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Not to be Overlooked

By Natalia Alvarez and Nayisha Patel


Introducing a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of Schrader's Chord by Scott Leeds and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. 


Schrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds

Review by Natalia Alvarez


This is a horror novel unlike any other. In his debut novel, published in September 2023 by Tor Nightfire, author Scott Leeds introduces readers to a chilling tale of music, family and secrets. Described as a mix between Heart-Shaped Box, and The Haunting of Hill House, Schrader’s Chord is a must read for all who enjoy not only horror, but music as well.


The novel opens with an introduction of Charlie Remick, an up-and-coming employee at Sony Records who, so far in his career, has had the uncanny ability to spot talent, even earning the nickname "man with the magical ear." With an important show on the horizon, Charlie receives a text from his sister, informing him of their father Raymond’s death by apparent suicide. It becomes essential for Charlie to return to his hometown for the funeral despite having not seen his twin sister Ellie, older sister Susan, or his father in many years. 


Despite having not been on speaking terms with Raymond, Charlie discovers his father has left him his beloved record store, The Cuckoo’s Nest, as well as a mysterious, battered case housing a set of four old vinyl records and a note that reads "I told you they were real." This, Charlie suspects, is in reference to a story his father used to tell him when he was young of a chord named Schrader's chord. In this story, it is alleged that when a specific set of music notes were played together as a chord, the sound could open the gates between the worlds of the living and the dead. Finding this to be unbelievable, Charlie and his sisters, as well as two of his father's employees from the record store, Anna and Dale, set out to align the four records to play simultaneously. What follows is a horror unimaginable and leads the group to discoveries they should never have been able to uncover. Now the group must work to repair what they've done and outrun the death that follows them at every turn.


This was such an interesting concept that brought on much nostalgia and incorporated plenty of lore to keep readers invested from beginning to end. This was the perfect horror novel both for fans who are looking for a fresh addition to the genre, and for those just looking to get started. Leeds’ understanding of horror and music knows no bounds and sets up Schrader's Chord as a must read.


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Review by Nayisha Patel


The eerie and incredibly moving Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie examines the intricacies of identity, love, and loyalty against the backdrop of contemporary politics and the collision of cultures. As she crafts her story, Shamsie draws influence from Antigone, a drama by Sophocles. The story is both ageless and current.

 

Isma, Aneeka, and Parvaiz, three siblings who are Muslims from British-Pakistan, are the focus of the narrative. The lives of each character are entangled in a web of love, obligation, and sacrifice as they each deal with their own problems and ambitions. The emotions and struggles that Shamsie's characters experience are vividly and sensitively captured in her work, which is exquisite and evocative. The work deftly examines the concepts of identity and belonging. As the older sister, Isma represents the challenge of blending into British society while remaining connected to her Pakistani heritage. Aneeka questions social norms and engages with politics in her quest for justice, motivated by her love for her brother. Parvaiz is a representation of the intricacies of radicalization and the quest for identity, since he is split between devotion to his family and the temptation of a perilous path.

 

Shamsie masterfully examines topics like nationalism, Islamophobia, and the effects of terrorism on communities while delicately navigating the political context. The narrative challenges stereotypes and prejudices, challenging readers to examine their own presumptions and biases. 

 

Home Fire excels because of its complicated relationships and beautifully rendered people. Shamsie creates multifaceted characters with real motivations and goals, which make them likeable and approachable. The dynamics between the siblings, especially the relationship between Aneeka and Parvaiz, explore the lengths one will go to defend a loved one. The calm, deliberate rhythm of the book enables readers to thoroughly engross themselves in the story. A thrilling and sad finale that compels meditation on the nature of love, loyalty, and sacrifice is reached as the tension gradually mounts.

 

The novel Home Fire is insightful and thought-provoking, tackling heavy subjects with poise and wisdom. This book is incredibly compelling to read because of Shamsie's skill as a storyteller and her capacity to dive into the human psyche. It serves as a sobering reminder of the negative effects of radicalization and the long-term effects that political decisions have on people and families. It is a moving and important piece of writing that begs to be read and leaves a lasting impression on its readers' hearts and thoughts.

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