Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Home Fire

Isma Pasha has always cared for her younger siblings Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their father was never around and their mother died when the twins were still young. Now she finally has the chance to leave England and live her own life. She accepts an invitation to work and study at an American university. But she can't stop worrying about her sister and brother. Parvaiz has disappeared, determined to find the truth about his father's life as a jihadist and his death. Aneeka is dating a man who might break her heart or save her whole family.

Home Fire is a story told from alternating perspectives. We start with Isma as she embarks on a new adventure in the US and encounters all the difficulties that Muslim women experience. We meet Eamonn, with his easy charm and family influence, and spend time with the twins Aneeka and Parvaiz as they discover just how strong their bond is and how far they would go for the other.

The discerning reader will quickly realize that this is an updated version of the story of Antigone. The author sticks closely to the story in many senses, which makes sense when you consider the timeless themes of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. But bringing it into the 21st century and focusing it on a Muslim family makes the tale incredibly resonant. The novel opens with Isma's airport interrogation as she travels to her new home and this thread takes us all the way through the book--what is it like to live each day when you are seen as "other," when you are the person who will be affected by new laws?

Kamila Shamsie is a wonderful writer and I am happy to have read one of her books. Home Fire is catapulting her into some serious literary attention, which is entirely earned. It is a testament to Shamsie's writing that even a reader who knows what happens in the ancient Greek story will find themselves anxiously flipping pages because they truly care about these characters and want to know if they can somehow avoid a tragic ending.

Home Fire
By Kamila Shamsie
Riverhead Books August 2017
276 pages
From the library

Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Monday and I have a 10-year-old!

Hi everybody! How are your holiday preparations going? Are you checking things off your list? Are your evenings spent in a sea of wrapping paper?

This week, we put Christmas prep on hold for a bit because my favorite 4th grader had a birthday! As I mentioned last week, we started with a day at the aquarium. Then I took D and two of his friends to see the movie Wonder and get some ice cream. This weekend, we had the family here for a birthday party complete with a taco bar and Pokemon decorations.


Now I have to get back into that Christmas to-do-list. I'm making progress but I still have presents to buy and wrap, music to rehearse for church, and cookies to bake!

So I never really got into World's Fair, so I put it aside. Actually, I put it in the pile to donate to my local library; I'm trying to send books out instead of putting them back on my shelf in hopes of them working better another time. Instead I read Sing, Unburied, Sing and now I'm reading Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There. 

        Sing, Unburied, Sing       Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home)

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: The Girl in the Tower

The people in Vasya's village believe she is a witch. As her neighbors become increasingly antagonistic, she is told to join a convent or get married. But Vasya chooses instead to leave everything she has known behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she rides off into the Russian countryside. She soon finds a battle to fight when she learns that bandits are terrorizing small towns. Her bravery earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince. She must continue her facade to keep the prince's trust, but her choices could put her brother, her sister, and the entire city of Moscow in peril.

I absolutely adored The Bear and the Nightingale, the first book in this trilogy. Sequels can be tricky, but The Girl in the Tower lives up to its predecessor. This story gives our beloved protagonist room to grow while also giving us  insight into her brother Sasha and sister Olga. If the first book was primarily about Vasya, this one is about the whole family. It also moves the story from the quiet dangers of the forest to the perils of the city and court, where the person sitting next to you could be your friend or scheming to take your place.

Katherine Arden does a wonderful job of holding things in tension: Vasya glories in the opportunity and danger of the woods while appreciating the safety of a city, she can't resist spending time with the frost demon Morozko but won't give up her own agency, and she is a woman who makes unconventional choices, but those decisions have very realistic repercussions for a woman of the past. It's darker and the consequences are bigger, but the enchanting writing will still draw you in and refuse to let go.

The Winternight books are a beautiful blend of historical fiction and fantasy. If you haven't read them yet, you must pick them up and enjoy all of the magic that a good story with wonderful characters can provide.

The Girl in the Tower
The Winternight Trilogy #2
By Katherine Arden
Del Ray December 2017
352 pages
Read via Netgalley

Monday, December 4, 2017

I'm back to It's Monday!

I haven't done one of these posts in almost two months. But today, here I am!

Somehow, husband and I have kept a certain boy alive and well for the past decade. My kiddo turned ten today, so we played hooky. We started the day with chocolate chip pancakes, went to the aquarium, had lunch with his godmother who was here from the West Coast, and finished the day off with his favorite dinner and a movie.

Image may contain: 2 people
He used to be so little...

I'm trying to get through my crazy long to-do list when it comes to the holidays. It gets extra long when you child has a birthday just a few weeks before Christmas, so wish me well!

On the book front, I recently finished Forest Dark and Home Fire. Now I'm reading World's Fair and planning to pick up Sing, Unburied, Sing later in the week.

                     Home Fire     World's Fair

What are you reading? How are your holiday preparations going?