book club

Books #41

I’ve been so busy lately, the book reading has slowed down, but I am still reading. So here are a few to add to your list:

  1. A Beautiful Corpse: Harper McClain #2 by Christi Daugherty

This is the second book in the series. Harper is back, front and center, still the crime reporter for the flailing newspaper in Savannah. Her personal life is also flailing a little bit. Her ex is back in town, but they aren’t really back together and things are weird between them. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of what happened in the first book–and the whole police force is kind of punishing her for it. Which makes her job harder.

Harper is just trying to do her job when she gets a story that changes everything. Naomi Scott is a law student who also works as a bartender to make ends meet. She works at the same bar as Bonnie, Harper’s best friend. Naomi is murdered and Harper is convinced the police are on the wrong path.

This was another good book. I really enjoyed the story. All the characters come to life, you really picture the world created. I couldn’t put the book down.

#2 One Day in December by Josie Silver

This is a typical far-fetched, rom-com/chick lit book with vibes of Bridget Jones.

Laurie is on a bus in London, going home from work in December. She sees a guy standing outside at a bus stop, he looks up, they make eye contact, sparks fly, she thinks He’s The One. Then the bus drives away. She can’t get him out of her mind. Months later, her best friend and roommate, Sarah, brings home her new boyfriend, Jack, and of course it’s the guy from the bus stop. But Laurie doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to wreck anything for her best friend.

The book spans years, many relationships, marriages, divorces, will Laurie and Jack ever be together? I liked the characters and the writing style. Overall, I enjoyed the book, it was easy to read. I don’t know that it’s a super memorable book but I liked it.

#3 Educated by Tara Westover

I’m not even sure where to start with this book…it’s a memoir. Tara describes what it’s like growing up in rural Idaho in the mountains with a deeply religious family, bordering on cult-ish behavior, where her and her siblings are “home-schooled” but not really. It doesn’t seem like they get any schooling beyond learning basics.

“Grandma thought we should be in school and not, as she put it, ‘roaming the mountain like savages.’ Dad said public school was a ploy by the Government to lead children away from God. ‘I may as well surrender my kids to the devil himself,’ he said, ‘as send them down the road to that school.’ [pg 4]”

Her father is a right wing End of Days nutjob who is thinks schooling is the work of the devil. It’s clear early on he has some severe mental illness and his wife is compliant, or bullied. There’s hints of domestic violence, too. Randy Weaver and the Ruby Ridge incident happened nearby them and that fueled Tara’s father’s paranoia.

“…by the time I was ten, the only subject I had studied systematically was Morse code, because Dad insisted that I learn it. ‘If the lines are cut, we’ll be the only people in the valley who can communicate.’ [pg 45]”

Then one of Tara’s older brother’s goes away to college, despite their father’s refusal. Tyler had figured out a loophole: being “homeschooled” didn’t keep them from being able to go to college.

“There’s a world out there, Tara. And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear. [pg 120]”

So that plants the seed. Tara decides she wants to go to college, even though she’s had no formal schooling, hasn’t even learned math…she gets some books, studies for the ACT, takes the test and fails, then takes it again. And lies about her age (she’s 16) and gets into BYU. She’s definitely a fish out of water. She goes to college and for the first time in her life she’s discovering things are not as her father said they were. And she’s learning things she was never taught–like The Holocaust.

The first half of the book is about her growing up in the horrific environment of insanity, lies and mental illness. The second half is about her going to school, learning EVERYTHING normal people learn in a short period of time and then ridding herself of the shackles she’s had her whole life (her family).

It was a great book, very compelling, but I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable reading…it was definitely intense reading!

#4 Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Marianne is accomplished in her career, married with an adult daughter, living a posh life in London. Then she goes back home to her rundown town to help care for her mother who is suffering from dementia. She is faced with the dark secrets she left behind.

Her husband surprises her by buying a flat in a newly renovated building that used to be the insane asylum in her hometown. He thinks this is a good thing since they are going to be there for awhile taking care of her ailing mother. But Marianne is suddenly faced with her secret past and everything is threatening to be revealed and ruin her life.

The book was told in a very interesting way. I enjoyed it a lot and liked the unique writing style. The book starts slow but picks up the pace and get pretty good.

#5 The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

I loved this book!

It’s 1943. Tess lives in Little Italy in Baltimore with her mom. She’s finishing nursing school. She’s engaged to the love of her life, Vincent, who is a doctor. Her life is planned out and she thinks things are going the way they should. Then Vincent goes off to Chicago for what they believe will be a few weeks, to help out with a polio outbreak. A few weeks turns into months. Their relationship suffers. Tess is lonely, starting to have doubts about Vincent and whether he still loves her.

Tess and Gina go to Washington DC for a weekend of fun and to get Tess’s mind off her worries. Tess makes one mistake and ends up cheating on Vincent and getting pregnant. Since she’s a “good Catholic” girl, she can’t end the pregnancy. She decides to leave Baltimore and find the one night stand to see if he’ll give her some money so she could disappear with her baby. Instead, Henry proposes. Tess decides this is the best option. Her baby will have a name. So she leaves Vincent, Baltimore, everything she knows, and moves to North Carolina, marries Henry and realizes she made a huge mistake.

The book is compelling and an easy read. You get sucked in immediately. It discusses WWII, race issues, polio, women’s issues, women’s independences, so many things. It was really, really interesting!

#6 Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern

I’m not sure how to rate this book. I’m a huge fan. I’ve been a faithful radio listener for 20+ years. So of course I pre-ordered the book. But this book, I feel, is not necessarily for the faithful listeners. This book is clips and transcripts of some of Howard’s best interviews over the years, with some thoughts and such in between. He reveals some personal stuff in the book but it’s not necessarily a “tell all” type of memoir. So if you’ve listened to the interviews and heard every show (like me) then this is all stuff you’ve already heard.

BUT, it is very good and it’s very interesting because he chose interviews that were very compelling. Where guests really revealed intimate or tragic things about themselves and their lives. So even if you aren’t a Howard Stern fan, you could read this book and enjoy every word of it because you will learn things about celebrities you wouldn’t learn anywhere else.

He talks about a LOT of heavy topics, too. Like how Pamela Anderson was gang raped. Lena Dunham was raped. Stephen Colbert’s father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash. Rosie O’Donnell talked about the really hard childhood she had losing her mother at a young age. Howard wrote:

“…she announced she was gay. That really struck a chord with me. I had an older cousin, Stacy, who came out in the 1950s, when he was thirteen. This was in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, but my family was very accepting. My mother would set him up on dates, and even as a little kid I appreciated how courageous Stacy was. The same went for Rosie. I couldn’t imagine how much guts it took for her to come out, especially considering the potential risk to her career, yet she did it. “

Several celebrities discussed their run-ins with Harvey Weinstein. And Howard shared his interview with Harvey (where Harvey lied outright about the casting couch rumors).

Courtney Love talked about what it was like losing her husband to suicide. “No, he was weak. He was weak. Howard: Does that bother you that you guys weren’t on good terms when he died? Courtney: We were on good terms. He was just really weak. Howard: He couldn’t fuck at that point or think about anything other than his own condition. Courtney: He couldn’t think of anything but drugs. Howard: It is sad. So sad.”

Chris Cornell talked about his addiction to Oxy. “Yeah, it’s—you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t feel anything. Kicking it is so hard because all of a sudden your whole body comes to life, and you’ll have had all of these physical problems you didn’t realize you had because you don’t feel a damn thing. And so your knees will hurt. Your joints ache. Your brain hurts. It’s very depressing. It’s very hard to stay off. Getting off isn’t as hard as staying off. “

The interviews were really heavy at times. “Sometimes the conversations can be funny, like Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogen talking about their love of weed. Sometimes it can get dark, like hearing about Anthony Kiedis and Drew Barrymore being exposed to drugs when they were just kids.” And then it could be funny–like Alex Trebek revealing that he went to a party in Malibu and ate a bunch of Hash brownies because he has a sweet tooth. LOL!

And of course, Howard talks a lot about the animal rescue him and his wife do. He opened up about his cat, Leon: “We had Leon for eight years. We were never sure how old he was. This past September, the vet found a large tumor. We had to get it removed or else Leon would die. The surgery was routine, we were told, and he was expected to come through it fine. I had this strange feeling. A few days before he went to the hospital, I had a long talk with him. I said, “Leon, you’re going in for an operation. I can’t lose you. You’ve been with me through thick and thin. Don’t worry, you’re going to be all right. We’re going to be spending a lot more time together.” But deep in my mind I knew this could be it. Sadly, he died on the operating table. The tumor was even bigger than they thought, and he lost too much blood during the procedure. We had Leon cremated, and we put the small box containing his remains in a large Chinese vase in our bedroom. In that vase we keep the remains of our dog Bianca and all our resident cats who have passed away: Apple, Charlie, Sophia, and now Leon. Inside Leon’s box is also his collar with contact information in case he ever got out of the house. “My name is Leon Bear Stern,” it read. “Here is my phone number in case I am lost.” I was the one who had been lost—lost until I found Leon.”

I still cry whenever I read about his experiences losing his pets (they’ve lost a few cats over the years). It touches me pretty deeply.

Anyways, the book is excellent.

Happy Reading!

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Books #40

Someone asked me where I find all my books. There are a lot of places to find book recommendations! Twitter, facebook, anytime I see someone talk about a book, or recommend a book, I add it to my growing Goodreads list. I find a lot of books on Goodreads. They have reading lists and new releases/upcoming releases lists. They also have “if you liked ____, you might like this book” recommendations on there, too.

I follow some different people on Instagram that do book reviews and I follow some book review blogs that help me find things to add to my list. I also look for stuff on my local library website and Amazon/Kindle.

 

1 )  Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

The author paints a picture of desolation well, which is crucial for a creepy thriller book.

It’s Christmas Day. Holly and Eric oversleep. Eric rushes out the door to get to the airport to pick up his elderly parents. Holly and their adopted daughter, Tatiana, are alone at the house, getting everything ready for a big family Christmas dinner. Then a freak blizzard hits and they are snowed in. Everyone cancels because they are stranded elsewhere. Eric is stranded with his parents.

The story is told in disturbing, erratic bits and pieces and flashbacks to when Holly and Eric adopted a 22 month old Tatiana from a Siberian orphanage. Holly is a little obsessed with the idea that Something followed them home from Russia.

The story is a slow boil. There are parts of the writing that feel a bit repetitive, but once you get to the end of the book, you understand why.

Mild spoiler–I realized early on that Holly was having some kind of psychotic/mental break. I won’t go into any more detail because the ending was so shocking I don’t want to ruin it.

 

2 )  How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis

Eloise is a personal chef for a few select people. She lives in Chicago with her corgi. She spends time alone, or with a few friends, but overall her life is quiet and kind of lonely. Then she hears that her mentor passes away. She goes to the memorial and is reunited with her high-school best friends, Lynne and Teresa. The three friends pick up where they left off and decide that they all need to revamp their lives in some way. They are all going to be turning 40 in a year and they all realize that they had goals they wanted to achieve before 40 that they abandoned.

This is a well-written chick-lit book about food, friendship, love and finding yourself. The characters were all well-developed and felt very real. The friendships in the book were good. The love story was great. The writing was a little on the wordy side and could use a little bit of editing, but overall I enjoyed the book a lot and it was a good palate cleanser after a lot of really dark, heavy books!

#3 Past Tense (Jack Reacher #23) by Lee Child

The newest Jack Reacher book in the series. Started out a little slow but then it picked up pace and got really, really good! There were two stories going on and they were both compelling and really exciting.

Jack is on the move again, as always, and is hitchhiking on the East Coast. He makes his way through New Hampshire where he sees a sign for a town that sounds familiar. It was where his dad grew up. He decides to stop and see if he can find the house his dad grew up in before he joined the Marines and basically became a nomad, kinda like Jack. Except Jack can’t find any records that his dad even existed. He can’t find anything. And a mystery needs to be solved.

In a nearby town, a couple also traveling through New Hampshire, who had given Jack a ride, stop at a remote motel where they are suddenly being held captive by the motel owners. I won’t give anymore away but the stories intersect and the ending was really good!

#4 The Adults by Caroline Hulse

This was an interesting book. Claire and Matt have been divorced for a few years now. They have a 7 year old daughter, Scarlett, and are co-parenting. Claire has a live-in boyfriend, Patrick, who is a lawyer and wanna-be Ironman. Matt lives with his girlfriend, Alex, who is a scientist.

For Christmas, they all decide to go away together for a holiday for Scarlett. They rent a lodge at the Happy Forest Holiday Park to give Scarlett a “normal” family Christmas. Scarlett brings her imaginary friend Posey, who is a giant rabbit, who happens to hate Alex.

Claire and Patrick plan an itinerary for everyone, “Forced Fun Activities”, and everyone tries to get along. But of course, things don’t go as planned. There is an undercurrent of tension and secrets come out. Things get snarky, biting, dramatic.

The book is a fun read. I enjoyed it. Even though I felt like both Patrick and Matt were misogynistic assholes.

#5 Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree

Dr. Michels is an OB/GYN doctor who keeps everyone in her life at arms length. When she was a teenager, her older sister died from a secret pregnancy that was ectopic. This drove her through her career, but also kept her from really enjoying her life in a genuine way. Now her boyfriend is ready to go to the next step in their life, her career is taking off, her family life is in a bit of turmoil and she’s still stuck in the past. She can’t move forward.

I enjoyed this book. I liked that it took place in Portland and the author included local stuff. I liked the story. At first I was annoyed by Dylan, the main character, but she grew on me and redeemed herself in the end. I look forward to reading more by this author. The writing was good.

#6 The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris

I heard a podcast with this author and immediately put the book on hold at the library. The Victorian era is super fascinating. I did not know about Joseph Lister, so this was a great book to introduce you to the history and the science behind medicine and how modern medicine evolved.

The book was a combination of a historical recount of the history of science and medicine and Victorian practices, but also kind of a biography of Joseph Lister and how he basically discovered that germs were behind creating infections and killing people who have surgeries or give birth.

At a time when surgeons believed pus was a natural part of the healing process rather than a sinister sign of sepsis, most deaths were due to postoperative infections. “

He invented an “antiseptic”–and of course was faced with a lot of backlash from the medical community all over the world. Doctors everywhere disagreed in his claim about germs and infection and how infection spread. They thought his antiseptic was unnecessary

“Surgeons still lacking an understanding of the causes of infection would operate on multiple patients in succession using the same unwashed instruments on each occasion. Instruments like the amputation knife of Lister’s student days were havens for bacteria. Fashion often trumped function. Many had decorative etchings and were stored in velvet cases, which bore bloodstains from past operations.”

Reading the book now, knowing what we know, it’s absolutely horrifying what people went through back then! This time period was also the time of the invention of anesthesia, which drastically changed medicine. Instead of holding down awake patients to amputate or do surgery, they could put them to sleep. Joseph Lister was also friends with Luis Pasteur and they collaborated.

The book is really interesting, creepy, fascinating! There were parts of the book that were over-detailed and a little wordy/too slow but overall it was a good book and I liked it a lot. I wanted to know more about all of the people in that world.

Happy reading!

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