Wednesday, April 27, 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

NOTE: This review was delayed due to illness, but better late than never! 


“Expertly depicting the anxiety and excitement that accompanies a new life, Hashimi’s gripping page-turner is perfect for book clubs.”—Library Journal (starred review)

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.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 21st 2015 by William Morrow (first published June 30th 2015)
ISBN 0062369571 (ISBN13: 9780062369574)

About the Author

Nadia Hashimi is a pediatrician of Afghan descent. Both her parents left Afghanistan in the early 1970s and settled in the United States to chase the American dream. Her debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, was an international bestseller. She lives with her family in Maryland.

Check out the author's website
Connect with the author on Facebook
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My Thoughts
My fate was sealed in blood on the day of my birth. As I struggled to enter this twisted world, my mother resigned it, taking with her my chances of being a true daughter.
Fereiba grows up a young woman of Afghanistan. She never knew her mother, who died during her birth, but was left in the care of a loving father who quickly remarried to give his children a mother to care for them. Her step-mother Kokogul cares for her husband's children and is even kind or praising at times, but there is little she does that isn't self-motivated. She's always looking out for her own best interests, or those of her own biological children.

Fereiba is surrounded by a cloud of death. With the loss of her mother, she is viewed as cursed and her community keeps her at arm's length. Fereiba finds solace in her father's orchards, which is where she meets the neighbor boy Hamoud. With the orchard wall separating them and unable to lay eyes on one another, a young love affair blooms through their words. But as always is in Fereiba's life, tragedy strikes and love is taken from her.

But Fereiba eventually rediscovers love with Mahmood, an engineer. Together they grow a deep and tender connection, and a strong foundation for their growing family, all while their world is changing. The Taliban has been taking hold in Afghanistan, offering stability and security to a people who have been ravaged by war for so long. As the Taliban takes control, both men and women begin to bend under their strict laws. Fereiba must cover herself in public, she is forced to give up her job and cannot go out in public alone, and young girls may no longer attend school.

Then tragedy strikes once again as Fereiba loses her beloved Mahmood, and makes the decision to escape Afghanistan in an attempt to save her children and herself. And so begins their long journey to England.

I really liked this story. Your heart yearns for Fereiba to find love and security, and later as they desperately seek to find that in England, you find yourself yearning the same for her eldest child-- her son Saleem.
Love grows wilder in the gardens of hardship.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, April 26th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, April 27th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, April 28th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, May 2nd: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Tuesday, May 3rd: Lit and Life
Wednesday, May 4th: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, May 9th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Tuesday, May 10th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 11th: Literary Feline
Thursday, May 12th: Ms. Nose in a Book
TBD: BoundbyWords

My final word: I really enjoyed this book. The characters are rich and the author's writing is effortless and beautiful and moving. It is fascinating to watch the world around Fereiba change as the Taliban gains a foothold. She goes from an educated young girl with the world in front of her to a woman hidden from that same world behind fabric and walls. But despite such hardships and tragedies in her life, she is a woman full of love and determination, driven to find safety and opportunity for her children. If you love books that allow you to explore other cultures, if you would like to see how Afghanistan used to be compared to what it has become, if you want to better understand why the Afghanistan people are some of the most loved in the world (known for their hospitality and generosity), this one is for you. Just lovely!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Readathon (April 2016): End of Event Survey

Photo credit: Chris Wieland via / CC BY-NC-ND (modified) 

Hello, Readathoners! The end is here! I did not do well this year, but I did finish my book and start a second one. So there's that.
End of Event Survey
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I gave in shortly after 1 AM and went to bed with a throbbing headache and aching legs from sitting. Getting old sucks.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I think a collection of short stories could be good to break things up. I had The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, but didn't read enough to need a break from longer stories.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything. The website has gotten easier to navigate over the years and find information. It continues to improve.
  5. How many books did you read? Finished one
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Finished When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi, and began Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? I've enjoyed both
  8. Which did you enjoy least? n/a
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I did my first readathon back in 2009. I'll always try to participate, and I'll always be a reader.
And that, my friends, is it for this readathon. I hope you enjoyed yourselves, and I'll see you right back here again in October.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Readathon (April 2016): Mid-Event Survey

Photo credit: Chris Wieland via / CC BY-NC-ND (modified) 

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi
2. How many books have you read so far? Zero
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I want to finish this one and get started on Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I've had tons of interruptions, and I've just given into them this year.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How little I've been able to participate this year. *sigh* I hope to be more involved this second half.

Readathon (April 2016): Our Bookish Childhoods Mini-Challenge

Photo credit: Chris Wieland via / CC BY-NC-ND (modified) 

How's it going with everyone? I've gotten nothing accomplished yet, as I've been stuck on the phone and had a puppy playing with me. It's time to grab some breakfast, and settle down with my book!

Over at Readage, bookgirl1987 is asking people to share their childhood literary memories. This got me thinking about mine. What are some of my top memories?
  1. I can't remember whether it was Christmas or for my birthday, but my mother gave me a copy of Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic and I found it was a great introduction to poetry. What a wonderful way to feed a child's imagination!
  2. As a child I had a couple of bookshelves over the head of my bed (the shelves fell down more than once, and I'm lucky that they never did so while I was laying under them!) One of my earliest memories is of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, which had a place on my shelves. It was read regularly (I think it had an orange book cover).
  3. And one Christmas I got the Judy Blume collection. Who can forget how groundbreaking Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was?
  4. There was a book that I read about Frederick Douglass when I was about 9 years old. I don't remember the name of the book, but it started a love for books about slavery and the underground, and I was equally fascinated by a book about Harriet Tubman read around this time.
  5. It's not exactly a children's book, but I read The Stand by Stephen King for the first time around the age of 12, and it became a favorite. It also started a love for post-apocalyptic literature, and I have read the book many times since.
I want to thank bookgirl1987 for making me sit down and think back on what helped start my love of books!

Readathon (April 2016): Intro Meme

Photo credit: Chris Wieland via / CC BY-NC-ND (modified)

Greetings from Southwest Florida! We're starting this morning curled up in bed, where the old woman is curled up on the pillow next to me...

...the middle child is nestled under the covers as usual...

...and the puppy is squeaking her toy incessantly.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Southwest Florida, down near the Everglades

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Finishing the one I'm already reading, which is When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Mango-Key Lime Pie

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! A divorced woman who works in the tech industry, I live with three dogs and four cats. I don't read enough, because I'm tethered to a computer and phone.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I don't think I'll do anything differently. My goal is simply to read all I can over the next 24 hours and relax and enjoy the time. If I sleep, I sleep. If I decide I need to go out for something, I will. But mostly I'll try to read.

Time to get to it. Happy reading everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mailbox Monday (4/18/16 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Received through TLC Book Tours...

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town's bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it's a secret that will change everything...

Received from the author...

Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.

Received through LibraryThing...

We Are Afghan Women by George W. Bush Institute

Here are Afghan women in their own words. Words that are by turns inspiring, moving, courageous, and heartbreaking. Their powerful stories create a compelling portrait of the lives, struggles, and successes of this extraordinary nation and its extraordinarily resilient women. With an introduction by Laura Bush, honorary founding co-chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.

Afghanistan has been described as “the worst nation in the world to be a woman.” More than fifty percent of girls who are forced into marriage are sixteen or younger. Too many women live in fear and in many areas, education and employment for women are still condemned. The women featured in We Are Afghan Women are fighting to change all that. From rug weavers to domestic violence counselors to business owners, educators, and activists, these courageous women are charting a new path for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation. Told in their own voices, their stories vividly capture a country undone by decades of war and now struggling to build a lasting peace.

Meet Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, who ran underground schools for girls until the Taliban fell, and today has established educational centers across Afghanistan to teach women and girls basic literacy. Or Freshta Hazeq, who as a female business owner, has faced death threats, sabotage, and even kidnapping threats against her children. Naheed Farid is the youngest female member of Afghanistan’s parliament. During her campaign, opponents cut Naheed’s face out of campaign posters and her family risked complete ruin, but her husband and father-in-law never wavered, encouraging her to persevere. Here, too are compassionate women such as Masooma Jafari, who started a national midwives association. Her own mother was forced into marriage at age twelve and gave birth to her first child at age thirteen.

With an introduction by former First Lady Laura Bush, We Are Afghan Women chronicles the lives of young and old, daughters and mothers, educated, and those who are still learning. These determined women are defying the odds to lead Afghanistan to a better future. Their stories are a stark reminder that in some corners of the world the struggle continues and that women’s progress in society, business, and politics cannot be taken for granted. Their eloquent words challenge all of us to answer: What does it truly mean to be a woman in the twenty-first century?

Received through the Book of the Month Club...
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

Received through Netgalley...

In this gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands, an unearthed skeleton will throw a small town into violent turmoil.
Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff’s deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee’s darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb’s father and Chris’s boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford “Judge” Ross. Dark, elegiac, and violent, The Far Empty is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it’s a debut novel you won’t soon forget.

Friday, April 15, 2016

ON MY RADAR (4/15/16 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

On the evening of May 3, 1937, Emilie Imhof boards the Hindenburg. As the only female crewmember, Emilie has access to the entire airship, from the lavish dining rooms and passenger suites to the gritty engine cars and control room. She hears everything, but with rumors circulating about bomb threats, Emilie’s focus is on maintaining a professional air…and keeping her own plans under wraps.

What Emilie can’t see is that everyone—from the dynamic vaudeville acrobat to the high-standing German officer—seems to be hiding something.

Giving free rein to countless theories of sabotage, charade, and mishap, Flight of Dreams takes us on the thrilling three-day transatlantic flight through the alternating perspectives of Emilie; Max, the ship’s navigator who is sweet on her; Gertrud, a bold female journalist who’s been blacklisted in her native Germany; Werner, a thirteen-year-old cabin boy with a bad habit of sneaking up on people; and a brash American who’s never without a drink in his hand. Everyone knows more than they initially let on, and as the novel moves inexorably toward its tragic climax, the question of which of the passengers will survive the trip infuses every scene with a deliciously unbearable tension.

With enthralling atmospheric details that immediately transport and spellbinding plotting that would make Agatha Christie proud, Flight of Dreams will keep you guessing till the last page. And, as The New York Times Book Review said of her last novel, “This book is more meticulously choreographed than a chorus line. It all pays off.”

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl
is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

Everything I Found On the Beach by Cynan Jones

(Synopsis and brief review from Shelf Awareness): Three unacquainted men on the west coast of Wales aspire to better their respective circumstances, and to that end make a series of decisions that have dire consequences. Patient pacing accompanies a relentless momentum, moving toward an ending that inspires dread.

Hold is a Welsh fisherman, consumed by his sense of responsibility. He is devoted to the wife and son of his recently deceased best friend; Hold made a promise to this friend that worries him constantly. Grzegorz is a Polish immigrant who brought his family to Wales for a better life but found disappointment. He works shifts at a slaughterhouse whose practices offend him. Finally, there is Stringer, Irish and a middleman in a criminal hierarchy that he feels has taken advantage of him for too long. These men find potential solutions to their problems in a scene on the beach: a boat, a dead man and a package.

Jones's writing is deceptively simple, belying his poetic mastery of language: "The first time he ever shot rabbits he was alone and it was with a shotgun and he had been looking for a long time...." His tone is deliberate, resolutely unexcitable despite the extraordinarily high stakes of his story.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Introducing... When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Though I love to see my children resting soundly, in the quiet of their slumber my uneasy mind retraces our journey. How did I come to be here, with two of my three children curled on the bristly bedspread of a hotel room? So far from home, so far from voices I recognize.

-- When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Friday, April 1, 2016

ON MY RADAR (04/1/16 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her of the Underground Railroad and they plot their escape.

Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds on each leg of her journey...Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors of black life in pre-Civil War America. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

 Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

A debut literary thriller from an incredible new voice. What do you do when the man who gave you everything turns out to be a killer?

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?