What I’m Reading

Books #31

Don’t you hate it when you read a bunch of books and they are disappointing? Especially if it’s a trusted author that you like! I’ve read a few duds lately but finally had a stretch of some noteworthy books. Here are a few to check out!

1 ) Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This book may not be for everyone–it’s particularly timely for what is going on in our world with immigrant kids being separated from their families. This book also describes child abuse, so this may not be the book for a lot of people.

It’s fiction, but based on a true store. Rill is the oldest of several kids “river rats” living on a boat in the south in the 1939. Her mother goes to the hospital to give birth to twins and while Rill’s parents are away, they are basically kidnapped and taken to a Children’s Home. The book is based on the real life Georgia Tann, who ran an illegal adoption agency (basically stealing babies and kids from poor people and then selling them to the rich). The paperwork was falsified, names were changed and she’d shake down the rich adoptive parents later for more money claiming the birth parents want to change their minds on giving up their rights.

The whole thing is horrific and there was child abuse that takes place at the “children’s home”. It’s hard to read about and the idea of kids and babies being ripped from their families is truly awful. But the book describes the real history well. And it takes place in current times, too, and that part was interesting. It’s a really good, emotional book.

 

2 ) If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin

I think this is a really important book to read about our current society. It’s about mob-mentality, online trolls and just how far it can go to break people.

Jackie is a single mom enjoying her life for the most part. Her teenage sons are growing distant, especially Wade, her oldest. He’s distant and moody and she breaks a rule she told herself she’d never do–she snoops in his room and his phone.

At the same time, there’s a tragic accident in their small town and one of Wade’s classmates, Liam, is killed stopping a carjacker. Online rumors and mob mentality take over and soon Wade is the target of the town’s hatred. Jackie is asked to take a leave from her real estate job she’s had for over a decade because of the bad press, Wade’s car is trashed, they are harassed and they all lose friends. Jackie loses 50 Facebook friends in one day when Wade is arrested.

Do we really know our kids? Can we really rely on our friends? Or is it just about the social media boosting and popularity that people care about? This is a very stressful read! But a good one.

 

3 ) You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac

This was an interesting story. It starts out kind of like a chick lit/beach read but there are definitely some more serious aspects to the book.

Jess is a single mom living in England. Her son William is 10 years old and barely knows his father, Adam, who lives in France. Jess and Adam were together and it sounded like they were each other’s soulmate but when she got pregnant he freaked out and the relationship ended.

Now, her mom is dying of a horrible disease and Jess is faced with some bad news about herself and realizes it’s very important for William to get to know his father. So William and Jess spend the summer at Adam’s hotel in France so father and son can bond.

It’s a really nice story, definitely has some heavy topics in it, but I loved the book a lot!

4 ) Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton

This was an interesting book with layers to it.

Betsy is a “farmers wife” in Alabama. Her husband Ty runs a dairy farm and their marriage seems a bit strained. You don’t find out why for awhile, but they’ve been facing infertility for a few years.

Betsy’s sister, Jenna, is a twenty-something single mother to two small girls who gets the opportunity of her lifetime: to go to an artist’s retreat in Florida for two weeks. She abandoned her art when she became a mother and she’s feeling like she missed out on her life and is stuck in a rut of paycheck to barely paycheck life. Her mentor gets her into this elite retreat — and a scholarship. She just needs to find someone to watch her kids while she’s gone.

So Jenna basically drops of her girls at Betsy and Ty’s house with no notice and goes on her retreat. Two weeks later when she’s supposed to be back, she’s decided to stay longer at the retreat. Betsy starts to wonder if the answer to her prayers of having a kid is taking over for Jenna while she “finds herself.”

It’s a sweet story about sisters and relationships and motherhood. I liked the story and the characters.

5 ) The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

I almost gave up on this book but I’m glad I didn’t because it turned out to be really good and tackled some important issues.

The story is about a new mom’s group that meets once a week with their babies to get support and friendship navigating the craziness of newborns. The group decide to go out for drinks on the 4th of July to get some downtime away from being a mom. That’s when something terrible happens: one of the mom’s babies is taken. Midas was left with a nanny but she gets home to find him gone. The nanny fell asleep. Where is baby Midas?

The group of friends band together to try and support each other and help Winnie, Midas’s mom. But the press gets wind of the fact that the women were out drinking when Midas was kidnapped and now it’s a media frenzy plus public outrage and mob mentality about “how dare those mothers go out drinking” (so many eye rolls but you can totally see that happening in our social media culture). And of course secrets start coming out about each of the women in the group.

Spoiler alert: Midas is ok. This was one of the reasons I almost gave up on the book. They implied that maybe Winnie had postpartum depression and possibly killed her own baby and that was too upsetting for me so I almost stopped reading. I just can’t deal with the topic of babies being hurt or dying but THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN so don’t worry.

I liked the book a lot. It tackled a lot of really important issues: motherhood, postpartum depression and anxiety, breastfeeding, going back to work, lack of maternity leave, lack of maternal support, how hard newborns are on marriages, the EXHAUSTION of being a new mother…so many things I could relate to.

It was a super fast read, I read it in about a day and a half and while the first part of the book is a bit slow and confusing, the second half is so good you can’t put it down. And I did not guess the ending!

6 ) The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

John and Ella have been married for over 50 years. They now have adult children and several grandchildren. Unfortunately, John has Alzheimer’s and his lucid moments are becoming few and far between.

“After a while, just staying alive becomes a full-time job. No wonder we need a vacation. [pg 18]”

Not only that, Ella has cancer. Ella decides that at her age it doesn’t make sense to try and treat the cancer. So they “escape” from their adult children, ignore the doctors recommending they don’t do this, and hit the road in their “Leisure Seeker”.

She describes how vacations used to be–rush, rush, rush– and “Now, there’s all the time in the world. Except I’m falling apart and John can barely remember his name. But that’s all right. I remember it. Between the two of us, we are one whole person. [pg 12]”

They take the Route 66 road from Michigan to California. The book is about the people they meet along the way, the adventures they have (good and bad) and their loving relationship. It’s also about life, death, losing your friends to death along the way and cherishing your memories.

“[Going through the address book] Names and numbers and addresses scratched out. Page after page of gone, gone, gone. The sense of loss that you feel isn’t just for the person. It is the death of your youth, the death of fun, of warm conversations and too many drinks, of long weekends, of shared pains and victories and jealousies, of secrets that you couldn’t tell anyone else, of memories that only you two shared. It’s the death of your monthly pinochle game. [pg 125]”

Ultimately, this book is about love and choosing death with dignity.

“But then, that’s the sad ending. One of us without the other. It’s what would happen if I didn’t end the story this way. [pg 272]”

“After a long boring stretch of malls, storefronts, and construction, we finally arrive in Santa Monica. It looks like a nice town, but we’re not here to see the sights. We’re here for one thing only–to get to the end of the road. [pg 244]”

Apparently there is a movie based on this book! I can’t wait to see it.

7 ) The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen 

Very solid, good mystery! Looking forward to a sequel.

Ellery Hathaway is a 28 year old cop in a small Massachusetts town with secrets. 14 years ago she was the lone survivor of a serial killer. Ellery hasn’t told anyone of her past and changed her name to protect her past.

Three people disappear in her town and her chief isn’t interested in her theories. But she’s seen this before, obviously, yet she doesn’t want to tell her cop coworkers why she has a bad feeling about these missing people. She finally decides to call the FBI agent who rescued her 14 years ago to ask him for help. Agent Reed Markham, struggling in his own life, immediately flies to Ellery to help.

The book is written very well and is compelling and hard to put down. I didn’t particularly love Ellery, she was a bit naive and wishy-washy at times, but I did like the story a lot and didn’t guess the ending!

Happy reading!

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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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