May 162016

Most of these books I read before Logan made his grand entrance! As predicted, I do not have much time to read these days. I am finding that when I pump I have some time to read on my kindle, which has actually been kind of nice because I was sick of looking at the same damn websites on my phone while doing it. So instead I read a few chapters here and there and have actually finished two books since he was born–which is a far cry from what I used to read, but whatever. Priorities have changed!

Despite that I’ve read a few good ones and here they are:

1 ) Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

We watched the Going Clear documentary months ago and it was probably one of the creepiest, most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. So when I saw this book become available at the library I really wanted to read it.

The book is part memoir about Leah’s childhood, how she was raised in the Scientology doctrine, how she became an actress and just her life story in general. The second half of the book is entirely about Hollywood Scientology, the church, the truly fucked-up things that were happening in it and the slow realization that she didn’t agree with what they were doing.

She gives intimate details of the “celebrities” in Scientology and even gives details of the whole Tom Cruise -Katie Holmes courtship/wedding/divorce…the whole thing was SO CREEPY! Sure, I read the tabloids and gossip about the whole thing because it was so weird, but reading the behind-the-scenes details about it took it to a whole other level of creepy and weird.

When she left the church, thankfully her whole family left too–which apparently doesn’t happen for most people that leave the church–the church forces families to basically disown members that leave (they are “suppressive people”) and I cannot wrap my mind around a church encouraging families breaking up because of this. Another red flag if there every was one!

The book was well-written and easy and fast reading. She gave enough details to keep you interested and it came across as very believable. The one flaw I felt the book had was that I got the impression she felt like she should be more famous and successful than she was and every once in awhile that came across as maybe…jealousy? Of other celebrities who were more successful than her. But that didn’t make me think she was making anything up for the book; she still came across as pretty honest.



2 ) Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

I don’t know how I managed to pick several “dark” books in a row but I did! This had been on my to-read list for awhile and I was out of things to read and it was available at the library so I got it. It was a really fast read; I read it in about a day and a half.

The crux of the story is about a school shooting. But in reality it’s a story about a father’s guilt and searching for answers as to what he did “wrong” raising his son. The chapters alternate back and forth between the past and the present. The past chapters are stories of Simon’s romance with his wife, the birth of his son Jake, and how he was a stay at home dad raising the kids while his wife worked. The past chapters hint at things that might be “wrong” with Jake — he doesn’t have a lot of friends and one friend he has really rubs Simon the wrong way but he can’t place why. Foreshadowing!

But that isn’t the entire reality of the story and the ending turned out to be very poignant and kind of uplifting. So don’t be turned off by the subject matter and give it a chance.



3 ) Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart: An Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail by Carrot Quinn

“Carrot Quinn fears that she’s become addicted to the internet. The city makes her feel numb, and she’s having trouble connecting with others. In a desperate move she breaks away from everything to walk 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It will be her first long-distance hike.”

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Hiking the PCT has always been fascinating to me and when I read “Wild” a few years ago I absolutely loved it and could relate to so much in that book. Maybe I just read it at a time in my life when it spoke to me emotionally but I just felt like the emotional struggle of the trail in “Wild” was a lot better than this book and so it was hard not to compare the two books.

That being said, this book was good. It was interesting and I liked reading her tales from the trail. I liked how she met so many different people on the trail and they kind of leap-frogged and kept meeting up at various parts of the trail–many of them becoming very good friends. It wasn’t necessarily a solo-journey, like Wild was. The Trail Angel stories were great, too.

I didn’t really like the author very much–maybe it was her writing style, not sure–but she came across as very juvenile. Again, her voice just didn’t speak to me like “Wild” did. Even though I didn’t connect with the author in that way, I still liked reading the book and thought it was good.



4 ) What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan

Riveting book! Could not put it down.

Rachel is a newly single mom. Her husband has remarried a younger woman and she’s slowly trying to put her life back together with her 8 year old son, Ben. One day out on a walk in the woods Ben runs ahead on the trail with their dog and disappears. What unfolds is a horror story of a mother’s grief, panic and desperation for the police to find her son. At the same time she’s dealing with the press and social media world turning against her and saying she is a bad mother, that it was her fault, that is somehow guilty and murdered her own son.

Lots of twists and turns and sometimes you doubt Rachel’s innocence, sometimes you suspect people in her life of being suspects. It was a very satisfying read and a good first novel from an author. Looking forward to reading more from this author!



5 ) The Girl in the Ice (DCI Erika Foster #1) by Robert Bryndza

This was a really good start to a new series! The story takes place in London and DCI Erika Foster has been transferred to the police unit after taking some time off to grief the death of her husband. She gets assigned this high profile case–a young socialite who is found murdered and her body frozen in ice. The case has a lot of twists and turns and the story was really satisfying. The one downside was the whole drama between Erika and her boss–who was constantly questioning her tactics and threatening to throw her off the case. This annoyed me because I felt like, if you are so confident in her abilities and especially requested her to solve this crime, why stand in her way? It just felt like a clique in a police procedural novel and wasn’t necessary for the story. Other than that I liked a lot of the characters and I’m looking forward to the second book!



6 ) You by Caroline Kepnes

What a clever, hypnotizing, creepy, disturbing book!! Delve into the mind and life of a true psychopath. Once you finish the book you’ll still be thinking about it! This book was cleverly written. The story is told from the point of view of Joe, the ultimate stalker, who falls for Beck and proceeds to stalk her, woo her into dating him and he describes everything in detail about how he eliminated people from Beck’s life who stood in his way. It was a really unique book, very dark and gritty, but so good!


7 ) Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Okay I loved this book. I randomly got it free through Amazon Prime and picked it on a whim without reading too much about it and was happily surprised!

August is a high school science teacher who is struggling with the death of his 19 year old son and resulting divorce. He’s burned out from his job and in AA. He’s on a roadtrip to Yosemite to scatter his son’s ashes when his RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. By a twist of fate he ends up continuing the road trip with Seth and Henry, 12 and 8 years old as his companions.

It’s such a heartwarming story that makes you really happy. The first half of the book is about the road trip with the boys, August coming to terms with the death of his son and realizing he can open his heart up and give those two boys the world. The second half of the book is 8 years later. I don’t want to give any spoilers.

The book and the story are so well-done and I really hope people read it!


Happy reading!

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Mar 082016

I wanted to get this post out because it might be awhile before I get around to posting it — or reading books!! Who knows. 🙂 Here are my past book reviews:  Book Reviews. And now for some recent reads I wanted to recommend:

1 ) The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I was looking for a fast read, something kind of “mindless” and fluffy and saw good reviews of this book so I gave it a try. It’s a better than average chick-lit book. It takes place in the South — there’s socialites and old money and then a skeleton is found under a peach tree on the grounds of a majestic old house that’s being remodeled into a fancy inn.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. I felt like the “mystery” wasn’t the main focus of the story like it sounded from the description but it was still a pleasant, fun read. The “magical” aspect wasn’t necessary at all in my opinion. But if you’re looking for a nice, romantic chick-lit type of book this is a good one.


2 ) My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

A charming story about 7 year old Elsa. Her 77 year old crazy grandmother is basically her best friend and fills her head with stories of adventure and make-believe kingdoms. Then her grandma dies and leaves Elsa a bunch of letters and asks her to deliver these letters to people. It’s another adventure and Elsa takes it on secretly, deceiving her parents in order to deliver these apology letters.

This book was not as good as “A Man Called Ove“–which I LOVED–but it was still charming in its own way. This author does cranky and crazy old people well. You just love them. The two flaws in this book — I wish the grandma hadn’t died so early on in the story because she was awesome. And the make-believe kingdom/fairytale stuff went on a little too long for my tastes. But the actual story about Elsa and all the people in her world, made up for that. The ending was really excellent, too.


3 ) Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

I LOVE this book so much! It was such a good read. It was a definite “feel good” book just in general. It was really well written and not dry or boring like a biography can sometimes be. The way it was written was interesting and fast-paced and kept you engrossed.

Reading about Ruth Bader-Ginsberg was refreshing, inspiring and just awesome. What an amazing person. Her drive and independence started young. Her mother’s advice: “Always be independent.” And she was. She broke down barriers on so many fronts, but especially for women’s rights.

“Every time she thought she could just do her work, RBG was reminded again that she didn’t belong there. ‘You felt in class as if all eyes were on you and that if you didn’t perform well, you would be failing not only for yourself, but for all women.’ Some professors held Ladies’ Day, when they would call only on women, with humiliating questions.”

“RBG firmly believed that for women to be equal, men had to be free.”

She comes across as a thoughtful, progressive, decisive person who wants equality for all, not just women. But the amazing things she did for women? Impressive.

“This wonderful woman whose statue I have in my chambers, Eleanor Roosevelt, said ‘ Anger, resentment, envy. These are emotions that just sap your energy. They’re not productive and don’t get you anyplace, so get over it.'”

“I think that men and women, shoulder to shoulder, will work together to make this a better world. Just as I don’t think that men are the superior sex, neither do I think women are. I think that it is great that we are beginning to use the talents of all of the people, in all walks of life, and that we no longer have the closed doors we once had.”

The book was about her life, going to college and law school, breaking down barriers and becoming the first tenured female professor at Columbia, co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, and was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before joining the Supreme Court.

The book was also about her marriage to Marty, a tax attorney who loved cooking and taking care of Ruth. They were together for 60 years before he died and you could really tell that they absolutely adored, respected and loved each other. It was so sweet.

“RBG’s use of the phrase life partner was a marriage in which the woman didn’t lose herself and her autonomy, in which two humans shared their lives and goals on equal footing.”

“Marty would tell her that if she went to bed, in the morning everything would be clearer. ‘He was right,’ RBG said after Marty’s death. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m in a maze, then go to sleep thinking about the way out, and when I wake up in the morning, I see the path. But now there’s no one telling me it’s time to quit.”

The entire book was awe-inspiring and humbling. It was humorous and serious, interesting and informative. It included some analysis of some of her decisions in court. It showed the softer side of her life, her close friendship with Scalia, and even included the fitness routine she does with her personal trainer. This teeny tiny woman that is a firecracker in all aspects of life has a trainer helping her do one-legged squats! It was such a joy to read this book and I cannot recommend it enough!



4 ) Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

This was a really interesting book, not all that uplifting though. It’s been on my to read list for awhile and finally read it. It was a memoir about the author’s life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe with her parents and sister. But it was more about her marriage and the end of her marriage. So like I said, kind of dark, but still a good read.

Her parents were hilarious and one of the highlights of the book, for me. Her dad was funny and often had insightful comments to share:

“The problem with most people, is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live. [pg 9]”

How true is that statement?? And then her mother, who was bipolar, made this comment about the author’s epic long birth of her first child:

“About once every three hours, Mum looked at her watch and said, ‘This has been a biblically long pregnancy, Bobo. Why don’t you drink some Epsom salts and hop up and down?’ [pg 149]”

The author met her husband, Charlie, in Africa. He was an American who was living there as a river guide. They met and fell in love, got married (where the author came down with Malaria on her wedding day) and they lived in Africa together for a few years and had a baby together. Then they moved to the States.

“Motherhood – the way too many of us do it alone now – without an exaltation of female relatives, without a heft of knowing matrons to buoy us up, is unnatural. [pg 156]”

That quote made me a little sad. She was comparing the difference between giving birth to their first child while still in Africa and having the support of other women in the village, to their second child after they were in America.

Things were not great in America. Work was scarce for both of them and I think the author both missed her parents and the African life she had grown up in. She never really felt like she adjusted to living in Wyoming, where her husband was from. This is where the book turned into more about the decline of her marriage to Charlie. She compared her own marriage to that of her parents:

“Together they had lost three children, a war, a few farms, and for awhile my mother had seriously lost her mind. And yet they incorporated these losses into their marriage along with what they had gained, assigning very little in the way of either blame or praise almost anywhere. They put no more weight on despair than they did on joy. The way they did love was also the way they did tragedy, as if it was all an inevitable part of the gift of being alive. [pg 74]”

“Ours had contracted into a grocery list relationship – finances, children, housekeeping. We concentrated on logistics, cautiously withholding, careful of what we said to one another in case it was used against us later. And instead of disclosing our souls, we recounted complaints and kept score of the ways in which we had irritated one another or let each other down. After that we had nothing left to say. [pg 81]”

They were married nearly 20 years and had three kids, and things weren’t always bad. She wrote about the good times, too. But as their careers started to improve and things got a little better for them, it seemed like they were growing apart quickly. One time Charlie went back to Africa for a little while for work as a guide again and he called her with this story:

“‘I was almost eaten by a lion last night,’ he said. I said, ‘Oh.’ ‘Two of them. I was stalked. They followed me into camp.’…and perhaps there was more to the story than that, but none of it seemed to matter then because the fact of Charlie having been stalked by lions changed nothing. He sounded no more alive, or grateful, or excited for having been nearly dead. And his inability to get hurt by animals had long ago ceased to impress me. [pg 209]”

As a reader, that was pretty much the turning point in my eyes. I read that and the lack of emotion from both parties said to me: this relationship is doomed/over.

Despite the book being about the end of her marriage, it wasn’t entirely depressing or negative. There was enough positivity in it and enough interesting anecdotal stories about Africa that I didn’t feel bummed out reading the book and I found it really, really fascinating. So don’t let the theme of divorce turn you off from reading this memoir!


5 ) Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant

Same author that wrote “Under Your Skin” — which I LOVED and was really, really good. In comparison this one was not as strong, but still worth a read. The concept is creepy and the villain of the story is super creepy as it all unfolds. It makes your skin crawl.

The story is about Lizzie, a widow who is starting to wonder if maybe her husband isn’t really dead. As you read you feel sorry for her and the tragedy of losing her husband…until things start to come out and you slowly realize it wasn’t the love affair/tragedy you think it is.  You really like the main character as you read it and it kind of keeps you guessing until the very end.

A lot of books these days compare themselves to “Gone Girl” and this is the first one like that that actually did feel reminiscent of Gone Girl.


6 ) Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book. Reading the summary it sounded like an upper-middle class married mom from Chicago rescues a homeless teen from the streets who has an infant that is clearly suffering from an illness and malnutrition. Of course, the girl and baby are not what they seem… But the book is so much more about that.

Heidi brings Willow and baby Ruby home to her posh condo in Chicago, where her 12 year old daughter Zoe and husband Chris are, saying that they are going to stay with them for just one night. It turns into a lot longer and each chapter is told from either Chris, Heidi or Willow, and the REAL story unfolds. Little by little you realize there is more to the story–both Heidi’s and Willow’s stories–and by the end you are both shocked and saddened once the story is told. It was an excellent story, very well-written, and kind of haunting!


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