House of Glass Hearts
by Leila Siddiqui
A Review by Jamilla, @LandsAwayBooks, on Wordpress.
I love books that flash between the past and the present and those that combine history and myth.
This is a story about families and their secrets, of monsters hiding in glasshouses, of wars in the not so distant past, of their trauma and consequences and of heartbreak!
An exciting debut from Leila Siddiqui!
Thank you to NetGalley and Yali Books for the eARC of this book in return for an honest review.
The book just wasn`t for me. it started out somewhat interesting, but fell kind of quickly.
It was just so much info dump and characters talking and all, without getting me as a reader interested.
This book was not quite what I was expecting, but I am glad I read it. The synopsis describes it as “blending history with myth,” which I would agree with. I did not know anything about churailain mythology before, but thought the way they were woven into the part of the story set in the 1940’s was very well done. Along the same lines, I liked the multi-generational aspect of the story with half of it being told by Maera in the present day United States and half of it being told by her grandfather, Haroon during World War II and the years following.
This book did feel more like a long short story, rather than a typical YA book. I think this at least in part because the characters are not as well-developed as I am used to. They seemed more like a tool to show the history and mythology than their own independent people. This affected the tone of the story, as well as my personal investment in it.
However, the Author’s Note at the end of the book added so much value for me as a reader. Overall, this book accomplished the goals described in the Author’s Note in a unique and eye-opening way.
A very interesting story of family ties and what can tear them apart or bring you closer! After the death of her grandpa Maera discovers his greenhouse in her backyard and the mysterious building doesn't seem to even phase the adults - they think it's always been there! Together with friends and family they discover the secrets inside.
Firstly, that cover is gorgeous.
On to the book, I wish I had liked it more. I was really excited for this 'magical realism' desi YA book but alas.
Things I liked:
- the plot; which I think was very creative.
- incorporation of history; it was done nicely. I enjoyed those chapters the most.
- complicated family relations
Things I did not like:
- the writing; goodness! The writing needed finessing, honestly.
- too much of telling instead of showing
- choppy dialogues
- characters felt more like twelve year olds than YA
- the climax was rather weird
- the MC Maera
- idk the writing
As much as I wanted to like this book, I was really bored. I don't know what it was - the plot, the writing or my mood - but I felt very bored. It interested me when we get to read more of the grandfather's story but otherwise, Maera's POV was so childish. I feel like this book needed a little more depth - to the characters as well as the plot. The idea was interesting but the execution somewhat lacked somewhere.
Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for sending this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Firstly I love the cover! Sadly I wasn’t a fan of this read. I DNF it unfortunately 😞 so I can’t give a full review. It just felt a bit too slow paced for me and felt quite flat/dull (sorry 🙈) in some parts. I wanted to like it as the description sounded good! May possibly pick it up and try again in the future. ☺️
Not gonna lie, I’m a little bummed that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I was going to. Most astonishingly for me, <i>I actually enjoyed the historical backdrop more than I did the magical realism</i> when the magical realism pitch was what sold me on the book in the first place!
The writing was an issue for me, and it’s so unfortunate because this plot was insanely imaginative. The concept behind it is enthralling, but the delivery is so flat, largely due to bland writing. Very telling, not showing, which isn't unusual but <i>is</i> still kind of boring to read. The lack of variation in sentence structure means it reads very monotonously, and the pacing suffers for it. It dragged for the first half or so, and that feeling wasn’t helped by Maera, who was…often difficult to find endearing. There's a line between young and childish, and she tends to lean to the latter in a way that became very grating after a while.
Redemption comes in the form of a really imaginative plot (that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around in the sense that it's so creative I just want to live inside Siddiqui's mind for a spell), and in the chapters given from her grandfather's perspective in the 1940s. The dual settings of India and Pakistan were excellent, as were the contrasting narratives of Maera and Haroon, to a degree. The issue I had was that chapters set in the past, Haroon's narrative, was substantially more compelling than the one in the present. So, while that dual narrative, past versus present and the inevitable contrasts and parallels that come with that sort of style were pretty flat because one timeline was so much more interesting than the other. I just lost interest in the present and wanted more of the past.
Characters were pretty flat. The romantic subplot was arguably unnecessary, and the ending was...not rushed, exactly, but not well executed. I think in the end, I wouldn't recommend <i>this book specifically</i>, but I would highly recommend following the author. I'll chalk up most of the issues I'm having to this being a debut that could have used a more critical editorial eye. The issues don't really put a dent in my excitement for what Siddiqui's going to come up with next.
<i>Thank you muchly to NetGalley, Yali Books, and Leila Siddiqui for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review</i>
Maera’s brother Asad went missing ten years ago, yet Maera avoids thinking about it. That happened in the Past, you see, and Maera is not supposed to think about the Past.
The House of Glass Hearts is a heart wrenching novel by Leila Siddiqui which looks at both the grief experienced by a single family and the greater grief of their community. It follows Maera, a Pakistani-American teen on her quest to find her brother after her late grandfather’s greenhouse appears in her back garden and his journal appears on her bed. Her Present is the summer before her final year of high school and she is caught between which universities to apply to alongside solving the mystery of just how a greenhouse could transport itself from Pakistan to her backyard and what secrets it holds.
I, personally, am a huge fan of where the fantastical meets the mundane, and House of Glass Hearts meets this love perfectly. The world building is done so effortlessly that the mythical elements do not need lofty explanations when they arise, and one could imagine this world perfectly slotting in with our own. I enjoyed learning about new mythologies and found them easy to follow, unlike many in the genre. It is a perfect recommendation for anyone who enjoys books like the Percy Jackson series.
As the story unfolds in both the Past and the Present we find that all is not what it seems, mythical creatures seemingly to blame for Asad’s disappearance. The churails themselves are fascinating in context, born from the anguish a woman suffered in her life and created to turn it back onto men. Witnessing the creation of one is both terrifying and fascinating, adding to the already rich story.
The story also brings light to some forgotten parts of history, despite Maera’s mothers dislike of discussion of The Past. Many forget the efforts of Indian and Pakistani soldiers in the Second World War, for example, or in fact the huge affects colonialism had on the respective countries. I will admit that despite the number of times the war was covered in school I never learned much of anything about how India and Pakistan were affected, and knew nothing of the bombings that affected them. This book has taught me far more than I expected it to in that regard.
The writing is fruitful and draws you straight into the world Siddiqui creates, each word making you desperate to know more. You find yourself pulled along into a story you did not quite expect but executed well all the same. It is a well thought out debut mythological novel that leaves me excited to read more from Siddiqui. Its an easy four star review from me.
Book name: House of Glass Hearts
Author: Laila Siddiqui
This story begins in Pakistan, when nine-year old Asad, who was on a vacation in his naana’s house in Karachi, disappears. The story then fast forwards to ten years and is narrated from the point of Maera, Asad’s younger sister.
Maera had been forced to file away Asad’s memory because of her Ammi, who refused to talk about their past. However, it all changes when Maera’s naana died and his greenhouse from Karachi appears in her backyard. Maera finds herself thinking more of Asad and realises that to find out what happened to him, she must solve the mystery surrounding the greenhouse.
This was the first time I read a book that had Pakistani mythology and I immensely enjoyed it. It was well-written and the way the author wove a story of adventure that had fantastical elements with culture and history was remarkable. Another thing I loved about this book was that it spoke of colonialism and the brutal impacts of war. This was a promising debut and I can’t wait to read more from the author.
I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes mythology and books featuring people of colour.✨🥀
Thank you to NetGalley for granting me an e-copy in exchange of an honest review.
The writing left me very confused. I was constantly trying to understand what was happening.
The characters were really fun to read about, but they don't stand out next to all the characters I've read about. They were very relatable, and I think everyone can relate to at least one.
The plot was the best part of the book. The plot twist left me in a state of shock. I read it in a day. I was hooked, and couldn't get enough.
Overall, it was a good book. I recommend this to anyone who is in a slump and wants to get out of it.
This book filled me with so many emotions in the best way. I’m so excited that young Brown children will be able to read a book like this that not only represents their cultures and their histories, but also inspires them to dream!
This book follows 17 year old Maera, who’s older brother disappeared from her grandfather’s house in Pakistan 10 years ago. When Maera’s grandfather passes away, he leaves her his journal, and a magical treehouse that transports itself from Pakistan to her backyard in America. The journal and the greenhouse reveal more about her family’s history than she originally knew, and possibly the key to what happened to her brother all those years ago. It’s a beautiful story about history, identity, family, and the power of love and community.
The story is told between present day America and flashbacks to India during WWII and the 1947 Partition. I loved the flashbacks — Siddiqui did such a great job of writing Maera’s grandfather as a young boy and as a teenager, and those moments are such vividly and emotionally written. The present day scenes revolve more around the fantasy aspect of what the greenhouse actually is and how it’s connected to Maera’s brother’s disappearance, and while not as rich as the flashbacks, have their own uniqueness and charm.
I loved the incorporation of churails — a witch creature in Indian and Pakistani mythology — into the books, and how the book was so filled with Pakistani culture. I really loved how the fantasy story was used to tell a tale of colonialism, and how it shaped the lives of South Asians. The realities of what it did to the people living there, how Partition affected so many families, how it shaped the diaspora in their own ways, were so intricately woven though the plot. It’s perfect for young YA readers.
This 278 page magical realism YA book featuring a Muslim family grabs your attention and heart in the prologue, unfortunately it quickly releases it, and until you get over a third of the way in to the story, it is a struggle to read. Once you accept that half of the book, the storyline set in the present, is going to be terrible, you enjoy the historical narrative and appreciate that the short book with a quick pace spends more time in the subcontinent during partition, than it does with the painfully underdeveloped characters trying to make sense of past secrets and their present day manifestations. The book doesn't have any major flags in terms of religious representation, it is just ritual acts of praying and reading Quran, nothing detailed or explored, and relationship-wise there is nothing high school readers can't handle (spoilers and more details can be read in the FLAGS section). Despite being a first time author, she works as an editor, so one would really expect the climax to hit harder with clearer writing, the characters to be developed, the details written to serve a purpose, and the protagonist teen's voice not to read overwhelmingly at the beginning as a five year old. The overall story concept and historical fiction component are exciting, the development of the characters just really failed an otherwise engaging read.
Maera's brother Asad goes missing in 2011 from their grandfather's home in Pakistan while they are visiting. They search and cannot locate him or a body, the loss devastates Maera's family. Ten years later, her grandfather passes away, and the next morning a greenhouse appears in their backyard in America. Not just any greenhouse, her grandfather's greenhouse from Pakistan. Maera thinks she is going crazy, her mother doesn't acknowledge the structure, she doesn't acknowledge much, not about the reality in front of them, not the night Asad disappeared, or the needs of her daughter. Maera's aunt (mom's twin) and cousin come from Pakistan to mourn the loss of the grandfather together, he passed in Pakistan, not sure why Maera and her mom didn't go there, but I digress. Cousins Jamal, aka Jimmy, and Maera are the only two that seems determined to figure it all out. Their grandfather's journal turns up and with Maera's friend Sara and Rob, the neighbor and former best friend of Asad, the four of them set out to understand what is going on in the greenhouse.
The greenhouse seems to be alive, and entering it dependent on the whims of something within, a churail, a shape shifting creature of myth that is more than a witch, a succubus that targets men. A woman who died violently and was wronged by men, whose feet are turned backward, and who is neither alive or dead. As the four work through the journal, venture in to the greenhouse, and confront those within, secrets will be unearthed, exposed, and finally dealt with.
The historical interwoven story is that of the grandfather during colonial British rule and partition. As a young boy Haroon is searching for his father fighting in Burma and the adventures he has along the way. Shah Jehan's father takes Haroon in at one point, and the girl with an emperor's name sneaks him out to watch the village deal with the churail who are killing the men in their village. The incident scars Haroon, but his affection for Shah Jehan and the role she will continue to have in his life is established. The understanding that the subcontinent is being carved up and starved by the colonizers in the name of freedom is made clear in the characters that Haroon encounters and the quickly maturing boy grows in to a young man as he starts to understand the world around him and the larger powers at play. When the migration and violence between Hindus getting to India and Muslims going to Pakistan occurs, the pieces in the past and present come together to reveal the terrors that the greenhouse houses.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I loved the commentary both in the text, and explicitly detailed in the afterward about how culturally the past is handled. How little generations discuss what they have endured and been through. I have been asked by my father-in-law a few times to try and coax my mother-in-law to detail her journey with their oldest son from India to Pakistan. She has apparently never clearly told what happened, what she saw, and what they experienced. She waves it off now, but her own children didn't even know there was more to the story, and as my inlaws approach their 90s I have little hope of them recalling or sharing their stories. Recently my son needed to hear some first person accounts of war, so he contacted my American grandfather to learn about his time in the Korean War, much of it I knew, Americans, generally speaking, talk about this type of experience in passing. My son, also wanted to compare his story to someone who lived as a civilian through a war, and asked my mother-in-law, his Dadi, about her experience living through the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, not that long ago, and we all sat spellbound as she recalled the sirens and how they kept the children fed and calm and whatnot. They were stories no one had thought to ask it seemed. She has seven children and almost thirty grandchildren. This book struck such a chord with me, I need to actively seek out these stories before it is too late. Chances are no one else in the family will. Not speaking the language fluently has cost me my chance to learn my own father's family's stories and I need to find a way to gather my husband's family's stories before it is too late. I love that in the book, The Past is capitalized as if it is a named living person shaping the lives of so many. It is, and these stories are wonderful reminders and motivators to ask the elders to share their memories.
The present day story thread, however, is chalked full of holes, one dimensional characters, and pointless tangents. Sara and Maera read like they are early elementary aged. They are so terribly voiced in the beginning, I have no idea, how an editor author and mainstream publisher did not require correction. The dialogue, the action, the role of the parents, it is terrible. Speaking of terrible, the mother and aunt are absolutely flat and useless. They mope, sleep and sit in the corner. I don't understand why you wouldn't develop them to link the past story to the present one. I'm not being picky here, it is that bad. I also wanted to know why the dad left. Seems like it would flesh out the mom a bit, justify her approach to life. Sara and Rob are obviously brought in to serve as vessels for the action, and for Maera and possibly Jimmy to play off of. But their backstories are so pathetic. How do you not know or see your neighbor for ten years. Ok, I get that he was Asad's best friend and your family in their grief and denial pushed him away, but he never checked the mail or took out the trash, or was seen? And Sara offers absolutely nothing to the story other than to be part of the forced crush/romance line pairing off her and Jimmy and Rob and Maera. Alhumdulillah, it stays tame with the angsty longing and hand holding.
Random details that serve no purpose reach a pinnacle with the paragraph long time spent on Maera wearing Rob's tank top. I have no idea why we should care that she is wearing a tank top. Sure as a Muslim reviewer it furthered the notion to me, that she is probably more culturally religious, and yes I know Muslim's dress to different degrees of modesty, but I really couldn't find any other reason for the emphasis on the black tank top. Overall, all the friendships in the story seem so off: Rob and Asad, and Sara and Maera. They should be easy plot points, but they don't connect, or read believable.
Plot wise: if you had a building magically appear in your back yard along with a journal, would you not read that journal as fast as possible? Sure you would lose sleep and maybe skip a meal or two, but hello, a building just appeared in your back yard that is moving and growing, your grandfather died and your brother's body was never found: stop what you are doing and read the journal. It mentions that when Asad went missing there were a lot of other kids, cousins at the house, so where are they now? Why was there no mention of them, and only Jimmy seems to have a vested interest in the grandfather passing, and the growing need to remember Asad. I did not understand the sacrifice and hair connection and how that was what Maera understand the Churail to be asking for. I did not understand the end of chapter entitled "The Separation," it says they entered together, so.... ya?Off and on in the greenhouse there are multiple churail, this seems inconsistent with what we learn from the one churail about leaving. The whole climax needs a Cliff's Notes synopsis. I honestly have no idea what happened. The churail was scared of the beast, but they all went off together, affectionately? I'm trying not spoil anything here. Why was the churail so different at the beginning compared to the end, why did she get a growth arc, when the other characters didn't? Shouldn't there have been some cathartic reprieve verbalized between the mom and SPOILER (sorry I tried) Asad? I felt deprived.
There were a few grammar errors, but because I read an ARC, I'm hoping they have been corrected
There is a little bit of language (F word at least once). Children are conceived, it isn't explicit, but the fact that it happened is critical to the story. There are crushes, angsty/longing, hand holding, hugging. There is sexual assault implied as a major plot point, but not detailed. There is death, and killing, often gruesome, some real, (hits harder), some far fetched. The book is YA and ok for high school readers and up in my opinion.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I would be interested in seeing if some of the muddled passages are cleaned up in the published physical copy, the book's characters are weak, but the historical fiction component is a story that needs to be shared more and more as we, collectively, seek to understand the past, the impact of colonization, and the emergence of telling our OWN voice stories. For all the flaws, I haven't completely written off the book, I'm hopeful that even if this one doesn't make the cut for a book club, that inshaAllah the author will keep writing and filling in the blanks.
House of Glass Hearts is a story about coming to terms with generational trauma intertwined with South Asian folklore and magical realism. 10 years prior to the start of this story, Maera's (our main character) family experiences a tragic loss and, at the start of the novel, they are still suffering from it. The novel is split between the present day struggles of Maera and her mother and journal entries from Maera's grandfather in 1940s India. Through these journal entries, Maera and her cousin learn of the tragedies and strife that their grandfather experienced during the Partition of India and Pakistan after World War 2
Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The synopsis of this book completely drew me in when I discovered it on Netgally. It was so unique and different to anything I had read previously so I was pretty eager to read it.
I enjoyed the book as a whole - particularly the references to Indian partition (which I was not very knowledge able on previously and found this quite educational - especially how the author incorporated elements of her family story into the plot). I also enjoyed the unique elements to the story and mentions of Indian Folklore and Culture.
But even so, I found I didn't really connect with Maera, the main character - she came across rather juvenile in how she acted and I didn't enjoy her chapters as much as I did her Grandfather. All in All I found the pace a little slow for me and I didn't really get into it fully until the latter half.
House of Glass Hearts is a unique book because of its writing that goes on both in the past and the present and connects them together very fittingly. Maera’s brother Asad goes missing in Karachi one fine day, and everyone in the family forgets about it as they move to America for a new beginning. Although, Maera is reminded of him again as her grandfather’s greenhouse from Karachi appears in front of her out of nowhere. Accompanying the greenhouse are various peculiar things, some even more dreadful than the former, but the most important of them all is Maera’s grandfather’s diary, written in Urdu, which her cousin Jimmy helps her decipher. In the diary are secrets buried so deep that no one knows about them, not even Maera’s mother.
The story is very fast-paced and includes a lot of myths and legends that I, as a kid had heard from my grandparents. I liked the writing style but the characters felt too hollow for me to relate with and it seemed like while focusing on the writing of the quest in front of the characters, the author forgot that they all had their own lives too. My favourite part about the book was how the entire past was written with such intricacy and was described so thoughtfully because indeed, no History book teaches us South Asian students that our ancestors were in the World War II and how the partition came to be.
The author also put a special emphasis on the situation of women during the partition, which although was not described in detail for the best, but was heartbreaking nevertheless. Overall, it was a good read and I really liked how the stories of churails that I had heard as a child had a part to play in the book. The ending was predictable but it was fun reading it. The fictional writing could use a little more detailing, but it was a very enjoyable read for a short book.
Love the premise and the representation in this book! The cover is also stunning. I wish the book was paced a little faster because I did have a hard time getting into it the first few times I picked it up, but the characters and magical realism elements really made up for the pacing.
House of Glass Hearts is in a split timeline. In the current timeline Maera, a Pakistani American along with her mother, are in denial about what happened to her older brother Asad ten years ago in Pakistan. They refuse to discuss or talk about it. Following the death of her grandfather, the greenhouse which was in his backyard in Pakistan, mysteriously materializes in Maera's backyard. Most of her grandfather- Haroon's story during the Second World War and India's partition is narrated through his diary. His runaway trip to Calcutta, his love for Shah Jehan and his encounter with the supernatural were all meticulously recorded in his journal.
After a long time, I have delved into young adult fiction. Though House of Glass Hearts did not disappoint me completely, it was not something I expected. It started on a good note and the build-up was great. I enjoyed Haroon's story more than Maera's as it had a more realistic feel to it. Maera at times came across as annoying and the current timeline seemed needlessly stretched. Haroon's story set during the partition of India drew me in. The author has done an accurate and vivid description of the bloodshed and the violence during the partition. But the plot lost its steam towards the end and the narrative got muddled. Too much was happening at once and it got complicated. Leila Siddiqui had beautifully blended myth, fantasy with history. She has incorporated the myths widespread during the said era in the story and it fits in perfectly.
I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley.
“House of Glass Hearts” is a story of family secrets, violent history, and discovering fantastical truths. Maera and her mother are still reeling from the disappearance of Maera’s brother, Asad, in Pakistan ten years prior. After Maera’s grandfather dies, a giant greenhouse appears in Maera’s backyard, prompting Maera, her cousin, her best friend, and Asad’s childhood friend to investigate and uncover what really happened to their family decades ago in India. At times confusing, it was still a unique storyline that incorporated fantastical creatures and history.
In a Nutshell: Full marks for the creativity of the plot but the writing needed more finesse.
While on vacation at their grandfather’s house in Pakistan, Maera’s elder brother Asad mysteriously disappeared leaving no clue at all about his whereabouts. Now, ten years later, Maera and her mother live a dull life in the US, making no mention of the past. However, when her grandfather’s derelict greenhouse makes a sudden appearance in their backyard, Maera is forced to confront the past and venture into the secrets this glass house holds, with the help of her cousin Jimmy, best friend Sara and neighbour Rob. What horrors await them therein? Is all this connected anyway with Asad? Read and find out.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I expected to love it, in fact. With that vivid cover, interesting title and fascinating blurb, the only way it could have gone wrong was in its writing. And I regret to say, the writing/editing is where the book needed more work.
Don’t get me wrong. The plot is absolutely mind-blowing. The way the author weaves in factual horrors such as the bloodshed and politico-religious turmoil during the Indian partition of 1947 with fantastical horrors is splendid. I wasn’t expecting horror elements to be part of this story, and that too horror with such a strong Indian feel. (No spoilers, but readers from the Indian subcontinent will find a familiar horror entity in this book. It adds to the fun.) I loved the use of the Urdu words sprinkled in the narrative unabashedly, and without any meanings given in brackets. It added so much authenticity to the cultural point of view.
The story is written from two broad perspectives: that of Maera in the present USA and of her grandfather during the 1940s India/Pakistan. This makes for an interesting contrast of narratives. I enjoyed the historical narrative much better as there was more meat to it. The 1940s atmosphere is pretty well written and accurate, bringing the past alive. The present timeline was quite bland in comparison except at the very end.
On the other hand, the characters are pretty unidimensional. I didn’t empathise with most of them even when they were supposedly going through such a huge trauma. There are many character-based loopholes in the plot. Some are merely revolving door characters, coming and going as per the need of the plot. I didn’t understand the need for a romantic arc between two of the characters. It is just there because it’s there. There’s no build-up to it, and there’s no requirement for it in the plot.
For a debut work, I am pretty impressed with the author’s imagination. All that is needed is a little fine-tuning in the writing and I’m sure she will have a bright future ahead of her. I must say, she won my heart with this particular paragraph in her author’s note:
"History is often a series of causalities. There are enormous implications for what colonization did to my ancestors and their Hindu and Sikh neighbors and brethren. And so, perhaps within these pages is a silent plea that instead of taking sides against our own people, our neighbors across the border, we should recognize and work to heal from the horrors of Imperialism."
My best regards to this new writer; I’ll certainly keep her future books on my radar. I just wish this book had worked out better for me. If you wish to try an interesting debut writer and/or a horror story based on the factual-cum-fictional history of India, do give it a try.
My thanks to Yali Books and NetGalley for the ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I've never really taken on reading magic realism before, so I was quite reluctant when I saw this book but the plot seemed too interesting not to pick it up. I must say that I was not disappointed one bit. The element of magic in the story left me (and the characters) feeling eerie and always on my toes. Anything could happen at this point and we didn't know much about the House. We follow a group of South-Asian teenagers and a neighbor and friend of the family into this adventure and mystery for which we gather clues through knowledge acquired about Indian-Pakistani History in WWII. As someone who is not South-Asian, I found the historic and cultural elements so interesting and I must say that I absolutely have to learn more about the Churail.