The Sister’s Chase [review]

The Sister's Chase by Sarah Healey

Title: The Sister’s Chase
Author: Sarah Healey
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

[Synopsis]

A gripping novel about two sisters who are left homeless by their mother’s death and the lengths the fierce older sister will go to protect her beloved young charge

The hardscrabble Chase women—Mary, Hannah, and their mother Diane—have been eking out a living running a tiny seaside motel that has been in the family for generations, inviting trouble into their lives for just as long. Eighteen-year-old Mary Chase is a force of nature: passionate, beautiful, and free-spirited. Her much younger sister, Hannah, whom Mary affectionately calls “Bunny,” is imaginative, her head full of the stories of princesses and adventures that Mary tells to give her a safe emotional place in the middle of their troubled world.

But when Diane dies in a car accident, Mary discovers the motel is worth less than the back taxes they owe. With few options, Mary’s finely tuned instincts for survival kick in. As the sisters begin a cross-country journey in search of a better life, she will stop at nothing to protect Hannah. But Mary wants to protect herself, too, for the secrets she promised she would never tell—but now may be forced to reveal—hold the weight of unbearable loss. Vivid and suspenseful, The Sisters Chase is a whirlwind page-turner about the extreme lengths one family will go to find—and hold onto—love.

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[My Review]

The Sister’s Chase is a beautifully written, absorbing novel about family, friendship and loyalty in c.1980’s America. Sisters Mary and Hannah have lost their mum in a car accident and there starts a lift of responsibility for Mary in looking after young Hannah whilst making her own mistakes in life. She is, after all, only a young adult herself, but she has so much responsibility on her shoulders.

Mary is what I’d imagine to be a ‘marmite’ character – you’ll either like and/or respect her fierce protection of Hannah and the lengths she’ll go to, to try and keep their heads above water financially, or you’ll hate her for the way she treats other people. Either way, I personally thought her often controversial behaviour to make for a really interesting read and added an element of danger to the story – when will her often dodgy behaviour have its repercussions for both sisters?

The story jumps around back and forwards in time, with some of the story focussed on time when their mother Diane was still alive (and this goes some way to explaining why Mary is the way she is and offers more context to the story) and another narrative portraying the ‘present day’. It’s easy to tell which narrative we’re reading as the chapters are marked with dates, so this avoids any potential confusion that some readers tend to dislike with this kind of narrative structure.

This is a fairly easy read, though not simple in its writing style – the sentences flow really well and the slow reveal of certain ‘secrets’ and elements kept me intrigued whilst also stopping the story from feeling like it wasn’t going anywhere (something that I often really dislike; some parts of this novel felt like it started to go this way for me, but the author soon pulled it back beautifully).

The sisters’ story here is heart-warming at times and poignant at others; you sort of feel like you’re missing something, that something is a little skewed… the skill of Sarah Healey’s writing means that, even in parts where it doesn’t feel like you’re really learning anything, you still want to keep reading.

Definitely recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

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Ginny Moon – audiobook [review]

Ginny Moon - Benjamin Ludwig

Title: Ginny Moon
Author: Benjamin Ludwig
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret…

Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up….

After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her.

Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.

Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right…

A fiercely poignant and inspirational story a lost girl searching for a place to call home. Ginny Moon will change everyone who spends time with her.

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[My Review]

Ginny Moon is a touching, sweet story of a 14 year old girl with Autism, who has had a hard and rather sad upbringing. She now lives with foster parents,but if you think that’s her happy ending, you find that unfortunately things aren’t perfect for her.

I have no experience of autism myself, basing everything on other books I’ve read which I’m aware aren’t always accurate! However, Benjamin Ludwig seems to created a fairly accurate representation of someone living with autism, particularly a child – or if he hasn’t, he’s created something that seems convincing enough, and Ginny is certainly likable!

Ginny seems like such a sweet girl; her confusion and struggle with social situations and communication is really interesting to read about, and I really felt like I got to know her and life through her eyes. Knowing that Benjamin Ludwig is a foster parent himself to an autistic child means you can really see how his own experiences have helped define and shape this book. He’s attempted – and I get the impression that he’s also succeeded – in portraying the struggle of being a foster parent to a special needs child, but told through Ginny’s eyes in what feels like a really honest way. I liked both foster parents (Brian and Maura) and really felt for them, despite the hard situation they were in. I particularly liked Ginny’s ‘forever dad’, Brian, who seemed much more patient and really lovely.

I really disliked the majority of the other adults in the novel – of course, Ginny’s mum and aunt are both completely unsuitable for Ginny, as we know, but even the teachers seemed quite misinformed about how to handle Ginny. Surely, as she seems to be at a school for students with special needs (or at least in a special class), the teachers and staff should have some idea of how to speak to, interact with and actually help a child like Ginny, instead of seeming surprised when, for example, she doesn’t answer if asked two questions at once. That might just be me expecting too much from those characters, though!

There are sad and poignant moments in this story, as well as some lighter parts which can be quite humorous, but throughout it all Ginny remains a sweet and naive character who you can’t help but love. I really enjoyed reading about her.

I listened to the audiobook version and often I’d prefer to just read it myself and completely imagine the accents of characters in my head. However I really wanted to read this so was excited to borrow it from my local library when it became available in audiobook format – the narrator had a bit of an annoying voice (sorry!) to be honest, but never mind.

This is a lovely story with plenty of emotional parts, and told from a child narrator which is always something a little different for adult fiction, too. I’d recommend it.

[Rating: 4/5]

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Wilde Like Me [review]

Wilde Like Me - Louise Pentland

Title: Wilde Like Me
Author: Louise Pentland
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

[Synopsis]

Meet Robin Wilde! You’ll make a friend for life and she’ll take you on a journey you’ll never forget …

Single mum Robin Wilde adores her six-year-old daughter and loves her job as a make up artist’s assistant. She has a wonderful best friend and an auntie who is bonkers, yes, but loves her to the moon and back.

But Robin has a secret. Behind the mask she carefully applies every day, things just feel … grey. And lonely. She struggles to fit in with the school mum crew. Online dating is totally despair-inducing, and she worries every day about raising her little girl with self-confidence, courage and joy.

What Robin longs for is someone (over the age of six) to share with – someone who’s always on her team.

After 4 years (2 months, and 15 days!) of single-mum-dom, it’s time for Robin Wilde to Change. Her. Life.

Exciting new opportunities are about to come Robin’s way … Perhaps a man, perhaps the chance of a lifetime …

What will Robin do with the possibilities she creates for herself? And what potential will she unlock if she takes the leap?

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[My Review]

Wilde Like Me is a fun, light-hearted read. It follows Robin Wilde, mum of six year Lyla who’s life, in her eyes anyway, is a bit of a mess. She’s trying to juggle being a single mum and desperately trying to live up to the perfect examples the other mums at her daughter’s school seem to set, whilst feeling pretty lonely at times.

The story itself is easy to read and, at times, really funny. There were parts that really made me laugh, and parts that were a little more serious. The novel focuses a lot on main character Robin’s emotions, which can often be quite up and down, and I liked that these emotions were not something to be excused or apologised for. However I wasn’t sure that Robin’s mental health problems were just due to her being lonely without a man in her life; this felt a bit too ‘simple’, and Robin was also so preoccupied with worrying that Lyla might be negatively affected because she’s is a single mum which is a shame. I suppose that’s what Robin feels is the opinions of society and I’m sure many other people sadly feel  this pressure too (I don’t have any kids so I guess I can’t comment on this), but it feels a bit outdated.

Enough about the more serious parts – most of the novel is pretty light-hearted and humorous. Some of the story is unapologetic fluffy, and sometimes that’s just what you feel like reading! Louise Pentland definitely has a knack for writing witty occurrences in an engaging way. There are some great situation that Robin gets herself into which really amused me, though sometimes she is far too hard on herself – she IS doing a great job as a mum, though she can be a bit annoying sometimes!

I lost interest a bit in some of the story in the second half, but overall I feel that it’s a fun read which I enjoyed, and I think this will be a popular read.

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to Readers First for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Mad [review]

Mad - Chloe Esposito

Title: Mad (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Trilogy #1)
Author: Chloe J. Esposito
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

‘There’s something you should know before we go any further: my heart is in the wrong place. Now don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .’

Perhaps that’s why nothing in Alvie’s life has ever gone right? Until now.

She can finally abandon her credit card debt – and her fruitless three-way relationship with Tinder and Twitter – when fate gives her the chance to steal her identical twin’s perfect life.

It’s just a shame Beth had to die to make Alvie’s dreams come true.

So begin seven days of sex, violence and unapologetic selfies – one wild week that sees Alvie break every rule in the book. She never did have much respect for boundaries.

It might be madness, but rules are meant to be broken. Right?

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[My Review]

I absolutely loved this book. I’m going to try and avoid saying ‘mad’ too many times, but for want of a better word that really sums up this novel. It IS mad. It’s also very funny, entertaining, fast paced and completely crazy.

Main character Alvie is actually a pretty awful person. You know she is, she knows she is, but she’s just so unapologetic. She’s selfish, mean and no doubt very annoying to spend any time with, but reading about her escapades and don’t-care attitude was really fun. She’s also very crude which only added to the hilarity, in my opinion.

The story is fast-paced and easy to read; I rocketed through it in no time at all. There are plenty of ridiculous moments and of course it’s all very far-fetched, but I guess that’s kind of the point. I loved that Alvie a British character but also that much of the story was set in atmospheric, gorgeous Italy. Some of the story is quite clever, too, and there were many parts I didn’t see coming.

If you fancy a fun rollercoaster of a summer read with a main character you love to hate (in this respect it reminded me of SweetPea, another novel I loved – read my review here) then this is a great option. I will definitely be reading the other two in the trilogy!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to the Netgalley and Michael Joseph for providing an advance reader copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

You Don’t Know Me [review]

You Don't Know Me - Imran Mahmood

Title: You Don’t Know Me
Author: Imran Mahmood
Publisher: Michael Joseph UK

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[My Review]

You Don’t Know Me is a novel with a really interesting-sounding storyline but one which I unfortunately just didn’t get on with. The way the story told is unique – the defendant seems to have decided to represent himself and is giving his own closing speech at his trail. We hear the story of what led up to the shooting and murder that he’s on trial for as he tells the jury, often stopping to interact with them or comment on their reactions. I liked that this was a different method of storytelling and it meant that I was really interested at the beginning of the novel.

The story felt a little too long, and though there was plenty happening I felt that the narrative just dragged a little unfortunately. I suppose I expect there to be more of a ‘reveal’ as to what happened and why, but it felt like the narrative had a lot of detail that didn’t really tell me much or explain that much even about the defendant himself. I lost interest in the story around half way through and unfortunately didn’t find myself particularly intrigued, even in the last few pages with what is bound to be a rather controversial ending! The language is very informal, which in itself I have no problem with – however I did find it hard to stay focussed sometimes.

This is definitely something a little different but it just didn’t work for me and it failed to keep my interest. However I’ve seen lots of great reviews from others so it will like be a big success for some, just not for me.

[Rating: 2.5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Michael Joseph, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

You Don’t Know Me is out in the UK on 27 June.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Broken Branches [review] @MJonathanLee @hideawayfall

Broken branches - Jonathan Lee

Title: Broken Branches
Author: M.Jonathan Lee
Publisher: Hideaway Fall

[Synopsis]

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

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[My Review]

So. This is quite a difficult review to write – or to know where to start writing it – because Broken Branches left me thinking it long after I’d finished it. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll try to keep my review suitably vague…

The narrative focuses mainly on Ian and his life with wife Rachel and son Harry, though there are parts told from other perspectives too. Ian’s determined to trace his family history and find out more about this curse that’s supposedly afflicted his family for many generations. However we soon that his marriage seems to be crumbling away, with wife Rachel suffering from what seems to be severe depression and Ian seemingly too engrossed in his ‘research’ to really comprehend this properly…

In Broken Branches author M. Jonathan Lee manages to convey a rather eerie tone, with mysterious going-ons which remain thought-provoking and intriguing without being too ‘obvious’. There are also plenty of really ‘grounded, real-life’ sort of moments, where you feel like you could be reading a normal description of strained family life, before suddenly being faced with unexplained, often half-seen occurrences. I don’t generally tend to read any supernatural-style books, but this feels like  more than that; the whole story has a very Gothic feel to it, with elements of death, family, horror and relationships, without fitting too neatly into any one category, which is why I think I enjoyed it so much.

The theme of mental health is definitely prevalent, and I really liked the way that it makes you think about the subject and its effect on the people who have to deal with this.

At times the way the novel flicked between different time frames could be a little confusing, and I guessed part of the ending a while before I got to it, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment – the way that the author slowly pulled the story together in front of me left me thinking about this novel long after I put it down.

Broken Branches is an atmospheric, intriguing read and a great first release from new independent publisher Hideaway Fall!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Hideaway Fall for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Broken Branches is out in the UK on 27 July 2017 – pre-order your copy here.

Miss Christie Regrets [review]

Miss Christie Regrets

Title: Miss Christie Regrets
Author: Guy Fraser-Sampson
Publisher: Urbane Publications

[Synopsis]

The second in the Hampstead Murders series opens with a sudden death at an iconic local venue, which some of the team believe may be connected with an unsolved murder featuring Cold War betrayals worthy of George Smiley. It soon emerges that none other than Agatha Christie herself may be the key witness who is able to provide the missing link.

As with its bestselling predecessor, Death in Profile, the book develops the lives and loves of the team at ‘Hampstead Nick’. While the next phase of a complicated love triangle plays itself out, the protagonists, struggling to crack not one but two apparently insoluble murders, face issues of national security in working alongside Special Branch. On one level a classic whodunit, this quirky and intelligent read harks back not only to the world of Agatha Christie, but also to the Cold War thrillers of John Le Carre, making it a worthy successor to Death in Profile which was dubbed ‘a love letter to the detective novel’.

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[My Review]

I hugely enjoyed Miss Christie Regrets – it had all the elements of  a classic, golden-era whodunnit but with a modern setting, and this contrast, along with the slightly old fashioned language, was very unique and appealed to me.

The story is surprisingly pleasant to read, despite the inclusion of murder. I enjoyed every page really, with witty comments from those trying to solve the murder/ crimes within the novel’s pages, and plenty of good, ‘old fashioned’ detective work! This is certainly not one of the gritty, disturbing crime novels which are so prevalent at the moment (and which, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy), but I felt like this was a breath of fresh air and something a little different. There are also plenty of references to classic detective stories by a range of authors, and I found myself noting down some of them to read as there were plenty which I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’d never really thought about reading before! The style of the story made me want to read more like that in the future, and I liked that Agatha Christie’s legacy was also included in the story.

The characters are likeable and well-rounded, with their own quirks and sleuthing habits, and some of their personal relationships are included too, but all without any element of cheesiness. They, and the story itself, are quite self-aware at times; for example at one point towards the end Willis says “Miss Christie regrets… it could almost be the title of a book, couldn’t it?”

This is a great detective novel for anyone wanting a change from gritty, harrowing crime novels or just something a little more light-hearted and pleasant to read. The characters, story and golden-era style, all set in the modern day, make it both unique and fun to read, and I really enjoyed it!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the author, Guy Fraser-Sampson, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

 

WWW Wednesday [21 June 2017]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

If We Were Villains M.L.Rio [my review here]

Miss Christie RegretsGuy Fraser-Sampson [review to follow]

Broken BranchesJonathan M. Lee [review to follow]

You Don’t Know MeImran Mahmood [review to follow]

What are you currently reading? 

Mad (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Trilogy #1) – Chloe Esposito

Ginny Moon (audiobook) – Benjamin Ludwig

 

What will you read next?

Wilde Like Me - Louise Pentland

Wilde Like Me Louise Pentland

 

What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

If We Were Villains [blog tour review]

If We Were Villains - ML Rio

Today I’m very excited to be a stop on the blog tour for If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. Compared to Donna Tartt’s A Secret History, which in itself hugely intrigued me as I really love that novel, this looks set to be a great debut – read on to find out what I thought (warning – slightly rambly review coming up, as I felt there was so much to say about it!)


Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Publisher:  Titan Books



[Synopsis]

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.


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[My Review]

If We Were Villains is a clever, beautifully written book which combines the old with the new, focusing on young students at a prestigious drama school studying and performing Shakespeare’s work. When one of their tightly knit group is killed, they start to – as Oliver puts it – “fall apart”. Was it really an accident, and if so, who killed them?

The story starts in the present day, often reverting back to this timeframe as the story continues, but also effectively draws the reader back to a time before this tragic occurrence. It shows us the lead up to the night when everything changed – and then beyond that night, as we learn how this has affected the group and gauge their reactions. It’s all told from Oliver’s point of view.

The narrative is split into acts and scenes, which is fitting for a book which includes so much Shakespeare. There were also various parts which lapsed into formatting just like a play, which I found really interesting and something a little different too. The writing is beautiful and the plot is really well crafted, making for an engaging read.

Despite having studied English Literature at university myself, the constant quoting from Shakespeare by the students did get a little annoying for me at times. It’s not that I don’t think drama students would slip lines into every speech – in fact, I’m sure they would – but it’s just that, for me, it sort of stopped the words flowing, and I had to look twice to work out what was being said. I think if there had been around half the quotes there was, I’d have found it easier to read. However I completely understand why these quotes were included, and it’s the characters who were throwing the quotes around in what felt like a really pretentious way, not the writing itself. I felt that many of the characters were rather selfish, very privileged students who often came across as having an over-inflated sense of self-worth. There were times when I really questioned Oliver and his friend’s reactions and thoughts on certain matters – there’s a rather selfish reaction I particularly remember, when Oliver learns that his sister’s eating disorder treatment means his parents can’t afford to pay for his college tuition anymore (though we have to remember that his dad was always against him studying drama instead of a more ‘solid’ subject such as law).

However, despite my irritation at the rather spoilt characters, I did really enjoy reading about their dramatic behaviour (they are drama students, after all!) and the fact that I didn’t particularly like them only made me more intrigued as to who had been involved in the mystery.

There’s plenty of both hinted and overt sexual tension, and the complex nature of human relationships (especially when you’ve all shared a common traumatic experience) is really interesting to read about. I loved the skilled writing of M.L. Rio and think this is a beautifully crafted debut – highly recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Titan Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.


M L RioAbout The Author

M. L. Rio was born in Miami and raised in North Carolina by parents from California, and has never been able to satisfactorily answer the question, “Where are you from?” She spent most of her childhood in Middle Earth or Neverland or Wonderland, attended Hogwarts for a number of years, and eventually graduated from the real-life University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in English and dramatic art and a minor in creative writing. Storytelling has always been her specialty.

Find out more on her website.

Check out the other stops on the blog tour below:

IWWV_blog tour (1)

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Goodreads Monday: Wilde Like Me

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners, and add your own links!


Today I’m going to pick a book I recently received from Readers First which is also on my Goodreads ‘to read’ list; I read the extract on the site and thought it was really funny so I’m really looking forward to reading it!

Wilde Like Me - Louise Pentland

Title: Wilde Like Me
Author:  Louise Pentland
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Publish date: 29 June 2017

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[Synopsis]

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs.

Although she keeps her predictions to herself that day, they soon come to pass in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Caught up in the resistance, Alia’s brother disappears, while Alia and her husband move from Nablus to Kuwait City. Reluctantly they build a life, torn between needing to remember and learning to forget.

When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, Alia and her family yet again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it. Scattering to Beirut, Paris and Boston, Alia’s children begin families of their own, once more navigating the burdens and blessings of beginning again.

Have you heard anything about this book, or have you got it on your TBR list? 

Don’t forget… follow me on: instagram @snazzy_stuff_goodreads Laura / and twitter @lauranazmdeh!