HWJN (English 2nd Edition)

Saudi novelist Abbas’ sci-fi debut takes place in two overlapping worlds as a young Jinn reaches out to a human in another dimension.
Hawjan, his mother and grandfather have occupied the same house for years. However, they’re powerless to prevent a young human woman named Sawsan and her family from moving into their home in a parallel dimension. As a result of the new occupants, Hawjan—a man in his 90s, still a youth in the Jinn people’s eyes—is pushed to the outskirts of his longtime home. Despite this, he’s surprised to find himself drawn to Sawsan and even more surprised that he’s able to communicate with her—first through a Ouija board and then by simply typing to her on his tablet. Soon, he finds himself in love with her, pining over the unbridgeable gap. Later, evil Jinn have plans for Hawjan, and they’re not afraid to use Sawsan as a bargaining chip. Hawjan later promises his firstborn son to a dark king and teams up with Sawsan’s human suitor to save her life. This sci-fi novel provides an appealing glimpse into a different mythological tradition. The biggest problem for American readers, however, may be the book’s matter-of-fact patriarchy; sentences such as “There is, in my opinion, a strong relationship between feminism and childhood” may be hard for some Western feminists to stomach. (It can’t be denied, however, that American sci-fi also suffers from a glut of male-dominated narratives.) Abbas and translator Bahjatt are the co-founders of The League of Arabic SciFiers, which has the stated objective of bringing the genre to a wider audience—certainly a noble goal. Unfortunately, in this novel’s case, Bahjatt’s translation is often awkward and occasionally incorrect (as in the apparent confusion of “feminism” with “femininity” above).
More of a curiosity than a compelling read for an American sci-fi audience.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-9948205821

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Yatakhayaloon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2014

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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