Working my way back to my usual reading

I just finished The Magician of Lhasa by David Michie. It is billed as a spiritual thriller. I get the spiritual part, but I am not so sure about the thriller. It was, though, a good book.

Matt Lester is a scientist who moves from London to Los Angeles t continue work on a nanotechnology project that has been his life for the last several years. Of course, things don’t work out as he has planned. But instead of a life of research, he discovers a whole new world he didn’t really know existed. His house in LA is next door to a Buddhist Dharma Center, and he quickly develops a relationship with an elderly monk who lives there.

But Matt is not the only main character in the book. A young novice monk names Tenzin Dorje is also experiencing a great deal of tumult as he, his brother ad their teacher escape Tibet in 1959. At first I had a little difficulty switching between the two main characters, but gradually it became easy. Matt begins to dream of Tenzin, someone he knew nothing about before arriving in LA. And the reader gradually discovers that the two lives are connected.

The author shares some basic principles of Buddhism, but it is done very gently, I feel like I understand some things I hadn’t really understood before. It was an interesting book on this level – in addition to it being a good story.

Again, I am not sure this book is for everyone. It seemed like a good choice to read after reading Merton’s take on contemplation, and I really enjoyed it for the spiritual component as well as for the story. If this sounds at all interesting to you, I urge you to give it a try.

And on a completely different note…

I just finished The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton and William H. Shannon. I started reading this book at the beginning of February, but it wasn’t something I could sail through. So it isn’t quite the leap from Drizzt to Merton that it appears to be.

I first started reading Thomas Merton about 20 years ago when I taught English at a seminary college. Not being Roman Catholic or even Christian, there was so much I didn’t know about the world I had entered into. Thomas Merton, for some reason, was an easy entry point for me. I read things he wrote and things written about him. I continued reading Merton even after I left that job because he really spoke to me. But it had been several years now since I last read anything by him. When I saw this book for a reasonable price, I bought it. And after a week or so, I began reading it. It was slow going at first, but as I got further into it, it became something I could relate to more and more.

While I got a lot out of this book, I hesitate to recommend it. No, that isn’t true. If you are interested in contemplation / meditation or in Merton himself, you would probably find this an excellent book. So if you fall into either of those two categories and have not yet read this, I highly recommend it. It is tough read – especially the first half – but it is worth the effort.

Back to Drizzt

I just finished book 11 in RA Salvatore’s Drizzt series, The Silent Blade. It was excellent, of course, Drizzt and his companions are together again, and they have a task before them: to find the Crystal Shard and get it to a priest who can destroy it. As you would expect, there are a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and in the end they are not successful. But they are together, and they will move on to see more of the world and to have even greater adventures in the future.

In this book we see a couple old “friends” return in addition to the Drizzt, Catti-brie, Bruenor and Regis being re-united. That is probably a lot of what I loved about this book. The story was a good one, of course, and that helped a lot, too. But you know by now that the characters make or break a book for me, and I am happy to report that them being together made this a great book in my view. That being said, things weren’t all sweetness and light, but the acceptance, understanding, and love these characters have for each other will win me over every time.

So at this point you have probably already read this series if you ever might, but on the off chance that you haven’t and if you are looking for something to read, I cannot recommend these highly enough. As I said last time, I recommend starting with either Homeland or The Crystal Shard. You will probably love them as much as I do! And if not, you will at least have given them a try.

A Carolyn Arnold police procedural

I just finished Justified by Carolyn Arnold. I have read in her Brandon Frasier series and enjoyed the books I have read. I had never read A Madison Knight book, though. And I can kind of see why. This is the second book in the series, and I do not know what happens in the first book. I have a feeling I would like Knight even less in that one than I did in this one. She is not, for me at least, a sympathetic character. And I know why: I can see too much of myself in here.

Madison Knight is a police detective who is a god cop but a terrible friend and a not so great human being. She allows her thoughts, which are too often critical of others and very sarcastic, to come out unfiltered. She hurts people who care about her. I know that I have a tendency to be like that myself, so it was hard to see how she hurt people. By the end of this book, she is seemingly beginning to soften a little, so I will probably read more of these books. But I many not read the first one for a while. I want to like her before I tackle that one. Not sure why except I assume that she will be not softened at all, and it would be hard.

As a mystery, this was a good one. I knew the solution to the crime was going to be complicated, but I never got it right. Arnold made a point of not letting us see who one of the killers was until the very end. We saw the person, but there was no name and no identifying information until they came to make an arrest. It worked in this case, but I don’t think I like technique in general.

Overall, it was a good book, and I will definitely try at least one more of this series before I decide to give up on it. If you don’t have some of my weirdness, you might really enjoy it without reservation. I suggest you give it a try.

A fun read

I just finished Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney. It is a book I have owned since 2014 and just now got around to reading. And it was a good book to read right now — nothing too taxing but a fun story. McCourtney is a Christian mystery writer, but aside from the main character Cate relying on prayer from time to time to time to help her figure out what to do, there was no real religious overtone.

Cate is a young woman who moves to Eugene, Oregon to stay with her aunt and uncle. When she has no luck finding a job, her uncle offers her a part time / temporary job in his private investigation business. She is just supposed to find a missing woman who has been left an inheritance by her grandmother while her uncle is in the hospital after breaking his hip and getting a new one. Of course, it doesn’t end up being that simple, and she has to escape death on numerous occasions. In the end, she decides that the life of a PI is just what she was looking for — but that is a story for the second book in the series.

There are, actually, three books in the series. The others are more expensive than what I usually pay for a book, but I would be very tempted to get them if they went on sale. I enjoyed this book a lot, and I am sure I would like the others, too.