Burn by Ted Dekker
So I decided to switch gears again this month and start out with some Christian fiction. Now, this isn't a genre I always love, despite the fact I am a Christian. I am, shockingly, rather picky and cynical when it comes to authors I devote myself too. One such Christian fiction author is Ted Dekker. I discovered him several years ago, and became quite a fan of his supernatural/spiritual/action/adventure themed tales. I just finished his latest, a collaboration with Erin Healy [his second collaboration with her] and was pleased with the result. In Luke, Jesus says “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Dekker's Burn is a literal tale of just principle. The story opens with a gypsy community in New Mexico hard at work with their festivals. Janeal Mikkado, Robert Lukim, and Katy Morgon are three best friends enjoying their teenage fun and folly within the only world they've ever known...the gypsy way of life. Janael, the leader's daughter, however often dreams of life outside the community, and for this reason is approached by a man threatening her father's safety. Janael is forced to choose between the love of her family & friends or the love of money& freedom. The result of that choice leaves an inferno of disaster, with only three survivors. As the story fast forwards, each character lives their life unaware of the other's existence. Until they are faced again with a mutual enemy who scarred them all. I was afraid of some heavy-handed spiritual tones, but was relieved not to find too many parts of that. The story starts slow but does become compelling, and about halfway through it becomes hard to put down, which is why I love a good Dekker story. It's a true tale about the reality of dying to self and Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." It wasn't my favorite book of the year, but I'm glad I read it and am still a tride and true Dekker fan.
In the Woods by Tana French
I’ve been anxious to read this one for months now. A good psychological thriller. Set in Irish countryside, In the Woods opens with a story of 3 young playmates enjoying a summer of mischief and ecstasy. But the summer turned tragic when 2 of the children went missing. The third was found with blood soaked through his shoes and not a memory of what happened. That boy grows up, and becomes a Murder Detective and dedicates his life to solving terrible crimes, while his own past was still one big mystery. He gets assigned a child killing case, and it brings back that painful summer once again. I started it early in the month, and it took me almost the entire month to get through it! French’s writing style is detailed and elaborate that it was hard to read at times. The 3 main characters were quite interesting, I enjoyed each of their stories and relationship to one another. The case itself was full of suspense and agony, leaving the reader curious if it would ever get solved. I did have some complaints though, aside from French’s painstaking writing style. I picked up on the conspirators much earlier on than was enjoyable. I love trying to figure out whodunit, but I love being surprised and outwitted by a good mystery writer. For about 50% of the book, I was waiting for the police to make the same connection I had made. They did. And it was unsatisfactory. I also did not enjoy the random pop culture references thrown in…The Simple Life? Ricky Martin? Sex and the City? Really? Also, not every loose end was resolved. I pray to God there’s a sequel to this storyline in the woks. I read the plot description of French’s next book, The Likeness, and while some characters reoccur, it’s not the storyline that needs resolution! So, I would half-heartedly recommend this. Better than some, but much worse than others.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
Travel is something I am incredible passionate about. I love the thrill of a new place, a new people and the journey to get there. And as life takes me, I’ll be moving overseas for the first time next year for long-term. So when I ran across Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, I thought it could be a helpful read in preparing for my time overseas. It was that and more. Vagabonding is a comprehensive look at long-term world travel from every aspect. Potts, a vagabonder himself, did an incredible job painting a realistic picture of life on the road. Each chapter opened with quotes from fellow vagabonders from all walks of life, a profile of a ‘famous’ traveler, and a quote by a travel-inspiring literary writer. Potts approaches travel from not only the romantic, whimsical point of view, but also the practical side. Beginning with “Why vagabond?”, he makes a compelling case for long-term travel that our American culture just doesn’t seem to embrace. He talks about when to plan, and when not to plan, as some of the greatest adventures happen organically. Potts explains the importance of immersing in the cultures one travels to. Experiencing a culture from a hotel room and guide book is not the same as experiencing it through the eyes of the locals. He writes about the difference between travels and tourists, and as a traveler we see what we see but a tourist sees what they came over. Potts outlines the difficulties and the unglamorous side of being a world traveler, but keeps a healthy perspective and balance overall. Each chapter ends with fantastic tip sheets and more resources. This little book was quite a find, and I’m sure I’ll be referencing it the months to come. If you’ve ever considered long term travel, don’t read this one, because you’ll quit your job tomorrow and hit the road. It’s that inspiring.
Box 21 by Anders Rosslund & Borge Hellstrom
Last year, I read an incredible Swedish thriller by Steig Larsson called The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I think I finished it in about 7 hours. I followed it up with it’s sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, a few months later. I was so hooked into this series. The third, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, releases later this year. After reading Larsson, I decided to research what other gems Swedish mystery authors were writing. I discovered Rosslund & Helistrom’s Box 21 because it not only fit this genre, the entire plot was focused on sex trafficking in Sweden. Finally found a copy at a library and read it in a weekend. It was no Larsson thriller, but still a good read. The authors very graphically used the sex trade as the backdrop for the mystery. Two victims…badly beaten…and a cop stuck in the middle. I loved/hated these characters. My heart broke for the girls being abused. I felt anger towards the people involved. And then I felt annoyance for the lead detective. By the end of the book, I was so fed with them. Ewert Grens, a detective of over 20 years, had suffered extreme personal loss while on the job at the hands of one criminal. And he has spent his entire career ensuring that this criminal got his due punishment. So landing a case with two abused prostitutes really didn’t align with his vendetta mission. Everything he did was selfish, and he took others down with him. His partner, Sven, started the story as a noble man, intent on finding the truth. But by the end, he walks the same murky waters as Grens. All the while, girls are being bought and sold, beaten and raped, humiliated and degraded. It’s not an easy topic to read, especially when I have so much emotion on the topic. I’m glad I read it, but re-read, I will not.