Some lighter reading is perfect for a vacation trip
I read a lot of fun books during my March vacation to Florida. Especially when flying, which isn’t my favorite thing, I like a story that really engages me. So, I look for thrillers and mysteries.
I’m a Stephen King fan from way back. After I read “Salem’s Lot,” I couldn’t go into a dark room with a window. I don’t like scary movies, but his books are just the right amount of fear and fun. I don’t think there’s an author with a better grasp of character development and detail. I always want to know what happens to his characters after the book ends.
His new trilogy, “Mr. Mercedes” (2014), “Finders Keepers” (2015) and “End of Watch” (2016) is just stellar, and kept me reading late into the night (not an easy thing to do as I get older). The books have in common Bill Hodges, a retired police detective, who becomes embroiled in a case involving two deranged killers – one who plows into a crowd of job-seekers waiting to get into a jobs fair and then returns in the third book to seek revenge on Bill and his friends, and another who kills an author because he doesn’t like how the author treated the main character in a series of books.
“A Game for All the Family” (2015) by Sophie Hannah is the quirkiest mystery/thriller ever. Justine Merriman, her husband Alex and teenage daughter Ellen move to a large house, Speedwell, in the Devon countryside. After leaving her high-stress job in television, Justine plans to do “Nothing.” But, then strange phone calls threaten the family and order Justine to leave and return to London. Soon, Justine has to do “Something.” I couldn’t put this story-within-a-story down. Hannah is an Agatha Christie fan (and has written two Hercule Poirot books). Speedwell was inspired by Christie’s famous Devon home, Greenway. This one will keep you guessing until the very end.
“The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” (2013) by Fannie Flagg is a fascinating look at the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II. The history of these courageous women is couched in a novel about families in Pulaski, Wisc., and Point Clear, Ala., and ranges from 1909 to 2010. When Sookie Krackenberry Poole discovers at age 60 that she was adopted, she feels as if the world as she knew it is over. Of course, it will be the best thing that ever happened to her. My only quibble is how annoying she is until she learns to stand up for herself and overcomes the Southern obsession with “who are your people?” But, it’s a fun read and about an important part of American history that’s been overlooked.
“Celia’s House” (1943) by D.L. Stevenson is one of those old-fashioned novels that’s as much about the place and time as it is about the people inhabiting it. Dunnion is Celia Dunn’s house in Scotland. It’s a gorgeous spot on the Rydd Water (a stream). And instead of leaving it to the expected heir (she only has nephews and it’s not entailed), she leaves it to the nephew she knows loves Dunnion as much as she does (with a special provision in the will that the house will only be passed on from him to a Celia). The rest of the book is a pleasant look at the people and times from 1905 to 1942 and the story ties up in a very satisfactory way.
“Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots” (2013) by Jessica Soffer is a touching novel about Lorca, a young girl who tries everything she can to make her mother happy, becoming a wonderful cook in the process. A talented and moody chef, Lorca’s mother is cold, incapable of being happy or of being a good mother. Lorca self-harms, with razors, lighters, matches and knives. But, in this coming-of-age story, Lorca will find another family. One that isn’t perfect, but appreciates her and her special qualities and talents. The book contains a couple of very good recipes that are intrinsic to the plot, too.
“Help for the Haunted” (2014) by John Searles is hard to categorize. When the phone rings late at night at the Mason house, it usually means that Sylvie’s parents are called to help someone in need. Sylvie’s mother has “feelings” and her father is a paranormalist who has seen ghosts since he was a boy. They help people who are haunted or possessed. Searles wrote the book from Sylvie’s point of view, which makes it a coming-of-age story wrapped up in a ghost story/murder-mystery that moves back and forth in time to tell the story of a family at odds with themselves and the world around them. It’s strange, but very compelling, and surprising right up to the end.
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