Month: July 2014

“The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi

“The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi

    “Shahla stood by our front door, the bright green metal rusting on the edges.”

So begins the story of Rahima and Shekiba. This book had me absolutely engrossed from the first word to the last period. And this is the author’s first book which makes it a remarkable piece of fiction in my opinion.

The book is actually two stories. Rahima’s story starts first. She is a girl in Afghanistan and is about 9 when the story opens. Rahima’s story begins in the early 2000’s. She has 4 sisters and desperately wants to go to school but her father only lets the girls attend sporadically. Her father is a veteran of various wars in her region and is aligned with a local warlord who keeps him supplied with opium. The girls and their mother spend most of their time trying not to send their father into a rage. The bright spot in Rahima’s life is her aunt who tells the girls stories. One of these stories is about Shekiba who is Rahima’s great-great- grandmother and she lived in Afghanistan in the early 1900’s. Shekiba spent a period of her life disguised as a man and Rahima’s mother decides to do the same thing with Rahima and turns her into a boy. Rahima then enjoys the next couple of years of her life being a boy and getting to attend school and play games with the boys and do all the things that her sisters cannot do. Then one day a misunderstanding turns her world upside down.

Shekiba’s story begins with an accident as a toddler that disfigures half of her face. Her family lives in a compound with the extended family but because of her disfigurement she repeatedly faces rejection from all but her immediate family. I found it especially interesting that she actually finds refuge in her burqa. The garment that we in the West see as a symbol of oppression actually allows Shekiba to leave her home without facing ridicule. Unfortunately, the tragedies for Shekiba continue to mount as she loses her loved ones and is used by her extended family as payment for debts. But she continues to seek more for her life in spite of her circumstances. The stories of Rahima and Shekiba are told alternately throughout the book and Rahima finds hope and courage through the stories of Shekiba.

Both of these girls suffer through brutality and uncertainty in their lives but the stories show how the human spirit can triumph over adversity. It is unimaginable to me the challenges they faced and their ability to keep fighting and stay true to themselves.

This book is a beautifully written debut novel. The characters really come to life and draw you into their worlds. This is a culture that I know almost nothing about and yet the stories of facing struggle and adversity are universal. And while I can’t relate to the circumstances of their daily lives the author does a great job of describing the worlds in which they live.

I give this book 4 out of 4 stars and highly recommend it to those who like a good story or a glimpse into a different culture.

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“A Fatal Thaw” by Dana Stabenow

“A Fatal Thaw” by Dana Stabenow

This is book two in the Kate Shugak series. Kate is a former investigator for the Fairbanks police department who was nearly killed during a drug bust. The near fatal injury has left her with a raspy voice and a very noticeable scar on her neck. After this incident she “retired” to her homestead in the wilderness of Alaska, however, when crime happens in the Park area where she lives she is called on to investigate. She lived in the area all her life and knows better than anyone the people and their ways.

In this book a serial killer has gone on a killing spree. Nine people are killed before he ends up near Kate’s home and she and her faithful dog, Mutt, manage to disarm him and turn him over to the police. During the investigation it is discovered that one of the nine victims was not shot by the serial killer’s gun but by someone else’s gun. Kate is asked to investigate. Kate digs up more than few secrets about this victim and finds more than one person who was happen to see her gone. During the investigation Kate herself is shot at and also a park ranger. The motive in this case has been building for many years and while Kate suspects she knows who the killer is she desperately wants it to be someone else.

I found this book impossible to put down. I had thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series when I came across it a few months ago but I think this one was even better. There is plenty of action in the story to keep you on the edge of your seat but the author also gives you a break now and then from the action to get to know the characters and their relationships better.

I also really enjoy the author’s descriptions of the area in which the story takes place. She has a way of bringing the scene to life without being overly flowery or leaving you feeling bogged down in the description. She gives you enough so you feel like you are there and it always feels like the descriptions are helping to tell the story as a whole. I especially enjoyed in the book her recounting of the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis.

I would definitely give this book a 4 out of 4 stars. I think those who like action and those who like mystery/crime type stories will really enjoy this book.

“Bear Is Broken” by Lachlan Smith

“Bear Is Broken” by Lachlan Smith

This was an interesting story. It opens with Teddy, a criminal defense attorney, being shot while eating lunch with his younger brother Leo, also a lawyer who had just passed the bar. Teddy ends up in a coma with a grim prognosis and the book relates the story of Leo’s investigation into who shot Teddy. The police charge the most obvious suspect, a client of Teddy’s. Leo thinks the shooting was intended to send a message to another one of Teddy’s clients.

As the story progresses we learn that Teddy and Leo’s father is in prison for murdering their mother. Teddy has always believed he’s innocent while Leo is sure he is guilty. Leo’s investigation starts to tie back in to his mother’s murder and the motive becomes much more complicated than it at first appears. That’s all I will say about the storyline because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

I liked the story because it kept moving forward at a good pace. There is an aspect of Leo working through his relationship with his brother and the dynamics behind that relationship. However, I didn’t feel like there was a satisfying resolution to any of the issues between the two. There are many references to the father in prison but again there is no resolution to that relationship. I was hoping for more in the ending of the story and was I little disappointed with what the author gave.

Overall it was a pretty good story that kept my interest till the end. I might read another book from this author if I came across one but this is not an author I will be seeking out.