2015 Book #100 – When The Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi

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Title: When The Moon Is Low
Author: Nadia Hashimi
Date finished: 9/20/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Pages in book: 380
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

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.

My rating: 4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is mostly about Fereiba and her family. The book starts out when she is born and tells the story of her life living in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her childhood is not what I would call happy but she had a roof over her head and plenty of food and necessities. She ends up marrying Mahmoud and together they have children. After Fereiba’s first child though, things begin to change in Kabul. Women are no longer along to go out unless escorted by men and there are many other restrictions placed on their lives, including that girls are no longer allowed to attend school. Fereiba had been a teacher before the new laws were imposed but she is no longer given the choice to have a job at all. Though she was unsure in the beginning of their marriage, Mahmoud and Fereiba do well together and end up falling in love. They keep their children grounded and try to give them as normal a life as possible amid all the bombings and war and terror. It isn’t until tragedy strikes though that Fereiba realizes she and her children need to escape Afghanistan. And so begins a journey to England, where Fereiba’s sister lives and has invited them to come stay until they can get on their own feet.
During this time in Afghanistan’s history, hundreds of thousands of refugees were seeking asylum in other countries due to the terror tactics that the Taliban has imposed on the Afghani people. Fereiba and her family have a long journey ahead of them, and it is far from easy. Each country along the way has camps of refugees living in squalor, hoping to be granted asylum so they won’t be sent back. Many who are captured however are sent back to the last country they had traveled through or to Afghanistan itself. Fereiba is also struggling with traveling with her infant child who is discovered along the route to have a heart condition that he will die from if it is not addressed. Fereiba is one of the lucky few refugees who finds kind souls along the way who help her and her family on their journey to a better life.
Overall I honestly loved this book. The subject matter itself is obviously moving and sad and (hopefully) fills the reader with compassion and empathy for these poor souls. The author though really just did such an amazing job with the story, it was beautifully written. It was poignant and touching and I got so involved in the characters and their lives. Fereiba’s journey was full of heart-breaks and tough choices but in that situation what can you do but try and give your children the best life possible? The ending was left slightly open but I can’t help but believe there was a happy ending. This is definitely a must read.

Favorite Quotes:

“Teachers are the yeast that makes the dough rise.”

“Love grows wildest in the gardens of hardship.”

“In the darkness, when you cannot see the ground under your feet and when your fingers touch nothing but night, you are not alone. I will stay with you as moonlight stays on water.”

The bottom line: I absolutely loved this book, the writing was poignant and beautiful. I didn’t want to put it down. I would highly recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #68 – The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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Title: The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Date finished: 7/5/15
Genre:  Historical/paranormal fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Part 19th century novel, part magical journey to the Chinese world of the dead, Yangsze Choo’s debut novel The Ghost Bride is a startlingly original historical fantasy infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists. Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Neil Gaiman’s NeverwhereThe Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story from a remarkable new voice in fiction.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy–including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets–and the truth about her own family–before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I saw this book awhile ago I think it was in a previous publication of Book Page but I can’t remember for sure. I thought the premise behind this novel sounded extremely interesting, a woman being pledged to marry a ghost. There was a lot of information in the book about the cultures at that time in Malacca (where the book was set, which apparently is another term for an area in Malaysia). Li Lan lost her mother to small pox when she was very young, and the disease also left her father disfigured and he became something of a recluse. It is because of this that Li Lan does not have a marriage arranged for her when she comes of age. And even further, Li Lan’s father doesn’t seem to do anything for which and smokes just too much opium every night so they don’t really have any money at all. So when the Lim family offers for Li Lan to be their recently deceased son’s ghost bride, while not ideal, it is an offer than is hard for her father to turn away.
Soon after this offer is made, Li Lan begins having dreams of the deceased son where he basically demands that she marry him. Overall though it is really creepy and I can’t blame her for saying no way. Things go from bad to worse though and the story continues through the spirit world including it’s funeral customs.
I found this book very interesting. It was different from anything I have ever read before and included a lot of new information on foreign superstitions and customs. The characters in the book were frustrating at times and there some slightly wordy parts but the plot was interesting and kept me engaged throughout the story. The description of the spirit world was fascinating and while I thought Li Lan was a bit flip-floppy, I liked the ending.
The bottom line: I would recommend this book because I found it to be different from the norm and interesting.
Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #30 – Find Me by Laura van den Berg

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Title: Find Me
Author: Laura van den Berg
Date finished: 4/11/15
Genre: Not quite sure. Fiction. Apocalyptic. Psychological. This one’s hard to label.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Pages in book: 270
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel–a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.
Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients–including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.
As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of a scale of 5
My review: This book will count for the challenge I am participating in for April, the #ReadingMyLibrary reading challenge. I saw this book at the Terryville Library and I had seen it in one of the recent Book Page publications I think so I thought I would try it. This book was interesting from the start, with a description of an epidemic that has swept the nation, wiping out much of the population in its path. Silver blisters begin appearing on a person’s skin and then their memory starts to go, to the point where they forget what a job or a house or a hand is. Their mind gets eaten away until the person can no longer function and they end up dying. This disease is spread through any kind of human contact, but mysteriously certain people who come into contact with it don’t succumb to the sickness. Joy is one of these lucky few. She came into contact early on in the epidemic but never came down with any symptoms.
Its because of this that she ends up at the Hospital, where Dr. Bek is studying various individuals to try and discover a cure to the sickness. Due to a strange series of events, Joy ends up escaping from the hospital to try and find her mother who abandoned her when she was only a month old. Joy is only about 20 years old by the time she leaves the Hospital but she’s already seen a lot of tragedy and hardship in life.
A lot of weird $h!t happens in this book. The story line was so extremely interesting and the idea behind the book was really thought provoking. After the epidemic ends many survivors end up killing themselves, some out of anger that they survived when their families didn’t and some because they just can’t manage to live in the America that’s developed as a result of the epidemic. The after effects seem to come in waves, the tragedy creating a ripple effect throughout the nation. Other weird stuff happens too. I don’t want to give away too much of the book so I can’t describe all the weird stuff that happens. This book was really interesting, but I have to be honest its not my usual kind of book. It was dark and heavy and weird and thought-provoking and interesting and weird all rolled into one big ball of interesting weird.

The bottom line: Very very interesting, a little dark though. Not exactly my style but I would recommend it.

Link to author website
Link to Amazon