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A Price for Genius

by Lin Wilder

This is my third Lin Wilder book in the last 4 months, and I’ll be reading her Dr. Lindsey McCall series as long as she writes them.  Although each book could stand alone, as a methodical reader, I really appreciate reading a series sequentially. Watching characters grow and develop make or break any series, and Wilder is proving herself adept at stretching the boundaries for her characters.

Book 3 in the McCall series, “A Price for Genius” is very different than books 1 and 2. Reviews for those books can be found here:

https://eyesandearsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/the-fragrance-shed-by-a-violet/

https://eyesandearsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/do-you-solemnly-swear/

This book is primarily set in Switzerland, and much of the plot centers around a kidnapping. Wilder keeps the material fresh by introducing new characters, and they assemble to form a rescue team. Unlike the McCall we met in book 1, by book 3 a small community (more accurately a family) develops and we get to enjoy relationships growing deeper. It will be interesting to see how the group grows in book 4.  Yes, book 4 is in the works already.  blog

One thought which runs through my brain while reading all of Wilder’s books is that she must be very, very intelligent. Her writing is not dumbed-down and she manages to use her own previous experience in the medical field to write material which is interesting as fiction, but which also is informative to a reader.  I read a wide variety of material and I really am drawn to that which challenges me, rather than simply turning pages to finish. Wilder writes for a smart audience.

Here is an example of the level of intellect found throughout the novel:

But the threats to twenty-first-century man can rarely be solved by fighting or fleeing. Rather than dissipating through extreme physical exertion, these hormonal and neurochemical products are built up over time and can be toxic. The consequences of severe stress and adrenal exhaustion over prolonged periods of time can be fatal, leading to the belief that stress is considered one of the top contributors to the leading causes of death in the twenty-first century, heart disease and stroke, cancer.

The only thing I did not like, and I didn’t even realize it until the last chapter, is that one of my favorite characters didn’t get much time in this novel.  Max.  A Doberman. Yes, I missed the dog.

 

 

Into the Land of Snows

by Ellis Nelson

I read young adult novels.

At almost 52.

There, I’ve said it.

A book worth reading must make the reader feel a connection to the characters. When reading a legal or medical thriller, or contemporary women’s fiction, I relate to those characters in a way reflective of my current life.  I can commiserate with the struggling mom, worry for the cancer patient, feel anger for the victim in a lawsuit.  And that is good.  Empathy and understanding are traits which are necessary in our world.

What I enjoy most about YA fiction is returning to my younger self.  Not identifying with the middle aged mom but, instead, seeing the world through the eyes of the angst ridden teen; reflecting on my own childhood and feeling the pain and rooting for this younger soul at the start of their journey.  blog

“Into the Land of Snows” by Ellis Nelson is not your typical YA book.  One clear distinction is the lack of young adults in the novel.  Sixteen year old Blake, a child of divorce, runs into some trouble with drugs and is sent to spend time with Dad, a doctor with a climbing expedition at Mount Everest.  Blake talks about a friend from home, and one of the Sherpas seems to be young, but otherwise the novel is filled with (don’t be offended) old people, or at least older people than you’d expect in a YA book.

This is actually crucial to the growth Blake experiences during his travel.  The use of marijuana is the least of the issues with which he struggles. He is angry. His entire world collapsed when his parents divorced. And the icing on the cake was Mom moving him from his hometown to her childhood hometown.  She immersed herself in her own depression. Dad escaped to the Himalayas. Blake was left alone with his own sadness and no way to process his grief.

The trip to Everest was supposed to be an opportunity for father and son to reconnect, but after an unexpected climbing tragedy, and potential further danger, Blake is instead sent on a hike with Sherpa Ang, across the mountains to safety.  Opportunity for introspection, long discussions with wise Ang, encounters with Buddhist Monks, a truth which had been kept from him, all provide Blake with the tools he needs to move forward.

Nelson created a world which also allowed the reader to grow.  As a Christian, I admit to ignorance of Buddhism, and probably also an inability to accept a lot of their beliefs, but I did appreciate the opportunity to hear of their religion and culture and to think.  What struck me most about Blake’s travel in a world so completely different from the United States, was the civility he encountered.  Spend some time on social media reading the vitriol spewed right now about our presidential election and see that rich, first world, is not kind to one another.  I enjoyed the kindness shown by those who welcomed a stranger.  It was a respite of peace.

“Into the Land of Snows” is a journey worth taking.

 

Riveted

by Kenzie Macallan

If you are a book lover, and are willing to roll the dice on new authors, or genres, I highly recommend joining Twitter and spending time in the community of writers who are using that venue to reach out to readers.  I have been introduced to many terrific works which I otherwise would likely have never come across.  I won the book “Riveted” by Kenzie Macallan and if you are a fan of fast-paced adventure/romance novels, you will likely enjoy Macallan’s work.

The highest praise I can give an author, is also one which causes me guilt – speeding through the book.  I imagine these poor, dedicated souls spending night after night, week after week, investing themselves in character and plot development, while I (guiltily) read speedily through the work just to find out what happens next.  That’s how I felt when I began reading “Riveted.”  I just wanted to find out what was the next unexpected twist.  blog

The author included a warning which I will also share with you – this is not a book if you are sensitive to grief or domestic abuse.  I’ve read books which are much more graphic and disturbing, but since the main character, Mara, deals with both issues, this is something to consider when choosing “Riveted.”  For me, the best thing about this book was the healthier relationship Mara shares with her sisters.  As a 51 year old without a strong extended-family dynamic, I was drawn to these successful women.  They support one another unconditionally, and don’t hold back honest advice.  Honestly, in today’s world of relocation for jobs, high stress environments and social media replacing face to face communication, how many of us truly have a real-life tribe that can support us through the worst of times?

Macallan has created two main characters with a lot of potential, but with baggage to be dealt with through the course of the novel.  A chance encounter on a plane, as Mara heads to an island escape with her sisters to deal with a personal tragedy, leads to romance.  While there is the typical “love at first site physical attraction” expected in the romantic genre, the twists of psychological exploration and physical danger make this more interesting than your Mom’s Harlequin stash.  This is what kept me going.  I’m not a cowboy-city girl, rip-off-the-clothes, no plot reader.  The depth behind why each character responded to the other is what made “Riveted” interesting.

“Riveted” is worth a read and as first in the Art of Eros series, you may have just found a whole slew of future reads by author Kenzie Macallan.

Six Seconds

by Rick Mofina

Finally, a benefit to an asthma attack followed by a round of insomnia inducing steroids – another book finished in a matter of days.  Healing brain is coming back online!  This was another bonus gift from the bookshelves of our newly purchased, fully furnished home.  “Six Seconds” by Rick Mofina became my constant companion while I laid awake trying to relearn how to breathe.  I loved this book.  twitter

I don’t know the previous home’s owners but this one intrigued me because as seen on the cover, it was not for sale and contained advance uncorrected proofs.  The final edition may be different than the story I am reviewing, but I was thoroughly captivated by the plot and characters. Written @2008, I also was intrigued by the behind the scenes glimpses into capturing terrorists as our world is now so entrenched with dangers from all corners.  If you’ve watched a ‘reality’ cooking show, and then been impressed that we ever get a table full of hot meals delivered simultaneously at a restaurant, that’s kind of what it felt like to see the inner workings of agencies on the task of protecting an international figure ripe for terrorist anger.  Yet, we see within our own 24 hour news cycles how quickly a terror cell is discovered when, from a distance, it seems highly unlikely perpetrators will be caught.

There are several main characters in “Six Seconds” which, in this case, helped move the story along and kept me interested.  From the Canadian Mountie detective, to the grieving American mother to the radicalized British mom who was central to the terrorist plot, I felt connected to each for very personal reasons.  Mofina writes in a way that he brings out the human-side of suffering, living with our own failed choices and acting out of desperation with seemingly little choice but to cope.  This is a skill few authors possess but which really work to bring “Six Seconds” from locations throughout the world, into my own brain.

This is a fast paced story which occurs in multiple locations including Iraq, California, Montana and includes enough detail that you can’t coast through while you read.  That was good, because I appreciate having to put some effort into a book without it feeling like effort.  One of the greatest compliments I can give an author is that while reading the story, I don’t want to step away from it.  This book was exactly that for me.  It didn’t matter which character was being featured in the current chapter I was reading; when I had to stop for sleep (very little) or life (a lot), I didn’t want to put it down.

Next step is to find more of Mr. Mofina’s writings and stock up.

I started a travel book journey across the US and, although this book takes place in many locations, I’m classifying it as Montana fiction since much of the story, and culmination, centers on that state.

 

 

The Rembrandt Affair

by Daniel Silva

My book selections are starting to feel like gold found at the end of a treasure hunt. The last few I have read were sent to me from authors or bloggers found on Twitter, and I have been very happy to discover new (to me) authors in genres I never otherwise would have chosen for myself.  Today’s gold comes from one of the nicest perks of buying a retirement home which had previously been a vacation rental and was left fully furnished.  I don’t know how you walk away from bookcases of old friends, but my bounty of choices is a win for me.  I selected “The Rembrandt Affair” and began reading without knowing anything of the plot or author.  Turns out this is book 10 in a series of 15 featuring protagonist Gabriel Allon, but as a stand-alone it worked and I didn’t feel I missed out by not knowing the character’s previous adventures.  twitter

Allon is a retired spy, also trained as an art restorer as part of the cover used in his former life. This novel starts with Allon coming out of retirement to help locate a stolen masterpiece as #art apparently has value.  That art hashtag may tell you my lack of connection to that side of the brain.  I am not a lover of fine art; I took my reluctant kids to museums as part of homeschooling because it was expected.  I initially groaned when I started this novel because it had so much more detail about a subject that I didn’t care about. But this is where the talent of Silva shines.  He made me interested. “The Rembrandt Affair” really read like two novels to me – first the introduction to the stolen painting and its history from the time of the Holocaust, the people affected by that time and the evil which prospered because of the Nazi regime.  I was hooked.

The second half of the novel concentrates on the agencies which fight crime behind the scenes, training, planning and the politics of current day power hungry men and countries.  It really did feel like a new book when Silva turned to that side of the crime, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Again, I wasn’t immediately drawn to the espionage part of the novel, but that’s on me.  My brain is still healing from an injury, and details can be hard for me to keep track of – add to that the addition of many characters and places with unusual names, and I had to work harder to finish the book.  But, I did finish it and I did enjoy it.  I would recommend this to any fan of spy novels.

The best compliment I can give to the author is that once I closed the pages of the book, I was still thinking about the story.  I’m not Jewish and I don’t typically think about the Holocaust.  I recall decades ago reading Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank because every American high school student back in the day read those as part of history class.  Mr. Silva’s writing about individuals in that time period (even though fictionalized) sparked my interest in the subject matter and makes me want to go spend some time reading and learning.  That’s an amazing accomplishment for a work of fiction.

 

 

 

Book #21 – The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho  alchemist

I read this book as part of a bookclub, again another choice I wouldn’t have made for myself.

I cannot say that it was a great book, but while reading it, I was struck by some of the writing and depth.  It reads like a parable – a message underneath the layers of the story.  In a nutshell, a young man is trying to find his personal journey.  Who he is to be.  His meaning of life.  The why’s, what’s and how’s of a life to be lived.  It had a similar goal as Albom’s “5 People You Meet in Heaven”, however at least in this book the main character is alive so the reader feels a sense of positivity.  This character has the ability to direct or divert his path, and possibly an entire world at his feet.

The main character, Santiago, a boy sheep herder does his job well, but it seems like a small job.  He feels incomplete and unsatisfied that this is all life has to offer.  Sheep need care, he provides excellent care, but where will that lead him in the end?

As a woman who left the working world 20 years ago, I can see the parallel some might find to being a stay-at-home mom.  It is a job of isolation, much like a shepherd.  Those in her care need to be tended, ushered, kept safe, fed, protected.  Life can be routine, and much of it may feel redundant.  By the time my children were 5 & 7 I couldn’t wait to get out and see the world, just like Santiago.  Once the youngest entered kindergarten, I was given my own “It’s a Wonderful Life” experience.

I had prayed for a job where I made a lot of money, had responsibility, upward mobility, chances to see the world.  Having been out of the workforce for so long (my husband came home one night to tell me about this new thing called email), I never imagined I would even be hired for a job.  Two job interviews, two job offers and I was suddenly working at corporate headquarters for a large European defense contractor.  I started as an Executive Assistant and within 10 months was offered a promotion to head up a department, a pay raise of 30K a year, and opportunity to travel to Europe.  I gave my notice that same week.

Everything I had wished and hoped for was handed to me on a platter, and all I could think of was how much I missed my own little sheep, how they currently didn’t have a shepherd who could love them as much as me, and because I was so “needed” by this corporation, I was absent at the doctor appointment where my youngest was diagnosed with a lifelong heart condition.

Coelho’s book hit home because I could see the point – your journey often ends where you least expect and if you don’t appreciate the moment, you might miss the fact that you have arrived.

My favorite passage from the book:

“The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances.  How do I guess at the future?  Based on the omens of the present.  The secret is here in the present.  If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it.  And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.  Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children.  Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.”

4/5 Stars

 

 

Book #1 – The Night Swimmer

by Matt Bondurant

I recently watched the movie Lawless andThe Night Swimmer was intrigued by the story, and the fact it was written by the grandson of one of the bootlegging main characters.  I decided to check out his work but didn’t want to read The Wettest County in the World which inspired Lawless.  Luckily his third novel was recently published and seemed interesting.

This is my first review, and I imagine the only rule to be no spoilers.  So, what prophetic words can I share without giving away the specific things which caused my opinion?  Not much.  I started this book and was immediately consumed by the idea (American couple winning an Irish pub), the main character and her voice (she has a genetic “abnormality” which allows her to tolerate cold and make open water swims) and the concept of starting anew in a place so different from the known.

Bondurant is a master of prose.  Despite not loving poetry, I found myself really pausing to soak up the descriptive language.  He creates characters who are compelling, and although not a swimmer or traveler to foreign destinations, I was mesmerized by both.  Every time main character Elly enters the water the reader can’t help but feel as though they are swimming beside her.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the book, I realized Bondurant was losing me.  What had begun as an exciting opportunity for a loving married couple, quickly turned into two people pushing each other away.  The times they were together in a scene was uncomfortable.  How quickly what we imagine to be what we want the most ends up destroying what we already enjoyed.

Despite reading every word in the book, and having a college degree, the last few chapters were hard to understand.  When the book ended I was lost.  Not wanting to appear ignorant in this first review, I perused the world wide web seeking enlightenment about the ending.  Turns out Sparknotes.com hasn’t covered this book yet.  I felt vindicated in my confusion when I discovered site after site with people also seeking an explanation of the ending.

Numerous reviews on Amazon.com were pretty divided into two camps.  Those of us who had no clue what happened and felt the author just wanted to end the book; and the second camp who criticized those of us who were confused and suggested we need to be spoon fed the facts as in a Sherlock Holmes novel.  Hmmmm.  Perhaps one day I will take this one of the shelf and re-read to see if I “get” it the second time.  Perhaps not.