Shoofly Pie – by Tim Downs (2003)

Shoofly Pie

“Shoofly Pie” introduces us to forensic entomologist Nick Polchak, aka “the Bug Man”. Nick’s whole life is devoted to studying and understanding every type of fly or insect. His dream is to discover some unknown insect. His adoration of bugs tends to put people off a bit, but it’s hard not to admire a guy so devoted to his line of work.

Into the story comes Kathryn, who has lost a dear childhood friend, supposedly to suicide. But she can’t bring herself to believe he would take his own life. So she hires the Bug Man to investigate, much to the irritation of the local police chief. I loved Nick’s clever ways of questioning people, and getting to the bottom of things. If you enjoy this book as much as I did, there are five more Bug Man mysteries!

Bug Man novels include:
1 – Shoofly Pie
2 – Chop Shop
3 – First The Dead
4 – Less Than Dead
5 – Ends Of The Earth
6 – Nick Of Time

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Runaway Jury – by John Grisham (1996)

The Runaway Jury

How many ways can an individual on a jury manipulate his fellow jurors? Let us count the ways! Nicholas Easter has worked for years to get on this jury and has creative ways to get results. You will laugh and be amazed at the antics young Nicholas uses to get the verdict he’s been dreaming of.

But he’s not the only trying to get his way. A jury analyst named Fitch has been working behind the scenes with the lawyers for the defense, spending millions to get the verdict he wants.

Between Nicholas and Fitch stand the rest of the jurors. The author has created many interesting characters among them, with great discussions amongst themselves and in the jury room. Of all John Grisham’s novels, this is one of my favorites.

The audio version of this book is also great. Michael Beck is the narrator, and does a fine job. The novel was made into a movie, but so much of the story was changed that I cannot recommend it. Stick to the book or audiobook.

 

 

The Fence My Father Built – by Linda S. Clare (2009)

The Fence My Father Built

This novel tells the tale of Muri Pond, who has not seen her Native American father since she was five, then hears of his passing. She and her two children drive out to his shabby desert home, which is lined with a fence made of discarded oven doors. The story is told from the viewpoint of Muri, but every so often, the author lets you see into the mind of Joseph Pond, her father. What I enjoyed most about this story was how God met both Muri and her father at whatever point they were at in life.

The Giver – by Lois Lowry (1993)

The Giver

“The Giver” is one of Lois Lowry’s finest books, and the winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal award. Although it is generally catalogued as children’s literature, it seems much more appropriate for teens and adults.

Jonas, the main character, lives in a society where people live regimented, bland lives that are crime-free, pain-free, and stress-free. Each family is precisely the same – a father, a mother, one son, and one daughter. Everyone has food, a house, and a job. Seems like the perfect family, the perfect world.

At 12 years of age, each person is evaluated and given a life work position that they are gifted for. When Jonas is given his job assignment and begins training, he comes across some uncomfortable truths.

The story made me think of the Bible story of Adam and Eve. After they had eaten from the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened and they were never the same. The character of Jonas has a similar awakening, and is forced to make some difficult decisions.

Skipping Christmas – by John Grisham (2002)

Skipping Christmas

Luther and Nora Krank have always celebrated Christmas in a grand way – customized greeting cards, elaborate decorations, gifts for everyone they know and even some they didn’t know, and a huge party at their house. Every year the celebration gets larger and larger. When their only child joins the Peace Corp and won’t be home for a year, Luther figures it’s an excellent occasion to skip Christmas entirely. Their friends and neighbors are aghast at their announcement. As the Kranks try to hold firm to their resolution, they find that it’s just as hard to not have Christmas as it is to celebrate Christmas.

This is a short, humorous book you can enjoy reading in just a couple evenings. It is also available as an audiobook, with an excellent reader.

 

Excerpt:

He unfolded a spreadsheet, and began pointing. “Here, my dear, is what we did last Christmas. Six thousand, one hundred dollars we spent on Christmas. Six thousand, one hundred dollars.”

“I heard you the first time.”

“And precious little to show for it. The vast majority of it down the drain. Wasted. And that, of course, does not include my time, your time, the traffic, stress, worry, bickering, ill-will, sleep loss – all the wonderful things that we pour into the holiday season.”

“Where is this going?”

“Thanks for asking.” Luther dropped the spreadsheets and, quick as a magician, presented the Island Princess to his wife. Brochures covered the table. “Where is this going, my dear? It’s going to the Caribbean. Ten days of total luxury on the Island Princes, the fanciest cruise ship in the world.”

Walking Across Egypt – by Clyde Edgerton (1988)

Walking Across Egypt

Mattie Rigsbee is 78 years old, lives alone, and says she is “slowin’ down just a bit”. Wesley Benfield is a juvenile offender who breaks out of the local detention center. Mattie simply knows him as the nephew of her dogcatcher, a young man without parents, a person that needs love. So she does her best to feed him, clothe him, and help him learn about God.

We’ve all had times when we felt like Wesley – doing things that are just plain wrong, feeling guilty, not knowing how to make things right, and feeling trapped by our choices. That’s when God sends someone into our life to lead us back to the right path, someone like Mattie.

The novel was made into a movie in 1999 (PG-13), which was just as good as the book. Ellen Burstyn plays the part of Mattie perfectly, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays the part of Wesley. Mark Hamill assumes the role of Wesley’s uncle. The humorous parts of the book keep the movie from being too heavy in nature. You will enjoy both the book and the movie!

This Side Of Heaven – by Karen Kingsbury (2009)

This Side Of Heaven

Josh Warren is still young – in his early 30’s – but life is not turning out the way he had hoped. He’s a disappointment to his parents, who expected him to choose something more prestigious than being a tow-truck driver. While out with his truck, a drunk runs him down, leaving Josh in a permanent state of chronic pain. He collects disability, and waits for the injury settlement from the insurance company

A woman contacts Josh, claiming their short fling resulted in the birth of a daughter – Savannah, and she wants money. He wants to meet the little girl, but the mother says no. Josh’s family is embarrassed about the whole situation, and says the child probably isn’t his anyways. Meanwhile, the little girl is living with a mother who abuses alcohol and drugs, and drags her along to the park to panhandle.

Life often leaves us feeling powerless to change the situations we find ourselves in. Like Josh, sometimes all we can do is pray fervently to our heavenly Father, and leave things in His hands. God works some things out in a way that makes us happy in this lifetime, but other issues won’t be fixed this side of heaven.