book club

Books #35

This will probably be my last book post of the year! Enjoy!

1 ) Dead Souls (DI Kim Stone #6) by Angela Marsons

Excellent book! It started off a little weird–it felt like there were so many story lines happening all at once and it was kind of confusing. It was definitely a different format than the usual books in this series and there was less about Kim and more about the other cops on her team. But in the end it all pulled together and all the weird, random story lines came together into one.

Kim is instructed by her boss to join a nearby precinct’s task force. So Kim has to take a back seat from being in charge, and work with DI Travis, whom there is a lot of bad history with.  While Kim is working with this other team, her team is working on a few other cases without her. She feels torn in both places.

The story is about hate crimes and it was definitely chilling. It tackles some heavy subjects! This was definitely a page turner once the book picked up momentum.

 

2 ) And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell

I really liked this book a lot. I felt like it was something I could have written in my postpartum days. The writing was funny and real and sometimes brutal.

Meaghan and Dustin are young, living in New York City and focusing on their careers, newly engaged, when she gets pregnant. Meaghan is excited but scared, which is normal I think.

“I spent most of my life being just a little bit fat and always figured that pregnancy would be a nice reprieve. [pg 49]”

“I had this image in my mind of how I’d look pregnant, mostly based on the type of woman who posed on lifestyle blogs and looked ‘like a beanpole swallowed a bowling ball.’ [pg 49]”

I laughed out loud at the part. It’s so true. I can remember being kind of jealous of this stick thin women who get pregnant and gain basically no weight except for the basket ball stomach. The author doesn’t write a ton about the pregnancy, but she gives highlights. And then she described the birthing process, which was dramatic for her.

“I had drunk the Kool-Aid. I had wanted a ‘natural labor and birth’ for reasons that, now that I was actually living through natural labor, I no longer related to. [pg 87]”

What interested me most about the memoir was the postpartum stories she shared. I could relate to so many of them. The zombie-like existence from lack of sleep and most interestingly, her struggle with Postpartum Anxiety.

“We slept in short bursts. Whether the baby was crying or not, I woke up with a start and rushed over to him to make sure he was alive. Day and night bled into each other, coalescing into one big nightmare. [pg 114]”

“At night, whether he was crying or not, I woke up every hour or so with a gasp and shone the light of my phone over his face, put my fingers under his nose to feel for breath. [pg 164]”

“What’s neurosis and what’s maternal instinct? [pg 172]”

It was weird that she never called it PPA in the book. I don’t recall that she saw a therapist or was diagnosed with it, but she most definitely had it. I went through that same exact thing: waking up to check on the baby and make sure they are still breathing, being afraid to sleep, checking on them when they make noises and when they don’t.

I feel like the author had a real opportunity to shine a light on something people don’t talk much about. There is so much focus of PPD and I think a lot of women suffer from PPA and don’t even know it. I wish I had known it earlier on, maybe I could have managed some of the anxiety in a better way. So in that regard, I was disappointed in the book. I wish she’d really delved deeper in that topic.

Another topic she brushed on (but didn’t elaborate on and should have) was how much your relationships and friendships change with people once you are a mom–especially if your friends don’t have kids.

“My body would never be the same. My life would never be the same. My relationship with these women would never be the same. I couldn’t make sense of it yet, even to myself, but I felt like there was a glimmer of understanding between us. [pg 128]”

Another part of the memoir I laughed about (which I can laugh NOW about, but not at the time) was her struggles with breastfeeding. This is another postpartum topic that is NOT discussed much. I know books I read barely wrote about it, the birthing class I took spent 15 minutes on breastfeeding and that was it. I went into the whole thing thinking it would be this perfect moment, easy and without struggle, where the baby would just latch on and everything would work like magic–with cherubs and angels singing. Yeah. Nope.

“I couldn’t remember what The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding said anymore. Breastfeeding at this point didn’t feel like a success so much as an assault, something coming at me faster than I could cope with, happening almost constantly. [pg 139]”

“As soon as the baby latched on, I burst into tears–of relief, of rage. I’d had this idea of what breastfeeding would be like. Not the physical experience, but the lived reality, the timing, the way it was supposed to fit between other things. I thought it would be something happening in the background while I went about my actual life. [pg 142]”

Breastfeeding is HARD and there’s a reason why statistic show a large majority of women quit after 6 weeks. When I heard that statistic in my labor class, I was shocked and confused. When the time came to breastfeed my tongue-tied baby? I totally understood. When breastfeeding doesn’t work like magic? It kind of sucks. It’s hard, it can be painful, your supply can be so bad that it’s not even worth it…and then there is all the society pressure of “breast is best”. The guilt that moms feel when they have to (or chose to) use formula. If I had to do it again, I would not have stressed so much. Breastfeeding LITERALLY becomes your entire life: feeding, pumping, cleaning the pump supplies, storing the milk, defrosting milk, living by the rigid schedule of breastfeeding or pumping every two hours, or if your baby is cluster feeding, all the time.

“It was hard to see this time with our son for what it was: an investment in another person, the sacrifice at the start of a long, rewarding project. It was like a hazing ritual, with all the hardest parts at the beginning. [pg 207]”

I really liked the above quote. It was a good reminder that yes, pregnancy and raising a kid is tough but it’s a rewarding investment. A good reminder for those sleepless nights. 😉

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I’d give it 5 (I did love it a lot) but I really wish she’d written more about clinical postpartum anxiety. (Especially reading the reviews on Goodreads where some people said she was “whiny”– I mean really??? PPD and PPA is not whining. I think people are really ignorant on these topics.)

 

3 ) The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

This was an odd book. It was a domestic thriller, I guess, but it was subtle. The unnamed young woman, in her late 20’s, lives and works in the Cayman Islands and is swept off her feet by an older man. Max Winter, a recent widow, a rich politician from New York, he brings her back to his home, Asherly, in the Hamptons. It’s a stark change from the sunny, warm beauty of the Caribbean. Especially when she meets Max’s spoiled teenage daughter, Dani.

The narrator tries her best to become friends with Dani, to show that she’s not just some gold digger trying to replace her dead mother. But Dani is spoiled, evil and trying to punish her. So you think. The story unravels slowly, but it draws you in and keeps you guessing. I did not expect the ending at all!

4 ) The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

What a gut-wrenching, excellent, heart-breaking book.

It’s a memoir, told by Ruthie, about her childhood growing up in a polygamist Mormon family. Her mom was married to one of the prophets and moved down to Mexico to live in the “colony”. When her husband is murdered, she remarries Lane, who has several wives and keeps collecting wives…and having children.

The whole book is just horrible. I mean, it’s well written and evokes a lot of emotions–some good. You really fall in love with the innocent children in Ruthie’s family. The kids are survivors, that much is true. But it’s also so sad to read about a childhood of violence, abuse, sexual abuse, girls being married off as teens, women pumping out dozens of children for “God” when their husbands are basically deadbeats who can’t take care of the kids they have. They lived in squalor with no running water or indoor plumbing, ate rice and beans and traveled back and forth between Mexico and Texas to get their food stamps and government assistance. The neglect was palpable. Yet…more children are being born.

It was hard to read about, but Ruthie was such a strong girl and you really rooted for her to succeed and get out of that hellhole. The ending of the book was a shock and came out of nowhere for me. It was sad and tragic, but I’m glad I read the book because in some ways it was inspiring. The author is a true survivor.

5 ) A Borrowing of Bones: Mercy & Elvis Mystery #1 by Paula Munier

This was a great book and a good start of a new series! Mercy is a retired Army MP who has returned home to Vermont to heal and grieve after losing her fiance in Afghanistan. But she’s not entirely alone. She has Elvis, her fiance’s bomb-sniffing dog who is also retired from the Army. Elvis has PTSD from the war and from losing his master but he’s slowly getting better. One of the things that helps is the daily hikes he takes in the Vermont wilderness with Mercy.

Except one day, Elvis discovers an abandon baby in the woods. Along with some old bones and possibly a bomb. This unravels a mystery that Mercy can’t ignore.

The book sucks you in right away, you really like the characters and it keeps you guessing til the end. I really loved Elvis and Mercy and can’t wait to read book 2!

6 ) Little Comfort (Hester Thursby Mystery #1) by Edwin Hill

This was an interesting little mystery thriller. Hester is a librarian at the Harvard Library. As a side job, she’s also a kind of private investigator who finds people. Her new client, Lila, asks her to find her long lost brother, Sam, who ran away with his childhood friend, Gabe, after a mystery incident in their teens.

It doesn’t take Hester more than a few days to find Sam, who over the years has changed his name half a dozen times, moved around the country and infiltrated rich communities with his new identities. Basically, making lonely rich women fall in love with him. But Hester’s investigation takes a deadly turn and soon she’s worried about her own safety.

The book is a page turner and the ending was very exciting. This was a good first book in a series!

 

7 ) Jar of Heats by Jennifer Hillier

I don’t even know where to start! This book was so good! I could not put it down.

Georgina “Geo” Shaw, is an executive and rising star in a Seattle pharmaceutical company, engaged to the CEO’s son, wears expensive suits and drives a Range Rover. The book opens with Georgina in a courtroom, testifying to her part in a murder 14 years prior, where her old high school boyfriend is on trial. Geo’s expensive, fancy life is falling apart. Her ex-boyfriend is the SweetBay Strangler, convicted of murdering multiple women–starting with Geo’s best friend in high school, Angela. And now Geo is headed off to prison for 5 years to pay for her part in keeping quiet for all these years. She got a “sweet” deal for agreeing to testify, but…that doesn’t mean her life isn’t over.

The book is a fascinating read and flawlessly flashbacks to the high school time before Angela is murdered, when Geo is in an abusive relationship with Calvin (before he turns into a serial killer), to the five years Geo is in prison–who she makes friends with inside, how she survives–and what happens when she gets released from prison.

Geo returns home to Seattle to live with her father. Except with multiple degrees and an impressive pedigree–and money–she can’t get a loan for a house, or a job. No one in the city will even talk to her and she walks around like the Scarlet Letter since getting released. A mysterious neighbor is spray painting horrific things on her father’s garage door and her car on a daily basis. The harassment feels overwhelming. You definitely feel sympathy for her–until the story starts to unravel a little more. What other secrets is Geo keeping?

The book is well written, has a good plot, well-developed characters and the events are shocking. This book is not for the faint of hearts but if you love a good thriller, you will fly through this book! Dark, twisted, compelling and surprising!

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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