Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#28: The 20th Victim (James Patterson)

I’m happy to say that I have a review of my latest read sooner than I anticipated. The last third of the latest installment of the Women’s Murder Club flew and made for an enjoyable Sunday of reading.

Lindsey, Claire, Cindy, and Yuki are back at it. This time the central story is about a well-trained assassin taking out drug dealers around the country and using a video game to hide behind. Like Patterson’s other books in the series, this novel does not just tell one story. Yuki is charging a teen driver as an accessory to murder for the death of a cop; she knows the teen is innocent, but too afraid to identify the real gunman. Claire is fighting another kind of battle in the form of lung cancer. All the while, Lindsey’s husband, Joe, is reconnecting with a friend from his past that is convinced his father’s recent deadly cardiac event was not a naturally occurring event. Together, the men search for the truth about the man’s death and possible murder.

The 20th Victim was not an earth-shaking read. It was exactly what I have come to expect from the series — a fun read when I need to escape from the pressures of life and just want to have a little excitement with some of my literary friends. Now I’ll just have to wait for the release of the 21st book in the series in order to have my next visit.

Leave a comment »

#27: Beyond Tuesday Morning (Karen Kingsbury)

This week, I returned to the story of Jaime and Sierra as they continued to deal with the loss of beloved husband and father, Jake, in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Three years have passed since the attacks. Jaime copes with her grief by volunteering at St. Paul’s, a small chapel near the site in Manhattan’s Financial District. Is she really dealing with her grief or simply going through the motions while memorializing the life she has lost?

While riding the Staten Island ferry, Jaime is accosted by a trio of criminals. That’s when she first meets Clay, an attractive police office from Los Angeles who is in town for training with the NYPD. Jaime’s world is turned upside down as she begins to realize that Clay’s presence in her life has reawakened feelings she has not experienced since before Jake’s death. Can anything really come of this new found friendship since Clay will return to the west coast in just a matter of weeks? Is this just infatuation or could Jaime really be falling in love with a man other than Jake? Beyond Tuesday Morning is a beautiful story of hope, healing, and “choosing life” as we search for God’s perfect plan for our life.

Leave a comment »

#26: Here Comes Trouble (Donna Kauffman)

Another week, another novel. I was not feeling incredibly well last weekend and decided I needed an easy read this week. So I grabbed another fluff read that I picked up on a recent trip to Half Price Books last month. Here Comes Trouble looked like an interesting, easy read — and with a price of $3 on the clearance rack, I couldn’t go wrong.

Here Comes Trouble is set in Vermont where Kirby has opened a small inn near the new ski resort. Unluckily, her establishment is suffering due to the unusually high temperatures and absence of snow. She seems destined to lose her business and all hope of finding success in life.

That’s when Brett rides into town on his Harley, clad in leather jacket and chaps. The mysterious stranger becomes the lone guest at the inn and he single-handedly turns Kirby’s world upside down. A recently retired professional poker player, Brett is running from his past in Vegas and desperately searching a future that will make him happy. An unlikely relationship ensues despite the fears and hesitations of each. Will this simply be a fling or will it turn into something more?

Kauffman’s storytelling is rich. By the time I reached the final 100 pages, however, I was ready for the story to come to an end. The novelty of the relationship had lost its impact and the plot was becoming predictable. Still, Here Comes Trouble was an enjoyable read in a busy week when I didn’t want to stretch my reading muscles too much.

Leave a comment »

#25: Be Careful What You Wish For (Jeffrey Archer)

I didn’t finish the novel as quickly as I had hoped, but I completed another novel this week. I returned to the Clifton Chronicles and read the fourth novel in the saga, Be Careful What You Wish For. This volume is largely focused on Emma’s development and the trouble Don Pedro continues to bring into the lives of the Clifton and Barrington families.

Emma now finds herself as chairwoman of the family business as the company completes the building of its first luxury passenger ocean liner. Don Pedro is doing everything within his power to make the enterprise fail and force Barrington Shipping into bankruptcy. In typical Jeffrey Archer fashion, the novel ends with a massive cliffhanger that insists the reader return for the next installment to find out what happens to these beloved characters.

Be Careful What You Wish For is filled with love, tragedy, suspense, and humor. Perhaps I enjoyed this installment more than the previous book because I took a break from the saga and did some other reading. Honestly, I think this is a better book that returns Archer to the status of storyteller that he first held with his earlier releases. Either way, Be Careful What You Wish For was a welcome return to a thrilling story that held my attention and captured my imagination.

Leave a comment »

#23: One Tuesday Morning (Karen Kingsbury)

This novel should come with a box of Kleenex and a warning to only read in the privacy of your own home. Tears are going to flow. You have been warned.

One Tuesday Morning and its sequel have been in my book stack for many years. I have avoided diving in because I was not ready to relive the horror of September 11, even in a fictional setting. I am so glad that overcame my fear and read this beautiful novel. Not only did I laugh and cry with the characters, I also began to experience healing that I didn’t realize was still needed. I don’t guess any of us really know the emotional impact watching the terrorist attacks in New York City had upon us.

One Tuesday Morning centers around two men and their families. Eric Michaels is a Los-Angeles based investment banker who is committed to his job and ignores his family. Jake Bryan is a member of the FDNY and a godly man who is incredibly in love with God, his wife, and his young daughter, Sierra. On a crystal clear September morning in 2001, the men’s lives and those of their families are forever changed. Eric and Jake meet briefly in the stairwell of the South Tower when Jake drops his helmet as he bends to help Eric back to his feet after a fall. Shortly after the interaction, the entire world changes as buildings and lives crumble as a result of the attacks on America.

Miraculously, Jake is found beneath a fire truck in the aftermath. He is alive, but he has no memory of his previous life. He doesn’t even know who he is. While helping Jake reclaim his memories and former life, Jake’s wife begins her own faith journey that ultimately gives her strength for the many challenges ahead.

One Tuesday Morning reminds us of the importance of hiding scripture in our heart and allowing its truth to permeate every fiber of our being. The novel emphasizes the importance of family and faith and challenges readers to re-evaluate their definition of success and the American dream. I am anxious to continue following the story of these characters in Beyond Tuesday Morning.

Leave a comment »

#22: Rumor Has It (Elisabeth Grace)

I admit it. I’m a sucker for a love story. I guess it’s just another sign that I am my mother’s son. Typically, I find these stories couched in something that is more akin to literature than smut. I prefer for my love stories to feature all of the emotional complexity without the graphic details.

There’s another genre that tells the stories for a more mature audience. Romance novels are a booming business. They often push details to the boundaries without getting too explicit. I don’t venture into this genre very often at all. But sometimes, you just want to read a little smut. Rumor Has It was available as an e-book this week and was free. I quickly found myself connecting with the characters and their story. The book was quite enjoyable.

Mason is a misunderstood hip-hop artist who is spending a few days out of the public eye in a Virginia beach house. Through a comedy of errors and some confusion about how to get into the house, Mason meets Ellie and is fascinated by her. The two get to know each other — although Ellie doesn’t recognize Mason as a star — and begin to fall in love. Rumor Has It explores the challenges of dating for celebrities while asking what you would be willing to give up in the name of love. This is the first book in Elisabeth Grace’s Limelight series that continues to follow the adventures of Mason and Ellie.

No, it’s not high literature and definitely a departure from the norm for me. It should come with a warning that the book is intended for mature audiences. Still, it was a nice diversion from the stress of the world and very entertaining.

Leave a comment »

#21: Inside Out and Back Again (Thanhha Lai)

I love visiting Half-Price Books whenever there is a store nearby. I head directly for the clearance stash to see what unknown treasures await me there for less than $3. This time, I visited a store in Oklahoma City and stumbled upon Inside Out and Back Again. The description grabbed my attention and the price sealed the deal that I would give this short novel a shot. I’m so glad I did!

Inside Out and Back Again tells the story of Hà, a 10-year-old girl living in war-torn Saigon in February, 1975 — the height of the Veitnam War. She lives with her three brothers and mother in a small house not far from the docks. Her father was a naval officer who went to fight for his land and has not returned. As things become more and more dangerous in South Vietnam, Hà and her family are forced to flee Saigon near the end of April aboard dilapidated boats hoping to reach Thailand. Hà and her family are among the boat people.

Their boat is met by U.S. sailors who take the refugees to Guam. As the family struggles to find stability in their temporary setting, they are forced to decide where they will immigrate. Hà and her family settle on the United States and ultimately land in Alabama.

In the American South, Hà is no longer seen as the intelligent student she has always been. Rather she spends much of her time feeling stupid. School becomes a place of ridicule and bullying. In order to gain acceptance in their new community, the family feels as though they must abandon their Buddhist faith and accept Christianity. What was promised as a land of opportunity and hope presents Hà with unimaginable challenges as she navigates a foreign land with very few friends and less understanding of the world around her.

Beautifully written in poetic form, Inside Out and Back Again is largely based on the experiences of the book’s author. Its gripping accounts of the feelings of a child in a war-ravaged land as well as the frustration of learning a new language are some of the hallmarks of this delightfully written novel. One of my favorite passages comes near the end of the book. Hà has begun after-school tutoring with a retired teacher, Miss Washington. In the poem entitled “Start Over,” Hà recounts a valuable lesson she has learned from her tutor.

MiSSSisss WaSShington says/ if every learner waits/ to speak perfectly,/ no one would learn/ a new language.

Being stubborn/ won’t make you fluent./ Practicing will!/ The more mistakes you make,/ the more you’ll learn not to.

They laugh.

Shame on them!/ Challenge them to say/ something in Vietnamese/ and laugh right back.

Inside Out and Back Again, 253-254

Inside Out and Back Again was published in 2011 by HarperCollins Children’s Books. The following year, Thanhha Lai’s work was listed as a Newberry Honor Book by the American Library Association.

Leave a comment »

#19: On Mystic Lake (Kristin Hannah)

This is quite possibly my favorite book of the year. (Is it just me or does it seem as though new books have moved to the top of my list quite often this year?) Kristin Hannah provides another outstanding novel that is quickly putting her works in the same league as those of Jodi Picoult in my personal opinion. Simply another great book that I did not want to put down.

To fully understand the theme of the novel, I think it best to look to one of the closing scenes between our heroine, Annie, and her father. While visiting Annie’s southern California home, Hank expresses his understanding of the differences between mothers and fathers.

A dad. . . he teaches responsibility and accountability, but a mom. . .ah, a mom teaches her child to dream, to reach for the stars and to believe in fairy tales. At least, that’s what Sarah would have given you. But me? What does an uneducated old millworker like me know about fairy tales and possibilities and dreams?

Hannah, On Mystic Lake, 381.

Now let’s look back to the beginning of the novel so I can show you why this book is so amazing. Annie has everything she could possibly want — an amazing wardrobe, a beautiful Malibu home, a successful husband, and an adoring teenage daughter. At least, on the outside it appears that Annie has it all. After dropping her recently graduated daughter at the airport to spend a summer in London, Annie’s world is turned upside down when her husband tells her that he is in love with another woman and wants a divorce.

In a search for a way to survive the disillusion of her twenty year marriage, Annie returns to her quiet hometown of Mystic, Oregon to spend some time with her father, Hank. While in town, Annie encounters Nick – a one-time high school flame — and his daughter, Izzy. Nick and Izzy are just as lost as Annie as they reel from the death of wife and mother. At first it appears that Izzy is having the most difficulty dealing with the loss as she imagines that she is gradually disappearing, wearing black gloves to cover her small hands that cease to seem real to her. Annie’s maternal instincts kick in and she begins to offer Izzy a much needed lifeline. In the process, her connection with Nick grows as she discovers his struggles and the two together begin to save each other.

Just as it appears that Annie has begun to rediscover the woman that she really is and what it means to be a family, things take an unexpected turn and she must return to her former life in southern California. Perhaps this is just what is needed to save her marriage to Blake and restore her broken family. But what of Nick and Izzy? Can she really leave behind this non-traditional family she has found on the shores of Mystic Lake?

Hannah’s story is an exceptional exploration of family relationships, especially those between daughters and their mothers and fathers. Hannah also beautifully expresses that family is not limited to only biology and marriage; some of the strongest family units are those that we have chosen.

First published in 1999, Kristin Hannah’s On Mystic Lake continues to resonate with audiences and is worthy of the highest praise. This is now my 7th novel to complete by the author. This work takes it place alongside The Great Alone, True Colors, and The Nightingale. For those Kristin Hannah fans that have stopped by this humble blog, what do you consider your favorite of the author’s books? I’m looking for my next adventure into Kristin Hannah’s world and would love to hear your recommendations.

Leave a comment »

#18: Best Kept Secret (Jeffrey Archer)

It has taken just over a month, but I finally finished the third volume of the Clifton Chronicles. Why such a long read? I experienced severe headaches this summer that made reading impossible. Once the headaches began to subside, the plotline based in on a local election simply could not hold my attention.

Best Kept Secret opened with the settlement of the Barrington estate after Elizabeth’s will was challenged. That was riveting! Much of the book was devoted to Giles’ jilted wife, Virginia, and the introduction of his political opponent, Major Fisher. While both Virginia and Fisher appear to be vital to the direction of the series as a whole, I found their introduction an unwelcome interruption into the narratives of the Clifton and Barrington families.

However, a new generation of Cliftons has been introduced as well — and that story line was much more exciting and interesting. Harry and Emma’s son, Sebastian, has become unknowingly involved with a Nazi sympathizer. Even though the Great War has ended, there are still enemies that must be dealt with. Harry’s adventures in Argentina in an effort to protect and warn Seb were highly entertaining and saved the merit of this third volume in the series.

Although I ultimately was pleased with the cliffhanger that came at the conclusion of the book and I am very anxious to learn who survived the car accident, I plan to take a respite from Archer’s series. I need to find a new spark for my reading life. No worries, I’ll return to the Clifton Chronicles later this year.

Leave a comment »

#17: The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

Earlier today, I finished my reading of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and am still reeling from the depiction of the many injustices that are encountered by African-American teens. In light of the protests going on in our nation right now, I think Thomas’ novel is extremely important and should be read by all adults — not just the young ones!

You can find plot summaries all over the internet, so I don’t want to focus on the story itself. Besides, I hate when a review contains spoilers that lessen a book’s impact. The novel centers around the killing of a black teen boy by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. Starr, the novel’s heroine, witnessed the entire encounter from the passenger seat of the stopped car and is preparing to testify against the officer. While Thomas explores the implications of the crime, I thought that her most powerful statements were about the role of the media in these recurring scenarios as well as the source of the African-American community’s anger.

As a white man, I cannot fully understand the level of bigotry, prejudice, and disdain that many in the black community have faced. I have a little more of an understanding now — and for that, I’m thankful. I also know that the issues society are currently facing are not so simple that they can be summarized and adequately expressed in a YA novel. But sometimes, I think we need to step away from the “reality” that is such a hot-button issue and look at a similar situation through the lenses of fiction. I know it has been a valuable tool for me and I will not soon forget the story of Starr and the Carter family as they faced injustice in many forms. Thank you, Angie Thomas, for an outstanding novel that permitted me to pause a think in a safe place.

Leave a comment »