Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Insurgent (Veronica Roth)

This post has been challenging to write. Why? I finished reading Insurgent while on vacation with my parents last week. When I closed the novel, I found myself asking “What am I going to say about THAT?” I don’t know. Even as I am beginning to write this post, I don’t really know what I’m going to say. This may be an interesting review for all of us….

Insurgent continues the story of Tris and Tobias’ love affair in their dystopian world. As war looms, our young heros face the issue of figuring out who they can trust and who is telling them the truth. Themes of loyalty, forgiveness, freedom, and independence course throughout the work. As a work of fiction, however, I found myself unimpressed repeatedly. The plot simply seemed to circle on itself and never move forward. I was no longer drawn into the story as I was in Divergent and discovered that I kept reading because of my commitment to the previous novel. As I neared the end, I began to question if I really wanted to read the final novel in the trilogy. I don’t have the confidence that the story and writing will grab my attention again. Part of me wants to read it just to complete the cycle; the other part of me hears my former literature teacher telling me to walk away from a bad read without guilt because there are so many good books awaiting my attention. We will just have to see what the future holds.

I’m rather shocked that this has been my response to Insurgent. The reviews for the book were tremendous. The book appears at first glance to be the kind that I will thoroughly enjoy. I can’t really put my finger on what it was about the second installment of the trilogy that turned me off so badly, but I can’t really come up with anything good to say about the reading experience.

So I’m taking a departure from young adult fiction for a while and returning to more familiar territory. I wanted to immerse myself in several different books in hopes that SOMETHING would re-ignite a passion for reading at the moment. So what am I reading right now? I’m working my way through 3 books — which is rather unusual for me!  I am reading The First American (H.W. Brands), The Finishing School (Joanna Goodman) and Ballplayer (Chipper Jones). Hopefully I’ll have a new reading review on one of these books by the end of the week. Now I’m going back to my reading chair and diving into a book.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Divergent (Veronica Roth)

I tend to avoid getting on the bandwagon with popular series. It took me forever to experience the world of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games saga. Why? I didn’t want to get swept up into the hoopla of the popular experiences. By waiting, the books are able to stand on their own merit and my encounter with the written word is mine alone.

To that end, I dove into Veronica Roth’s Divergent this summer….and I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the series! The storytelling was engrossing and the plot easily kept my attention through its many twists and turns. Now I completely understand why Roth’s writing was so well received by the young adult audience.

For those who have no idea about Divergent, the novel is set in a world where people are sorted into factions — essentially a caste system — based upon skills that they possess. There are a select few, however, who have superior skills that cannot be manipulated by the sorting process. They are classified as the Divergent….and face constant danger if their status is discovered. 

The adventures of Beatrice, Four, Will, Peter, and the others will keep the attention of every reader. Looking for an exciting adventure story? Look no further than Divergent. Need a little romance in your life? It’s here, too! Hoping for something that raises questions about bravery and selflessness? Roth’s novel addresses these topics splendidly.

I highly recommend that you and your teen read this book! However, be advised that there are scenes depicting violence, warfare, sexuality, domestic abuse and death that may be disturbing for some readers.

Leave a comment »

17th Suspect (James Patterson)

On my recent flight to Europe, I read the latest installment in the Women’s Mystery Club series, 17th Suspect. This time, Lindsey Boxer and her colleagues find themselves pursuing a serial killer who is preying on the city’s homeless population while also investigating corrupt police officers. Paired with Lindsey’s health issues, the novel is filled with uncertainty if things will work out for everyone. Truthfully, this read felt as though Patterson was beginning the process of bringing the series to a close once and for all. However, it is not ending immediately…..18th Abduction is on shelves now.

The pattern of the Women’s Mystery Club novels have become predictable, but I still really enjoy occasionally sinking into the familiar world of these quick reads. Now back to the bookstore to figure out what will be the next thing on my reading list!

Leave a comment »

A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

Spark of LightThe novel had been sitting in my TBR pile for several months. I had made several attempts to start, but life always tended to get in the way. That’s actually a fairly accurate summary of my 2019 reading life — everything else always seems to get in the way of my reading. When Spring Break arrived, I realized this was my opportunity to escape into the world of Jodi Picoult again and explore A Spark of Light.

A Spark of Light is set in Jackson, Mississippi and traces the events of a single day at The Center – a reproductive health center…..an abortion provider. George Goddard enters the bright orange building, asks what they did to his baby, and pulls out a handgun. Shots are fired. Blood is shed. Professionals and patients in The Center now find themselves as hostages. Hugh McElroy, the police negotiator celebrating his 40th birthday, is called to the scene in an effort to end the standoff before the SWAT team is sent in. Once he arrives at the scene, Hugh makes an unsettling discovery. Two of the women in The Center are his older sister, Bex, and his 15-year-old daughter, Wren.

In typical Picoult fashion, A Spark of Light is a gripping tale. The narrative shifts between character perspectives throughout each chapter that explores the events of each hour of the fateful day at The Center. Surprisingly to this reader, the timeline emerges in a reverse-chronological fashion, exposing many of the causes of previously seen events. Picoult’s characters are beautifully drawn and are anything but one-dimensional. Just as you think you understand a woman’s choices, you learn that there is more to her back story that is vitally important.

Is this novel about abortion rights? Yes and no. Of course, the issue is present throughout the book with its views of providers, patients, and protestors. However, I didn’t feel as though I was reading a treatise on the issue of abortion in the US. (When you read the author’s note at the end of the book, Picoult’s views on the topic become much clearer in case there is any doubt though.) Instead, the novel itself was an examination of humanity and how a cast of characters may respond to the abortion debate while attempting to explain how they might have arrived at their view. While I did not always agree with Picoult’s characterization of some groups, I thought that she ultimately managed to treat all considered equally and with respect.

I’m always fascinated by the titles of novels. The use of A Spark of Light is explained in the closing chapters of the book. While traveling to The Center from his Atlanta home, Dr. Ward (the central abortion provider of the story) is catching up on his reading of medical journals. In one of his articles, researchers have observed that at the moment of fertilization, a rush of calcium into the egg caused the release of zinc. As the zinc exited the egg, it attached to fluorescent molecules, creating a tiny spark of light.

Once again, Jodi Picoult has produced a fascinating novel that addresses a topic that is relevant to our culture. She examines the issue from both sides of the argument with grace and clarity. By inserting heart and the human condition, Picoult shows that things are not always as black and white as we might initially perceive. I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.

Leave a comment »

#4: The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)

Although my reading has been much slower than I had hoped in the first 3 months of the year, I am THRILLED that I took the time to read this amazing novel. It has quickly become one of my most highly recommended books for anyone that is fascinated by stories of World War II and historical fiction in general.

The Nightingale traces the lives of two sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, in occupied France at the height of the Great War. Isabelle is determined to do something to fight the atrocities that she sees around her, even if it means risking her own life. Vianne decides to remain neutral as she watches Nazis move into her small hometown because she must do whatever is necessary to protect her home and her young daughter. When Nazi officers billet in her home, Vianne finds herself facing a moral dilemma that will forever impact her friends, her community, her children, and herself. 

Kristin Hannah’s novel provides an insightful look into the plight of the Jews in France as well as the heroic and terrifying roles women played in the War. If you dare to read this novel, you are guaranteed an adventure as you accompany downed fighter pilots through the mountains and provide false papers to Jews attempting to escape. Readers will get a first-hand look at the horrors of work camps and will observe the fear and hopelessness found there. Quite simply, I don’t think it is possible to experience The Nightingale and not be significantly changed. It is one of my top 10 novels of all time. I highly recommend it to book lovers everywhere!

Leave a comment »

#3: Origin (Dan Brown)

Where did we come from? What is our purpose? Where are we going? These questions have filled human thought for centuries and now become the inspiration for Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin. Robert Langdon returns as the hero of this fast-paced, intriguing page turner that you certainly do not want to miss.

A young scientist who is also a well-known Atheist claims to have discovered new information about the origin of life on Earth. As he prepares to make his announcement to the world, he is mysteriously assassinated in front of the luminaries gathered in the modernist museum as well as millions of people around the world. Was he killed by the Church in an effort to silence the news that would potentially shake the foundation of the world’s faith communities? Or was the murder ordered by the royal family of Spain? The story takes the reader through the beautiful, lush scenery of Spain while examining spectacular masterpieces from the visual arts and the world of science. With the addition of Winston, the scientist’s stunning AI assistant, Origin introduces a new type of character that is rarely encountered in popular literature — and results in a most satisfying reading experience. I found myself connecting with Winston’s computer-generated voice just as I did the human characters created by Brown. The novel really is one of the author’s best-crafted novels.

Don’t pick up a copy of Origin until you have some free time on your hands. You won’t be able to put it down until you reach the book’s final page!

1 Comment »

#1: The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)

Earlier this week, I completed my first book of 2018. What took me so long? I am trying to read multiple books at the same time, so my pace of reading is slower. (I’m not sure if I like this approach or not, but I’m continuing this way for a bit longer.) January has been an extremely busy month for me, so reading was not always a priority. Thankfully, what I DID manage to read was quite enjoyable and a great way to start the new year.

The Alice Network is actually two stories woven together. Eve was a British spy in World War I near the German front. As a member of a network for female spies — the Alice Network — she gathered information while waiting tables in a lavish restaurant….and in the bed of the establishment’s proprietor.  After the end of World War II, Charlie St. Clair returns to France in search of her beloved cousin, Rose. Through the course of this enthralling novel, Eve and Charlie learn that their stories share a common enemy and the unlikely pair join forces to overcome the evil that continues to permeate western Europe after the War, personified in the life of a single man.

Richly developed characters combine with the beautifully described scenery in a compelling story that makes The Alice Network a must-read for those who enjoy historical fiction. Eve and Charlie will quickly become literary friends whose tales will urge the reader to constantly return to their story in order to find out what happens next while enjoying the wit, sarcasm and banter between these two fierce ladies. I highly recommend Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network.
 

Leave a comment »

#29: Unwrapping Christmas (Lori Copeland)

First, a word about what appears to be an error in my numbering system.  Somehow the numbers on this blog and my Goodreads challenge list for 2017 have managed to get off from each other. I still haven’t really figured out what is going on, but after repeatedly counting the books that I have read this year, I am able to confidently say that this is actually the 29th book of the year.  One more book before January arrives and I will have achieved this year’s goal of 30 books!  I’ll be more careful about the numbering in 2018, but for now….

As has become my tradition for the past few years in the week leading up to Christmas, I found some piece of fluff holiday writing to pull me back to a simpler pace and focus my thoughts on the important things of the season — family, love, and the Savior. This year’s Christmas novella was Unwrapping Christmas by Lori Copeland. The story centered around a busy mother who has become so enthralled with taking care of everything on her agenda that she has forgotten to care for the people she encounters, including her small family. When a fall on the ice threatens to foil her plans for the family’s Christmas Eve celebration, she learns how important it is to pause during the Christmas season — and throughout the year, as well — to make sure that what is most important is receiving the most attention.

This piece will not win any major literary awards. Its plot is easy to predict. Its message, however, hit me clearly between the eyes in the midst of a busy season. While I don’t recommend it be read for its literary value, it was a story that I encountered at just the right time. 

Now back to our regular programming here on Reading for Me…..

Leave a comment »

#26: A Time to Stand (Robert Whitlow)

I’ve been trying to write this review all week, but things have been so busy that I simply haven’t been able to get around to it until now. I finished reading A Time to Stand late Sunday night on my return trip from a visit home for the Thanksgiving holiday. While I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction these days, Robert Whitlow’s novels continue to be some of my favorites in the genre because they are always engaging and thought-provoking.

A Time to Stand is set in a small Georgia town that has found itself in the spotlight after a robbery of a local convenience store. When the injured worker names an African-American teen as one of his assailants, police begin searching for him. The young man is found on a white officer’s beat. The officer instructs the teen to move into the light so he can be seen clearly. Instead, the youth begins running towards the officer, hands in pocket, when a gun shot is heard. The white officer shoots — critically injuring the black teenager — and setting off a racial firestorm in the rural town.

Adisa Johnson, an African-American attorney, finds herself in the small town as she cares for her aunt. Adisa also finds herself without work after she was fired from her high-profile Atlanta law firm. When she is offered a job with a local law office, Adisa is elated until she examines the string attached to the job offer — she must assist with the legal defense of the white officer.

Whitlow’s examination of police violence and its impact on community relations is nicely presented. With impressive clarity, the author shares the anger of both races as well as their fears and doubts about the situation. To further the dialogue, the inclusion of Adisa’s aunt and a local pastor as spiritual giants allows the reader to examine both arguments from a Scriptural perspective. After reading the book, I came away with a renewed understanding of the importance to fervently pray for the peace of communities large and small throughout our Nation while hearing the call that it is “Time to Stand” for Truth at any cost — even when Truth may challenge society’s consensus on the subject. 

Leave a comment »

#25: The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

This classic novel has been on my TBR list for years. I would always find a reason not to pick it up. Now I’ve finally gotten through it and my response is an indifferent “eh.” I’m not sure if my opinion was influenced by the fact that life was extremely busy with NATS and opera production week while I was working my way through the short book or not. I could not get excited about the turmoils of Ponyboy, Soda Pop, and Johnny. I found myself thinking that this was a novel attempting to ride the success of West Side Story and failed. I read the book because I started it and felt that “I needed to.” My apologies to the many people who told me that The Outsiders would become one of my favorite novels….it’s not.

Leave a comment »