Reading List

Books #34

I’ve read a few books lately that did not make the cut for me but I wanted to share a few of them anyways because they are apparently popular! The first was “The Party” by Robyn Harding. The characters were all so horrible I had a hard time liking the book. “Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman was another one with unlikable characters. It was a story of things going horribly wrong because of one small decision. It kind of reminded me of that AWFUL movie “Very Bad Things.” And finally, “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney. Another popular book right now and I just didn’t get it. It was confusing and convoluted.

Anyways, let’s get to some of the GOOD books I’ve read lately…

 

1 ) Burning Ridge (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #4) by Margaret Mizushima

Another good book in the series! In the latest installment, Mattie and her K-9 dog, Robo, are on a case when a charred foot in a boot is found in the forest. Robo leads them to uncover a horrific grave–a burned body. And that lead to more graves up in the forest being uncovered. Who are the bodies?

This case uncovers a lot of secrets and shocking things in Mattie’s own past that she didn’t know. It also brings her closer to Cole, the local veterinarian she’s been seeing.

The story is fast-paced and I always love reading about Robo and how he tracks bad guys. I also love the relationship she has with her dog partner. Great read!

 

2 ) The Wanted (Elvis Cole #17) by Robert Crais

“It seemed like a simple case before the bodies started piling up…”

Elvis Cole, private detective, is back. He’s contacted by a single mother who found suspicious items in her teen son’s bedroom–a rolex that costs at least $60k and thousands of dollars in cash. She hires Elvis to investigate and find out what is going on with her son. Except Elvis starts to unravel a complicated case involving a burglary ring and witnesses are being murdered. Who is also investigating these crimes and eliminating people?

The story is quick and fun to read. Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike are two of my favorite characters ever written in a book, so it was nice having them back. The characters are all well-developed and felt real, even the hitmen.

 

3 ) Tear Me Apart by JT Ellison

What a weird, crazy book!

Mindy is 17 years old and already a world-class skier with her eye on the Olympics. A tragic crash at a meet leads to a broken leg and a surprise diagnosis of leukemia. The cancer is not responding to treatment and she needs a stem cell transplant. Except when they test her parents she discovers that they aren’t related.

There were so many levels to the lies. Mindy’s aunt, Juliet, works for CBI doing blood analysis and tracks down her birth father and the lies and half-truths start unfolding even more. This was a pretty intense book and you really liked (most) of the characters. I guessed pretty early on what was going on but I didn’t guess the entire ending. There was clearly something a little off about Mindy’s mom, Lauren, but the ending was quite a creepy tale.

 

4 ) The Promise (Elvis Cole #16) by Robert Crais

Not sure how I read these out of order…! But This book was outstanding! So good! I could not put it down. The book was an exciting rollercoaster ride and all I wanted to do was sit in a comfy chair and read the book from start to finish.

Elvis was hired by a friend of Amy Breslyn’s. Amy is missing. Her friend Meryl is worried something horrible has happened. Amy’s son was recently killed in the middle east by a suicide bomber and she’s grief-stricken and possibly obsessed with what happened to her son. But as Elvis digs deeper, he uncovers lies by both Amy and Meryl and the real story comes out.

In addition to Joe Pike, super awesome side-kick, there is a K-9 office, Scott,  and his dog, Maggie, who are part of the story and a joyful addition. Love Maggie!

I did not guess the ending of this book at all. Fast-paced, well-written, easy to follow but lots of twists and turns.

5 ) Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

This was a really good read. I will be giving some spoilers, though, so be prepared and maybe skip it if you don’t want spoilers. The reason I’m giving spoilers is because the subject matter was brutal and there were several parts of the book where I quit and wasn’t going to read it anymore but I kept going back. I’m glad I did.

Ellen is a social worker. She’s spent 20 years of her career taking children away from unfit parents. So that is a difficult subject matter for a reader. The author doesn’t go into explicit detail about child abuse, but it’s a theme in the book, so it might be hard for some people.

One summer morning Ellen is rushing to work, late and frantic, while her husband takes their two older kids to soccer and as Ellen is rushing, she gets a phone call from one of the kids of her clients calls her. The mom’s boyfriend is abusing their mom and the two girls have locked themselves in the bathroom. They are terrified their mother is dead. Ellen jumps into action and turns the car around to go to their house. The police come, Ellen is trying to explain the situation to the cops, a crowd of neighbors gather outside and as the police go inside and rescue the two girls, there’s a commotion behind her. Ellen turns to find that her infant daughter, Avery was in the car seat in her van and she hadn’t known.

This the spoiler because as soon as this happened, I quit the book for a bit. AVERY SURVIVES. I seriously could not deal with an infant dying in a hot car. But thankfully, by the end of the book, she’s ok.

Except Ellen gets arrested for child neglect and investigated for child abuse. There’s a protective order that says she can’t go near Avery while she’s in the hospital. It’s an absolutely horrific situation and you just feel awful for Ellen.

Despite the rough subject matter, it was a well-crafted story with very real characters. I think every parents has that fear that one mistake could lead to something life-changing. So this is very relatable.

Happy reading!

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Books #33

After reading a few duds and quitting on a few books that were just plain terrible, I finally got a groove and read some really, really excellent books. Here are some new ones to add to your list:

1 ) The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner

This might be one of my favorite chick-lit books ever! It had it’s definite moments of ridiculousness, but it was well-written and I was totally engrossed and loved the characters.

Meryl and Hugh have three daughters–Meg, Amy and Jo. Meg is engaged to marry Stowe, who’s father is an up and coming politician. Meg is a political journalist that loves her job. In the middle of planning their wedding, Amy gets engaged to her boyfriend, Andy. Andy is the son of a fashion designer. Then there’s Jo. The youngest daughter, lesbian, who is dumped by the love of her life only to decide to impulsively marry her best friend Toby as an “arrangement” for them both.

How will Meryl and Hugh even afford three weddings? The solution: one wedding for all three daughters. And of course, the press get wind of this and an exclusive with People Magazine just might help pay for the wedding. Except…everyone involved has their own secrets that will eventually come out, as secrets do.

I enjoyed this book so much. I really liked each sister’s story–which is hard to do with several “main” characters. There’s always one character I don’t care much about but this book wasn’t like that.  I felt invested in each sister’s story, I was surprised by the ending (and loved it) and there were definitely some legitimate emotional things in the book.

 

2 )  The Girl Before by JP Delaney

This is an odd book but it was so good! I couldn’t put it down.

The story is told between past and present, Emma’s story and Jane’s story.

Emma and Simon are looking for a new apartment after a horrible break-in. Emma was traumatized and needs to feel safe. They can’t find anything that makes her comfortable in their budget and then their agent tells them about a unique house. It is a one-in-a-kind house built by a famous (or infamous) architect.

The only drawback? There is a list of rules for the house that you cannot deviate from and you have to sign up to participate in survey questions periodically. Emma and Simon each wear an electronic brace that “talks” to the house. It turns on the shower–and the shower remembers what temperature you like in your shower. There are also special settings for the lights according to moods and times of the year (think SAD lights in the winter).

The advanced technology of the house seems intriguing but after moving in, Emma and Simon’s relationship deteriorates and Simon moves out. Edward, the architect, has taken an interest in Emma and they begin an affair similar to 50 Shades of Gray.

Fast forward to present day. Jane is recovering from a horrible tragedy (that might be very triggering for a lot of people) and needs to reset her life. She, too, needs a new place to live and can’t afford anything else…her agent suggests this house. She moves in and discovers that the previous tenant, Emma, died in the house. She becomes obsessed with finding out who killed her and why. At the same time, Jane starts an affair with Edward, too.

Emma and Jane’s lives parallel in a very creepy way. The book is fascinating, frightening and intriguing. I loved the book.

3 ) I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Maddy seems like your typical SAHM of a teenage daughter, married to a man who is married to his career. She’s the keeper of the house, the cornerstone of the family. She has friends, a well-off lifestyle. She’s smart and funny and volunteers are the college library and she has pearls of wisdom for every situation.

“Whenever we were around parents who had black-and-white goals for their children, your mother felt sorry for the whole family–the parents because they’d be perpetually disappointed, and the kids because they’d always feel nothing was good enough. She believed there was nothing worse a parent could pass on to a child than guilt. [pg 75]”

So when she commits suicide, the people left behind are confused, heartbroken and struggling to grasp what they missed. It turned out, they missed a lot.

Eve and Brady read parts of Maddy’s journal and realize that they both took her for granted and didn’t cherish her the way they should have–the way they do now that she’s gone.

“Reading the day from her point of view I see she was a punching bag and my dad and I gave her a daily workout. I’m starting to wonder why she didn’t jump sooner. I’m never getting married or having kids. We suck. [pg 103]”

“Well…Mostly I’m mad at her. I think, She did this to me. She left us. She had no right to do something that radical without informing me something was wrong in the first place. [pg 109]”

Even though Maddy is dead, her spirit can’t quite move on. She watches over her husband and daughter and decides that they need someone to help them with their grief and help them move on. She starts “haunting” them (planting thoughts in their minds)–and the woman Maddy thinks is her perfect replacement–she wants Brady and Eve to heal, to rely on each other and not break completely. Except Brady and Eve have no idea how to even have a relationship–or a conversation with each other–without Maddy there as the buffer and leader.

It sounds silly that Maddy is a ghost character in this book, but it doesn’t come across as cheesy. So give it a chance! The story is told from each character’s point of view and you really feel their grief and anger and sadness. It’s well done and real.

” ‘If an hour passes where you don’t think of Her, that’s ok.’ Eve steps back, physically distancing herself from the thought. ‘Really, honey. It can’t be all mourning, all day, every day day. Living doesn’t mean you’re over it or selfish or cold; it just means you’re still here, and she’s not.’ [pg 216]”

The book is emotionally compelling and makes you reevaluate how you treat the people in your own life. What have you missed because you were too busy/preoccupied/selfish to notice? Have you taken for granted what your spouse or parent does for you? Have you thanked them?

Brady remembers an argument with his late wife on her last birthday:

” ‘When I blew out the candles tonight, I wished for my next birthday to not feel like such a goddamn chore to my immediate family. I would’ve rather been alone. Again.’ [pg 184]”

“…you don’t realize it until it’s too late. Maddy, Eve, my mother–the carousel of women I’ve disappointed. It’s as if I’m running because they’re chasing me. [pg 155]”

If I could give this book a million stars, I would. I absolutely loved the characters and the way the story unfolded. I was glad the ending happened the way it did.

 

4 ) This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

I really liked this book. It was emotional and gut-wrenching at times, but also funny and heart-warming. Charlie’s life has not gone quite as planned. His wife, the love of his life, died and now he is trying to balance raising their 5 years old son alone (with the help of his sister) and working insane hours as a lawyer. It’s a tough spot to be in. He is trying to make partner, but at the same time, he’s missing everything about his son’s life.

Then at an office party when Charlie has a bit too much to drink after staying up for 72 hours working on a big case, he makes a speech that goes viral and he loses his job. Except, that might turn out to be the best thing for him. Maybe he can reconnect with his child, learn how to be a father, reconnect with his own estranged father and figure out how to balance his life and work.

I liked the characters and the story. The one flaw of the book was probably that Charlie wasn’t very likable. He was a burned out, stressed out, grieving man who was incredibly selfish (at all times) and apparently had a temper issue and took it out on the people around him. But….that being said, it was still a good story.

5 ) A Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder #10) by Linda Castillo

This is the latest book in the series. It starts with a barn that burns down. Chief Kate Burkholder goes to investigate and they discover that an Amish teenager was burned alive inside the barn. But the more she digs into the homicide, she realizes that the teen was not who he seemed.

What I like about these books is that the author describes the Amish culture and how they interact with the “English” culture. The dynamics are a very interesting addition to a typical mystery book. This story was a page-turner but there was some description of sexual assault, so it might not be for everyone.

 

6 ) This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I REALLY enjoyed this book. I thought the writing was funny and witty and dark. I laughed many times, even though the subject matter was pretty heavy. Here is an example of some of the humor:

“…but Wendy doesn’t seem at all inclined to go upstairs and quiet the baby. ‘We’re Letting Her Cry,’ she announces, like it’s a movement they’ve joined. If they’re letting her cry anyway, I don’t really see the point of the baby monitor, but that’s one of those questions I’ve learned not to ask, because I’ll just get that condescending look all parents reserve for non-parents, to remind you that you’re not yet a complete person. [pg 46]”

The book is full of little quips like that. This is a story about family dramas, family dynamics, death and love.

“At some point you lose sight of your actual parents; you just see a basketful of history and unresolved issues. [pg 42]”

Judd Foxman’s father, Mort, has died after a long illness.

“Childhood feels so permanent, like it’s the entire world, and then one day it’s over and you’re shoveling wet dirt onto your father’s coffin, stunned at the impermanence of everything. [pg 42]”

Judd returns home to sit Shiva with the whole family: the oldest sister Wendy (and her two toddlers and baby and worthless husband), his older brother Paul and her wife (who are struggling to get pregnant), and his flaky younger brother Phillip (with his fiancee who is a good 20 years older than him) all arrive to sit shiva with their mother for a week.

Except, at the same time as the family tragedy, Judd has his own tragedy: he walks in on his wife sleeping with HIS boss! So in one fell-swoop, he loses his wife and his job. His life is in disarray and now he’s spending a week with his family.

“Sometimes, contentment is a matter of will. You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you’ve lost. I know this to be wise and true, just as I know that pretty much no one can do it. [pg 293]”

But despite the sadness and drama, this is also a story about grief, appreciating family, and finding a way to heal.

” ‘Why didn’t I miss him more when he was alive? He was dying for two years, and I only visited him a handful of times. What could have been more important than spending time with your father?’ [pg 304]”

It’s an often emotional book, but it’s written really well and I think most people could find something they relate to in it.

7 ) Lost Girls (D.I. Kim Stone #3) by Angela Marsons

Excellent excellent detective novel! This was such a good book, I could not stop reading it. This is the third book in the British series and Detective Inspector Kim Stone is still rough around the edges, and this particular case is close to sending her over the edge.

Two 10 year old girls, best friends, have been kidnapped and ransomed. Except that the kidnappers have texted the parents and said only one girl will return–the other will die. So who is the highest bidder for their daughter to be the one to live?

Kim’s team immediately takes action to find the girls. Especially considering 13 months ago, this happened before and only one girl was returned. They cannot let that happen again. There are twists and turns and lies and betrayals…and the team pursues the kidnappers with a vengeance.

The book just does not stop. There is never a good point to put it down, you want to finish this one in one sitting!

8 ) The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

Very well done, creepy mystery book!

This book takes place in 1986 and 2016 in a small English town. It has a very cool vibe to it, kind of made me think of Stand By Me. There is definitely a nostalgic feel to the book and you really feel like you are back in time.

It’s the summertime and five friends: Eddie, Mickey, “Fat Gav”, Nicky and “Hoppo” are 12 years old and best friends just riding their bikes and dealing with bullies. They create a secret code to talk to each other, each kid designated a chalk color, and they write each other messages and clues as to where to meet up. Then one afternoon the chalk messages lead them into the woods where they find a dismembered body.

The story alternates to 2016, where Eddie is now an adult and a teacher in the same town and he’s trying to figure out if something was missed back in 1986. Then a letter arrives with a chalk drawing and Mickey is back in town and desperately needs to meet up with Eddie to talk about what happened. What does it all mean?

There are so many layers to this story, it’s fascinating how it all unravels. I did not see any of it coming. What I thought I had figured out was wrong. The ending was quite a surprise. Excellent book!

 

Happy Reading!

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