My recently completed reading list contains lots of murder, death, and tragedy. After trudging through the fictional and true stories of loss, I’m looking to read something light and life-filled next (perhaps a revisit to Jan Karon’s Mitford series, as I do at least bi-annually). Any suggestions? Leave them in the comment section below.
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult: I normally love her books. My mother and aunt really enjoyed this one, and many of you may as well. Certainly, the exploration of the death penalty, the criminal justice system, and themes of forgiveness are important themes for literary consideration. My beef with this book was that one of the central characters to the story was just given way, way, too much tragedy in her life. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but really, enough was enough, like in the first page, and her story just got more and more disturbing. And what you find out about the death of her child, well, it just put such a bad taste in my mouth, I couldn’t focus on the larger themes and skimmed through pages I would have otherwise read more thoroughly. I also thought Picoult’s use of Christian themes was at times excessive and heavy handed. As someone who has often enjoyed Christian literature, the difference between WOW, well done, and groan, over the top sentimentality is apparent in the last scene of the book. I know there are many who will disagree with me on this one, and I will continue reading Picoult’s generally amazing literary contributions, but this one and I weren’t gelling.
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson:
What a relevant and interesting story. The title is literally what this book is about: a robot apocalypse. Told through the recordings of “heroes” in the war against the machines, this book is The Sarah Connor Chronicles meets War of the Worlds. Cars and phones, robots and machines. Imagine that they all were infected with an artificial intelligence that turns them against humanity. While there were parts of the story that left some gaps because of the way the book was constructed, I liked the multiple perspectives, and some of the scenes left a haunting and poignant impression. An interesting, fictional reminder about the role ethics plays in developing technological advances.
The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina:
This was a well-written story about a senseless crime committed by two boarding school children. I did skim a bit, though. The plot is well conceived and the writing is tight, but I just wasn’t in the mood to digest this one entirely. Probably too much of the same genre lately! I would read more of her work, though.
The Printmaker’s Daughter by Katherine Govier:
This was my one departure from crime and apocalyptic tragedy. It was amazing! Based on the true story of the Japanese painter Hokusai and his daughter Oei, this book explores the possibility that many works attributed to Hokusai may in fact be hers. Told through the eyes of Oei, we are drawn into the world of nineteenth century Japan, of the shogun and artistic censorship, of poverty and the transformation of the female role within that society. This is a very well researched and intricately constructed novel, and I have a whole new appreciation for Japanese art after reading this fictionalized story. I hope to see Hokusai/Oei’s real life work someday.
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton:
What will happen when Grafton gets to Z? We are getting close to the end of the alphabet, and Grafton’s heroine, Kinsey Millhone is just as likable as ever. This story connects the death of a privileged young man, the apparent suicide of a shoplifter, a mob related shoplifting ring, and a petty criminal through well developed and well rounded characters. Grafton elevates her books above other mainstream crime fiction by the way she captures human nature, uses detail to help the reader step into Millhone’s world, and creates characters that are complex and interesting. I look forward to the remainder of this series.
The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins: A gripping read that reminded me of Devil in the White City in that it really kept my interest. Collins explores the 1897 New York murder case sensationalized by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Both the case and the history of these newspaper barons were very interesting and read like a novel.
When Evil Came to Good Hart by Mardi Link: This Michigan true crime story was really fascinating as I spent a great deal of time as a child summering in much the same way on the other side of the state. Being familiar with many of the names and places mentioned in this true story, I could easily empathize with the family lost to this senseless slaughter. It is interesting how modern forensics would have likely changed the outcome of this unsolved crime.
Whew. More than enough fictional and real life tragedy for now; somebody give me some beach read recommends or wholesome reads for my next reading excursions!