Books #55

My goal for 2020 was to read 150 books, which is usually doable for me. At this point, I am 10 books behind in order to reach my goal. I am thinking I won’t be making it this year. Oh well. Pandemic and all. There were some times this year where I could not focus on books and it was just too hard to read books. That’s ok.

Here are some of the good ones I read recently:

1 – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Excellent! Very well written, I loved the style and how the story was told by each person at the wedding. The atmosphere was perfect for a thriller/mystery: a remote, haunted island in Ireland with a crumbling castle remodeled to host guests. It felt like a cross between an Agatha Christie book and the movie Clue. It kept me guessing until the end, too. Very well done.

2 – When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

This book was amazing! So good, I would not change a thing. It was a well crafted novel, a slow burn that kept me guessing. The description was “Rear Window” meets “Get Out” and that is spot on. Sydney has returned to her mother’s home in Brooklyn after a nasty divorce and slowly realizes that something isn’t right. People are disappearing, but in weird ways, racism and gentrification is blatant and in your face, something dark and sinister is happening but she doesn’t know what.

The book is rich in history that most did not learn in history class. The story of redlining, gentrification, black people’s homes being stolen from them. The story is fascinating and horrifying and so well written.

3 – Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women by Lyz Lenz

This book is excellent! It came on my radar because I follow the author on Twitter and she is absolutely hilarious and smart and when her book came out, it sounded fascinating. Even if you are not pregnant, have never been pregnant, never plan to be pregnant, it is still a comprehensive, well-researched and informative read.

“In our cultural imagination the perfect mother is a white, middle-class, straight, cisgender, married woman. She announces her pregnancy on social media with a photo in which she’s smiling, draped in a gauzy dress, framing an almost nonexistent bump with her hands, wedding band glinting in the light. We are happy for her. We say, “Congrats,” over and over in the comments. Her hair is perfectly curled. Her husband smiles benignly behind her. She is the modern-day Virgin Mary.”

It’s funny, dark, depressing, hopeful and relevant in this current time. She writes about feminist issues, about women’s bodies, about pro-choice and anti-choice politics, about how men and politicians want to control women in all aspects of their lives. It felt like an “this day and age” Gloria Steinem book.

She writes about non-cis gendered women, writes about how women are supposed to 100% live up to an unreachable standard in all aspects (give birth, go back to work immediately, but DO NOT PUMP! Don’t bother your employer for modifications, but don’t take time off from work, but make sure you lose that baby weight in 2 weeks!). I liked that she was inclusive.

“America scorns a fat mother. In 2019, writer Virginia Sole-Smith reported in a story for New York Times Magazine that fertility clinics will refuse to work with women if they deem their body mass index (BMI) is too high.”

“To become pregnant and to have children is to wade deeper into a world where your body is no longer yours, your body is debated by politicians, your body is manhandled by medical practitioners who won’t listen, your body is a thing people in the Target checkout line and on the school playground and around a holiday table have opinions about.”

“Corporations will penalize you for taking time off. Childcare will be unaffordable. If you’re a white woman with a white smile, ruffly blouse, impossibly clean white jeans, a sign that reads “Live, Laugh, Love” on your wall, and perfect blonde curls cascading down your back (how does she do it, and with a baby?!), strangers will smile at you and tell you you’re blessed. But people will also tell you to use cloth diapers. Or disposable. Whichever one you are using is wrong. Whatever you do is wrong. You are exactly what society has told you to be, and yet, you are still wrong.”

This book will make you laugh, make you rage, make you want to BURN IT ALL DOWN. But I definitely recommend it. Read it. Especially now, when our rights are on the table, again.

(Under His Eye, right?)

4 – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This was a compelling, rich story about what the migrant’s story is. It was equal parts horrifying, sad, heartwarming and inspiring. These people are often fleeing horrific, deadly experiences and trying to save their lives or save their family member’s lives by trying to come to America. Immigration is a tough topic right now but reading about these stories and how hard it is to cross, it makes you wonder, perhaps they have earned their spot here?

5- Outsider (Kate Burkholder #12) by Linda Castillo

I really liked this installment in the series. I thought the story was good, the writing was great as usual. I liked that in this book they are taking refuge with the Amish as they hide from the bad guys. It was interesting reading about Kate’s background, too, and how she found law enforcement.

6 – The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Absolutely excellent. I loved the concept. It was relevant to our times. Rachel has a very popular crime podcast. She is on a new case for her podcast season, this time covering a rape trial. Intertwined with this trial is an unsolved murder from 25 years ago. There are small town politics, secrets, and classism. It was a very well done book and I enjoyed it a lot.

7 – When I was You by Amber Garza

“Then I drove to your house, irritated that you were forcing me to stalk you. It was annoying. I wanted to hang out with you in a noncreepy way, but you weren’t allowing it.”

This was a well done thriller. It was creepy, it kept me turning the page. I read 60% of the book in one sitting and then I had to stop to go to sleep because it was just getting too late!

The book reminded me of “You”. The creepy, stalker aspect. Kelly is a middle aged woman, her marriage is dying, she’s suffered some pretty horrible tragedies, and as a result had a mental break. The way the story unfolds is creative, slow and builds the suspense. Then Kelly meets a young mom and befriends her–but some people in Kelly’s life wonder if this new friend is real?

The story takes you in unexpected places and it’s very good. There were some parts towards the end I did not “buy” but overall I enjoyed the ride.

Happy Reading!

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Books #51

Well….if you are trapped in your house, now is a good time to read, right? If you have a kindle, you can download books from your library. I’m sure there are other ways to get books for free, too. Here are some suggestions for reads:

#1 My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

I have mixed feelings about this book. I’d recommend it because the story is nuts and it’s a fascinating read. Anna was a fake heiress. Claimed to be German (was Russian), and lived in expensive hotels in New York while being a socialite, basically. But she was really a grifter, writing bad checks, cheating people out of money, not paying bills, scamming hedge funds out of investments to fund her lifestyle…it was all really crazy.

Rachel was a photographer at Vanity Fair who became friends with her and got swept up in her lifestyle, and in the end, Anna scammed her out of $70k and almost ruined her life.

What makes me hesitate in rating the book higher was that I didn’t really like Rachel. I felt for her, I really did. The $70k would be devastating to anyone. But…she kinda wanted to be part of that lifestyle. She let Anna “pay” for expensive lifestyle stuff and meals and trips because she enjoyed the fancy life. She just didn’t see that it was a scam, which is tragic. So it was hard for me to be entirely sympathetic since it felt like Rachel put aside a lot of stuff (like ignoring that Anna was kind of a mean girl) to enjoy the spoils.

Despite that part, the book was good because it’s a fast read and the story is pretty crazy. I even googled it after I finished the book and read more and looked at pictures. Anna was truly a sociopath.

#2 The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

This book was nuts. It sucked me in immediately. It was so weird, so out there, so twisty and surprising and different…I don’t want to give too much away because every step of the way was a “wow!” factor. Definitely pick this book up!

#3 Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

This book was EXCELLENT! Get it immediately! While I didn’t enjoy the ending, if left me wanting more and feeling a little disturbed and unresolved…I loved the rest of it.

This book tells the story of a 1950’s housewife in New York and then current day. Usually this format isn’t very good, but it’s good in this book and I enjoyed both timelines. Alice, modern day, moves from Manhattan to the suburbs with her husband after losing her job. They buy an old house, “as is”, and finds some old belongs from the previous owner, Nellie (the 1950’s story line).

I don’t want to give away any more because the story unfolds in an excellent way, with some surprises. There’s some darkness, and a little bit of domestic violence (trigger warning) and miscarriage. But I loved the book. So good!

#4 Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Last time I was home sick I watched this show on Netflix and enjoyed it. It was a bit soap-opera-ish but I still liked it. I finally read the book. I probably would have liked the book better had I read it before seeing the tv series. I will also say I liked the book plot points better than what they changed in the tv series.

#5 Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

I’ve had this book on hold forever and it was finally available…a few days after Harvey Weinstein was sentenced. I had a moment of, why do I need to even read this book now?

But damn, read the book.

“‘Textbook sexual harassment’ was how Nestor described Weinstein’s behavior. She recalled refusing his advances at least a dozen times. “‘No’ did not mean ‘no’ to him,” she said.”

It’s engrossing and in-depth about the background research, investigation, the coverup, how deeply HW was protected…how many people were complacent. How many people knew. I mean Ronan Farrow implicated so many people…Trump, the Clintons, soooo many people. Most of Hollywood.

“Arquette’s story was important because of how closely it hewed to others I’d heard: professional pretext, meeting moved upstairs, hotel room, request for massage, bathrobe.”

The details from the women were all awful and hard to read. But important.

” Sorvino had suspected that her romantic relationship with Tarantino at the time had shielded her from retaliation, and that this protection had dissipated when the two split up. Later, Tarantino would say publicly that he could have, should have, done more. “This is the big boys’ club, the Hollywood mafia,” she said. “They protect each other.” “

I am so glad Harvey got what was coming to him and this book shows just how hard people fought for this story to come forward.

#6 Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker

Timely read. I heard this author on the Joe Rogan Podcast when the Corona virus was first kind of taking hold in the US. The book is really interesting and was written about 4 years ago…but clearly we are seeing stuff happen NOW he wrote about then. Experts have been talking about pandemic for a long time and we are seeing now that the World wasn’t prepared.

” ‘The microbe that felled one child in a distant continent yesterday can reach yours today and seed a global pandemic tomorrow.’ “

“… a pandemic spreads around the world and lasts for an extended period of time. It does not hit just one locale, leaving all others with the ability to come to its aid.”

There was a whole chapter on Corona viruses (MERS and SARS, etc) that was super scary and chilling to read as we are in the middle of this crisis now.

“A pandemic hits many locales simultaneously, all of them needing emergency assistance. It has a rolling effect as it hits first individuals, then civil authority, then business, then interstate or international commerce or both. The effects are immediate and devastating, the consequences long-term.”

“For reasons we still don’t completely understand, certain individuals with coronavirus become ‘superspreaders.’ “

The book doesn’t really give you a silver lining, so right now may not be the right time to read this book if you are experiencing anxiety. The chapter on coronaviruses in particular was scary and the author gave a scenario of what would happen in a pandemic and so far it’s happening to a T. So that was scary to read what is probably coming…

“Ordinary civic and commercial functions were not being carried out because so much of the workforce was sick or dead. Some sick people starved to death, not because there was a food shortage but because so many people were afraid to come in contact with them. Unlike a virus such as Ebola, which is not communicable until the victim starts having symptoms, with influenza, you’re contagious before you even feel sick.”

“A catastrophic influenza pandemic will unfold like a slow-motion tsunami, lasting six to eighteen months. “

So yeah. Good read, scary though.

Happy reading!

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