Books #17

I’ve been reading some good books lately! Several of them have been rather “heavy” so to speak, and I wrote individual posts about those books. But I have been reading a lot of other types of books lately. So here is another post with some recommendations.

If you want to follow me on Goodreads, here I am. You can also read old book reviews here.

1 ) The Third Option (Mitch Rapp #4) by Vince Flynn

In this book, Mitch Rapp is back and working on a mission in Germany to assassinate a dirty Count. The mission goes wrong and his partners attempt to kill him. He goes on the run, not sure who to trust, and then eventually makes it back to the States to confront the higher ups in his organization. It turns out there’s a leak in the department and someone is out to get Mitch and his handler, Irene. It’s a really fast story and well written. The ending was both exciting and frustrating because it was a bit of a cliff hanger! Another good book in the series!

2 )  The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway #9) by Elly Griffiths

The last book in this series was a dud–major let down since I love the series. But this book turned it around. It was back to focusing on Ruth and her adventures.

This particular story was unique and creepy and fun to read. A homeless woman goes missing and suddenly several homeless men are murdered. At the same time, two women from the community go missing and there are rumors of kidnapping and underground societies.

It was an interesting story and I loved the ending and where it left off! Can’t wait for the next book!

3 )  The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Man, did I love this book! It was so good. I loved the characters–they came alive in this book and I felt the pain, sorrow, and happiness that the characters felt. I would describe this book as a cross between “A Man Called Ove” and “Take Me With You” by Catherine Ryan Hyde. So if you liked either of those books, you’ll like this one.

The story is told in different ways–Ona is 104 years old and “the boy” comes to her house every Saturday to help her and to work on his Boy Scout’s badge where he interviews her about her life.

Then the boy dies unexpectedly (heart-breaking!! get your Kleenex) and his estranged father, Quinn, takes over his quest to help Ona each Saturday. They basically become family and the entire family heals, and tries to fulfill the boy’s goal of getting Ona into the Guiness Book of World Records.

It’s a tear-jerker, but often in a happy way. The book is beautiful written and I did not want it to end. I wanted the story to keep going.  This book was so excellent! Read it!

4 ) Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

What a beautiful, heart-warming and heart-breaking book! The book is told from two points of view. The first is Soli, a 20 year old who is trying to escape the poverty in Mexico to cross the border into America. The story is about her journey, the absolutely horrific things she endures to cross the border, and the love she finds on her journey. She arrives in Berkeley, California, pregnant, poor, and safe. She lives with her cousin and gets a job as a housekeeper/nanny.

The second story is Kavya and Rishi, Indian-Americans living in Berkeley who want a child and try and try unsuccessfully to get pregnant or go to term. The desire to be a mother is palpable through the pages.

“Having a child was like turning inside out and exposing to the world the soft pulp of her heart. If something happened to Ignacio–if illness took him or an accident, she herself would never recover. If the night stole his breath away, as sometimes happened to the very very young, her own breath would never return. At night, thoughts like this sat vigil around her bed. [pg 181]”

Through a horrible twist of fate, Soli’s son is taken into DHS custody and Kavya gets the opportunity to become a mother. She is immediately in love with little Ignacio. This is a story of a very lucky boy, loved by two mothers.

“Why did people love children who were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone, and because there was no point running from earthquakes into tornadoes, blizzards, terrorist attacks. Because destruction waited around every corner, and turning one corner would only lead to another…She’d built her love on a fault line, and the first tremors had begun. [pg 350]”

Rishi is a little slower to fall in love with the boy. He was afraid of getting too close, since they were temporary foster parents and knew the mother could try to get Ignacio back. But eventually, something clicks, and he becomes his son.

“Being a father made him a part of this place, Rishi realized. He was no longer just a scientist, a pizza eater, a line dweller, a street crosser. Ignacio rooted him to the hum of this sidewalk. Ignacio brought him to Earth. [pg 327]”

It was interesting to read the cultural differences between Soli and her Mexican heritage and Kavya and her Indian culture, a culture that apparently is not welcoming to the idea of adoption. Biological children were very important to her parents–but even her parents eventually fall in love with Ignacio. How could they not??

“In her gaze, even from this distance, Soli could see a mist of love. She couldn’t deny this, and it shrank her inside, the love. [pg 417]”

Reading about the horrible treatment of illegal immigrants by ICE was absolutely awful and revolting. It made me really angry. The book was very well-written and I did NOT want the book to end. I didn’t like the ending, really, but there wasn’t an easy answer on how the story should end. Throughout the book you feel very strongly and root for Soli to win in the end–but at the same time you are rooting for Kavya and Rishi because they love Ignacio like he was their own. So it was truly a no-win situation. 🙁

“Grief was a solitary practice, though they would cling to each other that day and in the days to come. [pg 461]”

As a mother, the book was very hard to read but it was so so good. I absolutely loved it. When I got towards the end of the book, I felt a panic and raced to daycare to pick up Logan. All I wanted was to pick him up and hug him and never let him go. 

5 ) The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

After reading several super heavy, dark, difficult reads, I needed something light and fluffy to give myself a break. I read another chick lit type of book, that wasn’t very good, and then picked up this one from the library. I actually really enjoyed it! For a “chick lit” book it was pretty well-written.

Dempsey is a lobbyist in DC who loses her job, and could possibly be heading to prison, after a boss with her scandal breaks. Perfect timing: a distant, elderly relative died and left his house to her father. She decides to go down to Georgia to fix up the house, called Birdsong, and get it ready to sell, while she figures out how to fix her life.

She gets down to the house and it’s a mess. Overgrown yard, house falling apart, piles and piles of junk and magazines. Plus–an ornery old squatter! So the book is basically about her fixing up this house, meeting someone down in Georgia, clearing her name from the scandal and figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

It was a very satisfying read and the characters were well-developed. The story was good, even for a fluffy book! I liked the book a lot.

6 )  Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

This book starts out with a bang! LOVED the writing style, the crisp, fun writing and the way the author reveals parts of the story in bits and pieces in a shocking way. The first chapter is one the best first chapters I’ve read in a long time and it instantly sucked me in and made me want to read the whole book in one sitting.

This is a story about Georgia, about to get married and move to London to start a new job. She goes home to wine country, and finds her whole family in shambles. Everyone in her life is having relationship issues.

” ‘Because that’s the only way to get somewhere better.” He shrugged. “If you fight, you work it out. If you don’t fight, you move into your own corners, and nothing gets decided there.'[pg 146]”

She’s conflicted about getting married in a week. Everyone in her life has advice for her.

” ‘I stopped paying attention to her. I stopped doing the things that someone does for the person he loves. Because I was tired. Because other things always seemed to matter a little bit more…That doesn’t happen overnight, you know. It happens slowly. You should be careful of that. You should be careful not to take the person you love for granted. Not only because they’ll notice. But you’ll notice too. You’ll think it means something it doesn’t.’ [pg 239]”

There is a lot of “will they, won’t they” in the middle of the book, back and forth on the wedding, but the story is so well written and engaging that it wasn’t cliqued. And I absolutely LOVED the ending! I wanted the book to keep going, I wanted more. I loved the world and characters this author created. I will definitely be reading more of her work. And I hope they make this book into a movie!

Happy reading!

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Laurelhurst 5k

I ran my first 5k of the year on Sunday.

Did I train for it? Not really. Have I been running? Yes. So when last week arrived and I realized the race was coming up, I wasn’t too worried. For months I’ve been running every Wednesday with Logan 4.5-5 miles and then on Fridays at work during lunch, I run 2.5-3 miles on the treadmill (depending on how much time I have).

So for the spring and summer, I have been running around 8 miles a week. I figured a 5k wouldn’t be a big issue. I was looking forward to this race. I signed up for two 5k’s last year but I wasn’t quite ready to run them postpartum and ended up skipping them. The last 5k I ran was when I was pregnant with Logan!

Here is a post from 2 years ago when I ran the Laurelhurst 5k. I had been newly pregnant and had just hurt my back, so I was surprised I was able to run it at all. My time that time was 39:41.

The plan for this year was to run the 5k as a family. I was going to run with Logan in the running stroller and Michael was going to run with us. Well, we seem to have bad luck with races–this year? We all got the stomach flu last week. Of course!

Logan got it Tuesday, I got it Wednesday. Michael got it Thursday and was sick all weekend, so he didn’t run and stayed home with Logan. I was solo this time. Which was kind of a bummer.

I woke up Sunday and had breakfast of two fried eggs, half a bagel with cream cheese and coffee. It was dreary out. After months of sun and hot hot hot weather, the weather was rainy and gray. We definitely need the rain, and hopefully it will clear the air of the wildfire smoke, but it was kind of a bummer for race day! It turned out to not be that bad. The rain stopped for most of the race, and just misted a little bit.

They changed the race route this year. The last few years we’ve done it, it was three laps on the pavement through Laurelhurst Park. This year, they made it two laps and it was partly through differently terrain: grass, hills, bark dust, dirt, plus the paved trails.

Laurelhurst Park is really pretty. Lots of trees and plants and there are ponds with ducks and geese. The trail was pretty good this year. I did like that it was only 2 laps through the park. But I wasn’t super excited about running on uneven ground. There were parts of the trail that had tree roots coming up out of the grass and if you stepped wrong, I could see a sprained ankle happening.

I started out pretty good on the race. I just listened to my music and set a pace. I wasn’t in a mood to try and break any records of mine. I just wanted to run the race and hopefully not have to walk for most of it!

I ran the first mile of the race without any walk breaks. I wasn’t particularly fast but I was doing pretty good. There were two hills, one was gravel, that I did walk on during both of the laps.

Sweaty, blurry run selfie!

I started the second lap of the race feeling really strong. I wasn’t tired, despite having the flu for four days leading up to the race. My left knee was a little achy but overall, my body felt good. There was about 1/2 mile left of the race. I sped up a little bit to finish strong.

I crossed the finish line and got my ribbon! I felt really great! Especially for not having to take many walking breaks during the race.

I grabbed half a banana after the race and drank some water, stretched, and then headed home. I didn’t hang around for the raffle. I was sweaty and wet from the drizzle rain during the race and looking forward to a hot shower.

Here are my stats:

So I’m confused as to why the mileage is off. I’m not sure if the race was off or if my GPS was off. I don’t get it. But despite that, I was really happy with my pace and my time. 36 minutes is my best 5k time! I felt super happy about that!

I feel strong and happy with my race and my time! I’m so glad it went well! Next month is my next 5k!