Books #42

It will probably be a little while before I post another book post! I’ll be busy moving/packing/unpacking…I have no idea if I’ll actually have time to read. I sure hope so. But either way, here are a few books I’ve read lately you might want to check out:

#1 The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This was an interesting read. It was based on interviews from survivors and apparently based on real people. Lale is a Slovakian Jew who was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Nazis discover he speaks multiple languages and so they use that to their advantage (and in the end, to his) and he is now the Tattooist. His job is marking all the prisoners with their numbers.

He is in the concentration camp for two and a half years. But he’s treated fairly well and given more rations, because he is the tattooist. He also figures out how to smuggle in more food and supplies, which he gives to other people. He meets a woman, Gita, when he is working and they fall in love. The book is about their love story and about their survival in the camp.

It’s a good read. The book doesn’t delve too much into the gruesome details of the concentration camps or the death and torture, so that’s good. I didn’t feel like the book was an amazing read, but it was decent. I enjoyed it enough.

#2 If She Wakes by Michael Koryta

This is the second “girl in a coma but she can hear everything around her” type of book I’ve read lately and I almost didn’t read it because the premise didn’t interest me, but the author is one I’ve read before and I really liked the other book I read by him.

It turned out to be a unique, interesting book full of hitmen and exciting twists and turns. Tara Beckley is a senior in college in Maine. She is driving a visiting professor to a conference when there is a car accident that leaves the professor dead and Tara in a coma. Abby is an insurance investigator hired by the college to look into the accident. Except, Abby used to be a stunt driver in Hollywood and she immediately sees that something isn’t right about the accident.

It turns out that Tara is the key to the mystery, but she’s in a vegetative state. And there are two hitmen trying to get to what Tara knows.

#3 Life Will Be the Death of Me: and you too! by Chelsea Handler

I have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of Chelsea Handler. I never watched her shows, I haven’t read any of her other books. But I recently heard her interviewed on Howard Stern about her new book and she really opened up and was vulnerable and emotional about what this book was about and I decided to give it a chance. I’m really glad I did. The book is excellent!

It’s a memoir, with some humor, but it’s a deeply personal book about a few topics: her year of self-discovery in intensive therapy to become a better person and come to peace about her brother’s death. He was her best friend and died when she was 9 years old and that death was definitely traumatic and shaped her entire personality.

“Chet was my very first breakup. That my nine-year-old brain had no ability to distinguish between death and rejection. That my nine-year-old brain didn’t understand that my brother didn’t choose to die. That Chet didn’t find another family with a little sister he liked more.”

She put up so many walls and put everyone in her life at arm’s length her entire life because of this trauma and the therapy helped her realize this.

“I learned from Dan that being in motion was a way for me to avoid sitting still with my feelings. You can’t let anyone see you cry, so you move. “

“Well, you probably loved him still, but you were hurt, and it sounds like you turned that hurt into anger, because, as I said, anger is motion, and it allows you to avoid sitting with your feelings. In a sense, you felt that your father had broken up with you too. That must have been really scary for a little girl. No one helped you with your pain, you were too young to deal with it on your own, and it sounds like when everyone around you disengaged, your pain turned into anger, which turned into motion, and from everything you’re telling me, you haven’t stopped moving since.”

She wrote about how she’d become so codependent and also unable to do anything on her own.

“How did I become so useless? And how many assistants did I actually have? I did live in a bubble, inside a bigger bubble, which was inside an even bigger bubble. Three bubbles. Two assistants, two cleaning ladies (who are more like my nannies), a driver, a pool guy, a landscaper, a florist, a houseman.”

She also talked a lot about her relationships with her dogs, which I loved reading about, since I’m a dog lover.

The book is dark, honest, insightful, and sometimes really hilarious. I got a lot out of it for myself, too.

#4 Have You Seen Luis Velez? By Catherine Ryan Hyde

Raymond is a 16 year old kid in New York City that doesn’t really fit in. His only friend moves away. He doesn’t like his mother’s new husband and his half siblings. His dad’s new wife doesn’t really like him. He doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere.

One day he’s leaving for school when an elderly lady stops him in the hallway, asking for help. It turns out that Luis Velez, a caretaker that used to stop by and take her shopping and check in on her, has disappeared. She’s all alone, down to her last can of food that she’s rationing out and she’s also blind, so she can’t go to the store herself. So Raymond takes it upon himself to help Millie and then to track down Luis and find out what happened to him.

Along the way, Raymond and Millie become good friends. Raymond finds his voice and discovers who he really is and shows the world how important it is to reach out and care about people around us. It’s a story about love, compassion, empathy, kindness and friendship.

#5 Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin

I enjoyed this book a lot. I guess this author was a blogger at some point but I’d never heard of her or read her blog. The first 60% of the book is a memoir of her life and childhood. She had a really rough life. Her mom was a single mom raising her and her older brother, Michael. I suspect her mom had some mental health issues, maybe bipolar, but it wasn’t addressed in the book.

They were dirt poor. Her mom was a great cook and taught Sasha the love of food and cooking. “There’s a difference between poverty of resources and poverty of spirit. For a long time, Michael and I were oblivious to hardship because of Mom’s determined efforts.”

Eventually, Sasha and her brother are taken away from her mother and put into foster care for awhile. Her mother tries to get them back but can’t and so she writes letters to everyone she knows asking for someone to take in her kids. Her college friend agrees. Their kids are mostly grown and they have money. So Sasha and Michael now have guardians who can provide anything they will ever need. They travel, live in Europe, go to good schools. But things aren’t all great. It’s still a pretty rough childhood.

Later in the book, Sasha writes about going to college and culinary school and starting her blog about cooking. The last part of the book felt a little disjointed and almost like a different book altogether but that didn’t ruin the book for me. I still enjoyed it and devoured the book in just a few days. I highly recommend this!

Happy Reading!

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