Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

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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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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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Book Review: Lost Lake

May 7, 2014 Book Review, reviews 8

Book Review: Lost LakeLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on January 21, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 296
Source: Giveaway Win
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Sarah Addison Allen can take a situation that seems coincidental and turn it into a thing of magic.   That saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” applies to all of Allen’s novels.

When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone.  Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again. 

Kate has been in mourning for a year after losing her husband to a tragic bicycle accident.  While Kate has been in a fog, Her mother-in-law Cricket, a force to be reckoned with, has stepped in to help Kate by arranging the sale of her home, the bicycle shop, and the care of 8 year old Devon.

On the day Kate and Devin are to move into Cricket’s home in a ritzy neighborhood of Atlanta, Devon finds a postcard from Kate’s aunt welcoming her back to Lost Lake campground anytime.  On a whim, Kate & Devon drive to south Georgia in search of  Lost Lake and Kate’s Aunt Eby.  Weaving in and out of Eby and Kate’s story we learn how Lost Lake came to be such an integral piece in so many lives, from Jack, the introverted podiatrist who has visited for 30 years to Bulahdeen, the English Literature professor from “the end of the world” {also known as the wrong side of the tracks} to Lisette, the Frenchwoman who followed Eby and her husband from Europe to the humid heat of south Georgia and to Eby herself, with her calm reassuring ways and superbig heart.  Allen’s characters have such life breathed into them it’s as though I’ve known them all my life.

You can’t change where you come from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you can make up a new one.

It is the gentle method in which we learn the back stories of each character that Allen truly shines.  Allen is truly adept at revealing the plot layer at a time.   The magic-infused stories are filled with such hope and love and light, I always feel good about the world after reading one of her novels.  She seems to really “get” the slow easy way of life in the mountains and the uniqueness of an individual.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes a feel-good story and/or Southern Fiction.

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Free prequel to Lost Lake available as an ebook ~ Waking Kate

Many thanks to She Reads for the giveaway!

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Book Review: Once We Were Brothers

December 2, 2013 Book Review, reviews 10

Book Review: Once We Were BrothersOnce We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October, 2013
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 386
Source: complimentary review copy
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“You’re sitting here tonight in the lap of luxury, in a realm of comfort, a prominent lawyer, secure in every facet of her life, in a country where such madness seems inconceivable.  Today, we look back at the Nazi scourge and shake our heads in disbelief.  How could such a thing happen?  Why were the Jews so meek?  It’s incomprehensible.  Miss Lockhart, don’t ask me, with all your presumptions, to explain why the Viennese Jews didn’t leave their homes, their community, everything they knew and loved and respond rationally to a world bereft of reason.”. . . . .”They chip away and they chip away, taking your rights and your dignity a piece at a time, and you think, ‘God, give me strength and I can endure this until the world is righted, until evil is vanquished, as it always is.’ (p. 71)

A few years back I recall seeing on the news about a harmless-looking elderly gentleman arrested for suspected war crimes during World War II.  Come to find out, he had been a prominent decision-maker in Hitler’s army responsible for the annihilation of countless Jews.  Once We Were Brothers delves deep into a story quite similar ~ two boys, raised together for 6 formative years ~ one a Viennese Jew, the other German.  As close to each other as close could be, until Otto, the 14 year-old German boy, was forced to enter Hitler’s regime and Ben, the Viennese Jew, became the ostracized population sought for termination.  Ben survives the war, along with his beloved Hannah, but both of their parents are killed during the war.  Fast-forward 60 years to downtown Chicago.  A prominent philanthropist is confronted during an event highlighting his contributions to the community.  The philanthropist, Elliott Rosenzweig, is accused of being a Nazi ~ the “Butcher of Zanosc.”  The accuser? Ben Soloman.

Next follows the re-telling of Ben’s memories from World War II and the ultimate betrayal by Otto Piatek aka Elliott Rosenzweig.  At first, the attorney Ben is sharing his story with refuses to believe Elliott could be the Butcher from WWII.  As Ben recounts the story and Catherine along with her friend and PI, Liam, begin to delve into Elliott’s past the truth emerges ~ was it a case of mistaken identity or did Ben accuse the correct man, someone he counted as a brother for some years.

A riveting account of how lives were torn apart by the Nazi regime.  Once We Were Brothers asks the question of how many good deeds could make up for pure evil?  Is it possible to overcome evil?  And those men who served in Hitler’s army at what point do we forgive their war crimes and is there any forgiveness for them ~ do they even want forgiveness?

I was amazed to discover this was first a self-published novel that became a runaway bestseller before being picked up by St. Martin’s Griffin.  And well it should have been ~ a phenomenal novel that reminds us of the power of love, compassion and hope.  Recommended for anyone who enjoyed Sarah’s Key, The Lost Wife, and Defending Jacob.  Faith, hope, love. . .and the greatest of these is love.

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