Books

Books #46

I’ve had my first cold since having my sinus surgery (in March). Yuck! I am not 100% yet, and crossing my fingers it doesn’t move into my chest next. But since I’ve been sick for the last week, I had some time to catch up on some reading.

#1 I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

Oh man this book was good! If I could give it 10 out of 5 stars I would! I liked it so much. It’s well written, the characters all seem very real, the story is engrossing and relateable.

Penelope is a middle-age mother of two kids, the primary bread-winner and her husband, who dropped out of medical school to be a writer is just kind of coasting through life.

“I loved my husband. I loved my kids. I mostly liked my life. But I was so damn tired.”

She’s overwhelmed, unhappy and feeling stuck and lost and kinda like she wants to escape all at the same time.

“Change was a privilege reserved for people whose families didn’t rely on them for food, shelter, and health insurance.”

“But something between us had shifted over the course of our marriage, particularly the last two to three years. We had gone from being lovers to best friends to . . . roommates who routinely irritated each other. If I was honest with myself, that was what it felt like most of the time.”

Then her life is hit by a tragic event that makes her reevaluate things. She realizes she needs to make some changes in her life, her career, her marriage, in order to survive.

It’s weird because the reviews are mixed about this book. Seems like people weren’t a fan of the audio version. Or they felt like “nothing” happened and I wonder–did they read the same book I did? Because a lot happened! Anyway, I liked it a lot and thought it was an interesting, thoughtful look at friendship, marriage, grief and life.

#2 Land of Shadows (Detective Elouise Norton #1) by Rachel Howzell Hall

Excellent! Loved this book. What a great start to a new series. Lou is a homicide detective in LA. She gets a case that at first glance looked like a suicide, but she knows in her gut it’s not. She was right. And the murder hits a little too close to home for her, bringing up a lot of ghosts from her past.

Lou is an AWESOME character. Multi-dimensional, feisty, smart, strong. The book is engrossing and fast moving. I totally pictured it as a movie and could not wait to read the rest of the series.

Highly recommend this book. The second I finished it, I downloaded the second book!

#3 Skies of Ash (Detective Elouise Norton #2) by Rachel Howzell Hall

The sequel. It’s just as good, although I guessed whodunit pretty early on in the story. I love the character so much, it didn’t matter.

In this book, Lou is called to a fire where three bodies are found. Juliet Chatman and her two kids have died in the fire and her husband, Christopher, was injured trying to save them. But Lou doesn’t buy it. Partially because she’s going through a rough spot in her marriage and doesn’t really like men much right now, but she doesn’t think the husband’s story pans out. And as she starts to investigate deeper, she discovers that the perfect couple wasn’t that perfect behind closed doors.

It was another fast, good read. I couldn’t put it down and downloaded book 3 immediately!

#4 Trail of Echoes (Detective Elouise Norton #3) by Rachel Howzell Hall

Another good book in the series. In this one, Lou and her partner Colin are investigating what turns out to be a serial killer who is kidnapping and murdering young, gifted, African American girls from the housing projects known as “The Jungle.”

Lou’s personal life is kind of a mess and she’s struggling to keep it out of her professional life. Lou’s dad is also trying to get back in her life. I didn’t find this storyline quite as compelling, but the investigation of the murders was great.

Fast-paced, witty writing, smart and funny. Lou if a great character–tough but emotional and you can relate to her. Again, I kind of guessed the killer pretty early on but that didn’t ruin the wild ride of the book. I still enjoyed it!

#5 Shamed (Kate Burkholder #11) by Linda Castillo

The newest book in the series about Chief of Police Kate Burkholder in Amish country. In this book, a child is missing. It starts with a brutal murder and kidnapping of an Amish child with special needs. Kate is running against the clock because she knows as each hour passes, the likelihood of finding a kidnapped child goes down.

The book is a super quick read and a non-stop roller-coaster ride. It was very engrossing and another great read in the series.

#6 An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Jessica Farris is a single girl in New York, struggling to make ends meet as a makeup artist. To make some extra money, she signs up for a psychological study for Dr. Shields. But the study grows more and more invasive and intense and soon Jessica is doing things she never thought she’d do. She starts to realize that Dr. Shields has other motives for her “study.”

It was a good book, a slow burn with “twists” throughout the book instead of one big twist at the end. The story switches back and forth between the narrator being Jessica and narrator being Dr. Shields. Dr. Shields is fascinating and twisted. The ending was slightly disappointing but overall the book was a good read.

Happy Reading!

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Books #45

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. I read some good books (see below) and then had a rash of duds. Books I just could not get into at all and gave up before finishing. And they were recommended books! So I don’t know. Maybe my head wasn’t in the right space for them or something.

But here are a few good ones to add to your list.

#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

A friend recommended this book and I liked it a lot! Lori is a therapist in LA. She has an 8 year old son, she’s supposed to be writing a book on happiness. She’s engaged. And then her boyfriend breaks up with her and she finds herself in her mid-40s suddenly floundering.

“I’m convinced that Boyfriend has quickly transitioned into his post-me life completely unscathed. It’s a refrain I recognize from divorcing couples I see in which one person is struggling mightily and the other seems fine, happy even, to be moving on.”

She has writers block, she’s depressed and crying all the time, she’s having some health issues the doctors can’t seem to diagnose. So, even though she’s a therapist, she ends up going to therapy.

“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

It’s a very interesting read. She writes about some of her clients (names changed, of course) and it was interesting to read about the journey people had in therapy. Even if you can’t relate to her clients there is a little tidbit in each other their stories that I think most people can relate to. Grief. Loss. Big life changes.

“One of the most important steps in therapy is helping people take responsibility for their current predicaments, because once they realize that they can (and must) construct their own lives, they’re free to generate change.”

While I didn’t find her own therapy sessions as interesting as the clients she shared about (Julie in particular), I enjoyed the book a lot!

#2 Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan Stack

I liked most of this book. I found it really interesting from a cultural standpoint. There were definitely parts of it I didn’t like, but overall it was a good read.

It’s a memoir about a reporter, Megan, who is living in China with her husband when she gets pregnant and quits her reporting job. They decide to hire help (housework and help with the baby) so she could write a book. She writes about her struggle as a new mom, the lack of sleep that caused some insanity. I could totally relate to that and remembered the haze of early motherhood.

Then, pregnant again, her husband gets a job in India and they move there. She hires help in India, too. She struggles with the realities of having help and the cultural differences and what happens when you try and help “the help” based on your culture.

There were some parts of the book that were definitely uncomfortable. Her privilege definitely came through and was gross, but at the same time, I’m a middle-class white woman with privilege (even though I don’t have hired help), so maybe it’s uncomfortable to read because of that? Who knows. Either way, there were some “icky” parts but some really interesting parts.

#3 Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

I liked this book a lot. I read it in one day! There is a sequel coming out this fall, that I am dying to read, too.

Irene is a 50-something woman with two grown boys and a husband who is away a lot for work. She gets a shocking, and mysterious, phone call on New Year’s Day that her husband died in a helicopter crash in the Caribbean. She’s confused because he was supposed to be in Florida for work. Why was he in the Caribbean?

She flies down there to discover that not only was he lying about where he was most of the time, he had a villa and another life–complete with a mistress and a love child. Irene, with her adult boys, are trying to piece together who he really was because Russ Steele apparently lied about everything.

It was a good book and a fast read.

#4 From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

I loved this book. It was so well written and heart-felt and passionate and sad.

Tembi is an African American actress. When she was in college, she spent some time abroad in Italy for her her Art History degree, where she met and fell in love with her future husband, Saro. They had a long distance relationship for awhile and then got marriage, despite Saro’s family’s displeasure–which caused a family rift.

Saro and Tembi were in love for a long time, focused on their careers and then he got cancer. She nursed him back to health, tried to broker a family reunion to fix whatever drama was going on, and when Saro was well they adopted a baby daughter. Years later, he dies of cancer and Tembi is now faced with healing, dealing with grief, raising their daughter alone, and going back to Sicily once a year to be with Saro’s family.

It’s a truly heart-felt book. You definitely feel for the young widow, feel for the daughter, the mother…She’s trying her best to heal her own grief, while helping her daughter with the loss of her father.

“‘Children, especially those your daughter’s age, are prone to magical thinking. You will need to help her understand what is happening because her brain will want to forget. Her brain and heart will not be able to hold it. One day when she’s sixteen and all her grief is new and fresh, triggered by all the ways he is not in her life, she will be angry and hurt and confused. And mad at you, mad at life. She may say, ‘And you never let me say good-bye to my dad’ or ‘I never got to go to his memorial service.’ And she won’t be making it up. It will be real to her. Children can bury what is too big to bear. That is why you will have the picture.’ “

The descriptions of Sicily are magical. The book is about grief and healing and it’s just really well done.

“…they sat in front of Saro’s childhood home waiting for us. They were prepared for mourning. They had done this before, many times—for themselves, for family, for neighbors, perhaps since the dawn of time. Sicilians were accustomed to welcoming home the dead.”

I can’t recommend it enough.

#5 The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The premise of this book is absurd and unrealistic but totally delightful. Suspend reality, be ready to just read fluff and enjoy it. I read it camping and finished the book in one day.

Olive and Ami are twin sisters. Ami is getting married to Dane. But at the last minute, almost the entire wedding party gets sick, including the bride and groom, so Ami insists that Olive goes on her honeymoon for her. It’s non-refundable, afterall.

So Olive and the groom’s brother, Ethan, whom Olive dislikes a great deal, pretend to be new husband and wife for a free trip to Hawaii. Absurd and predictable, you can totally see where this is going and where it ends up. But still, I liked it. I needed something fun and light and not a deep think and this hit the spot.

#6 Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

This was an interesting story. Molly and Aidan are 30-something and unfortunately, suffered a loss at 20-something weeks pregnant and Molly had to have a hysterectomy. Now they are going the adoption route, which has it’s own ups and downs. But it’s bringing up a lot of ghosts for Molly.

The book spends most of the time in the past, describing one summer in Molly’s childhood. At first I wanted the story to stay in present day but the story sucked me in. It was a good read and a compelling story.

Happy Reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.