Read Any Good Books Lately?

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I’ve loved all the Ann Patchett books I’ve read and State of Wonder keeps the trend going. This book is exotic. Set in the Amazon rain forest, you can practically feel the claustrophobic humidity as you read.

Dr. Marina Singh has been sent to the jungle to find out about the death of Dr. Anders Eckman. She must also determine if Dr. Annick Swenson, who has been sent by a pharmaceutical company to investigate a world-changing fertility drug has gone completely off-side or if the project can be saved.

Ann Patchett’s writing is like poetry. In describing how Marina feels upon hearing of Ander’s Eckman’s death she writes, ““There was inside of her a very modest physical collapse, not a faint but a sort of folding, as if she were an extension ruler and her ankles and knees and hips were all being brought together at closer angles.” Just lovely.

 

In City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell sets a couple’s journey through faith in s very turbulent China at the turn of the 20th century. I consider myself more “spiritual” than “religious” and sometimes overt religiousness feels over-simplified to me. But this is the third time in a short span that I have randomly picked a book with strong religious overtones so there must be a lesson. I’ve finally realized that, regardless of denomination, it is about having faith that things are as they are supposed to be, and working with what you have.  I’ve always believed that, but this book helped me to see it also applies to those who are strongly religious, so I guess my lesson is to be more tolerant.

Will Kiehn goes off to the North China Plan at the beginning of the 20th century to spread the word of god. A Midwest Mennonite farmer, he isn’t prepared for what he will encounter. On the good side, there’s the lovely Katherine, who is determined to heal regardless of what she doesn’t have available. On the not-so-good side, there are armed conflicts, bandits and the distrust that comes from being a foreigner in a land mired in superstition.  But Will and Katherine persist, determined to give of themselves. It’s a hard life with many disappointments and constants challenges to their faith. I found myself accompanying Will and Katherine on a very interesting journey through a country I know little about, and through so many of the disappointments that make most of us question our own faith.

 

Gulp by Mary Roach was an interesting read. Subtitled “Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” Mary Roach took me on a tour of the digestive system, starting with smelling and tasting she led me through the system ending with poop and the latest research on bacteria replacement. No, it’s not by taking probiotics, they’re practically useless. But you’ll have to read to find out more.

Unafraid of any topic, Marcy Roach is very funny, a little offbeat and well-researched. Ever wondered how much you can eat before your stomach bursts? Want to know what really may have killed Elvis Presley?

Perhaps the most charming part of Mary Roach’s approach is that she seeks out scientists who, like her, are a little offbeat. Passionate about what they study, they provide her with all the fodder she needs to make what bored me to tears in high school something I thoroughly enjoyed exploring.

She has a playful turn of phrase, and she loves a quirky story, so the biology is interlaced with stories of fire-breathing snakes. If you’re willing to wade through her first chapter, which felt a little overdone to me, there are interesting stories that might leave you vacillating between “yuck!” and “oooooo, really?”

 

A Fountain Filled with Blood introduced me to Julia Spencer-Flemings’ charming characters, Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. Clare is a helicopter-flying Episcopalian minister in a small community in the Adirondacks in NY state. Russ is the chief of police, who is shaken by the brutality of crimes being committed against gay men. When a third assault ends in murder, Clare and Russ, who are coming at the mystery from different places, finally figure out who the culprit is.

The dialogue is crisp, the characters well drawn and likeable. And the story, that’s perhaps the best part, because Julia Spencer-Flemings is in no rush to wrap things up neat and tidy with a bow. Right to the very end I was thinking, “this is a great story.” I’ve already put the next one on my To Read list.

 

Bloodthirsty by Marshall Karp is the second in the Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs mystery series I’ve read and enjoyed. The banter between these two friends and partners is genuinely funny. And the mystery unfolds without Karp ever tipping his hand. In this episode – because it’s kinda like a TV procedural with wise-cracking cops – Lomax and Biggs are chasing down a killer who did away with one of the most despised men in the movie industry. They figure out who-dun-it, but when THAT guy turns up dead, they’re back on the trail. Thoroughly entertaining.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is a dark mystery. When Libby Day was 7, her mother and two sisters were murdered and her brother was jailed as the killer. 25 years later and Ben’s still in prison while Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created when she was a mite by people who have already forgotten who she is. Enter the Kill Club, a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes who are willing to pay Libby for whatever information she may have about he macabre murders. She needs the money – badly – so Libby agrees to search out the people from that night long ago and deliver a report to the Kill Club. She doesn’t realize that as she uncaps the tin of worms, one of them is going to try and kill her.

 

I like rotating the odd “romance” novel into my stack of books. As long as the story is solid and the characters charming, I’m all over head-spinning kiss.  Slow Heat in Heaven by Sandra Brown tells the story Schyler Crandall who left Heaven Louisiana brokenhearted. Sandra Brown sets most of her books in the south, and she does a great job of taking you right into the Bayou with her. Schyler left behind a beautiful sister who destroyed her life with the lies she told, a handsome brother in law – her former fiancé… almost – and Cash, a little dangerous but oh so enthralling. With her family’s business is on the brink of disaster she’s returned home where she must unravel the truth, face her demons. She’s in for a fight with her sister who wants to sell the family plantation. The question is will she roll over again, or does she have the gumption to fight for what she wants this time? FUN.

 

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is set in London, England in the 1940s. Churchill has just been sworn in as prime minister and England has declared war. Maggie Hope, English born but American grown has returned to London to sell the house her grandmother bequeathed her.  She had been headed to MIT to study math but she’s been side-tracked by a war and her own personal history. Despite graduating at the top of her class at university, as a woman she’s slotted into the role of typist at 10 Downing Street. But her indefatigable spirit and sharp mind means she has a tendency to go places she probably shouldn’t. With air-raid sirens sending Londoners running for cover underground, the scene is set for the terror that faces a proud people who believe in carrying on regardless. And with access to the War Rooms of England, Maggie is exposed to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to destroy England, not all of which comes from across the channel.

12 Responses to “Read Any Good Books Lately?”

  1. i love ann patchett aw well..currently reading gold finch by donna tartt – amazing – it is a long book but so far worth the endeavor!

  2. 419 by Will Ferguson: A Canadian book about the aftermath of the Nigerian scam, called 419 by Nigerian authorities. After a man commits suicide upon losing his house and savings to this scam, his daughter sets out to trap the scammers. It is three stories in one (the daughter, the Nigerian scammer, and a female outcast from the desert); the three stories come together in the climax. Well written; not sure of how accurate it is regarding the scam structure, but definitely believable. This book held me to the end.

  3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Deals with a very divisive issue sensitively. Make sure you have tissues nearby!!
    Above All Things by Tanis Rideout. Fiction about George Mallory’s third and final attempt to conquer Mount Everest in 1924. The story alternates between his wife, Ruth at home in Cambridge, and Mallory on the slopes of Everest. Beautifully written and gripping.
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The story of Achilles and Patroclus from the Illiad but with a focus on their relationship.

  4. I just finished 419 two weeks ago and agree with Sierra that it’s a book that gets you involved so that you have to keep reading to get to the end.
    I then read the novel A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison, a real eye-opener about human trafficking in Asia, Europe and North America.
    Two days ago I finished A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossein, author of The Kite Runner, and I have now started his book And the Mountains Echoed. Both books are stories you can’t put down although there are certainly parts that are not pleasant to read. We often isolate ourselves from what goes on in other places and I think it’s good to get some incite into the lives of others even if they are difficult.

  5. Marilynne V black Says:
    July 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    I read 419 a few months ago – terrific. Just recently read Gone Girl. Absolutely fantastic.

  6. Chantal Says:
    July 9, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    My sisters and I have started an “exchange” of sorts for Christmas. This past year, we exchanged books; 1 for every month and the name of the author of the title of the book had to start with the month;( ie. December: a book by Danielle Steel). it was a lot of fun to research the different books out there and it was great to shop for my sisters as we are now adults and have always been busy buying for the children…anyways, so the intent is to finish reading a book, write the date in it and our initials and a comment about the book. We exchange them so everyone gets to read all the books and compare… this year, we’ve decided to chose different wines….find a country that starts with each letter of our names. Attach a small paring recipe to go with it…it’s a lot of effort but what a conversation piece!

  7. Chantal Says:
    July 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Alice Sebold – Almost Moon; Tatianna de Rosnay – Sarah’s Key; Jenny Downham – Before I die;

  8. Love all sorts of. Oops but the recent one is “all the light we cannot see” by Anthony dwerr,amazing.. Read and enjoy.

  9. Helen Gordon Says:
    July 9, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    I read a wonderful book recently. It was In the YA section, but I am in my 30′s and I thought it was one of the best books I had read in a long time. The title is Stolen Songbird and it is by Danielle L Jensen. And guess what? She is CANADIAN!!! It is a five star on Amazon and Goodreads people rate it really high as well. I suppose one must have to like the genre of fantasy and romance, but truthfully the romance part is pretty minor. It has elements of personal integrity and perseverance. It also tackles racial discrimination, mind you that aspect is between trolls and humans! But the same concepts apply. Hey even my Aunt’s book club read this one (they are in their 50′s and 60′s) and they really liked it too. I don’t think too many bookstores carry this book – it is mostly available online at Chapters and Amazon, maybe in your library if you request it. I love supporting Canadian authors, we just don’t appreciate our own all that much it seems. Anyways, great read.

  10. Alero01 Says:
    July 9, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Ann Patchett also wrote “Bel Canto” and it’s one of my favourite books of all time. She’s a fantastic author. My book club reviewed “Gone Girl” a few months back and the book generated lots of interesting discussion. “The Orenda” was a spectacular novel. I’m quite proud to say that my book club had read it and loved it long before it was chosen the winner of the 2014 Canada Reads competition.

    Love books – please keep the suggestions coming – thanks, Gail!

  11. HeatherVR Says:
    July 16, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Recently finished All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner – she is one of my favorite authors (also wrote In Her Shoes). Her characters are always real and relatable. This was her darkest subject to date, but I could totally relate to the main character’s situation: It is about a woman in her early/mid thirties with a young daughter who has some issues, a large house with no furniture she didn;t want (purchased in a frenzie when her husband’s job was going well), a job blogging 5 entires a week, a father with alzheimers and a mother who seems lost. After being prescribed Valium for a back injusry, she becomes addicted to the pain killers and how they help her cope with life. This is a stage in life when many women are feeling overwhelmed, myself included. She was a great, realistic character. I recomend all of her books!

  12. John Grisham’s Runaway Jury. Very well written, easy and quick to read. I definitely recommend it. I love how it talks about jury tampering and how the sleazy people with all the power might not have as much power as they think.

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