Reading List

Books #23

My goal for 2018 is to read 110 books! Here is the first post of 2018:

1 ) Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I was a little conflicted about whether or not to include this book in my reviews because for the first 40% of the book I was SO INCREDIBLY annoyed. “SOMETHING” happened at a BBQ. Something tragic, something horrific…and the first 40% of the book was alluding to that and it was so annoying, too drawn out, and I kept thinking “GET TO IT ALREADY!”

And then…? The incident was revealed and the way the rest of the story was told, from each person’s different point of view, was really really well-written. It was gripping and good and there were a few shockers at the very end of the book. So if you can get over the first part, it’s an excellent read!

2 ) Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

This was a very interesting book. Ava and Zelda are identical twin sisters. Two years before, there was some betrayal and a lot of family stress with their mother’s diagnosis of a degenerative disease, and Ava fled to Paris to avoid it all. Then Ava gets word that her sister has died in a fire at the family’s vineyard. She travels home to get the family affairs in order and plan the funeral.

But is Zelda really dead? Or is it a trick? Ava begins getting clues from Zelda that make her think she’s still alive and planned her own “death”, possibly for the insurance?

The book is very well-written and focuses on character development. The characters are all so real and written very well. The topic of alcoholism is also very real and well-written.

3 ) Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a memoir but it was more a reflection on aging, motherhood, marriage and feminism.

“Time passed, almost imperceptibly. First we were so young and then we were so busy and then one day we awoke to discover that we were an age we once thought of as old. [loc 65]”

The common theme throughout the book was aging and how to do it gracefully. The author reflects on her own life, the death of her mother when she was only 19 and how that changed her outlook on life and motherhood when she had her own kids.

“I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It’s a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error. [pg 4]”

She did write about marriage but nothing too specific about her own marriage. That wasn’t really what the focus was. I did like this quote a lot and I think it’s a good way to sum up a good marriage:

“I was never one of those women who tell you that their spouse is their best friend, that they’re always on the same page. I feel like you’re ahead of the game if you’re even in the same book. [pg 18]”

She also talked about friendships and how crucial they are at different stages of your life. It made me think about my own relationships and friendships that have withstood the challenge of time and changing lives. Having kids was the biggest “tell” for me. It’s weird how your friendships often change when you have a baby.

“As we grow older we weed out our friendship circles the way we do our closets. Most women have a story about the friend who truly wasn’t, whose calls and visits left her feeling dreadful, the friend who dined out on other women’s shortcomings and mistakes. [pg 32]”

“We trust our friends to tell us what we need to know, and to shield us from what we don’t need to discover, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest…They are savvy enough to understand that there are friendships worth fighting for. And sometimes, of course, there are those that are not. Over the course of our lives friends fall away, sometimes because they were never really more than friendly acquaintances…There were friends we lost when we had children and they did not…[pg 32]”

I really liked her take on motherhood, too:

“There comes that moment when we give our children custody of their own selves or blight their lives forever, when we understand that being a parent is not transactional, the we do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us. [pg 117]”

Those are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book. I read it in about three days and enjoyed most of it. Sometimes there were some run-on sentences that rambled a little bit and could use some editing…but overall I liked it a lot!

4 ) This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

“Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan.”

What a beautiful story! Rosie, an ER doctor and Penn, a writer, have 4 boys. She gets pregnant a fifth time and they are secretly hoping they have a girl but…nope. Another boy! Except as Claude grows up, they realize he is very different. At only three years old, he says he’s a girl.

They are all very open-minded, despite living in rural Wisconsin. They allow Claude to dress as a girl. But once he becomes a little bit older and goes to kindergarten, they start to feel the societal pressures. School doesn’t understand and is not tolerant, and basically forces them to make Claude dress as a boy.

“I’ve lived life. I know what’s important. I’ve seen it all by now. You think he’s the first boy I ever saw in a bikini? He’s not. You think your generation invented kids who are different?”

“Claude wore his bikini because Penn found he could not say to his son, ‘The suit you love is okay at home but not in public,’ because Rosie would not say, ‘We’re proud of you in private but ashamed of you at the pool. [pg 46]”

Claude is miserable and depressed. And only a few years old. It’s heartbreaking for all involved. Then Rosie treats a trans-gendered patient in the ER who was beaten almost to death at a frat party.

” ‘Everyone loves you for who you are.’ “

“‘No one but you,’ said Claude. ‘No one but us. We are the only ones.’ [pg 58]”

Rosie decides it’s time to leave. They move to Seattle, a liberal, open-minded area where Claude can become Poppy.

“Maybe parents just wanted their kids to invite Poppy over so they could gossip to their own friends or make a big show of being open-minded and tolerant. Maybe the kids wanted to play with Poppy because they were curious about him rather than because they liked him. [pg 98]”

Except Rosie is still terrified that something horrible will happen to her child. So they don’t tell anyone that Poppy used to be Claude. The story goes from there. Poppy lives as a girl, has girl friends, no one knows the difference except for family.

“Just being yourself never worked, but if you made yourself up, you got to be exactly who you knew yourself to be. [pg 285]”

The book is an emotional, beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming read. While the book does address bigotry and trans-phobia, it’s not your typical book where something horrific and homophobic happens. It’s really more about navigating the trans-gendered world as parents, what’s right, what’s wrong, how they decide what to do during puberty, etc.

I highly recommend this book!

 

5 ) The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is the newest Catherine Ryan Hyde book. Aiden is a cattle rancher who gets a “wake up” on a hunting trip. All of a sudden he can feel the emotions (the fear, the terror, the pain) of all animals. It definitely throws a wrench in his career as a rancher and breeder, and alienates him from his ranch hands and the community. His girlfriend breaks up with him. He’s feeling very sensitive about his new ability to sense animal’s emotions.

Gwen is new to town with her two pre-teen kids. She left an abusive marriage and is trying to rebuild her life. She meets Aiden and they fall in love. The problem is that her son, Milo, has some very serious mental/emotional issues due to the abuse he suffered from his father.

“You hope wildly. And, as a result, having a child tends to mean getting your heart broken on a regular basis. It takes courage to hope for something you know you might not get. But the alternative is not to believe in your child or hope for great things for him. [pg 236]”

Milo is showing some not-so-kind behaviors towards animals and with Aiden’s new ability to sense pain in animals, this is particularly difficult!

“But people come into our lives and point things out to us for a reason. [pg 34]”

The story is about relationships and about healing, for both Aiden and Milo. It’s also about family, (sort of) about alcoholism recovery and step-parenting.

“It’s easier to see the big picture when you’re standing a few steps outside it. [pg 198]”

“Human nature. After something works out, we forget the frustration of the steps we took in getting there. [pg 316]”

It’s a really, really lovely read. It was a fast read, I read it in about two days. There were a lot of layers in the book and kept you thinking about things long after you were done reading. I will end the review with the best quote from the book:

“He would say, ‘Are you doing what your heart says to do?’ [pg 317]”

Excellent advice.

HAPPY READING!

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Books #22

This is probably the last book review post of the year!

I used to average somewhere around 100 books a year. Last year I fell very short in my goal on GoodReads. I knew I’d be busy, new baby and all, so I set my goal low (80) and only read 62 books last year. I was ok with that. I just didn’t have a lot of time. 😉

This year has been easier to read more. I’m not breastfeeding anymore so I have time, and I have more time at work to read on breaks because of that. I read on the bus, I read before bed. This year my goal was 65 books and I surpassed that!

 
157%  —  39 books ahead of schedule

 

1 ) The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

This book may not be for everyone. There were parts that were a bit graphic, but the story was pretty good. I’ve read a lot of books by this author and she crafts good, interesting stories and is really skilled at character development.

In this particular stand alone book, there are a few stories going on in one. Sam and Charlie were teenagers in Georgia when two intruders murdered their mother right in front of them and tried to kill them both. The story is a bit about that and then 20 years later when Sam and Charlie are adults. They are both still feeling the effects of the tragedy and their family has been fractured since.

The other story is about a school shooting. Sam and Charlie’s father, Rusty, is a defense attorney (and the girls have also become lawyers) and takes on the shooter as his client.

The story is a little about the investigation and trial of the shooting (but that’s not the focus), about history and family secrets, but it’s feels more about the relationship between the sisters and healing and redemption.

2 ) What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I know what a lot of people might be thinking about feeling seeing this book on my list. You’re probably like me and burned out on politics, the 2016 election, Trump, Hillary…everything. I wasn’t clamoring to read this book (even though I wanted to) because I am so sick of all of it. But it finally came up available at the library and I was excited to get Hillary’s take on what happened.

The book begins with Trump’s inauguration. I remember watching part of it and thinking just how strong, brave (and crazy) Hillary was for attending. Sure, it was tradition. Sure, it showed the world she lost but wasn’t beaten. But damn, I don’t think I could have been that strong to sit on that stage and watch a buffoon blather on and on about winning.

“The new President’s speech was dark and dystopian. I heard it as a howl straight from the white nationalist gut. Its most memorable line was about ‘American carnage,’ a startling phrase more suited to a slasher film than an inaugural address. Trump painted a picture of a bitter, broken country I didn’t recognize. [pg 7]”

“…listening to Trump, it almost felt like there was no such thing as truth anymore. It still feels that way. [pg 8]”

” ‘That was some weird shit,’ George W reportedly said with characteristic Texas bluntness. I couldn’t have agreed more. [pg 11]”

I kinda loved George W for that. And I was not a fan at all when he was in office.

The books then goes on to describe the days and weeks following the election and how Hillary felt. She shared insights and stories into her personal and private life. She shared stories of her and Bill’s relationship. She said she hid out in their house in NY wearing yoga pants, drinking Chardonnay, watching HGTV, reading mystery novels and walking in their woods. I kind of LOVED that image. It definitely made her seem more human and relateable (And part of me was like, why didn’t we see THAT Hillary during the election cycle??!!!)

I am sure a ghost writer wrote this book, but despite that, I enjoyed reading it and I enjoyed Hillary’s “voice.” A lot of critics of this book said she spends a lot of time “blaming everyone else” for her failure. While there might be a little bit of that (yes, there were outside sources that did influence the election, as we are now seeing), I didn’t get the vibe she wasn’t taking any responsibility.

The book then shared the campaign ins and outs. I really enjoyed the chapter on her typical day on the campaign trail and a typical day with her family. It was nice and interesting.

She also shared advice she’s been given along the way. Obama said: ” ‘Don’t try to be hip, you’re a grandma,’ he’d tease. ‘Just be yourself and keep doing what you’re doing.’ [pg 67]”

I agree with her assessment that the Democrats played fair and Trump played dirty (and I think if the Dems want to take make progress in 2018/2020, they need to figure their shit out!):

“I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment. I was giving speeches laying out how to solve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter. Democrats were playing by the rules and trying too hard not to offend the political press. Republicans were chucking the rule book out the window and working the refs as hard as they could. I may have won millions more votes, but he’s the one sitting in the Oval Office. [pg 76]”

“Donald Trump did something else: appeal to the ugliest impulses of our national character. He also made false promises about being on the side of working people. [pg 81]”

 

I also liked how she described what it was like being in politics (and law) as a woman:

“I’m not jealous of my male colleagues often, but I am when it comes to how they can just shower, shave, put on a suit and be ready to go. The few times I’ve gone out in public without makeup, it’s made the news. So I sigh and keep getting back in that chair, and dream of a future in which women in the public eye don’t need to wear makeup if they don’t want to and no one cares either way. [pg 88]”

Whatever your personal feelings about Hillary might be, she’s an amazing, accomplished career woman and politician, who was more than qualified for the job of President.

“I was one of just 27 women out of 235 students in my class at Yale Law School. The first woman partner at the oldest law firm in Arkansas. The first woman to chair the national board of the Legal Services Corporation. The person who declared on the world stage that ‘human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.’ The first First Lady to be elected to public office. The first woman Senator from New York. [pg 113]”

“The moment a woman steps forward and says, ‘I’m running for office,’ it beings: the analysis of her face, her body, her voice, her demeanor; the diminishment of her stature, her ideas, her accomplishments, her integrity. It can be unbelievably cruel. [pg 116]”

There were about a dozen more highlights from the book that were really profound, but I won’t share them all here. This is just a taste. The book is 500+ pages, a fast read honestly, and there’s a lot of good information and insights in it.

It was a well done book. It could have been edited down a little bit in the middle, but other than that I enjoyed it.

3 ) In This Moment by Karma Brown

Meg is a middle-aged married mother of a teen daughter. She’s a realtor, her husband is a doctor. They seemingly have a good life in a nice town, albeit a bit hectic. Then a tragic accident happens right in front of Meg and her daughter, Audrey. The twin brother of Audrey’s boyfriend, Jake, is crossing the street near the school when another car comes out of nowhere and hits him. The other driver was texting and speeding.

As you can imagine, both Meg and Audrey are traumatized. The description of the accident was fast but real and I found myself almost hyperventilating as I read it. It was very real, very scary and fast (like an accident would be)…it just came out of nowhere.

The book is about the guilt Meg feels about waving Jake across the street, thinking it was safe. It’s also about Meg basically failing as an adult. She’s having a hard time with the guilt she feels, it brings up a traumatic event from her childhood, she’s drifting away from both her husband and her daughter, and she’s making mistakes at work. The story is about making mistakes, dealing with big consequences and healing.

4 ) Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #22) by Michael Connelly

Harry is back! Working as a volunteer for a local police department to solve cold cases. He gets pulled into a current investigation at a pharmacy (pill-mill) murder and ends up going undercover. It was fascinating to read about how pill mills function and how they use addicts to get more pills to sell on the streets. What a crazy system!

While Harry is undercover, his cover is blown because a 30-year old case makes the newspapers. The murderer is on death row and claiming that Harry planted evidence to frame him. So now Harry gets pulled into that debacle! And his half brother, the “Lincoln Lawyer” (aka Matthew McConaughey) joins the team to clear Harry’s name.

This was another stellar Harry Bosch book. The characters are all so well-written and well-developed it feels like you are reuniting with family when you read the books. The story was fast moving and unexpected.

5 ) The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858-1919 by Douglas Brinkley

A very, very detailed and long biography about Theodore Roosevelt and how our president established wilderness conversation laws. His legacies led to the creation of the US Fish & Wildlife Services, passage of the Antiquities Act and saved the Devils Tower, The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.

It’s a very long, very detailed book and I’m only about 50% done with it, but I wanted to include it here because it’s a really fascinating read!

6 ) Consent to Kill (Mitch Rapp #8) by Vince Flynn

I was a bit on the fence with this book for the first 40% or so. It was dragging a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the story much but then it got really good. I don’t want to give away a spoiler, but something pretty dramatic and awful happens and Mitch wants revenge.

Someone has hired an assassin to kill Mitch. The author develops this new assassin pretty well and their story was interesting and kept me reading, even when the book was a little slow.The last half of the book was a whirlwind and so, so good. I’m glad I hung in there. The finale was excellent and I can’t wait to read the next book to see where the story goes.

7 ) Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

WOW! What a crazy book!

The book starts with an exciting bang. About 12 people are in a hot air balloon in England. Two of the passengers are sisters and this was a gift for one of the sister’s 40th birthday. While they are up above the earth, taking in the sights, they see a horrific crime take place below them. The next few chapters are a crazy roller-coaster ride describing in great (and heart-pumping) detail the hot air balloon crash and aftermath.

There are SO many twists and turns and surprises in this book I don’t even know where to start and I don’t want to give spoilers. I will say every little bit of the story was absolutely unique and jaw-dropping. Such a great read!

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