Source: complimentary review copy

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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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9 Lessons from The Whole Health Life

January 29, 2017 Book Review, Life Well Lived, reviews 7

9 Lessons from The Whole Health LifeThe Whole Health Life by Shannon Harvey
Published by The Whole Health Life Publishing on November 17th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy
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four-half-stars

I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and is in no way influenced by the company.

At the beginning of January I shared my nutrition experiment of giving up sugar.  I’m now through an entire month of little to no sugar and still no migraine! I’ve had a couple of days of a low-grade headache that didn’t want to go away, but nothing like the daily migraines that were crippling me. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Goodness knows going from being a sugar-aholic to no sugar has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The trick is in telling myself this is an experiment – an experiment to see if all those health and nutrition books I’ve read are right, or just a fad.

The latest book I’ve read, and probably the best overall with regards to health, nutrition, and exercise, is The Whole Health Life.  Written by Australian journalist, Shannon Harvey, The Whole Health Life is an in-depth look at the scientifically-proven connection between mind, body, and health. The book covers a range of possibilities affecting our health, from stress and emotions to food, environment, and even our sleep patterns. The more I read about health and wellness, the more I realize how interrelated/interconnected everything is.

9 Lessons from The Whole Health Life

  1.   We must find healthy outlets to relieve stress. It is literally taking years off our lives. A few recommended stress-relieving activities include listening to music, dancing, walking through nature, even wood-working – whatever helps you to get out of your head and into the moment.
  1. We can invoke a “relaxation response” to counteract the bad stress by simply including prayer and/or meditation in our lives. The rituals of most major religions incorporate the meditative mindset we need to counteract cortisol damage or the flight or fight response.
  1. A surprising finding is that women who perceived themselves to have a great deal of stress in their lives had a greater rate of cellular aging. In fact, women who perceived themselves to have high stress had aged the equivalent of 9-17 additional years.
  1. Meditation makes our brains stronger, fitter, younger. “Meditating for only 20 minutes a day over three days results in a significant decrease in sensitivity to pain.” I’m on day 15 of a daily meditation regimen. I’ve only worked up to 10 minutes/day but I can tell a difference in my overall wellbeing.
  1. The power of the placebo is scientifically proven to be valid! Did I mention worrying makes us sick? Literally! Our minds are powerful tools.
  1. Consider a mindset reset. “ Thinking things like ‘This task is exciting,’ rather than ‘this task is scary’ can help change how you perceive the situation.
  1. Exercise in spite of obstacles. Something my MS doctor has been telling me for years. The more I can exercise my muscles the more I will be able to use my muscles.
  1. Not only is exercise important but a variety of movement is also critical. For example, if running is your jam, add some yoga and strength training into the mix.

9. Make technology work for you rather than against you. Set hourly reminders to stand up and move, roll your shoulders, stretch. Your body will thank you.

 

Sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. Zen Proverb

 

Final Thoughts

As I was reading the book a second time, I was amazed again at the wealth of information covered in The Whole Health Life. Not only that, but the scientific papers the author had to read (and decipher) were numerous. I kept thinking why have we not been told this stuff before?

At the end of each chapter the key takeaways are noted, but more importantly, tips on how to get started making the small changes in your life based on the science and information shared in the respective chapter. AND, for a bookworm this is probably the best – each chapter ends with additional recommended books to read!

As an additional resource, the author created a documentary making this information even more accessible. Plus, there are in-depth interviews with many of the scientists who have made breakthroughs with their mind, body and health studies. The information Shannon Harvey has made available through the book, the documentary and her blog, broken down into bite-sized chunks in non-scientific speak, is resourceful and invaluable. If you are looking to improve your overall health, The Whole Health Life is the book for you. I know I will continue to work through the recommended changes to see if I can not only knock out the migraines but also throw the MS into a permanent remission!

To view the first fifteen minutes of the documentary, visit The Connection here. Purchase The Whole Health Life from Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound.

To learn more about Shannon Harvey or to follow her blog and podcast, visit The Whole Health Life. You can also connect with Shannon Harvey on Twitter | Facebook.

 

four-half-stars

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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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