Looking for a book recommendation? Look no further! Here are a few good books I’ve enjoyed recently:
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
Evan Smoak was hand-picked at age 12 to enter a top-secret government program in which he receives elite training to become an assassin. For years he is all in, executing his missions with skill and precision, completely confident in his handler’s instructions, until one
day he isn’t. A chain of events leaves him questioning the morality of his actions, and Evan goes off-grid, creating a new life for himself in which he still uses his specialized killing skills, but at his own discretion, operating as a vigilante. Katrin White comes to Evan for help because she owes some dangerous men a lot of money and they have her father. Evan is confident he can keep her and her father safe, but as things quickly spiral out of Evan’s control, it becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Evan.
If you think this sounds like the plot of a Jason Bourne movie, you’re not wrong, so I can’t give the author full marks for creativity. Nonetheless, this is an exciting, fast-paced action story. Flashbacks exploring Evan’s childhood and training help flesh out his character, and Evan’s surprisingly domestic interactions with his neighbors in his L.A. apartment building illustrate the ridiculous and almost humorous aspects of presenting himself as a boring businessman when he is actually a highly skilled assassin. One of the best aspects of this book is the author’s close attention to detail, whether he’s describing Evan’s high-tech security system, his drink of choice, or a dramatic fistfight. Orphan X is a great choice for lovers of well-written suspense and action.
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
I love a good coming-of-age story, which Miller’s Valley undoubtedly is. Mary Margaret (Mimi) is a remarkably ordinary girl growing up the youngest of three children on a family farm in the 1960s and 1970s. The title of the novel, and much of the plot, is centered around the government’s desire to buy up all the land in the valley where Mary Margaret lives on her family’s farm, in order to create a lake by moving a dam. While this plays an important role in Mary Margaret’s life, it is hardly the biggest game-changer she experiences. The significant events in her life are not unusual: a friend moving away, a parent suffering a health crisis, a cheating boyfriend. Yet for anyone who experiences such things, they are huge, life-shaping events. Our protagonist meets each challenge head-on, persevering through much heartache and difficulty.
Anna Quindlen’s prose is simple and lovely. Her portrayal of family life was refreshingly honest. Having grown up on a family farm myself, I found her descriptions of that life to ring true. Most of all, it met my number one criteria for what makes a “good book” – I didn’t want to put it down. While I can make a few small complaints (the protagonist seems a bit one-dimensional, the dramatic reveal at the end felt a bit contrived and didn’t really add to the story), overall this is one I’d recommend.
Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
For the better part of a century, the Burroughs family have run moonshine, marijuana, and meth from their family home of Bull Mountain in the backwoods of north Georgia. In 2015, Halford Burroughs rules the family business with an iron fist, while his younger brother Clayton has turned his back on a life of crime and serves as county sheriff one county over. The arrival of a federal ATF agent in Clayton’s office with an appeal to convince Halford to cooperate in an investigation in exchange for immunity will shatter the fragile peace between brothers and have long-reaching ramifications. Tragic, violent, and bloody, Bull Mountain uses a non-linear storyline and multiple points of view to flesh out a big story of crime, family loyalty, and the deep roots that can attach an individual to a particular place.
What good books have you read lately? We'd love to hear!