Books #19

I’ve been reading a lot of really great books lately! I’ve got a ton of new ones added to my “to read” list on Goodreads . Last year I barely made it anywhere near my goal for the year (new baby!) but this year I’ve already surpassed my goal of 65 books.

Now on to the reviews!

1 ) Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was definitely a good read and I read it in about two days. I had a hard time putting it down. However, I should probably add a trigger warning because this book pretty graphically (and accurately) describes domestic violence. I can see this book being too hard for some people to be able to read. So be warned in that.

Lindsey marries the love of her life, Andrew, and she thinks her life is great…but slowly things start to change. Andrew becomes controlling and possessive and eventually violent and abusive. The way the author unveils the story is well-written. She tells the story of the abuse in flashbacks and balances it out with present-day. So just as it starts to feel a bit overwhelming to read about the horrific abuse Lindsey is enduring, you get a little relief as a reader.

The present-day story is about Lindsey and her daughter Sophie, 10 years later. She escaped the abuse with her daughter and Andrew spent a decade in prison. But now he’s out and he’s found them.

Like I said, the book was a good, fast, engrossing read, but a bit an emotional roller-coaster that may not be for everyone. The ending and the twist regarding Andrew and his post-prison stalking was unexpected.

2 ) We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

This book is SO damn funny! Like laugh out loud until your sides ache funny. It’s a collection of essays by blogger/comedian Samantha Irby. I was not familiar with her before I got this book, and honestly I’m not sure how it got on my radar but I’m glad it did because I loved her voice. She is a hilarious writer!

“I don’t wear evening gowns and booty shorts every day. I wear daytime pajamas and orthopedic shoes, and lately I’ve become a big fan of the “grandpa cardigan.” [Loc 231]

I could relate to a lot of her stories. She talked about her upbringing and what her 20’s were like as a plus-sized woman. The stories were always funny, even the ones that had a little dark edge to them, you never felt bummed out reading about her hardships because her humor and resilience got her through everything.

“Words like ‘outdoor music festival’ are why I am so glad summer in Chicago lasts approximately seven minutes. I nearly wept tears of seasonal affective disordered joy as I pulled out my North Face boots at the end of last November…summer can be an exercise in torture (but not an exercise in actual exercise, duh, it’s too humid) if you don’t want to do crazy shit like ‘wear sleeveless shirts’ and ‘enjoy close proximity to actively sweating strangers’. [Loc 1275]”

I laughed so hard at her struggles with her weight and dieting. I could relate to that and it was funny, not depressing.  She was charming and self-deprecating but not negative.

“Dieting is crazy and turns most of us jerks into insufferable babies. Either (1) you’re a crabby asshole on the verge of tears all day long because you’re desperate for a handful of Cheetos, or (2) you’re perched atop a high horse made of fewer than 1200 daily calories, glaring down your nose at me and pointing out how much saturated fat is in my unsweetened iced tea. [Loc 1911]”

“You need bitches to write about comfortable maternity jeans are for women who aren’t really pregnant. And sexy ways to remove a bra that has four hooks. [Loc 1932, “Fuck It Bitch, Stay Fat”]”

She talks about her serious health conditions (she has Crohn’s, depression, and arthritis and maybe something else because she has to wear braces on her wrists and has orthopedic shoes–that even in her poverty she happily spent $375 on each year).

“Working out is a bummer. Walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes while listening to the same Metallica playlist over and over and trying to read the closed captioning of a television show you don’t even care about is a total drag. The elliptical machine makes uncoordinated people like me look stupid. The stair machine reduces mere mortals to tears within four minutes. The stationary bike feels like uncomfortable butt sex. [Loc 1951]”

“Staying committed to things is hard. I have seven different body washes lining the edge of my bathtub right now. [Loc 2060]”

LOL! That’s totally me.

“I spent too much time trying to mold myself to fit the romantic ideals of humans who proved themselves unworthy of that effort, and I regret it. Never again will I be with someone who is unwilling to accept me as I am, or who has any desire to mold me into something that makes me uncomfortable. [Loc 3539]”

Her writing was real and hilarious and deeply honest, sometimes very vulnerable. I very much enjoyed this book and will be checking out her blog!

3 ) The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

First word that comes to mind: DIABOLICAL!

I was unsure of what the book was really about…the description was a little vague. The story starts out interestingly enough: a large family who loses their matriarch and each member of the family has something big going on in their lives. Sophie is about to give birth to her fourth child when she discovers her husband cheated on her. Felix was disfigured as a kid and suddenly has a new girlfriend, who is odd herself. The patriarch of the family is grieving the death of his wife. The family comes together for a holiday weekend at their country home to scatter the mother’s ashes when everything starts to go awry.

But the story kind of stops there. The middle part of the book switches to a different point of view and it turns out that someone in their midst is not who they say they are and in fact, this person has been plotting to destroy their whole family for years. I don’t want to give away any spoilers because the “reveal” in the middle of the book was quite jolting! I was not expecting it at all!

The rest of the book was so so good!!


4 ) The Boy in the Woods by Carter Wilson

This book premise immediately sucked me in–when I read the blurb I had to read the book immediately and I’m so glad it lived up to the blurb! That doesn’t usually happen!

The book opens with a bang — it’s 1981 in Oregon and three fourteen-year-old boys witness a horrific murder. They are forced into a cover-up and they swear never to talk about what happened. Flash forward 30 years: Tommy Devereaux has become a bestselling author or serial killer mystery books.

He is ready to tell his story but disguises it as his new fiction book. He is approached by a woman who asks for his autograph, leaving behind a note which reads: ‘You didn’t even change my name.’  Chilling!

The book was a super fast read (read it it in two days) and even though there were parts of the story that seemed a little ridiculous, it was pretty enthralling and I kept reading. Be prepared, the subject matter is pretty dark.



5 ) Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

I heard about this book on a podcast. Apparently the author let her 10 year old take the Subway by himself and it made the news…and then blew up on her, where everyone was criticizing her parenting. She ended up starting a blog about raising “free-range” kids.

“Any risk is seen as too much risk. A crazy, not-to-be-taken, see-you-in-the-local-news risk. [pg 5]”

“Normal childhood has become just too risky to permit. [pg 45]”

I’ve been noticing this change for awhile, but especially now that I have a child. I think back to my own childhood memories and how my parents let me be somewhat “free-range.” I grew up in Seattle, in the suburbs, and I used to walk to the bus stop three blocks away, by myself. I never lived close to my school, so I never really walked to school by myself, but I wasn’t under constant supervision. If I wanted to hang out with a friend who lived in the neighborhood, I walked there by myself. I remember going trick-or-treating as a kid and young teen with a friend and no adult supervision.

When I was growing up, I used to spend a week or two in Oregon on my aunt’s farm with my cousins. She literally kicked us out of the house, locked the door and said we had to go play outside until lunchtime. My cousins and I spent all day running around free outside on the farm, getting into mischief, exploring, creating our own games and fun and just hanging out. It was liberating! Especially for a city kid!

I think these things are really important for kids and their development, but it doesn’t happen much these days, and that’s really sad.

“What’s worst about about this kind of defensive thinking is that eventually it seeps into our own parenting decisions. We start to wonder if it’s OK to let our kids do anything, because….what if? [pg 47]”

There is a lot of fear-mongering these days. And not only that, there’s a ton of JUDGMENT. Judgment from complete strangers–especially on the internet. It’s gross.

“Blamers thrive on shame. Take away their power. Do not be ashamed of making parenting choices based on who your kid is, rather than on what the neighbors will say. Why are they talking about you anyway? [pg 58]”

I remember a facebook friend posting a panicked status about seeing a dog locked in a car. It was like February and maybe 60 degrees. Clearly not unsafe. But she was in a complete panic and posted “should I break the window?? Should I call the police??” And commenters on her FB were like “calm down the dog is fine.” I mean really, it’s like no one has common sense anymore and it’s all this “gotcha” society thinking.

“The idea is that if you’re worrying, then you’re doing the right thing. Worrying is ‘like a demonstration to yourself that you’re being responsible.’ It has become our national pastime. [pg 94]”

The book is really interesting and it debunks a lot of the paranoia people have about child abductions and all sorts of horrific things that could happen if you let your kids walk three blocks to school by themselves. It also discussed a lot of the absolutely ridiculous things that are happening –like how school buses won’t drop off kids at their bus stop unless there’s a parent standing there (seriously, it takes the kid back to school and the parent is called).

“But the whole new thinking about happiness (and maturity) is that these qualities come from actually doing things. Creating. Exploring. Being independent. [Loc 278]”

“The cell phone keeps the parent-child relationships back where it was when the kids were very young and needed constant supervision. When parents are always available to tell their kid what to do, they will, even when otherwise the kid would start making decisions himself. [pg 96]”

It’s so important for kids to explore and problem-solve and I feel like currently, our society is taking all that away and we’re raising giant adult-babies that can’t really do anything for themselves. 🙁

“Childhood is supposed to be about discovering the world, not being held captive. [pg 193]”

“We want out children to have a childhood that’s magical and enriched, but I’ll bet that your best childhood memories involve something you were thrilled to do by yourself. These are childhood’s magic words: ‘I did it myself!’ [pg 193]”

It was a really good book and I liked reading it. The stories made me kind of angry and dreading our future interaction with “other” parents who are fear-mongering. But the book gave lots of good tips to make change happen.


6 ) See Jane Die by Erica Spindler

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The two main characters are artist Jane and her homicide detective sister, Stacy. When they were teens, Jane was horribly disfigured in a freak accident and years of plastic surgery have helped her heal (on the outside). The sisters have been estranged for awhile, but when Jane’s husband is suddenly suspected and arrested of murder, the sisters reunite to find the real killer.

There were a lot of twists in this book, nothing super shocking, but I thought I had guessed who the real killer was and was surprised by the ending and the reveal. It was a pretty good mystery/thriller book and I read it in one day.


7 ) Arrowood  by Laura McHugh

What an excellent book!

Arden is a 20-something student trying to finish her master’s degree when she gets word that her estranged father has passed away and the home in Iowa that has been in her family for a century is suddenly hers. Reluctantly she goes home to a house she hasn’t been in since she was 8 years old and her twin sisters tragically disappeared–an event that tore her family apart.

Home, she is suddenly haunted by the memories of her sister’s disappearance and wrecked with guilt because she was watching them when they were kidnapped. Her sisters were never found. Could they still be alive? Were they murdered? She suddenly starts doubting what she saw that day.

This is your quintessential gothic mystery novel that is so very well done and the story is great, the ending is very satisfying and I loved this book!

Happy Reading!

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Books #14

Sometimes I think about starting a new website just for book reviews. I keep thinking about it but I’m not sure if it’s something I want to do yet.

Anyhoo here’s some more books to add to your list!

1 ) Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

I wasn’t sure if I should include this book in my review series. I really liked the book, the writing was excellent, the character development was very good…I also could NOT put this book down. I stay up late, I couldn’t stop reading, I kept reading one more chapter and I finished it in two days.

However, and I won’t give away spoilers, there’s something that happens about 1/4 into the book that I find to be lazy writing and it irked me. The twist was a clique that I hate and I had a hard time getting over it. That being said, I couldn’t stop reading. It was fast-paced and exciting and the ending was very satisfying.

Estranged sisters are reunited to solve a mystery. And that’s all I’m going to say, so I don’t give anything away. 🙂

2 ) Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde

What a story! It’s summer 1959 in Texas. Pete and Justin are 12 years old and become fast friends when Pete rescues an injured dog on the side of the road.

“What did it mean to be friends in a world where just walking down the street together could get someone viciously beaten? [pg 119]”

The catch? Pete is white and Justin is black and they aren’t allowed to be friends. Justin is beaten half to death because they were seen together. Dr. Lucy, who Pete just met when he asked for help with the hurt dog, steps in to help Justin. Justin’s dad, Calvin, is also helped by Dr. Lucy and they become sort of a little family…

It’s a story about racism, hate, love, animals, healing and loyalty.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story because it’s absolutely delightful and wonderful and heartwarming (and infuriating) to read.

“I began to get discouraged on the bus. I began to lose faith in what kind of world we live in. I wanted it to be a place where I could stay in Texas with you, harm no one, and live my life. But it’s not. It’s a world in which my son was beaten for doing nothing more heinous than being a friend. [pg 313]”

Unfortunately, things are too scary in Texas so Calvin takes his son Justin back to Philadelphia where it’s safer for them. Calvin and Dr. Lucy become pen pals over the years.

Dr. Lucy reads the newspaper every day following the case Loving v. Virginia and then one day…good news!

“Changing the laws of a country is not the same as changing its hearts and minds. [pg 340]”

The ending of the story was perfect! I loved the whole book. The story was often hard to read, but there was hope throughout, so that balanced it out.

3 ) Iron Lake (Cork O’Connor #1) by William Kent Krueger

This is the first book in the series. It takes place in Minnesota. Cork is half Irish and half Anishinaabe Indian. He was a cop in Chicago and recently the sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota until an unfortunately event lead to him losing that job. He’s having a hard time letting go of his cop instincts and finds himself deep in the middle of many murders.

The book starts out slow but hang in there. It gets good in the middle and really picks up pace towards the end. I found it reminiscent of the Longmire book series, but it lacked the magic that Longmire has (in my opinion). I felt like some of the characters were a little flat, but by the end of the book I changed my opinion on that. I enjoyed it enough to read the next book in the series.

4 ) An Obvious Fact (Walt Longmire #12) by Craig Johnson

After reading “Iron Lake” and comparing it to Longmire I checked in to see if there was a new one out and there was!

In this book Walt and Henry are in Sturgis for the motorcycle rally and helping out an old colleague with a case. Vic joins them later. The first case is a hit-and-run with the victim in a coma. The second case ends up being a murder of an undercover ATF agent.

As always the story is fast-moving and the dialogue is hilarious. It wasn’t the best story in the series, and I was disappointed they didn’t follow up with the big story line from book #11, but overall it was a fun read.

5 ) Splinterlands by John Feffer

“Part Field Notes from a Catastrophe, part 1984, part World War Z, John Feffer’s striking new dystopian novel, takes us deep into the battered, shattered world of 2050.”

This was a short book, so a pretty fast read. It was kind of a shocking read because it’s not THAT far into the future, like most dystopian novels, and there were a lot of things in the book that seemed to reference our current political times. And it makes it very scary and very real.

“…A grey fog of amnesia obscured the knowledge that war is hell. Perennially underestimated, nationalism did not go gently into the night. Quite the opposite: it literally remapped the world we live in. [pg 19]”

“The disunity that settled over our world came at precisely the wrong moment. As we are learning the hard way, a planet divided against itself cannot stand. [pg 19]”

The story is about how war, dishonest politicians and horrible global warming has ruined the earth. Flooding has taken out Washington DC and the surrounding areas. Everyone is out for themselves. The entire system has broken down.

“At home, it self-destructively refused to invest in the country’s decaying infrastructure, enabling foreign hackers and homegrown terrorists to exploit weaknesses in transportation and communication networks, causing several embarrassing and costly stoppages. [pg 112]”

“…domestic politics remained divided as Congress and the executive branch congealed like two pots of cold oatmeal…Up went higher walls to keep out foreigners and foreign products. [pg 112]”

Sound familiar? Very apropos if you ask me…but I won’t get too political here.

“When a national educational system disappears, the nation itself is sure to follow, as it did in North America. [pg 70]”

“An increasingly embittered and armed white minority seemed determined to adopt a scorched-earth policy rather than leave anything of value to its mixed-race heirs. [pg 112]”

Hmmm…very very familiar….

“No one ever expected to see those images of people clinging to the base of the Statue of Freedom atop the US Capitol. The waters submerged the Supreme Court, the White House, the Pentagon, and everything else in what had once been the low-lying swamps between Maryland and Virginia. [pg 113]”

Because the book is short, it reads more like a short story and it ends in kind of an odd spot. It felt like the story could have easily gone forward. Despite that, it was a good read. And a very scary glimpse into what could be our future.

6 ) How The Light Gets In (Armand Gamache #9) by Louise Penny

Somehow I read book 10 before book 9 so I was anxious to go back and read 9 because apparently a lot had happened! And yes! TONS happened in this book.

First, the murder mystery was very interesting. One of the last surviving quintuplets (famous in Canada because they were conceived before IVF during the Depression) is murdered. Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines to investigate. (I would love to live in Three Pines!) So of course the favorite characters are back, which is great because I’ve invested 9 books in these characters and they feel like family at this point.

Second, the bigger part of this book was the story that has been building through all of the books in the series and it comes to a head in a very exciting, very dramatic way at the end of the story.

Third, Jean-Guy, Gamache’s former second in command, is addicted to drugs and is now working for his arch-enemy. The deception, the revenge and betrayal is palpable in the book. Can Gamache and Jean-Guy ever fix their damaged relationship?

If you’ve read the other books in this series, you will not be disappointed in this one. You’ll like it so much you almost want to read it again.

7 ) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book is short. It’s a collection of short stories/essays/letters to the author’s son about race in America and his experiences growing up African American in Baltimore.

“…people forced for centuries to live under fear. The law did not protect us. And now, in your time, the law has become an excuse for stopping and frisking you, which is to say, for furthering the assault on your body.”

And in contrast:

“There were little white boys with complete collections of football cards, and their only want was a popular girlfriend and their only worry was poison oak. That other world was suburban and endless, organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and glens.”

It also talks about current events like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. He talked a lot about police and his fear for his son with the police.

“…the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction…And I am afraid. I feel the fear most acutely whenever you leave me.”

This book was so heartbreaking and very eye-opening to the African American experiences and how current events are effecting their day to day life. It’s a hard book to read, but an important one, I think.

“Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains–whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine…You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, and gold.”

Despite the heavy, heartbreaking topic, the author did not come across as angry. The theme was sadness, grief and fear.

“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered…[we are] a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with the moral authority of a protection racket. It was only after you that I understood this love, that I understood the grip of my mother’s hand.”

The author was writing a piece about the verdict of a shooting and he met with the grieving mother.

“Then the mother of the murdered boy rose, turned to you, and said ‘You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid to be you.'”

Heavy, heavy stuff. I teared up a lot during this book. I definitely recommend this book for everyone!

Happy reading!

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