My Love of a Good Novel is back!

What have you read lately?  What would you recommend and why?  I love getting a great recommendation for a book or movie don't you?  

We finally took a holiday during the first two weeks of July and headed up to Omapere on the west coast.  We set up in an Air B & B which had direct access to the beach and huge windows overlooking the entrance to the Hokianga Harbour.  Yes - it's not the best time of year for a local holiday, however it was close, relatively quiet and somewhere to relax.  Hubby took some fishing gear and my totally under-used surfcaster, as well as his own, and I took a stack of books with the aim of reading them all.  I also took a wetsuit which I borrowed from a friend with visions of having a mid-winter dip in the harbour, however I decided against it.  One of my treatment providers reminded me recently that winter is a time for 'hunkering down'  and resting, so with this sage advice resonating, that was my plan.   

The first night we settled in and I took great pleasure opening the first book of my five.  I've been listening to 'Joans' Picks' on the radio - she's a reviewer for Whitcoulls and if you go into their store you'll see an entire section dedicated to her picks.  Three of my five books were Joan's picks - Save me from Dangerous Men; Dopesick and Into the the Raging Sea.  The Alice Network was recommended by the local store manager and I picked out the book How to Escape from Prison (which interestingly was a Joan's pick the week we arrived back).  People have been asking me about the books so here's my summary and recommendations on them.

Save me from Dangerous Men by SA Lelchuk. This book captured my attention from the first chapter and I found it 'un-put-downable' (a new word).  Nicci, a private detective who helps women get out of difficult situations, is a confident, kick-ass woman who knows what to do when it comes to tracking people down.  She's not so confident when it comes to personal relationships and when she gets a new client the job seems relatively easy, however it takes her on a quite the journey.  I've already lent my copy to a friend and bought a copy as a gift for another friend.  I loved reading this book.

Dopesick by Beth Macy.  This was an interesting read and fuelled my opinion about pharmaceutical companies.  It's about Purdue Pharmaceuticals who set about encouraging doctors to prescribe oxycontin to manage pain without revealing just how addictive it was.  The book is full of information so I had to take my time to read this one and the case studies in here of those who became addicted to prescription painkillers which contained oxycontin (an opioid) were moving and deeply saddening.  I found it to be an extremely interesting book, but not quite the relaxing read I'd anticipated. 

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  After the previous book I needed another novel.  I can't recall the last time I read an historical novel so this was new to me.  Set in against the backdrop of WW1, this is the story of a young woman, Charlie St Clair who sets out on a quest to find her missing cousin.  She meets up with Eve, a woman who was recruited to be a part of a spy ring in France in WW1 and the adventure unfolds as their stories become intertwined.  It's based on real events that occurred around the time and I really enjoyed this one.  So much so that I've gone and purchased Kate Quinns next book, The Huntress which I've just started.

How to Escape from Prison by Dr Paul Wood.  Paul Wood tells his own story of being incarcerated at the age of 18 for murder.  He misses his Mum's funeral and is sentenced to life imprisonment, spending time in Rimutaka and Paremoremo prisons during his time inside.  He shares an brutal account of prison life and the turning point that saw him start extra-mural study through Massey as he works through his addiction to marijuana.  Dr Paul Wood was the first person in NZ history to progress through undergraduate and Masters' degrees while in Prison.  Dr Wood has spoken at many engagements since his release and you can see his TED-X Auckland from 2012 talk here.  I enjoyed reading this and getting a first-hand account of what it's like to go through the NZ Prison system just as much as I enjoyed reading about Paul overcoming his own demons both in and once released from prison.  Inspiring! 

Into the Raging Sea by Rachel Slade.  This book is a fascinating study of leadership, or lack thereof.  It tells the story of the El Faro, a ship that sailed from Florida to Puerto Rico, but didn't make it.  The ships Master, Captain Davidson relied on outdated information and failed to listen to his crew, ending up sailing into the eye of Hurricane Joaquin with tragic results.  The book is a good read and based on information recovered from the ships black box.  I did find the in-depth history detracted from the story of the voyage and I lost the flow of the book.  It was interesting to read of the testimonies given by the various parties at the investigation, where the company was brought to account for the loss of 33 souls on board.  For me this tragic event is the culmination of many small and somewhat insignificant decisions when taken on their own.  When the big picture view is considered, each of those small decisions in some little way contributed to the mindset of a man who refused to listen.  A good read on how not to lead.

And that's it.  If you choose to read one of these I hope you enjoy it.