The Woman Who Married a Bear by John Straley – Book #1 of Cecil Younger Investigation Set in Alaska

I don’t usually read detective or private investigation stories. My wife does. There are a couple of reasons why I picked this book up from the local library.

First, the title enticed me. Second, Alaska intrigues me (it seems so different from the rest of America). Third, I managed to borrow the entire 6-book series from the library. The downside is that I have to finish reading them within six weeks!

The Woman Who Married a Bear started with the main character Cecil Younger taken up a private investigation job on a closed murder case. While investigating this bizarre murder case, someone was trying to kill him.

Cecil is not a successful PI. He has a weakness of getting drunk most of the time. But he has a good network for information. He is fearless and would do all that he can to get to the truth.

The story is loosely based on one of the Tlingit myths. It goes much deeper than that. I had fun reading it and am looking forward to book #2!

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott – An Irish Catholic Story in the Early 20th Century America

The Ninth Hour tells the story of a man who committed suicide leaving behind his wife and his unborn daughter. The Catholic nuns took in the widow and her daughter was raised by the Catholic clan. The story is narrated by the children of the daughter.

What I really like about this book is the amount of detail that goes into the day-to-day work of a nun and the life of the main characters. It is so vivid as though I was living through the early 20th century of America. As a Catholic, I can immediately grasp the concept of sin and penance amongst other topics such as the political dynamic between priests, nuns, and the Church.

I found this book very enjoyable to read.

Severance by Ling Ma – One of the Best I have Read Of Late

I have picked up Severance randomly from a local library. Initially attracted to the concept of a story of an apocalypse at the backdrop of office life, the millennials, modern society, and Chinese immigrants, this book turns out to be something special. Something I really enjoy reading. I took my time and had to read the ending twice as I was not entirely sure if it is what it is.

Time does not flow linearly in this story. There are lots of flashbacks and side stories. Effortlessly though, the narration is smooth without causing any confusion. That is just art. One of the central themes is routine. How we day in and day out going through our routines in the office and at home (similar to the zombies or the “fevered” in the apocalypse world). Another theme is nostalgia and the Internet is a giant collection of our past (and how much time we spent with it).

That ending though still haunts me. It is so open-ended. The readers are the ones who are going to complete the journey. I won’t be surprised if we have different interpretations.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon is becoming one of my favorite authors in recent times. The First Girl is a story loosely based on Norse mythology. In the fictional kingdom called Saylok spins a story of salvation and love. It is a fresh take on a completely unique legend whereby the clans are the descendants of eagle, bear, wolf, horse, boar, and lion. Each clan takes turn to be the next King of Saylok. A curse has fallen onto the people of Saylok. No girl child shall be born. Yet one girl is born. Will she become the salvation of Saylok? Will Saylok survive the conflict within and beyond?

I would strongly recommend The First Girl Child. It is a magical journey, an easy read, and a page-turner.

Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper – A Murder Story by Donald Henderson

This is one very unusual book. Originally written in the 1940s, this book has gone out of print for more than 60 years. It took me a while to get used to the old English. The really good thing about this book is that I could never guess what would happen next. To me, this book isn’t a pageturner but it isn’t a bad thing. There are quite a number of characters introduced and each has an associated story. At one point, I wasn’t reading a novel but was seeing characters coming alive! I agreed with Raymond Chandler (an American-British novelist and screenwriter who had been actively promoting this book as his favorite). Reading this book once is not enough. Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper deserves to be read multiple times. I can’t possibly understand Mr. Bowling right from the beginning. Now that I have finished reading the book, I understand where he comes from. The loneliness. The lack of love. Not necessarily depressive (as he found the act of suicide lacked the humor). Just another guy in the world who has to go through hell in order to find the meaning of life. Or rather, the reason to live.

PS. This is not really a typic detective novel. This is simply a murder story.