Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Name of Honor - Richard North Patterson

My mom has been reading Patterson for years and I've always stayed away because I think of him as more of a write of espionage, which I'm not that in to.  But, for some reason this one was on my shelves and my mom thought I might like it since it involved issues of post-traumatic stress disorder in returning soldiers - which I am interested in as it pertains to some of the work that I do.  In this one, a returning soldier shoots and kills another soldier - one who happens to be married to a childhood friend.  The investigation that ensues focuses on the relationship between the shooter and the wife - bringing in to question issues concerning affairs in the military (this book was written in 2010, but brings to mind many of the issues surrounding the relatively recent resignation of General Petraeus), as well as the psychological trauma endured by those who face combat and then return home.  There is also the budding relationship between the shooter's defense attorney and his co-counsel, the shooter's sister.  Ethical issues abound, and the courtroom scenes are pretty juicy and well done.  Patterson is quite a prolific writer, so I"m glad that I've been introduced to him - he's obviously good airplane travel and beach chair reading and I look forward to checking out a few more.

Fifty Shades Darker - E.L. James (Fifty Shades #2)

Please just shoot me in the head.  I wasted a couple hours skimming this thing.  I can't waste any more of my life writing a review about it.  No more.  Please.  No more.

Fire in the Ashes - Jonathan Kozol

I first read Jonathan Kozol back when I was in high school in the mid-90s - just over 20 years ago.  He writes about the American education system - focusing on children in the inner-city and really highlighting the differences between the haves and the have-nots.  As a teenager attending a very affluent suburban high school, Kozol really opened my eyes to my own privilege and provided the foundation for my interest in providing equal opportunity and education to all children.  Fire in the Ashes is a re-telling of Kozol's basic points.  He goes back to a housing project in New York and revisits families that he has known for decades in an attempt to figure out what helps children succeed and emerge out of poverty.  Is it enough to provide a good education by sending these children away from their families to private schools?  Is it enough for them to have one adult in their life who really takes an interest in their success?  What are the differences between adolescent boys and girls who grow up in neighborhoods riddled with drugs, crime, and prostitution.  What does it mean to see your peers die at young ages?  To have parents suffering from HIV?  How much can a child survive, and how much should we really expect our nation's children to endure.  This book is shocking - to think that people in this first world country live in these conditions is horrific.  But, at the same time, the book is uplifting - there are tremendous stories of success here - parents and children who are not just surviving, but actually thriving, despite all efforts to keep them down.  Kozol is an incredible individual - and I would love to hear from the people who invited him into their homes - to know that he told their stories correctly and made them feel heard.  For me, again, this was an eye-opener, and a reminder that we still have so much work to do.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

This book seemed to be all the rage a couple months ago.  I can't count the number of people who recommended it to me - well, I'm sure I could count them, but still, it seemed like a lot.  I was told there were lots of twists and turns and that I'd never guess the ending.  And they were right, about three-quarters of the way through I had no idea how she was going to end this thing.  I didn't guess correctly, and I didn't like the ending, but I can't quite figure out how else she could have done it.  So, minus the ending, this was a great book.  It's about a guy whose wife disappears on their fifth anniversary.  The husband is immediately suspected of orchestrating her murder and ditching the body.  The investigation that follows was reminiscent of the Scott & Lacey Peterson case, but of course with some different details thrown in.  I can't say much more without spoiling things, but suffice it to say that this was a good recommendation - and it came from people of all ages (mostly women) who like to read a wide variety of literature.  So, if you like a little mystery, a little jilted love, a little revenge, this one is for you.

Broken Harbor - Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

I read this one awhile back, but just preparing to write this post reminded me how great it was and how much I'd like to read a good mystery right now.  I had the pleasure of reading this one in a hospital bed late at night when I couldn't sleep.  A little scary, but nice to be undisturbed so I could get through the good parts!  I am a big fan of Tana French - I have read the other three books in this "series", but the books don't really have anything to do with each other, except that they're all about detectives in this Dublin Murder Squad - certainly not necessary to read the others before this one. When a father and his two children are found murdered in their home, Mick Kennedy is assigned to the case.  What he thinks will be an easy resolution of course turns into never-ending twists and turns (like all good murder mysteries).  I like Kennedy as a character, and we get some good back story about him and his family when his mentally ill sister comes to live with him during the investigation.  Once again French has managed to weave together a well-written compelling story-line, with interesting characters and enough creepiness to keep me reading but still able to fall asleep at the end of the night.  Can't wait for her next one.

The Invisible Bridge - Julie Orringer

Well, it's been quite awhile since I've found time to update this blog...I believe I finished reading this book back in early October, while I was on bedrest in the hospital waiting for the birth of my twins.  My sister-in-law loaned this one to me, and when I first read that it was yet another book about WWII, I was not too excited.  But, I'm glad I dove in because this was definitely one of my favorites of the year.  At the outset of this book, a young Hungarian architecture student arrives in Paris to pursue his dreams.  While he is Jewish, and the war has begun, he is seemingly oblivious to the potential dangers in store.  He finds a forbidden love in his new city, and makes strange and wonderful friendships.  Slowly, the realities of the war begin to set in, as the young man sees freedoms around him slowly taken away, and a hate group at his school grow in increasing numbers and power.  This story is told in an beautiful and very readable fashion.  It reminded me of Richard Russo.  Toward the end, the book became difficult to read, just in terms of the subject matter, but overall this is a powerful narrative with rich characters.