Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Update: Titles 13 & 14

This summer has not seen regular blogging from me on any avenue. Now that I’m finally getting over nasty sinus infections and regaining strength in my hand, I’m hoping to get back to normal and return to blogging and reading.  Here’s what I’ve read most recently.

#13: Chasing Fireflies (Charles Martin). A young boy is found next to a rural railroad track while the car he was traveling in burns in flames, the casuality of an apparent suicide. The child has suffered horrible trauma, marked by the lashes on his back and the evident malnourishment he has withstood. Is it any wonder that the child does not speak either? The only question is if he is incapable of talking or simply choosing not to. Chasing Fireflies is a beautifully written story about the healing power of love, our search for identity and belonging, and a fresh look at what it takes to make up a “family” in our modern world. This is definitely a story to read when your faith in humanity needs to be restored.

#14: 11th Hour (James Patterson). It was time to return to the stories of the Women’s Murder Club series. In this installment, drug dealers are being taken out systematically throughout the city. It seems as though their killer has personal knowledge of them and their movements. When the SFPD realizes that the murder weapon is a missing gun from the evidence room, the force must face a frightening reality — one of their own uniformed brothers has gone rogue! Every member of the vice squad as well as homicide that had access to the evidence room is a suspect. Lindsey is putting more on the line than just her own life, too….she must think about the child she is carrying while trying to repair the strain that her new marriage to Joe is already facing. Patterson returns to true form with this intriguing and engrossing story. My hope for the upcoming stories in the series is finally being restored.

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#2: Return (Karen Kingsbury)

The third book in the Redemption series was my favorite thus far. Return shifts our focus to Luke, the lone son of the Baxter family. Luke’s poor choices and resulting guilt leads him to leave everything behind — his home, his faith, and his family — in order to escape his past. Luke quickly learns that outrunning unconditional love is impossible. This modern telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son will leave readers thinking about their own relationships while coming to a new understanding of the relentless pursuit our Heavenly Father in spite of our failures.

The more I get to know the Baxter family, the more I understand why these books are so highly recommended in the Christian community. I’m already looking forward to continuing the saga and plan to share the books with my family very soon.

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#1: 8th Confession (James Patterson)

A new year brings a new reading goal. If I'm hoping to read 30 books in the next 12 months, I needed to get my nose in a book before things got too crazy. My first selection of 2017 took me back to James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series.

8th Confession was possibly the strangest of the Patterson novels I have read so far. Our murderer used a venomous snake as her weapon of choice while mimicking an earlier string of murders committed by her father. Pet Girl was definitely not the typical villain.

The story of the women makes significant progress in this installment. Lindsey finally gives Joe an answer to his marriage proposal while Yuki and Cindy both begin new relationships.

I'm surprised that I continue to be deeply invested with these characters after so many books, but I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

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Catching Up: Books 23 & 24

I have intended to post about book 23 for several weeks. I even had an outline in my planner. When I finished book 24 and started the next, I knew I had to simply sit down and write! Sorry about the format…..but here's a “two-in-one” post.

#23: 99 Days (Katie Cotugno). This young adult novel was not on my radar at all. I found myself on a Thanksgiving week flight with nothing to read and Bush International had limited offerings. I swallowed my pride, grabbed the paperback, and settled in for my boring layover and flight.

The plot is fairly typical. Molly dated Patrick in high school and fell in love. Everything was great for them until she cheated with Patrick's brother. After confiding in her Mom about the affair, Molly was horrified to realize that her infidelity had become the inspiration for Mom's latest bestseller….and the entire community figured it out as well! To escape the taunts and accusing eyes, Molly enrolled at a boarding school to finish high school and move on with life. Now she finds herself back in her mother's home for 99 days of summer before beginning college in Boston. Her summer will demand that she faces the past and learn to live with her mistakes.

This was not one of my favorite books. Honestly, I finished it as a matter of duty rather than for enjoyment's sake. I found it filled with unnecessarily vulgar language while minimizing the importance of faithfulness in relationships. I felt that the entire book diminished the fact that actions have consequences and essentially undermined the role of parental advice in the life of a young woman. In my opinion, what was presented was an underwhelming novel that is not appropriate for any teen girl who wants to mature with self-respect for herself and her future mate. Overall, 99 Days was a huge disappointment.

#24: Remember (Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley). Book 2 of the Redemption series featuring the Baxter family was another hit. While Kari's story continues, the focus this time is on Ashley. As she deals with her own guilt after her failed experiences in Paris, she learns much about love while working in a senior adult care facility. Against the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Remember addresses the importance of family while considering the impact that tragedy — both personal and national — can have on one's faith. Now that I'm falling in love with this family of characters, I can't wait to get my hands on the next volume and continue the saga with them.

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#22: 7th Heaven (James Patterson)

I needed some fluff in my life as the Thanksgiving holiday approached, so I returned to Patterson's series. I must admit that I quite enjoyed 7th Heaven. I'm not sure if I had grown weary of the Women's Murder Club or if this novel was actually more cohesive. I was enthralled with the intertwined plots featuring teenage arsonists, a creepy journalist, and the mysterious missing boy — the son of the former governor that suffers from a rare heart condition and is now presumed dead after visiting a prostitute.

In typical Patterson fashion, the reader is quickly drawn into each of the storylines. Through an unexpected series of events, the separate stories become one and we are taken on an emotional roller coaster. While we “know” how things will end, the final chapter of 7th Heaven still catches us by surprise.

I'm looking forward to getting back to my Library Shelf project when I return to Plainview, but the detour back to the Women's Murder series was a welcome distraction.

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#20: Redemption (Karen Kingsbury)

I needed a break from crime stories, so I decided to head back into the realm of Christian family sagas. I have had several people recommend the novels of Karen Kingsbury to me over the years, but I have not read one of them before now. I decided that the Redemption series sounded like a good place to start with her works and was pleased to find a novel that engaged me while providing encouragement at the same time.

The first novel in the series focuses on the marriage of Kari and Tim. Over the years, they have become complacent with their relationship; ultimately, Tim enters an extra-marital affair with a student as a result of Kari’s perceived neglect and lack of interest. When Tim asks for a divorce, Kari refuses to sign the papers, citing her desire to fight for her marriage.

Tim turns to alcohol as he deals with his guilt. Kari learns that she is pregnant. The situation is further complicated by the return of Kari’s high school boyfriend, Ryan. Through prayer, determination, and lots of forgiveness, Kari and Tim’s marriage survives….until the unthinkable happens.

Redemption is certainly not a book that I would normally pick up to read. Now that I’ve finished the novel, I must admit that I have been charmed by the characters and look forward to following their story in the subsequent books in the series. So far, it is a beautiful story of faith, love, and hope in a perilous situation.

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#19: The 6th Target (James Patterson)

the_6th_target_pic_2Last weekend, I finished the 6th installment of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series. After reading this volume, both Mom and I think we are going to take a break from the series for a bit. I’m not sure if this novel seemed inferior to the others or if I’m just finding them to be rather predictable now, but I didn’t enjoy The 6th Target as much as the other books I’ve read thus far.

One of my major complaints with this installment was that the storyline was simply too intense for one book. With a serial killer on the loose who claims to be innocent by reason of insanity in the court proceedings following his capture, the central plot is riveting on its own. When you add the horror of child kidnappings that are leading to the enslavement of young girls in sex trafficking to the mix, you have far too much for the reader to handle. Our heroine, Lindsey, also experiences several ups and downs personally as well. Her break-up with Joe followed by a short tryst with her handsome partner was acceptable. However, when Joe returns to Lindsey’s life a few short chapters later and now declares his love and proposes marriage, the character development seems rushed and forced. By this point in the series, the readers are invested in Lindsey’s story and deserve a better treatment than what was presented in The 6th Target.

Now I’m ready to head back to the library this afternoon to pick up another novel in hopes that my faith in the craft will be restored and I’ll find a new read to thoroughly enjoy.

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#18: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (J.K. Rowling)

The seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter saga was nothing less than enthralling. Harry faces mortal danger as Voldemort rises to power until the two come face to face at the Battle of Hogwarts. Just when readers think the ending is clear, Rowling masterfully twists her plot and keeps us on the edge of our seat until the final page.

As our heroes mature, so do the topics in the novel. Discussions of death are prevalent. More characters we have fondly followed throughout the series die in heartbreaking episodes. Harry, Ron, and Hermione explore the physical aspects of love in a manner suitable to their ages.

Simply put, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows is a fitting conclusion to a marvelous story. I am glad to say that I finally read the series and will look forward to returning to Hogwarts in the future!

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#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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#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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