Genre: Mystery

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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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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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Book Review: The Innocents

August 29, 2016 Book Review, reviews 2

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.

Book Review: The InnocentsThe Innocents (Quinn Colson, #6) by Ace Atkins
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on July 12th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Southern
Pages: 367
Source: complimentary review copy
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three-half-stars

 

In December of 2014 the horrific murder of 19-year old Jessica Chambers rocked the South, especially the small town of Panola, Mississippi. This murder stood out from its lack of witnesses and evidence. And most especially by the manner in which Jessica was murdered – covered in lighter fluid and set on fire. It wasn’t until February of this year that an arrest was made.

Inspired by the horrific murder of Jessica Chambers, The Innocents tells the story of 17-year old Millie Jones from the fictional town of Jericho, Mississippi. This was my first introduction to both Ace Atkins and his Quinn Colson series. It would have been helpful to read the first 5 books in the series before reading The Innocents, Book 6. There’s a lot of back story I missed by not having read the first five!

So, what did I think?

The Innocents had enough twists and turns, red herrings and colorful characters to keep me turning the pages as fast as I could. While I suspected the murderer early on {probably from watching too much Law & Order}, I had to read through to the end to find out the why, how and all the circumstances.

Ace Atkins has a way of fleshing out his characters. The ‘bad’ characters were not completely bad just as the good characters were not all good. Atkins ability to plop the reader down in the midst of a southern town with all its intricacies, politics and local characters added to the reading experience.

As I mentioned, this is my first Ace Atkins book so I’m not familiar with his series style. There were a few threads in The Innocents that did not get played out. One such sub-plot involving a Muslim clerk, I really expected some kind of resolution, but was left dangling.

For the series to be about Quinn Colson, Quinn Colson seemed to play more of a background role in this book. Granted he’s no longer the sheriff of fictional Jericho, but I thought he would be more of a central character. On the flip side, I thoroughly enjoyed the strong female sheriff and hope Lillie continues to play a primary role.

An enjoyable read satisfying that desire for a fast-paced mystery. If you like Greg Iles, especially his early mysteries, then I imagine you’ll be right at home reading Ace Atkins.

 

 

three-half-stars

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Thoughts on Before the Fall

June 17, 2016 Book Review, reviews 7

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.

Thoughts on Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 31st 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy
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four-stars

 

Before the Fall has been packaged as the summer blockbuster and I can certainly see why. A private plane slips off the radar only 16 minutes into its flight between Martha’s Vineyard and New York. Eleven people are on board but only two survive: a painter, Scott Burroughs and JJ, the 4 year old son of David Bateman, creator of the number one 24-hour news station {pretty much patterned after Fox News}.

The story begins with the crash along with Scott’s miraculous survival and rescue of JJ. Told in alternate chapters we get a behind the scenes look at the lives of those who were on board the fatal crash. We also get to see the aftermath with the news media and various government agencies involved in the investigation. It’s both fascinating and terrifying. What the news media {especially David Bateman’s own company} does to Scott and anyone surrounding him is a testament to culture today. Even how the various government entities choose to handle the investigation is scary – most are compassionate and matter-of-fact but the few that are not….woe to those in the warpath.

This author is brilliant in portraying ‘real’ people. His characters are so involved and believable. The characters’  actions leading up to the plane crash go far beyond stereotypes. Part of the joy in reading Before the Fall was for that very reason – Noah Hawley created totally believable characters with a back story, emotional depth and unique traits.

There are two issues I had with the book that kept me from giving it a solid 5 stars. The first being when we are seeing Rachel’s ‘before the crash’ chapter. Rachel is the 10 year old daughter of David Bateman and Maggie. Precocious, brilliant and a sweetheart, but her chapter drifted more into her mom’s thoughts rather than Rachel’s. Perhaps I misread the chapter, but it just didn’t quite sit well with me.

The other issue was in the last few pages. Survivor Scott is giving an interview and some of the things he says doesn’t make sense to me. It’s impossible to be more specific without going into spoilers.

[Tweet “Believable characters + a look at society’s obsession with news makes this the summer book to read”]

After reading Before the Fall and seeing what a brilliant storyteller Noah Hawley is, I plan to read the rest of his previous novels. And maybe even turn the television on to watch some Fargo! Read it. Before the Fall is so worth the hype!

Before the Fall is a She Reads Summer Selection. To see what other members are saying visit She Reads here.

Many thanks to She Reads and Grand Central Publishing for providing a free copy to review. All opinions are my own.

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four-stars

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