Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Trevor Noah)

The book’s title sat on my TBR list for several years after a colleague’s recommendation. With a long drive back to west Texas in front of me and a free subscription to Audible, I decided it was time to download Trevor Noah’s memoir and see what all the fuss was about. I am certainly glad I did.

Born a Crime brilliantly shares heart-wrenching stories from Noah’s childhood during the final days of apartheid. But the book is about so much more than racial prejudice. It’s about the challenges and laughter that result from growing up in a deeply religious home. It’s about the bond between a mother and son. It’s a tale of the horrors of domestic abuse and the struggle to come to freedom. It’s about life in the face of opposition and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

From his early revelation that his mother was shot in the head by his step-father, Noah pulls us into his childhood and begins to unravel his story with an obvious gift for storytelling. We are brought into a world where a child’s only crime is that he was born to a black woman and a white man. Not finding a welcome place in either racial community, Trevor struggles to be included and is the victim of bullying. He watches as his mother begins to innocently flirt with the handsome mechanic who will ultimately become his stepfather. Trevor explains why everything changes when a son is born to his mother and her new husband….and how the abuse quickly escalates.

Born a Crime is an excellent read filled with moments of thought-provoking asides about life as we know it. Noah explores the power of language as a unifying force and challenges our thoughts about race, freedom, and power. I enjoyed listening to the book, but I fully intend to pick up a copy of the written work as well so I can continue to digest the beautiful language and the insightful commentary. This is one book that you don’t want to miss!

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#8: Code of Conduct (Brad Thor)

I’m nearing the end of Middlemarch, but this week’s road trip meant I had to take a break. The rental doesn’t have satellite radio, so it was the perfect time to return to my old friends– audio books! I was entertained and intrigued by the return of Scot Harvath in Code of Conduct.

In this installment of the series, we find our former Navy Seal fighting an unseen enemy. A strain of Ebola has been weaponized and is threatening lives around the world. Set in Congo, Switzerland, and the US, Code of Conduct features exciting battles in humanitarian jungle hospitals as well as the streets of the Nation’s Capitol. Members of the federal government and UN dignitaries join forces to enact the most diabolical genocide the world has seen….and it is up to Scot Harvath to stop them.

Not only exciting, the book is thought provoking. In an age where biological weapons are a reality and international wars remind us just how small the globe is, Thor’s novel feels as though it could easily be plucked from tomorrow’s headlines. Once again, Brad Thor’s writing is riveting and doesn’t disappoint.

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#13: An Accidental Woman (Barbara Delinsky)

Somehow I tend to forget just how much I enjoy Barbara Delinsky’s work until I pick up another audio version of one of her books. An Accidental Woman was another enjoyable read (although the title’s meaning still confuses me).

The story follows Heather Malone, a young woman in rural New England, enjoying life with her boyfriend Micah and his two daughters on their farm. Without warning, the FBI shows up on their doorstep and charges Heather (or is her name really Lisa?) with a murder of a man 15 years ago on the other side of the country. The entire town is thrown into an uproar as they begin to search for answers about Heather’s past. Heather remains silent and seems to be hiding something both tragic and traumatic. Leading the charge for answers is Heather’s best friend, Poppy — a smart woman dealing with the personal pain of her past resulting from a snow mobile accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Poppy is assisted by Griffin Hughes, the investigative reporter who unknowingly led the FBI to the small town and upset Heather’s peaceful existence.

Filled with heart and carefully crafted story lines, An Accidental Woman will please the most cynical of readers and touch your heart as you root for both Heather and Poppy. Definitely worth adding to your to-read stack!

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#9: King and Maxwell (David Baldacci)

I hate to admit that it’s June and I’ve not even read 10 books this year. I don’t see this being a reading year for the record books.

Anyway, since I had to take a LONG road trip to Guymon, Oklahoma last week, an audio book seemed like the perfect companion to pass the time. David Baldacci’s King and Maxwell certainly kept me entertained and listening intently. The story centers around a young man, Tyler, who has been informed that his father was killed in Afghanistan. Something about the story doesn’t add up, so Tyler hires secret-service-agents-turned-private-investigators King and Maxwell. Through lots of twists and turns, Tyler’s dad proves to be alive and running for his life after a massive delivery fell into the wrong hands. The only question is exactly who has the delivery now? Was the soldier set up or did he betray his country? With lots of references to current events, Baldacci proves once again to be a very smart, thoughtful author.

I enjoyed the distraction that King and Maxwell was. Now it’s time to get The Winds of War finished!

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#6: Think Twice (Lisa Scottoline)

I discovered Lisa Scottoline’s work in 2010 when I first read Look Again. Somehow I never got around to reading another of her books. I decided that needed to change when I picked up this week’s audio book. I was not disappointed at all!

Think Twice is the story of Alice and Bennie, identical twins separated at birth. The two are reunited when Bennie, a successful lawyer, successfully defends her sister in a murder case. It appears that Alice has turned her life around when she suddenly quits her job. While at dinner at Alice’s home, Bennie finds herself extremely drowsy and wakes in a dark box with the sounds of an angry animal scratching in hopes of getting inside. While Bennie is coming to grips with the fact that she has been buried alive, Alice is taking over Bennie’s life and plans to steal the $3 million in her bank accounts. When Bennie escapes from her underground prison, the excitement really gets underway. Bennie’s friends attempt to sort out which “Bennie” is authentic. Lives are on the line and the thrills keep coming on every page. Whether reading the pages or listening on CDs, Think Twice is a novel that you are certain to enjoy.


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#4: Gone (James Patterson)

Since my work as a traveling minstrel musician is in full swing again, I returned to audio books to help the miles pass a little faster. Gone was an exciting story featuring Detective Michael Bennett. Bennett and his large family are in the witness protection program because of threats from the criminal that Michael had helped to apprehend. The crime boss escaped custody and has declared war on southern California…..and hopes to annihilate Bennett in the process. This thriller is packed from beginning to end with scandal, intrigue, mystery, and pulse-raising suspense.

I especially enjoyed the descriptions of familiar locales from my days in southern California; Patterson’s words vividly paint with broad, colorful strokes. Because of the genre, the thriller contained a lot of violent scenes as well. Normally I’m not of fan of these scenes, but Patterson had me by the throat with his story. Perhaps I was just intrigued by the story, but I never felt as though the violence was overly graphic. The use of vulgarity was minimal; when foul language was employed, its impact was undeniable and appropriate for the scene. Once again, we see the power and artistry of Patterson’s use of words.

All in all, I was surprised that I enjoyed the book as much as I did. I don’t know that I would have enjoyed “reading” the book itself, but I found myself looking forward to my time in the car to find out how this tangled plot line was ultimately going to work out.

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#27: Only Time Will Tell (Jeffrey Archer)

Let’s just cut to the chase: I think I have found another author to add to my list of favorites! Only Time Will Tell is the first book in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles. The series traces the life of Harry Clifton from his childhood through his adult life in America. I’ve always been a fan of these types of works (I’m working my way through Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy now) and was excited to see how Archer would handle the drama.

Personally I fell in love with Harry from the very beginning. His introduction to a better life through education that was made possible because of his musical talent resonated with my own story. Intrigue is found on each page as we learn more and more about Harry’s life and the lives of those he encounters. It appears that Archer is in the process of writing the Chronicles with volume 3 released in April of this year.

What’s my plan? I figure I’ll put this one on the back shelf for a while and pick up the print edition of Only Time Will Tell and read the entire series. After all, I have to know what happens to Harry as his adventure continues in the New World!

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#24: Calico Joe (John Grisham)

Last week, I decided to take a mini-vacation. Since summer is upon us and baseball season is under way, I chose the short novel Calico Joe for the drive to northwest Arkansas. I have seen the audiobook on the shelf many times, but always opted for other stories. I’m not sure why either. I enjoy Grisham’s novels, but wasn’t sure that a book about baseball was what I was looking for.

Calico Joe is the story of a baseball player from Calico Rock, Arkansas who makes his way into the major leagues as a player for the Chicago Cubs. His rookie season is nothing less than magical and the entire baseball world watches with fascination, including a young boy in suburban New York. The boy is fascinated with the skyrocketing success of Calico Joe. Requests for autographed pictures are sent to the young athlete — much to the distress of the boy’s father, a pitcher for the rival New York Mets. Calico Joe and the Cubs find themselves facing the Mets with the disgruntled pitcher on the mound. The infamous game that results will forever change the men’s careers, the lives of their families, and baseball itself. Calico Joe examines how a single moment in time can forever alter our destiny while exploring the healing power of the restoration of broken relationships.

Next time you find yourself on the road, consider picking up a copy of this short novel (roughly 4 hours in duration) and lose yourself in the game again. You’ll be glad you did.

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#22: Safe Haven (Nicholas Sparks)

I’ve gotten behind in my reviews and need to catch up. I actually finished listening to this book while driving back and forth during one of the last weeks of the semester. There was a lot of time on the road and a lot of time to listen.

I found Safe Haven a difficult book to listen to since it told the story of a woman who had run away from her abusive husband. To add to the irony, her husband was a police detective — one who was charged with protecting victims! I wasn’t fully aware of the subject matter when I selected the book. I am especially sensitive to the topic because domestic abuse has rocked the lives of members of my family. My sister and her two daughters suffered at the hands of an abusive monster for nearly 5 years before getting out. (Since many of my Christian friends read these posts, I’ll refrain from calling Gregory Prince her ex-husband the names that he truly deserves. Just understand that I feel that any man who fails to pay court-ordered child support is about as worthy of mercy as the cockroach I squashed under my sneaker. Perhaps someone in the Tennessee Department of Child Welfare will stumble across this post and actually investigate. A guy can hope anyway. Hey….it’s my blog and my opinions!)

Without revealing too much of the plot, when the abusive cop finally chases down his victim in her new home, I was frantic for her to get away from him. I drove extra miles out of my way to get her to a safe place in the story…..I couldn’t leave her hanging! When the animal got exactly what he deserved, I cheered out loud in my car. I was only saddened that he couldn’t suffer more.

It’s a riveting story. It didn’t bring out Christ-like mercy, grace, or forgiveness in me. It certainly felt good to see the bad guy get what he deserved though.

A movie adaptation was released earlier this year. I haven’t seen it and given my emotional response to the book, I’m not sure I want to see it.

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#20: Do Yourself a Favor…Forgive (Joyce Meyer)

Being on sabbatical from the church job has been a good time to begin looking honestly at my life. I’m learning a lot about myself — both good and bad — and the things that are shaping my emotions. One thing that I have been forced to admit to myself is that I continue to harbor some anger and resentment against people who have hurt me over the years in my ministry role. Some of the attacks were vindictive, aggressive, and intended to destroy me personally. People knew what they were doing and willingly chose to become the very embodiment of evil. In other cases, the pain came from a thoughtless word or action that the person didn’t even realize had cut me to the core. I can’t change the fact that I have been hurt, but I can deal with my feelings after the fact. I suppose that’s why Joyce Meyer’s audiobook on forgiveness jumped out at me. It wasn’t an enjoyable read, but it was something I needed to begin addressing this week.

In Do Yourself a Favor….Forgive, Meyer begins by examining the characteristics of anger. Why does anger appear in our life? Is anger ever justified? Through sharing of personal stories, Meyer presents a clear portrait of anger that is honest, yet is completely non-judgmental and encouraging. In the second half of the book, Meyer speaks about the importance and freeing effects of forgiveness. Again Meyer’s stories (both humorous and life-altering) are coupled with Scriptural instruction that provides a clear map through the journey to forgiveness. Through all of the reading and powerful statements that were expressed, this simple truth was the most powerful for me:  “As long as we are talking about our wounds, we haven’t gotten over them.”

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