Book review

Books #30

Here are some new books to add to your list!

1 ) Crimson Lake #1 by Candace Fox

This was a pleasant surprise of a book and I’m looking forward to reading the second book. Ted was a cop in Sydney, Australia, married with a newborn, when his life is turned completely upside down. He’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and his life is imploded. He’s wrongly accused of a horrific crime. It doesn’t matter that the case is dropped–the damage has been done.

The book begins after Ted has moved north; his wife has divorced him and he’s not allowed to see his daughter, his career is over and he’s holed up in a cabin on Crimson Lake trying to hide and heal. His lawyer suggests he pairs up with Amanda Pharell, the only private investigator within hundreds of miles, who needs a partner. Amanda has a past, as well, and the pair go on to solve a case.

The book is well written and you feel for Ted. I really had wrongly convicted/wrongly accused stories! It’s so stressful. But you like Ted and want him to clear his name and be redeemed. It was a great read!

 

2 ) Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

I LOVED this book! It takes place in Miami Florida, where 20 year old Aviva is an intern for the up and coming liberal, Jewish congressman. She makes the unfortunate mistake of having an affair with the congressman and of course it comes out.

“I’m not a murderer,” she says. “I’m a slut, and you can’t be acquitted of that.”

Her life is ruined. (It’s a similar parallel to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the book talks a lot about how the women are deemed the sluts, wearing the Scarlet “A”.)  She graduates from college and can’t get a job because every future employer Googles her. So, she changes her name and starts a new life somewhere else.

Aviva Grossman, whose résumé included a dual degree in political science and Spanish literature from the University of Miami, a tenaciously googleable blog, and of course that infamous stint as an intern, couldn’t get a job. They didn’t put a scarlet letter on her chest, but they didn’t need to. That’s what the Internet is for.

13 years later, Aviva is now Jane, a successful wedding and event coordinator in Maine. She has a daughter and Jane is kind of talked into running for mayor of their sleepy little town. So what happens when the secrets are discovered?

The story is told from several different points of view and it’s an interesting way to tell it. I wanted to read more from each storyteller and my only complaint about the book was that it ended too soon! I wanted to read more, I wanted to see how it all ended up.

 

3 ) Stalking Ground (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #2) by Margaret Mizushima

Second book in the series and it’s even better than the first! In this book, Officer Brody’s girlfriend Adrienne is missing and it sadly turns into a murder investigation. Mattie and her K9 dog Robo are back and at the heart of the investigation. At the same time, the town vet, Cole, is treating a race horse who is suddenly ill. The symptoms have baffled him and it’s an interesting twist how the two cases intersect.

The characters were even more developed than the first book, including a lot of personal stuff in there, too, which made you like the characters even more. I love the dog training information in the book and Robo is like the best character ever. 😀

The story is fast paced and exciting. And while it was a tad predictable (I guessed the murderer around the 75% mark of the book), I still enjoyed it a lot.

4 ) The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

This was an interesting story that seems pretty relevant to stuff that’s going on these days. Lauren is a twenty-something who finds herself suddenly widowed when her husband is killed in Iraq in the military. This story is different, though, because he was the nation’s hero who quit his job on the LA Kings hockey team to enlist in the Army. Lauren doesn’t know how to deal with the grief and the press surrounding her husband’s death so she disappears and hides out.

Four years later, a documentary filmmaker finally finds where she’s hiding out and wants to do an interview with her. Lauren is stuck in her grief and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. But she eventually caves in because she realizes she has a story to tell and wants it told right. Her husband, Rory, was suffering from CTE (traumatic brain injury) from hockey when he went into the military. Not only did he come back from his first tour in Iraq with the classic symptoms of PTSD, but he was a changed person.

She reveals secrets of their life together and their marriage that no one else knew, she discovers horrible secrets of her own family, and she tries to move on. It’s a really well written book and a good story. I liked it a lot and want to read more by this author.

 

5 ) Hunting Hour (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima

This book was a slight departure from the other two in the series. At the end of the second book, Mattie discovered some buried childhood memories of abuse and this book she is struggling to come to terms with it. She has a therapist who is helping her but she’s not doing well. She’s withdrawn from her friends, she’s not sleeping or eating, everyone is concerned about her and she’s kind of off her game at work. A teen goes missing and she starts to let her personal life creep in to her investigative skills, which is not a good thing!

But the book is faced paced and the descriptions of how dogs are used to track people are really fascinating. The author writes animals very well. You definitely feel like the dogs are real! This was a solid mystery book and the ending was satisfying.

 

6 ) Reunion by Hannah Pittard

Kate is getting on a flight when she gets the news that her father committed suicide. Her life is already in shambles–her marriage is over, her career is floundering, she in debt up to her ears. So she changes her plans and flies home to Atlanta to meet up with her brother and sister…and her father’s FIVE ex wives (plus their children) to deal with his death. It’s kind of a coming-of-age type of story, except Kate is in her 30s. She’s struggling in her life but finds some closure and direction because of her father’s death.

The book sucks you in right away. It’s complicated and the relationships are complicated. It’s kind of a dark comedy, I suppose, but there are definitely some deep and meaningful parts of the book. And makes you question whether you ever really know someone.

 

7 ) The Hideaway by Lauren Denton

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s not a new concept and it was fairly predictable but it was a pleasure reading it.

Sara is a designer in New Orleans, too busy to really live her life to the fullest, when she gets the news that her grandma, Mags, has passed away. She goes home to Alabama for the reading of the will and Mags left her The Hideaway, an amazing (but old and falling apart) Victorian house that used to be a B&B.

Sara fixes up the old house to either sell it or turn it into a thriving B&B again, and of course falls in love. The book is about Mags’s life and a secret love affair that she had as a young woman.

The book is good but Sara’s character is pretty boring and one-dimensional. Mags is the star of the book. Her story is way more interesting! This is a good summer/beach read.

Happy Reading!

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Books #29

Here is a new book list! Enjoy!

1 ) After Anna by Alex Lake

Mild spoilers–but you can guess them pretty early on.

Julia is a divorce attorney who recently told her husband she wants a divorce. Nothing sordid–she just doesn’t love him anymore. He doesn’t take it well but things kind of get set aside when their 5 year old daughter, Anna, goes missing. Julia was late picking her up from school.

The story is about looking for Anna, who is missing for 7 days, but really it’s more about what happens when she is returned and how Julia’s life is turned upside down. There seems to be a campaign in the media to paint her as a horrible mother…and of course that leads to a custody battle.

I won’t give any more away. The ending was really good. The book was well written and as a mother you definitely feel the rollercoaster ride of emotions–the terror and fear of a missing child and then the rage and outrage of the custody issues later. You will not be able to put this book down.

 

2 ) I’m Fine…and Other Lies by Whitney Cummings

I’ve been a fan of Whitney for a long time. Back in the day before she got big, she was on Howard Stern a lot and used to do the Comedy Central Roasts and she was brutally funny. I also loved her TV show and was bummed when it got cancelled!

The book is good. It’s about her life and her journey (more internal stuff than a typical memoir) and while she covers some heavy issues, it’s very, very funny.

She writes about her struggles with being codependent.

“Codependents have low self-esteem and would rather focus on the needs of others than their own…Codependents are people pleasers who have an extreme need for approval, feel a sense of guilt when standing up for themselves, and can’t tolerate the discomfort of others. [pg 29]”

“…as adults we tend to re-create whatever happened to us as kids so our minds can maintain the chemical equilibrium that we’ve acclimated to. Being disappointed was my comfort zone so my brain would choose familiar insanity over unfamiliar sanity every time. [pg 35]”

While I don’t think I’m codependent, I could relate to this quote a lot:

“As a codependent, I mastered the art of giving my energy away. Before I got a handle on this nasty beast, I was always exhausted. [pg 40]”

I feel like I often give, give, give and then I end up feeling depleted and drained and stressed out. I used to have a hard time saying no to people and things I didn’t want to do. But having a kid gave me a built in “out.” 😉 Some people are just energy vampires and I’ve learned the older I get to weed those people out–the people that make me feel drained and tired after spending time with them, instead of feeling energized or happy. I think we can all think of people like that in our lives.

Whitney writes a lot about that and how she overcame it, and how she’s currently working on herself. It was really interesting to read about and I could relate to a lot of stuff she described. She writes about her experiences dating, her experiences with sexism in Hollywood (and elsewhere), among other things. She also wrote about a very infuriating experience she had a coffee shop that I could TOTALLY relate to:

“Like every woman I know, I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe by aggressive men at one point or another, but this was the first time since my childhood that I felt literally unseen. These men didn’t harass me, they just ignored me completely. I realized that day that it’s very hard to defend yourself against someone who doesn’t know you exist. [pg 85]”

Whitney also wrote about being anorexic.

“From fourteen to eighteen, I ate mostly rice cakes, nonfat yogurt and apples. I became irrationally terrified of fat…Eating disorders can be all-consuming brain take-overs that blind you to reality, so my brain became a labyrinth of self-deception. [pg 119]”

She is also an animal rights activist and dog-rescuer. I’ve followed her on instagram for a long time and love that she has pitbulls. She writes a chapter about her dogs and the pitbulls she’s rescued. She also described the accident she had with one of her dogs (she almost lost her ear) and what she learned about dog training and behavior because of her accident. It’s really fascinating stuff.

Overall I loved the book. Once in awhile she’d get a little woo-woo with her various therapies and psychics (LOL) but she seems very down to earth and like she’s trying her best to figure her shit out and improve herself.

3 ) Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

This was such an odd book…I’m not even sure I could describe it well enough to do it justice. Carl Feldman was once a great photographer but then he was tried and acquitted for the murder of a young woman. It’s now current day and he’s in a halfway house for people with dementia.

Grace is the mysterious woman who takes Carl on a road trip to the old scenes of crimes she suspects him of committing. And one of the missing girls she thinks he killed was her sister, Rachel. She’s trying to jog his memory so he will tell her where Rachel’s body is buried.

Except that the road trip kind of bonds them together and she discovers so many other secrets that she wasn’t expecting. The story is a bit murky but it’s pretty unique and engaging!

4 ) I’m Just Happy To Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering by Janelle Hanchett

Right before she was supposed to graduate from college, 20 year old Janelle discovered she was pregnant. She was young, stupid, and the father was someone she’d been dating for 3 months. It sounded like her childhood was equal parts chaotic and nurturing, with what we later learn in the book sounds like a bipolar mom.

Janelle and Mac decide to keep the pregnancy. This book is a memoir of Janelle’s life, her decent into postpartum depression and her struggle with addiction. A few months after giving birth, they get married at the courthouse and she is so miserable in her new body she wears black:

“But motherhood, motherhood is a trap. It’s like the goddamn ‘Hotel California’: You can check out, but you can never leave. [pg 47]”

“…I had recently given birth and felt betrayed by my body, with its giant belly hanging low, withered and stretched beneath alien milk tits. So I bought a black skirt and blouse, as if it were a funeral, though I merely wanted to hide behind cotton shadows. [pg 48]”

Postpartum depression seemed to be the beginning of her alcoholism, but maybe it was always there. She eventually got help and medication for the depression but that didn’t really fix the underlying issues of addiction she was beginning to have.

“…despite continued daily declarations of not tonight, not tonight, not tonight, the thought came to me. Janelle, maybe you are an alcoholic. If I am, so be it.  Because by then, the consequences of not drinking were far greater than anything that could have happened from drinking. Internally, that is, because I drank to repair my inner self. [pg 113]”

This is a gritty, raw, hard to read memoir and Janelle is NOT a likeable character. But she’s a damn fine writer and she describes her addiction to alcohol and cocaine very well.

She has an up and down, tumultuous relationship with her husband; they separate several times, get back together and have kids and she’s sober for 9 months and then back at it. Family tries to help but to no avail. She has a codependent relationship with her husband Mac, who also gets addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Eventually she goes to rehab (He does too, for 90 days). Her roommate in rehab is Alice, an older woman who can’t afford to stay for the full month.

“I thought of Alice and how she couldn’t even stay for the whole month [in rehab], and how drugs were the great leveler until it came to outcomes. To treatment. To the world opening itself to help. Nobody cared if Alice lived or died. Nobody would even notice if she were gone. [pg 164]”

It was a sad reflection on addiction services.

“I was living, breathing, thinking and eating recovery. I got stronger. I lost weight. My mind grew clearer while my family delighted in my “progress.” I had a whole army of activities, mental health workers, family, and friends encircling me, blocking me from the siren song of alcohol. [pg 165]”

Like I said, Janelle wasn’t a very likeable person. You wanted her to get her act together and stop being such an asshole to everyone in her life. But she never really got that. In the book she reflects on it and how she’d thought she’d be a better person once she was sober–but nope, she was still an asshole. Just sober.

“Meanwhile, Mac was a beaming light of sobriety, living back at the dome and apprenticing as an ironworker. Without me, he found a new career. My father was still sober and spending more and more time with my children. Everybody seemed to be getting better except me. [pg 171]”

She seemed resentful of everyone in her life.

“In those meetings they told me. ‘One day, alcohol will stop working for you.’…in that trailed I learned it was true. I learned that one day I would grow physically drunk–stumbling, vomiting, slurring my words–but my mind would remain clean, stripped and still starving. The relief alcohol once brought would never return. Like a rat on a wheel, I would frantically chase a drifting memory. [pg 178]”

“[Mac] had not taken a drink since March of 2007. When we would have lunch together, I’d suggest we order Coronas, and he’s say ‘No, thanks. One is too many and a thousand never enough.’ He had found sobriety in those rooms for drunks I knew were full of lies. [pg 183]”

But she eventually finds a friend and sponsor who tells her what she needs to hear to get sober.

“Until then, I had spent my entire adult life drunk, in the aftermath of drunk, in the pursuit of drunk, in the avoidance of drunk, or in the precarious hell of in-between drunk. [pg 198]”

“‘Alcohol was never your problem, it was your solution. If alcohol were the problem,’ he’d say, ‘rehab would be churning out winners. And yet, people like us always drink again. Every relapse starts with a sober grain. So where’s your problem? In sobriety?’ [pg 231]”

This book isn’t for everyone, and might be triggering for some people, but it was a really well-written and candid book about addiction and mental illness. It’s sometimes abrasive, sometimes blunt, but it also makes you look at things in a different way.

5 ) The House of Tides by Hannah Richell

Oh man…this book! I thought maybe it would be “Beach Read” type of family drama but it was definitely heavier than I was expecting. It was SO good, though, definitely read it.

Dora is the youngest daughter of a family that is struggling with a tragedy a decade ago. She lives in London with her fiance and then she discovers she’s pregnant and it brings up a lot of anxiety and fear about becoming a mother because of a tragedy that happened. Her older sister vanished after the tragedy and Dora is estranged from her mother, Helen.

The tragedy is so heart-wrenching it was hard for me to read. It hit too close to home, having a toddler of my own, but the book was SO well written and emotional and compelling. All the characters have depth and deal with their pain in their own way.

It’s the type of book you don’t want to put down. It flashes back and forth between past and present but it’s not confusing. You grow to love each character that shares their point of view of the tragedy. The family is full of secrets and it’s so complex and emotional. Excellent.

 

6 )  What You Want To See (Roxane Weary #2) by Kristen Lepionka

The second book in the series. I really enjoyed the first book and I like the character Roxane. She’s flawed by strong and interesting. She’s compelling to read and you want to know her in real life.

In this book, she’s hired by a man who wants her to follow his fiance, Marin, because he thinks she’s cheating. But then Marin is shot to death and her future husband, Arthur, is the number one suspect. Roxane knows there’s something off about the case so she keeps digging.

The plot was well thought out and interesting and honestly kept me guessing until the very end. Very good read!

7 ) Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

This is a YA book. Not usually my thing but it was really good and I liked it a lot. Lina is 16 and her mom dies of pancreatic cancer pretty quickly. She goes to Florence, Italy for the summer to live with the father she never knew she had. This was her mother’s last wish–to experience living in the city that she loved so much as a college student.

She arrives and a friend of her mother’s gives Lina an old journal. She starts to read about her mother’s love affairs in Florence and what resulted in her getting pregnant with Lina. At it’s heart the book is about young love and of course, there is a love story for Lina, too. This was definitely a feel good, romantic, beach-read type book!

Happy Reading!

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