Genre: Fiction

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Iranian Politics, Religion and History in Among the Ruins

March 7, 2017 Book Review, reviews 1

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Iranian Politics, Religion and History in Among the RuinsAmong the Ruins (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak, #3) by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by Minotaur Books on February 14th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
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Reading Diverse Books

I’m embarrassed to admit that while my children were young, my life was consumed with taking care of them and not with paying attention to the world. It is only since they’ve grown up that I’ve become interested in the world around me.  As I’ve immersed myself in the news and lately, politics, I find myself drawn to reading diverse books.

History has always been fascinating to me. I find history a little easier to stomach as opposed to current events … with hindsight and all! In Among the Ruins, the opportunity to learn both historical context and current events taking place in Iran simply helped to add to my love of this series.

About the Book

Esa Khattak is on leave touring Iran after the deadly confrontation in The Language of Secrets involving his sister. While in Iran his first two weeks are spent visiting historical places; however, in his third week he is met with secret notes passed in fruit baskets and clandestine meetings with a woman who erroneously uses blackmail as a persuasion technique. Khattak is recruited/persuaded into finding a popular singer with dual citizenship from Canada and Iran. It is believed she’s been captured and held in the prison notorious for torturing political prisoners.

Among the Ruins is the darkest of the books in the Khattak series. The injustices performed on those who speak out are horrifying and the things unimaginable nightmares are made of. Ausma does not delve into gratuitous graphic description. Every word held meaning, and if Ausma’s intent was to make the reader feel the dichotomy between the hopelessness and hope of many Iranians, then she certainly succeeded.

Looking for a satisfying mystery with diversity as a theme? Check out this timely thriller Click To Tweet

Recommended For

I hope you will give this series a try, especially if you are looking to broaden your reading by incorporating diverse books. If you like a satisfying mystery steeped in social injustice then this series is definitely for you! Be sure to read the books in order!

Book 1 The Unquiet Dead

Book 2 The Language of Secrets

and I’ve read through Ausma’s social media posts that book 4 is almost completed! Yay!

Side Note

A couple of years ago my daughter visited Morocco. While I know it’s not Iran by any means, the ornate buildings and rich colors my daughter captured in pictures give me a sense of the landscape Ausma writes about in Among the Ruins. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but while reading Among the Ruins I so wanted to visit Iran and see the dusty streets, hear the cacophony of sounds and meet the Iranian people written about so beautifully.

Standard transportation method in Morocco

Standard transportation method in Morocco

 

Moroccan Riad aka traditional courtyard palace remodeled into a boutique hotel

Moroccan Riad aka traditional courtyard palace remodeled into a boutique hotel

 

Opulent traditional European bathroom in Morocco

Opulent traditional European bathroom in the riad

 

Tannery located in Morocco - bird poo is used to tan the leather

Tannery located in Morocco – bird poo is used to tan the leather

 

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My Husband’s Wife is a Multi-Layered Psychological Thriller

February 8, 2017 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

My Husband’s Wife is a Multi-Layered Psychological ThrillerMy Husband's Wife by Jane Corry
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 352
Source: complimentary review copy
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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

There are times when you’ll find yourself swearing that blue is black. You’ll truly believe it yourself. We all do it. It’s not that lawyers lie. It’s that they twist the real facts to make another world that everyone else believe in, too. And who’s to say that won’t be a better world? Lily in My Husband’s Wife

A Multi-Layered Psychological Thriller

A book about the lies we tell to others and ourselves to survive this thing called life. Lily is an up-and-coming solicitor in a London firm married to Ed, a self-professed genius artist. Lily and Ed live in a small flat across the hall from Francesca and her 9-year-old daughter, Carla. When Lily is given the criminal appeal of Joe Thomas her life becomes entwined with Joe’s in a way she never imagined. In the meantime, Lily and Ed become enmeshed in the lives of their neighbors when Lily offers to watch Carla anytime Francesca needs help. Life is messy and only gets messier when lies are told and secrets are kept.

The strongest point of My Husband’s Wife is the twisting and turning plot points. There’s almost too many to keep up with, but it kept me turning the pages. The characters are not likable. Every time I thought Lily was going to redeem herself another layer of her character was exposed. Whenever I thought Carla would grow up and evolve, she surprised me with her actions once again. Told in the alternating voice of Lily and Carla, My Husband’s Wife is like an onion – layer upon layer revealed.

As the debut thriller for author Jane Corry, My Husband’s Wife is a solidly good book. Jane Corry has mastered the queer intricacies of human behavior. Secrets can (and do) have devastating consequences as revealed in My Husband’s Wife. I read somewhere that this book is comparable to a Liane Moriarty novel and can understand the comparison. Jane Corry is not the writer that Liane Moriarty is (yet), but her plotting and focus on human behavior are certainly a good comparison. I’m looking forward to watching Jane Corry’s rise in the ranks of creating compelling psychological thrillers that entertain and shock while revealing the worst in man and woman-kind!

Recommended for anyone who enjoys deeply flawed characters, layer upon layer of sub-plots, and irony – lots of irony.


 

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The Language of Secrets

January 24, 2017 Book Review, reviews 6

The Language of SecretsThe Language of Secrets (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak #2) by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 329
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

The Language of Secrets is the 2nd book in the Esa Khattak mystery series. Inspector Esa Khattak is the Community Policing Detective liaison for minority groups in Canada. Mohsin Dar, Khattak’s childhood friend, is found murdered. Esa is called in to give the ‘appearance of investigating.’ Mohsin works for the federal agency, INSET, by infiltrating a possible terrorist cell.

Between Esa’s integrity and his personal relationship with the victim, he is unable to stick to appearances. Esa is not without faults – prickly, with more secrets than the Vatican. But he is honorable. Great at his job. Open-minded with anyone different from himself. And he is Muslim. His sidekick, Detective Rachel Getty, is just as flawed, though she is paired with Khattak to temper his prickliness. Have you ever watched NCIS? I’d compare Detective Esa Khattak to a Muslim Jethro Gibbs and Detective Getty to the lovable, but smart, Special Agent Eleanor Bishop.

Between the politics of the multiple agencies involved, the family dynamics of Khattak’s sister engaged to the prime suspect, and the emergence of Getty into her new life out from under her parents, The Language of Secrets is fraught with human relationships and issues. I was somewhat disappointed that the prime suspect’s motives were not more fleshed out. He’s charismatic but what made him so? How did he get to be such an influence on the group of young people following him to the point of planning mass murder? I understood the primary motivation – losing his entire family – but how did he go from point A to point B so completely? Where Esa and Rachel are fully fleshed characters, the suspect fully fleshed would have made the novel that much stronger. I still enjoyed it and learned about the culture of the Muslim community. The addition of Esa’s sisters into the plot allowed for a better understanding of the Muslim female psyche.

Murder mystery, terrorism, and family relationships in #thelanguageofsecrets Click To Tweet

I read The Unquiet Dead, Ausma’s debut novel in 2015 and have been a champion of hers ever since. She gracefully interweaves cultural aspects of Muslim tradition and religion throughout her gripping mysteries. It’s a great way to peek behind the curtain and into the life of a Muslim, albeit a fictional one. The nuances of solving a case, dealing with racist beliefs, while navigating tricky family relationships are where Ausma thrives with her novels. And why I will continue to read everything she writes! Recommended, but read The Unquiet Dead first. There are nuances from the first book that overlap into the second you’d miss if you skip reading the first.

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Family Tragedy and Its Effects in The Sleepwalker

January 6, 2017 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Family Tragedy and Its Effects in The SleepwalkerThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: complimentary review copy
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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

four-stars

Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors I purchase immediately. I’ve yet to read anything formulaic or contrived that he’s written. From parasomnia and human trafficking to World War II and midwives, Bohjalian’s breadth of topics and genres are wide and far-reaching.

In his latest, The Sleepwalker, Annalee Ahlberg disappears while her husband is out of town. Annalee is home alone with her two daughters, Lianna, a senior in college and Paige, a sophmore in high school.   Because Annalee suffers from parasomnia, the worst is feared.

Four years prior, Lianna found her mother on the precipice of a bridge and had to guide her home. Since that incident, Warren has not traveled overnight for work. Annalee has taken medication to help reduce the symptoms. While Lianna has remained her mother’s vigilant watcher.

The Sleepwalker is horrifying in a real-world aspect. My youngest daughter had a habit of sleepwalking until middle school. My mom says I was the same way when I was growing up. We both continue to have long detailed conversations in our sleep. But parasomnia? It is an entirely different level of sleep disturbance.

The first few chapters of The Sleepwalker focuses on the search for Annalee and the family’s response to her disappearance. The middle tended to drag in places, and I found myself skimming paragraphs. Though I wonder if that wasn’t deliberate? I imagine during a tragic disappearance the days drag, life moves slowly and nothing seems to happen. The ending was completely unexpected.

I finished The Sleepwalker a couple of weeks ago and still find myself haunted by the story. The Ahlberg family fractures as a result of Annalee’s disappearance. And isn’t that true-to-life? Families are either made stronger in tragedy or torn apart. What makes or breaks the unit? And that is the underlying question – could your family survive a tragedy? Recommended.

Meet the Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For further reading, try the short story prequel The Premonition

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

 

 

four-stars

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How the Circus Saved Innocents in The Orphan’s Tale

December 17, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

How the Circus Saved Innocents in The Orphan’s TaleThe Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
Published by Mira on February 21st 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

 

Here I am on a flight bound to Phoenix and what book do I choose to read? The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff. Oh my goodness dearest ones. If you embarrass easily, don’t read this one on the plane. I started ugly sobbing about 3/4 of the way through and didn’t stop until we landed in Arizona!

Historical fiction set during World War II is a personal favorite. There is still so much to be learned about the Holocaust and World War II. For example, did you know the circus continued to operate and perform during much of the war? And that some of the performers were Jewish, hiding in plain sight. Brilliant!

The Orphan’s Tale takes us backstage as a high-flying circus performer. The story begins with Noa, a young girl cast from her home in Holland for becoming pregnant by a German soldier. We learn Noa was accepted into a home for unwed mothers pregnant with what the Nazi’s deemed the perfect race. But something goes horribly wrong when Noa’s baby is born, and Noa is left with empty arms and a large hole in place of her heart.

As The Orphan’s Tale begins, Noa is working in a train station for scraps simply trying to survive. When she hears a strange noise from one of the train cars, 17-year-old Noa breaks every rule by opening the door. What she finds inside turns her blood cold – baby upon baby thrown on top of one another, some with tatters for clothes, some completely naked, most frozen in the bitter cold. Discovering one infant still alive, softly mewling, Noa rescues the baby bound for the gas chambers. With little thought of where to go, how to get away, what to do, Noa escapes deep into the woods running until she can run no more.

Discovered in the woods by members of the local well-known circus, Noa and the rescued infant are taken in and nursed back to health. Given the choice to depart the circus or stay and earn her keep, Noa is apprenticed to well-known lead aerialist, Astrid. Astrid hails from a neighboring circus whose business had been shut down because the family was Jewish. Astrid’s family was well-known throughout the area for their skills, especially on the flying trapeze. And all of this happens in the first few pages.

A book of unlikely friendships, the humanity of strangers and sacrifice for the greater good. Must read. Click To Tweet

I’ve read extensively books set in and around World War II. The Orphan’s Tale is the first fictional account I’m aware of to focus on the efforts of the circus during the war. The dichotomy of villagers and soldiers attending the circus as if nothing was amiss baffles me. Though I know it was so. Pam Jenoff does a superb job of creating layers of conflict. The layer upon layer of human emotion are deftly woven, believable and oh so heartbreaking. What could have easily turned into a tragic account of mankind becomes an opportunity for man to reveal his most kind nature.

My only complaint throughout the entire novel was Astrid’s secrets versus Noa’s secrets – and it’s probably that I can’t fathom being prudish about the differing secrets. One is accepting of the other when her secret is revealed, but at a later time, when the roles are reversed, there is no acceptance – only hurt, betrayal, anger.

If you are looking for a book about the love of friendship, the humanity of strangers, and sacrifice for the greater good . . .The Orphan’s Tale is for you. I was reminded of the verse Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Matthew 25:40 This book epitomizes loving your neighbor as yourself. Beautiful, profound, and devastating, it is a book that must be read. Just be sure to have tissues handy.

If you enjoyed

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum then you’ll love The Orphan’s Tale. {affiliate links}

Many thanks to Mira and NetGalley for the early review copy.

 

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