Books #58

I keep forgetting to post this! But I have read some really good ones lately.

1 – I Have Something to Tell You by Chasten Buttigieg

I really really enjoyed this book. I’ve followed Chasten on Twitter for awhile and enjoyed his occasional snappy quips. I honestly did not know a lot about him or Pete, other than the basics. This book is very raw, open, honest, and compelling. Chasten tells the stories of his life–how he realized he was gay, what it was like coming out, how alone he felt. He talked a lot about the rough times he had–including sexual assault.

Some might be turned off by some of the hardships Chasten went through–I can see some people thinking he was an opportunist or something. But honestly? He described his 20’s and I could relate to so much. Bad jobs, lots of debt, not sure what you want to do with your life, trying to find yourself…I think a LOT of people can relate to the struggles he went through.

“Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in the gay community that doesn’t get discussed often, and many gay kids don’t have the option to call their parents for support when something like this—or much worse—happens to them.”

I appreciated the topics he brought up in the book, not just about how Pete ran for office and they exhausted themselves on the campaign trails. He talked about the good charity work they did for LGBTQ communities wherever they went, touring PULSE nightclub:

“Campaigning requires carrying others’ pain and grief. Sometimes I would end the day with a feeling I could only describe as vulnerability fatigue. There was just nothing left to give. After touring Pulse, I met with a survivor of the Parkland school shooting, and after that meeting, I was needed at a few other scheduled campaign events. It was hard, sometimes, to carry all those stories and experiences and keep a clear head, and to make sure that I was showing up emotionally for everyone I met or stood in front of. At times, it was all too overwhelming, and I’d start to forget to care for myself as well.

He talked about important topics like healthcare and what happens when Americans go into massive debt for hospital bills–something he experienced with his own mother.

I lost count on how many times I teared up during this book. One of my favorite parts was when he shared what complete strangers would say to him and Pete:

““I’m so sorry to bug you guys,” she said. “It’s just—I’m the mother of two gay children and what you’re doing for this country and for them… I am just so proud of you and so happy you’re getting out there.”

While traveling the country on behalf of the campaign, I met couples who had been together longer than I’ve been alive, tearful to see me in person as the husband of an openly gay man running for president. “

The book is warm, conversational, funny, engaging and Chasten just seems like a delight.

2 – No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox.

I am impressed with how positive MJF is, even faced with the most daunting things that would make anyone feel desperate, depressed and defeated.

“I’ve long realized that control is out of the question; instead, I’ve settled for an understanding that requires adaptability and resilience.”

This was the first book of his I read. I enjoyed it. I could hear his voice very clearly in the book. MJF was one of my first crushes as a kid, Back to the Future was my favorite movie (and it’s still a favorite). But, even being a big fan, I did not know a lot about his life with Parkinsons.

“Having Parkinson’s is being in constant flux; in and out, on and off. Every reaction to the drugs is met with an equal and opposite reaction when they wear off.”

“To me, movement always represented freedom. It was a couple of years into my Parkinson’s diagnosis that I recognized “movement disorder” as an accepted handle for my affliction.”

“When I think about walking, a word that now comes to mind is “deliberate.” I have to plan every step I take; no extraneous side trips or wasted effort. I have to think about the way I sit in a chair: Am I settled in the right way? I do an inventory of where my limbs are. All of this calculation and deliberation is rigorous work. Physical tasks are made more difficult by the need to break them down into all of their components…The required mental work is harder than the physical effort. I need to think about every step, which demands intense focus.”

It was a good read, informative, and he wrote a lot about the things he’s doing to keep fit and active physically and mentally to help his PD symtpoms.

I definitely recommend the book!

3 – Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) by Jane Harper

What a good book! Detective Aaron Falk is back with his partner, in Australia, investigating a white collar crime when he hears that his informant is missing in the Australian bushland. She went on a work retreat hike in the outback and didn’t return.

The book was so good! I could not put it down and I enjoyed the way the story was told from different points of view, snapshots from the women in the wilderness–the survival and the infighting, then switching to the investigation. Vivid descriptions of Australia and how dangerous it can be. The characters were developed well and really jumped off the page.

4 – Good Morning, Monster: Five Heroic Journeys to Emotional Recovery by Catherine Gildiner

This was a very compelling, addictive read. Each chapter is a different therapy case. There are 5 people she focuses on and each one is more interesting than the last. The reasons these people go to therapy (sometimes unwillingly) seem innocuous or rather pedestrian, but as the therapist digs a little deeper, the stories unfold and they are often rather shocking.

The stories end with positive results, growth, the clients finding their strength and will and healing. The development of each patient is so outstanding. I was just really, really impressed with this book and the stories.

5 – In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce

I had mixed feelings about this book but at the same time, enjoyed a lot of it and wanted to pass it on. When the book came available from the library, I did not remember anything about it and had no idea what it was really about. I just started reading. It turned out it was a book based on a REAL story. I wish I had known that before hand, because it would have changed my perspective while reading it.

Belle Gunness was apparently one of the most prolific female serial killers. In the late 1800’s she came to Chicago from Norway where her sister had immigrated to. She always seemed a little “off” but was able to hold it together and fool a lot of people.

Because of a tragedy in Norway when she was young, she was unable to have children. She basically tricked a well-to-do businessman into marrying her, then she started a scheme of taking in children (foster/adopt/steal) and sometimes passing them off as her own children, sometimes not. Then her “career” in murder began.

The story is fascinating because of the time period. It is well-written, the way the story progresses and ends is pretty crazy and shocking. My only complaint is that it needed some editing and felt a little long in places.

6 – Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

Wow. Just wow. One of the best books I’ve read in a lot time. So many layers. So many thoughts. It’s a book about self-hatred, about love, about discovery. It’s sexy, it’s dark, it’s raunchy, it’s sad and tragic, it’s hopeful and healing. It’s about sexual discovery and love. This book is NOT for everyone.

It’s largely about severe eating disorders and that in particular was so eye opening. I could relate to so much. Obsessive food rules, obsessive calorie counting, punishing yourself if you “slip up”, binge eating then trying to fix it after the fact. It would definitely be triggering for someone with a history of ED. But I absolutely loved this book and I so wanted Rachel to heal and find happiness.

Happy Reading!

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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