Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#17: The 5th Horseman (James Patterson)

The_5th_Horseman_Book_CoverI’m continuing to work my way through the Women’s Murder Club series and loving every minute of it. These novels are fast-paced, full of twists and turns, and quite entertaining. It also doesn’t hurt that Mom began reading the series this summer, so it’s just something else for us to talk about.

The 5th Horseman was a bit more frightening than the preceding novels in the series. Of course, you have the standard set of murders that have everyone puzzled — this time young women are being murdered and then positioned in cars around the city — but it’s the secondary story that I found most frightening.

The ladies uncover a serial killer operating in the city’s major hospital. Patients enter through the ER before they are ultimately moved to a room for observation. Their prognosis is always good just before they die mysteriously. To make matters worse, the victims are discovered by hospital staff with bronze buttons on their eyes that are embossed with a caduceus, the symbol of the medical profession. Suspicions center on the Director of the Emergency Services — a creepy man for sure, but is he the murderer?

I just picked up the next volume of this series as well as the final Harry Potter today. Hoping to get a little more reading done before the semester becomes insanely busy in a few short weeks.

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#16: Home Field (Hannah Gersen)

Home FieldThis week’s novel took a distinctly dark turn from my recent reading. The debut novel of Hannah Gersen, Home Field is a riveting exploration of the impact of loss on the survivors left behind.

Nicole visited her father-in-law’s rural farm with her husband and three children as part of their summer vacation. Having struggled with depression throughout her life, Nicole found herself in a hopeless situation in the quietness. The solution was obvious. She wrapped the rope swing dangling from the barn’s rafters around her neck and took her life. Her middle son, a rising middle school student, was the one who would find her limp body. Thus ends chapter one.

The remainder of the novel examines how those left behind deal with Nicole’s illness, death, and the perceived role they played in everything. Dean is now a widower attempting to help his three children cope with tragedy while looking for his own coping mechanisms in relationships and work. Stephanie is the oldest and is preparing to enter college. She struggles to find her place in the world and experiments with alternative life styles in an effort to cope. Robbie, the 11-year-old who found his mother’s body, begins to run away from school and seeks escape through his imagination and the stage. Bryan, Nicole and Dean’s 6-year-old son, turns to his aunt’s Christian faith to find comfort and hope of seeing his departed mother again. As the family spirals out of control, another horrifying event brings the individual members back together….but is it too late to repair the damage done by Nicole’s suicide?

Home Field honestly deals with often taboo subjects. The need to place blame by all effected by the tragedy is central to the work. Faith and the church are portrayed as unwelcome and false sources of hope to the unbelieving family. The immensity of grief is shown as raw emotion that doesn’t conform to societal norms.

Home Field is not a feel-good novel by any means. However, I found it to be a valid representation of the struggles of a family touched by suicide. As I prepare to participate in the local Out of the Darkness walk  in the coming weeks, it was a perfect novel to prepare my heart and mind for the struggles that have hit far too close to home over the past few years.

For more information about the fight against suicide and how you can help, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at http://www.afsp.org.

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#15: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)

Harry Potter 6My journey through the world of Harry Potter continued with the 6th installment of the beloved series and things have definitely become much darker and more mature. In this novel, Harry excels in his Potions class thanks to a borrowed textbook that contains sideline notes from the Half-Blood Prince, a former Hogwarts’ student. During his 6th year, Harry also works personally with Professor Dumbledore to explore the collected memories of various people in order to learn more about Lord Voldemort’s past in their continuing search for the best way to defeat the evil villain.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finds our beloved characters nearing their 17th birthdays. Therefore, they begin to deal with issues that are typical of these teens. Harry, Ron, and Hermione all deal with issues related to love interests; Ron especially is portrayed as a victim of his uncontrollable hormones. Battle scenes are much more vicious and graphic. Many favorite characters are severely injured, some forever marred by their encounters with evil.

Probably most worrisome for parents of children who might read the book is the presence of death throughout Half-Blood Prince. Harry and Tonks continue to deal with the recent death of Sirius Black. Their grief and depression is evident to the reader. Harry and Dumbledore discuss the gruesome murders of members of Tom Riddle’s family as well as continuing to explore Harry’s own feelings about the deaths of his own parents at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Most disturbing for the reader, however, is the tragic death of Dumbledore at the novel’s climax. While this murder is not particularly gruesome, its impact on Harry, Ron, and Hermione as well as the rest of the Hogwarts community is painful and may be difficult for young readers who are not properly equipped to deal with issues related to the loss of a trusted companion and, in many ways, the man who functioned as a parent to Harry.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was challenging to get started, but was ultimately just as rewarding as the other books in the series. I am anxious to read the final chapter in this saga to see how Rowling handles Harry’s continued pursuit of Voldemort in light of Dumbledore’s death. I’m certain I won’t be disappointed at all.

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#14: Summer Sisters (Judy Blume)

The final book on my summer to-read shelf was Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. If you are familiar with Blume’s works for young adults — most notably, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret – it should come as no surprise that this work for adults is also a coming-of-age story of two teen girls.

Victoria and Caitlin come from different worlds. Victoria, nicknamed Vix, comes from a middle class family living in New Mexico. Caitlin is the wealthy daughter of divorced parents and splits her time between Santa Fe and Martha’s Vineyard. As fate would have it, the two girls become “summer sisters”, spending their school vacations together on the island. The teens learn much about life, love, sex, and loss together.

When tragedy strikes Vix’s family, the two girls begin to grow apart. Victoria becomes the recipient of a prestigious scholarship from the foundation managed by Caitlin’s family. This award allows her to attend Harvard and pursue her academic dreams. Caitlin chooses to forego school and travels the world. As the novel progresses, it is clear that Vix is the focus of Blume’s novel as her choices are often pitted against the “less desirable” ones made by Caitlin. The girls’ struggle through the beginnings of their careers and families as they face unwelcome realities.

This was certainly not my typical novel, but I chose it based upon Blume’s success in the young adult market. Despite the sexual exploits that appear throughout, the characters are nicely developed and their stories draw the reader into the novel. Summer Sisters is definitely a beach read, but not one of the best that I have ever experienced.

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