Sunday, July 07, 2013

Summer Reads - My Reviews from Goodreads

Every Broken Trust: A MysteryEvery Broken Trust: A Mystery by Linda Rodriguez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Linda Rodriguez' second Skeet Bannion novel accomplished what I had hoped.  While I enjoyed the first novel, Every Broken Trust offers greater depth of plot, more satisfying development of the characters, and drew me even more intimately into the story.  The city of Brewster grows, along with the characters, and fulfills its own role in the story which is satisfyingly full of plot twists, flawed individuals, and suspense.  As a resident in the Kansas City metro, an alumna of a liberal arts college in a KC suburb, and a former college professor, I enjoyed both the geographical and occupational setting of the novel, and appreciate the way Rodriguez connects both the urban and suburban parts of the story.  Every Last Secret, the first novel in the series, was well written and enjoyable, but I finished Every Broken Trust feeling a much stronger bond with Skeet, Brian, and their cohorts, a stronger sense of place with Brewster and Chouteau University, and looking forward with greater anticipation to the third novel in the series. I am hopeful that some peripheral, but strong, characters that were introduced - namely the US Attorney heading a human trafficking task force and Skeet's grandmother - will take on more prominent roles in third book.

Cover of SnowCover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Snow does not read like a "first novel."  Milchman weaves one of the most intricate and suspenseful stories I have read in recent months. Her command of language is descriptive and engaging, without being pandering or distracting.  I found myself drawn into the story from the very first paragraph, and my brain darted in many directions as I sought to solve the mystery along with the protagonist. Cover of Snow is intelligent and challenging, yet still a fast read. Its readability does not diminish the clever and suspenseful way in which it is written.  Set in winter in the Adirondacks of upper New York, the mystery surrounding the suicide of a local policeman will keep you guessing until the very end.  My only criticism is that I didn't think much of the main character. She seems woefully unaware of and/or uninterested in rather crucial details of her husband's life until after he has died. One begins to wonder why she feels much sense of loss at all, except that it makes her rather quick attraction to the local newspaper reporter a bit more explainable.  I generally would prefer to like the protagonist of the story.  I didn't in this case.  And it is this element that gives away that this is a first novel.  Yet I still very much enjoyed exploring the many secrets kept by the people of this small town, and this is a credit to the author.

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Family – Redefined

My father used to quote Proverbs 18:24 – A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (King James Version).  He usually did this, however, in conjunction with preparation for the annual summer youth choir tour, emphasizing the first phrase in his humorous attempt at giving a biblical foundation as to why we should make sure to use deodorant and bathe regularly while traveling.  I will confess that I found it funny as a 14-16 year old.

My preoccupation with this scripture has reawakened in my early fifties, and it has become the second phrase that captures my attention these days. Reexamine it in a couple of more modern translations:

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin. (New Revised Standard)

Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family (God's Word Translation)

Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family (The Message)

I just spent the last few days with friends that are as much my family as the family I claim by genetic association. I become increasingly aware that my life, my future, and my plans include these dear people. Clarification – my spouse and I have no children, our nuclear families are small and getting smaller, and our circle of "family-friends" are in similar situations. Perhaps this is, in some respect, the 21st century response to worries about end-of-life matters that were heretofore the concerns of one's biological family and children. Not perhaps. It is. At least in one respect. We often discuss (or at least infer) that we will be available to one another to care for each other's aging needs when that time arrives. But it is more than that. Much more.

We love each other like family. We "stick close" to one another – sometimes in better ways than our families are able.  We are family. No topics are off the table for discussion. We communicate with an openness that respects one another's feelings, but also respects the person with a loving honesty. We have history with one another, and try very hard to make sure our significant others are privy to that history so they feel included in the family. We laugh, and cry, together. And we often laugh as we cry. I can't imagine my world without these people. Beyond my life with the Frau, my world is most complete when I am able to share our lives with them. 

They are my Friends – "First Responders" – Family.

Stick close.