Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#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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#25: The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

The final book of 2016 was another novel from My Library Shelf project. The Rosie Project is a perfect example of why I'm doing the project; it was a book I would have never selected by an author with whom I was totally unfamiliar. The book was a joy.

The Rosie Project featured Don, a genetic scientist who also suffers from an obvious social disorder. In order to find the perfect wife, Don embarks on the Wife Project — complete with questionnaire and website. As Don sifts through the applications submitted to the Project (unbelievable!), he is introduced to Rosie. She is the antithesis of Don's ideal woman, but Rosie quickly challenges his expectations and the two begin a journey to find love that is anything but typical.

All I can say is that it was great to smile as I read of this unlikely couple's experiences together. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel as part of the Library Shelf Project as well.

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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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#21: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Helen Simonson)

It took me far longer than I had planned, but I finally finished my latest novel. I was fascinated by the story of Major Pettigrew, an English widower, and his growing relationship with the exotic Mrs. Ali, the Indian widow who operated the village market. Simonson’s novel examined the nature of growing love between mature adults while facing bigotry from an uninformed section of society. The plot further intensified as the impact the extended families — both English and Indian — upon the non-traditional union was considered.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is filled with humor as well as touching scenes. Simonson’s writing is actually quite beautiful. I especially enjoyed her statements about the importance of reading. Here are three passages that spoke to me so deeply that I had to stop my reading in order to write them down.

“There’s nothing useless about reading the classics,” said the Major, weighing the books in his hand. “I salute your continued efforts. Too few people today appreciate and pursue the delights of civilized culture for their own sake.” (Simonson, 46)

“. . .I tell myself that it does not matter what one reads — favorite authors, particular themes — as long as we read something.” (Simonson, 63)

“I think that even if you dislike them, knowing one’s parents helps a child understand where he or she came from,” said the Major.  “We measure ourselves against our parents, and each generation we try to do a little better.” (Simonson, 352)

I doubt that I would have read Simonson’s work if I had not decided to re-ignite the “My Library Shelf” project, but I’m certainly glad that I did. Now that I’m living in Plainview, I decided it was time to make a fresh attempt at the project and select a shelf in the Unger Library. (If you’d like to read more about the Library Shelf project, check out the blog post here.)

For those who might be interested, here are the books that are included in My Library Shelf.

  1. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Helen Simonson)
  2. The Summer Before the War (Helen Simonson)
  3. Reality Check! (Rikki Simons)
  4. Doomed to Die (Dorothy Simpson)
  5. Anywhere But Here (Mona Simpson)
  6. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe (Mary Simses)
  7. The Rules of Love and Grammar (Mary Simses)
  8. The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)
  9. The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)
  10. Please Look After Mom (Kyung-Sook Shin)
  11. The Jungle (Upton Sinclair)
  12. World’s End (Upton Sinclair)
  13. The Collected Short Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
  14. The Estate (Isaac Bashevis Singer)
  15. Kiss of Snow (Nalini Singh)
  16. Tangle of Need (Nalini Singh)
  17. Shards of Hope (Nalini Singh)
  18. Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld)
  19. Sisterland (Curtis Sittenfeld)
  20. Eligible (Curtis Sittenfeld)
  21. The Whispering Muse (Victoria Cribb Sjon)
  22. The Locked Room (Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo)
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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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#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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