 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-aunt, 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

Related Media:  Nadia Hashimi Introduces “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell”.

About the Author:

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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, went 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 important 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.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is Hashimi’s debut novel.

About the Narrator:

shot5 Gin Hammond received her MFA from the A.R.T. at Harvard University/Moscow Art Theatre. She has performed nationally at theatres such The Guthrie, Arena Stage, The Longwharf Theatre, Seattle’s ACT, The Pasadena Playhouse, the ART, The Berkshire Theatre Festival and The Studio Theatre in Washington D.C., where she won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her performance of The Syringa Tree. Internationally, she has performed in Russia, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and England.

Ms. Hammond also received a Kathleen Cornell award, and WA state grants from Allied Arts, The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Artist Trust, 4 Culture, as well as from the NEA. Her voice(s) can be heard on Jim French's Imagination Theatre, Super Granny, Cake Mania, Westward, and Nancy Drew video games, a wide range of industrials, audiobooks produced by Redwood and Cedar House Audio, and Halo 3 ODST. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, where she writes, directs, teaches and performs.

My Review: Let’s just get this out of the way, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is one of my favorite reads so far this year.   I received The Pearl That Broke Its Shell from the reviewer program at AudioJukeBox.   In my work as a social worker in a metro area, I meet many people and find myself drawn to stories of life within other cultures.  

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is the story of two Afghan women, Shekiba and Rahima.  Shekiba lived in the early 1900’s during the reign of King Habibullah.  Rahima lived in present day Afghanistan.   Shekiba and Rahima shared a commonality of living as a Bacha posh.  Bacha posh ("dressed up as a boy" in the Dari Language) is a cultural practice in which some families without sons will pick a daughter to live and behave as a boy. This enables the child to behave more freely: attending school, escorting her sisters in public, and working. Bacha posh also allows the family to avoid the social stigma associated of not having any male children.

I don’t want to share too much about the story as you have to really experience it and I can’t really give it justice.  I found learning about the history of Afghanistan very interesting.  I found it very interesting how in 1920’s Afghanistan rules by King Amanullah Khan and Queen Soraya was looking towards the ways of the West and were making efforts to modernize and empower the Afghan people.  Fast forward nearly a 100 years to Rahima’s life and those previous efforts to modernize and empower the Afghan people are non existent.  The country is ruled by warlords and wrought with corruption. 

While the Pearl That Broke Its Shells touches of issues such as child marriage, warlords, political unrest, drug addiction, and domestic violence, I really was impacted by the strength, perseverance and determination of Shekiba and Rahima to change their naseeb.  Naseeb means destiny or fate. The literal meaning in Arabic is "share", but it came to be understood as "one's share in life", and thus his destiny. 

This is my first experience with the narration of Gin Hammond.   I really enjoyed listening to The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi.  Gin Hammond provides a very emotional and passionate performance.   Her narration is easy to listen to and very enjoyable.  She bring the story to life in a manner that added to my enjoyment of the story!

My Rating: 4/5 -  The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a debut novel that is wonderfully written.  It is hard to believe this is Nadia Hashimi debut novel.   I found myself looking for excuses to slip in my earbuds to listen to just a few more chapters.   Hashimi provides a very intimate look into the life of two amazing Afghan women.   I found myself thinking about Shekida and Rahima throughout my day.  The Pearl That  Broke Its Shell is a story that will stay with you long after you close the book.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell was also reviewed by the The Book Reporter, The Savvy Reader, Peeking Between the Pages and West Metro Mommy Reads. 

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Copy of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi was received from Blackstone Audio in exchange for a fair review.