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Thursday, May 28, 2015

ORHAN'S INHERITANCE by Aline Ohanesian



The discord between the Turks and the Armenians comes alive in Ohanesian’s book that details three generations of those two groups that once occupied the same land.  The book begins in 1990 with the reading of a will.  Orhan, a Turk, has been left his family’s business, but not the family home, in the will written by his grandfather.  The home has been left to an unknown woman living in California. Orhan’s father is enraged. He and Orhan’s Auntie have been left with no stake in the family’s Kilim rug factory and only an apartment building in another town in which to live.
Orhan flies off to meet the Californian, Seda, an aged Armenian, in an effort to regain the family home.  The rest of the book is divided between the events in Armenia just after the close of WWI and the meetings between Orhan and Seda.
The connection between the two families is compelling reading.  The horror of the Armenian genocide is rendered in a beautifully written tale of love, horror, forgiveness, deceit, discrimination, fear, kindness, anger and, finally, understanding.
5 of 5 stars

FALLEN WOMEN by Sandra Dallas



FALLEN WOMEN  by Sandra Dallas

You begin reading thinking you are reading one kind of novel only to discover that you are reading another – much more intriguing and with vastly more depth than you thought.  With each page we are drawn more deeply into the lives of Lillie and Beret and Mick.   Dallas’s rich character development is apparent in the first chapters and continues throughout as the plot line unfolds. Even minor characters have depth. The title leaves one wondering which women (and men) are fallen.

Public appearance and actual moral character become evident as Beret and Mick proceed with their investigation into Lillie’s death and personality.  Moral fiber will become a rich topic for book groups who choose to discuss this book.  Dallas gives us many other topics for discussion and one persistent question – What is the story behind Beret’s name--  a question posed but never answered.
5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TAKEN by Dee Henderson




TAKEN deals with the aftermath of a kidnap situation gone wrong – for eleven years! The main character was kidnapped at age 16 and held until she escaped at age 27.  The book only refers to the kidnapping and focuses on the psychological healing that must take place for the young woman to reenter society as a whole person.  The person who helps Shannon heal is Matthew, a former cop and father to another young woman who was kidnapped and held for eight years. The work he did with his daughter is the framework for the present situation. In flashback the book reveals the crimes committed and the horror of captivity of eleven years traveling the country with a crime family.
Although a bit too long, the story held my attention well. I would have preferred to know more about Shannon’s brother and mother with a little less emphasis on the navel gazing psychological conversations between Shannon and Matthew. 
This is a Christian author and a Christian publishing house so the murders take place “off page,” the language is Sunday School clean and the only drinking is ice tea.  That said, specifically Christian references take up approximately 5 of the 400 plus pages. Both Christian and non-Christian readers will find an interesting and believable psychological drama.
4 of 5 stars

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A GOOD FAMILY by Erik Fassnacht



I almost quit reading – then I got to page 58 and I was hooked.  The four members of this family are damaged, damaged by each other, damaged by their past, damaged by their own actions. The characters are finely drawn, believable and you get to know them intimately.  The situations are timely and true.  The writing is expressive. These are people and situations you want to know and care about deeply – even when they are being incredibly stupid in their actions. The tempo and tension increase as the book travels to its conclusion.  There is sufficient humor to lighten what could be a depressing book.
I especially liked the sections about Barkley and his illustrious Catholic high school. The politics of schools are spot on (I’m a former teacher at a religious school).  I rooted for Julie to detach from her stifling marriage and find (re-find?) herself and her dreams. The male writer got women right –Julie, Ginny and Margaret.
Book groups will a plethora of topics to discuss, including the endings for each family member.
5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

RESCUE AT LOS BANOS by Bruce Henderson



RESCUE AT LOS BANOS    by Bruce Henderson
All of us know about the Bataan Death March, but few know about the civilians who were interned for the duration of World War II at Los Banos Prisoner of War Camp in the Phillippines. Los Banos Camp, situated in a lush agricultural area of the Philippines, was home to thousands of civilians – men, women and children – from a number of countries, but mostly from the United States. When Sadaaki Konishi was made commandant in 1944, conditions in the camp became unendurable. Food rations were cut to starvation levels, cruelty and inhumane practices commenced and the prisoners were scheduled for annihilation. The 11th Airborne was assigned to rescue them in a desperate race against the end of the war and the wholesale killing of all POW’s by the Japanese. 
Henderson has written an account of the round-up of the civilians and their experiences in the camps that focuses on several interned families and individuals, the soldiers charged with rescuing them and the cruelty of Konishi. Intimate family narratives carry along the story of courage, daring and fortitude. The fact filled book reads like a well-paced, but harrowing, novel.  WWII buffs will appreciate the many notes and appendices, while ordinary readers will be caught up in the daring, and ultimately triumphant, raid. 
5 of 5 stars 

THE ALPINE ZEN by Mary Daheim



THE ALPINE ZEN   by Mary Daheim
This is Daheim’s 27th outing in the Emma Lord series and perhaps her last. Emma, publisher and editor of the Alpine newspaper, and her Sheriff husband, Milo Dodge, are the hero and heroine of this romp in murder and mayhem.  All of the usual characters are present which will please followers of the series, but may confuse new readers. There is so much going on in small town Alpine -- murder, wife beating, missing persons, confused identities, etc., etc. --  that even long time readers will find this outing a bit confusing and disjointed.  It appears that Daheim had several “good ideas” still in her Emma Lord file and tried to use them all.  If you can keep all the name changes straight the plot thickens and the resolution makes sense. 
A good mystery for mystery buffs who love convoluted plotting and well developed characters. You won’t find gore or gratuitous violence, but if you are offended by smoking (often), drinking (before every meal) and sexual innuendo (mostly within marriage), skip this one and find another mystery.  
3 of 5 stars