Thursday, April 30, 2009

April in a Nutshell

I apologize for be absent lately, but we moved this week and needless to say things have been very hectic these last few weeks, and will probably remain so for another week at least. Our move went smoothly, and we LOVE our new place (the pets are still adjusting :)) We are thrilled to be close to family again, but I am sure that will cut into my reading time a bit (well worth it though).

April was a good month for me (except for the last week). I liked most of the (12) books that I read in April. I visited many wonderful new places and a few familiar places too. I visited India and England. I also saw some more of the United States: Idaho, New York, Wyoming, New Mexico, Washington, DC, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan.

By Title: APRIL

The Weight of Heaven; Umrigar - 5/5 - review copy
54. In Hovering Flight; Hinnefeld - 4/5
55. Run for Your Life; Patterson - 3/5
56. The Distance Between Us; Yates - 4.5/5
57. Dog on It; Spencer - 4/5 - review copy
58. The Cradle; Somerville - 3/5 - review
59. Pursuit; Robards - 4/5
60. Murder Most Frothy; Coyle - 4/5
61. The Daily Coyote; Stockton - 4/5 (audio)
62. Santa Fe Dead; Woods - 3/5 (audio)
63. Almost Home; Jenoff - 4/5 - review copy
64. Heat; Stuart Woods - 2.5/5 (audio)

Favorite Books of the Month

Challenge Progress - 2009:

  • Total Books Read in 2009 - 64
  • 100+ Books Challenge for 2009 - 64/100
  • New Authors Challenge for 2009 - 42/50
  • A - Z Challenge for 2009 - 20/26
  • Support Your Local Library Challenge for 2009 - 38/50
  • Read Your Own Books Challenge for 2009 - 27/100
  • John Steinbeck Mini Challenge – 1/2
  • Spiritually Speaking Challenge - 3/6
  • Spring Reading Thing Challenge – 14/15
  • War Through the Generations Challenge - 2/5
  • Cozy Mystery Challenge - 2/6

How did you enjoy your month?

64 - Heat; Stuart Woods

Ex-DEA agent Jesse Warden has seen enough of the inside of a solitary confinement cell to last him a lifetime. Or two lifetimes, which is the sentence he's serving after being convicted of a plan he was planning to commit, but never did. So when an old buddy shows up with a deal that could spring him from his hell behind bars, he's ready to listen.

To gain his freedom, Jesse must infiltrate a dangerous and reclusive religious cult that has been stockpiling weapons and eliminating those sent to investigate.
From the moment he arrives in the Idaho mountain town where the cult is centered, Jesse finds every aspect of life dictated by the group's eerie, imposing leader.

The plot is clearly modeled on the Branch Davidian disaster, and while the reader was very good, the story was fairly blah and a bit predictable.
RATING - 2.5/5 - COMPLETED - 4/26/09

Thursday, April 23, 2009

63 - Almost Home; Pam Jenoff

Jordan Weiss is a State Department intelligence officer. One day she receives a letter from her friend Sarah who lives in London. Sarah has Lou Gehrig's disease and hopes Jordan can come for a visit. Knowing that Sarah would never ask her for help, but most likely needs help, Jordan immediately requests reassignment to London to be near Sarah, a place she thought she'd never return to.
Ten years earlier Jordan Weiss was a graduate student at Cambridge. She was destroyed when her boyfriend and fellow crew team member, Jared Short, drowned in the River Cam the night before the biggest race of the year. A lot has happened since that time for Jordan. She has traveled the world on dangerous secret assignments but until now, she has managed to avoid returning to face her painful memories in England.
Once in London, Jordan begins to settle into her new life and to enjoy time with Sarah, but shortly after her arrival she is approached by a former college classmate who tells her something shocking. Jordan is told that Jared's death was not an accident, but that he was murdered, when he uncovered a startling secret.
Almost Home: A Novel was a story that kept my interest, even though the two plot lines did not seem to flow as smoothly, as I wished it had. The novel might have been improved upon by a little more editing and a bit more emphasis on character development. Despite this, I still found this book to be a worthwhile read. Almost Home, by Pam Jenoff was sent to me for review from Simon and Schuster.
RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 4/23/09

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - Noah's Compass; Anne Tyler

Hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine, Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

Title: Noah's Compass Anne Tyler
Pub. Date: September 29, 2009

From Amazon:

From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life.

Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn’t bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged.

His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is—well, something quite different.

We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler’s lovely novel resonates so deeply.

This sounds like something I would love (5 months away though). What is your W.O.W. pick?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

62 - Santa Fe Rules; Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods has been a hit or miss author for me, although some of his earlier books were my favorites. My husband and I listened to Santa Fe Rules (1992) on a short trip, and it made the drive fly by.

In this story movie producer Wolf Willett is shocked beyond belief when he finds himself stranded in the Grand Canyon, and reads about his own death, having been reported in a major newspaper. The article states that he was a victim in a triple homicide during a three-some with his wife and a friend, at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But who is the deceased that was believed to be Wolf, and why can't Wolf remember anything about the night in question?

When Wolf is arrested, and then yet another murder occurs, Wolf hires a top level criminal attorney, Ed Eagle, to help clear his name. Hopefully, this will happen before Wolf ends up dead for real.
The reader of this audio book was great, and the story was fun to listen to with lots of twists and turns. Unfortunately, both of us felt that the loose ends were tied up too quickly, and the ending seemed contrived.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 4/21/09

Saturday, April 18, 2009

61 - The Daily Coyote; Shreve Stockton

Shreve Stockton's, The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming, was an interesting audio book ( I also had the printed version from the library for the amazing photographs). Shreve Stockton tells the story of she ended up falling in love with a small town of 300 in Wyoming, when she really intended to drive a scooter all the way from San Francisco to New York City.

In Wyoming, Shreve became romantically involved with a cowboy/government trapper whose job was to protect livestock by killing off the coyote population. When he finds an orphaned coyote pup in a den he just smoked out, he gives it to Shreve, and she decides to try and domesticate it. She names the coyote Charlie, and she soon realizes she has traded in her independence when she takes on this task of raising the young pup, and introducing Charlie, the coyote to her cat Eli.

The photos in this book are amazing, especially the ones of Charlie. It seemed a little surprising to me that a city girl like Shreve, could end up living in a rural cabin with no running water, no heat and no inside plumbing.
Although I did enjoy this audio book, something about this book did not settle well with me. The extermination of the coyote population was a little upsetting to me, but then again being the animal lover that I am, I’m opposed to deer hunting as well.

RATING – 4/5 – COMPLETED – 4/18/09

60 - Murder Most Frothy; Cleo Coyle

The fourth in the Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse Mystery series, Murder Most Frothy, finds New York coffee shop manager Clare Cosi headed for the Hamptons for the summer. Clare's new friend, millionaire David Mintzer, offers Clare an all-expenses paid summer at his Hampton's mansion to relax in the sun, in exchange for training the staff of his new restaurant.

Before long Clare is tending the coffee bar at a big party at the mansion, but the fun party has a dramatic turn of events: an employee turns up dead in David’s bathroom, and it becomes obvious that the real target was David. The two men were of similar features and build, and wearing the same colors. Unfortunately because of the Fourth of July fireworks no one heard any shots. Clare begins to investigate, while everyone waits for the police to arrive.

This short cozy mystery was a quick fun read. For me, the best part of this series is the coffee and dessert recipes This one featured one I recipe that I plan to try: Claire's Chocolate Walnut Espresso Brownies.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 4/15/09

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday; That Old Cape Magic; Richard Russo

Hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine, Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

Title: That Old Cape Magic; Richard Russo
Pub. Date: August 4, 2009

From Amazon:

Thirty years ago, on their Cape Cod honeymoon, Jack and Joy Griffin made a plan for their future that has largely been fulfilled. He left Los Angeles behind for the sort of New England college his parents had aspired to, and now the two of them are back on the Cape—where he’d also spent his childhood vacations—to celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. Sure, Jack’s been driving around with his father’s ashes in the trunk, though his mother’s very much alive and often on his cell phone. Laura’s boyfriend seems promising, but be careful what you pray for, especially if it happens to come true. A year later, at her wedding, Jack has another urn in the car, and both he and Joy have brought new dates. Full of every family feeling imaginable, wonderfully comic and profoundly involving, That Old Cape Magic is surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written. (I really enjoyed Empire Falls by this author).

What's your W.O.W. pick?

Monday, April 13, 2009

59 - Pursuit; Karen Robards

I have been a fan of Karen Robards for several years, but I was a bit disappointed by a few of her more recent books, so I was not sure what to expect of her latest: Pursuit, which was recently released.
In this story the reader is introduced to Jessica Ford, an ambitious young lawyer working for at a large firm in Washington, D.C. One evening Jessica gets a call from her boss, John Davenport, who is a good friend, and personal attorney to the First Lady, Annette Cooper. Since her boss has had a bit too much to drink he sends Jessica out to meet the First Lady at a hotel, where she is trying to hide from the Secret Service for some reason.
Jessica, the First Lady, and two others, later that evening are in a car accident, in which everyone in the car except Jessica was killed-- including the First Lady. Critically injured, Jessica is in the hospital, and cannot recall the details about the accident. What she does fear is that someone is now trying to kill her, beginning with an incident in the hospital. Was it really an accident? Why is someone trying to kill Jessica, and just who can she trust? Someone believes that she knows more than she should about the First Lady and her death, and is determined to keep Jessica quiet.
This book was a wonderful page turner and was on its way to getting a "highly recommended" rating from me. Unfortunately, the author, decided to add a "hot and heavy" mutual attraction between Jessica and Mark Ryan, a Secret Service Agent, and it seemed totally unrealistic in a story like this where the Jessica was constantly running for her life. It was still a very good thriller, but no longer deserving of a perfect rating in my opinion.
RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 4/13/09

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Non - Fiction Five Challenge - 2009

Hosted by Trish:

The Rules (unchanged from previous years)

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

3. If interested, please sign up below with the link to your NFF Challenge post (all choices do not need to be posted and may change at any time)

My Tentative List: COMPLTED - 6/2/09

  1. Happy for No Reason; Marci Shimoff - 4/5
  2. The Black Girl Next Door; Baszelle - 4/5
  3. All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome; Hoopmann - 5/5
  4. Gringos in Paradise; Golson - 4/5
  5. Who Do You Think You Are?; Alyse Myers - 4.5/5

58 - The Cradle; Patrick Somerville

In Patrick Somerville's debut novel: The Cradle, two stories are woven together -- both stories are about family histories.

In the first story we meet Marissa and Mark. Marrissa is very pregnant with the couple's first child. She becomes obsessed with locating an antique Civil War cradle that her mother took with her when she abandoned the family many years earlier. Matt, wanting to please his wife, as this cradle seems so important to her, sets out on a mission to find it. Along the way, he reconnects his past, and is faced to revisit his own childhood abandonment, neglect, and years of abuse that took place in various foster homes and orphanages.

As Matt and Marissa's story moves forward, another story travels backward: with a middle-aged couple sending their only son off to war in Iraq. This event brings to life memories of the past on the part of the wife, involving her first love and abandonment issues of her own. Eventually, the two story lines come together for the reader.

Marissa and Matt's story takes place in 1997 and the other story in 2008. The stories are told in alternating chapters. I found it confusing at times to keep track of the time lines as the chapters kept switching back and forth between the couples. This 200 page debut novel was interesting enough to keep my attention, although I did have the story figured out before I was half way through.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 4/11/09

Friday, April 10, 2009

57 - Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery; Spencer Quinn

I received a review copy of Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery,from Simon and Schuster, and I was pleasantly surprised by this debut novel.
This fun mystery introduces two memorable characters: Chet the Jet, the narrator is a lovable dog who failed K-9 school. The story is told from Chet's point of view. Chet works cheap, (just feed him well), he doesn't talk back, and is a loyal companion to Bernie.
Bernie Little, part owner of Little Detective Agency. He is divorced and strapped for money because of his alimony and child support debts. Bernie is hired to find a fifteen-year old girl who disappears, reappears and disappears again. When Madison disappears the second time Chet and Bernie are on the case and the antics begin. Chet knows were Madison is but he can't speak so he can't tell his owner, and since he doesn't understand why they are looking for her, he often falls asleep at inappropriate times during the investigation. There is one touching part where Chet ends up in an animal shelter and learns more than he cares to about euthanasia.
The Chet and Bernie characters are memorable, they'll make you laugh when you least expect it. If you like fun mysteries, and have a soft spot for lovable pooches (especially one with a nose for solving mysteries), Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery, is a fun story that is sure to please. I look forward to the next Chet and Bernie book in this new, fun series. RECOMMENDED.
RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 4/9/09
WHERE FROM: My Review Stacks

Thursday, April 9, 2009

56 - The Distance Between Us; Bart Yates

Hester Donovan was a concert pianist in her younger days, in fact, the whole family was musically talented except for Caitlin, the daughter. Now at age seventy-one, Hester finds herself separated from her womanizing, violinist husband Arthur, and living alone in a sprawling old Victorian home in Bolton, Illinois, the home of The Carson Conservatory of Music.

In the opening lines of the novel Hester says: "I spend a great deal of time admiring my hands, but that's only because they belong to another woman ---my body turned seventy-one last month and has, of late, begin to bear a disturbing resemblance to a ripe avocado".

The story is told from the first person point of view of Hester and with all her quirks. There is enough humor and laughs to get you through a few serious and darker moments. Hester spends most of her days now, an angry woman, drinking way too much wine, her focus on how her husband wronged her. As for her children, Hester states: "my children were all the most neurotic people on the planet". Not surprising is the fact that Hester now has a strained relationship with her adult children.

When Hester decides to rent out a room in her home to Alex, a shy gay student at the music school, her son Paul protests, becomes violent, and demands that his mother evict him.
As the story unfolds, the reader learns much more about the family dynamics and the ghosts long buried. As you read, it becomes clear why this family seems to spend more time fighting with each other rather than enjoying time spent with one another.

I thought that this book was very good. All the characters are extremely well--developed. The author uses brilliant wit and insight to make this story a real page-turner.

The Distance Between Us (Kensington) is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 4/8/09

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - Strangers; Anita Brookner

Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

Title: Strangers: A Novel; Anita Brookner
Pub.Date: June 16, 2009

From Amazon:

Man Booker Prize–winning author Anita Brookner—called “one of the finest novelists of her generation” by The New York Times—returns with an exquisite novel about a man, three women, and a vibrant decision

Retiree Paul Sturgis lives a uniformly solitary life—resigned to his bachelorhood and the quietude of his London flat. Only occasionally does he pay obliging visits to his nearest living relative, Helena, his cousin’s widow.

To avoid the impolite complications of turning down Helena’s Christmas invites, Paul sets off for a holiday in Venice. There he meets Mrs. Vicky Gardner, an intriguing and lovely woman in the midst of a divorce and at a crossroads in her life. Although he is avoiding new acquaintances, who might shake up his rather monotonous existence, Paul is surprised to find himself warming to the woman. Then, upon his return to England, his former girlfriend Sarah reintroduces herself into Paul’s life. The two women spark a transformation within him—Paul’s steady and preferred isolation now conflicts with the stark realization of his aloneness and his need for companionship. This awareness brings with it a torrent of feelings as he reassesses his life, his fears of death, and his desire for change. Ultimately, Paul’s discoveries about himself lead him to make a shocking decision.

What is your W.O.W. Pick this week?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

55 - Run for Your Life; James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

In Run for Your Life , a calculating killer who calls himself The Teacher is responsible for a series of violent murders in New York City . There appears to be no common link between them either. Detective Mike Bennett, from Patterson's: Step on a Crack (a book which I disliked) is on the case once again. He is a recent widower with ten adopted children.

The Teacher, keeps moving from one seemingly random murder to another, and when he learns that Detective Bennett is after him, he even begins to start leaving clues in the form of messages. A game of cat and mouse, the story moves along very quickly, and does not require any major effort to follow the story. The audio version was fun to listen to, but as Patterson's stories go, this one was just average. I have decided that with so many great books out there now, Patterson will drop off my list of must-read authors in the future.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 4/6/09


Sunday, April 5, 2009

54 - In Hovering Flight; Joyce Hinnefeld

In Hovering Flight , opens in 2002 with Addie Kavanaugh, of Pennsylvania, dying of breast cancer at the home of a friend on the New Jersey shore. She is surrounded by family and friends and has made an strange last request for her remains: an illegal burial. When she dies her body is carried by loved ones to a walk-in in cooler at a seafood restaurant. (After that happened it thought this story might be a little far out for my tastes). I continued to read, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The story then takes the reader back in time to tell the story of how when Addie was a college art student, she fell in love with birds and with her biology professor, Tom Kavanaugh. Through Addie’s field guide journal entries she documents her college girl crush with Tom, who returns her affections, eventually divorces his wife and the two marry. The early years of marriage follows their birding passion, and Addie's involvement in political and environmental activism. When their daughter Scarlet is born, (named after a bird - Scarlet Tanager), Addie's passion for the outdoors, birding and painting, continues often with young Scarlet at her side trying to imitate her Hippie mother.

When Scarlet returns home as her mother is dying we learn more about the mother-daughter relationship. Scarlet had always felt she took a backseat to her mom's aviary passion, and she is determined to find out more about why the environment and activism meant so much to her mother.

This book is not so much about Addie's death, but really about her life and her passions. It's a story about relationships, conflicts, nature and love. A beautiful family drama, that will make you as the reader understand Addie's strange last request, and make it seem not so strange after all.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 4/4/09

Saturday, April 4, 2009

53 - The Weight of Heaven; Thrity Umrigar

I discovered Thrity Umrigar in 2008, and she has since become a favorite author of mine. I felt honored to have received an advance copy of her new book: The Weight of Heaven: A Novel, which is scheduled for release on April 14th, 2009, by Harper Collins.
In her new novel we meet Frank and Ellie Benton, a grief stricken couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who have just lost their seven year old son Benny, after a short illness. Unable to cope with this horrific loss, Frank accepts a new assignment running a factory, Herbal Solutions, in Girbaug, India, a coastal village near Bombay.
Unfortunately, the factory and its Third World workers are in the midst of a labor dispute over low wages. Frank calls the workers “lazy”, and his wife sees the workers as justified. Ellie sides with the workers, suggesting that Frank give them a few “rupees” to make them feel like they “won”. Even in India, Frank and Ellie are conflicted. Frank has difficulties understanding why his workers don’t act like his workers did in America. This additional conflict only adds to the pain he is still experiencing in India over the loss of his son. Ellie on the other hand sees her new surroundings as an opportunity to help the less fortunate women in the village (she is a psychologist/therapist), and believes there is so much to teach these poor women that she sees at a local health clinic. She is determined to not let grief define her life, because she believes her son would not have wanted that.
Frank before long begins to find some comfort tutoring Ramesh, the young son of the couple’s housekeeper. The boy is very bright and eager to learn. Before long, his interest in helping the boy becomes an obsession and new conflicts arise between Frank and Prakash, the boy’s resentful, bitter, father. Frank will do anything to keep that bright and personable boy close by, no matter what it takes.
The Weight of Heaven: A Novel is a hauntingly beautiful story about cultural divides and misunderstandings. It is a story about loss and working through grief, and one of those rare books that forces you as the reader to take stock of your life, and to think about the things that really matter most. The ending is shocking, but in some strange way--- wonderful. I am happy to say that this is one of those rare books, that left an imprint with me long after the final page was turned. There are so many beautiful passages that I found myself reading over and over again; a true gem. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
RATING – 5/5 – COMPLETED – 4/2/09

WHERE FROM: Review Copy

Friday, April 3, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by A Striped Armchair and Out of the Blue that encourages Bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

This week’s haul:

  1. Run For Your Life; Patterson (audio) - current read
  2. In Hovering Flight; Hinnefeld - current read
  3. Cutting for Stone: A novel; Verghese
  4. The Distance Between Us; Yates
  5. The Daily Coyote; Stockton (audio)
  6. Bridge of Sand; Burroway
  7. The Missing; Gautreaux

I'm going to try and read all of these within the next few weeks, as they all look pretty great to me. Have you read any? If so what did you think?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Libraries

This weeks weekly Booking Through Thursday question for today is:

Suggested by Barbara:

I saw that National Library week is coming up in April [12-18], and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

I love my library; the building is very old, quite historic and just so lovely. The library did get central air about 5 years ago which makes it nice in the summer for patrons to come and cool off. I've been lucky to work here part time for the last (almost 7 years).

Since I get to order and catalog the new materials when they arrive, I've become what some in library jargon would call the "high-volume patron". I've checked out a whopping 1,236 items in the last (3) years --- that's as far as the new circulation system keeps track.

For me, working here does have some drawbacks---since I can't stop requesting the latest releases, the books I own take a back seat. I read my REVIEW Books and the Library Books most of the time it seems. I look at the ones I own as my "retirement reading inventory"...LOL

Seriously, I loved the library when I was a child (I walked to it 1.5 miles each way). There was a 20+ year period when I did not use the library at all, when I traveled a lot on business, and sadly, I did not have time for much reading then either. Since 2000, my life has become much more simple, and my library love and reading passion has been rekindled once again.

With some sadness, I will be leaving my part-time library job this month when we move, but hopefully, I will find another dream job once again in time. To me, family is most important and we cannot wait to move at the end of the month.

What is your library like?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cozy Mystery Challenge

Thanks Kris for hosting this challenge once again. I hope to read the following (6) books for this challenge:
  1. Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery; Quinn - 4/5
  2. Decaffeinated Corpse; Coyle
  3. French Pressed; Coyle
  4. Murder Most Frothy; Coyle - 4/5
  5. A Vision of Murder; Laurie
  6. Abbey Cooper Psychic Eye; Laurie

This challenge runs from: April 1, 2009 –September 30, 2009 (6 months)

Waiting of Wednesday: The Wish Maker; Ali Sethi

Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

Title:The Wish Maker; Ali Sethi
Pub Date: June 11, 2009

The unforgettable story of a fatherless boy growing up in a household of outspoken women, The Wish Maker is also a tale of sacrifice, betrayal, and indestructible friendship. Zaki Shirazi and his female cousin Samar Api were raised to consider themselves “part of the same litter.” Together they watched American television and memorized dialogue from Bollywood movies, attended dangerous protests, and formed secret friendships. In a household run by Zaki’s crusading political journalist mother and iron-willed grandmother, it was impossible to imagine a future that could hold anything different for either of them.

But adolescence approaches and the cousins’ fates diverge. Samar’s unconventional behavior—in which Zaki has played the role of devoted helper—brings severe consequences for her, while Zaki is sent out to discover the world for himself. It is only after years of separation from Samar that he is forced to confront the true nature of happiness, selfhood, and commitment to those he loves most.

Chronicling world-changing events that have never been so intimately observed in fiction and brimming with unmistakable warmth and humor, The Wish Maker is the powerful account of a family and an era, a story that shows how, even in the most rapidly shifting circumstances, there are bonds that survive the tugs of convention, time, and history.

What is your W.O.W pick?