book recommendations

Books #23

My goal for 2018 is to read 110 books! Here is the first post of 2018:

1 ) Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I was a little conflicted about whether or not to include this book in my reviews because for the first 40% of the book I was SO INCREDIBLY annoyed. “SOMETHING” happened at a BBQ. Something tragic, something horrific…and the first 40% of the book was alluding to that and it was so annoying, too drawn out, and I kept thinking “GET TO IT ALREADY!”

And then…? The incident was revealed and the way the rest of the story was told, from each person’s different point of view, was really really well-written. It was gripping and good and there were a few shockers at the very end of the book. So if you can get over the first part, it’s an excellent read!

2 ) Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

This was a very interesting book. Ava and Zelda are identical twin sisters. Two years before, there was some betrayal and a lot of family stress with their mother’s diagnosis of a degenerative disease, and Ava fled to Paris to avoid it all. Then Ava gets word that her sister has died in a fire at the family’s vineyard. She travels home to get the family affairs in order and plan the funeral.

But is Zelda really dead? Or is it a trick? Ava begins getting clues from Zelda that make her think she’s still alive and planned her own “death”, possibly for the insurance?

The book is very well-written and focuses on character development. The characters are all so real and written very well. The topic of alcoholism is also very real and well-written.

3 ) Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a memoir but it was more a reflection on aging, motherhood, marriage and feminism.

“Time passed, almost imperceptibly. First we were so young and then we were so busy and then one day we awoke to discover that we were an age we once thought of as old. [loc 65]”

The common theme throughout the book was aging and how to do it gracefully. The author reflects on her own life, the death of her mother when she was only 19 and how that changed her outlook on life and motherhood when she had her own kids.

“I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It’s a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error. [pg 4]”

She did write about marriage but nothing too specific about her own marriage. That wasn’t really what the focus was. I did like this quote a lot and I think it’s a good way to sum up a good marriage:

“I was never one of those women who tell you that their spouse is their best friend, that they’re always on the same page. I feel like you’re ahead of the game if you’re even in the same book. [pg 18]”

She also talked about friendships and how crucial they are at different stages of your life. It made me think about my own relationships and friendships that have withstood the challenge of time and changing lives. Having kids was the biggest “tell” for me. It’s weird how your friendships often change when you have a baby.

“As we grow older we weed out our friendship circles the way we do our closets. Most women have a story about the friend who truly wasn’t, whose calls and visits left her feeling dreadful, the friend who dined out on other women’s shortcomings and mistakes. [pg 32]”

“We trust our friends to tell us what we need to know, and to shield us from what we don’t need to discover, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest…They are savvy enough to understand that there are friendships worth fighting for. And sometimes, of course, there are those that are not. Over the course of our lives friends fall away, sometimes because they were never really more than friendly acquaintances…There were friends we lost when we had children and they did not…[pg 32]”

I really liked her take on motherhood, too:

“There comes that moment when we give our children custody of their own selves or blight their lives forever, when we understand that being a parent is not transactional, the we do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us. [pg 117]”

Those are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book. I read it in about three days and enjoyed most of it. Sometimes there were some run-on sentences that rambled a little bit and could use some editing…but overall I liked it a lot!

4 ) This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

“Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan.”

What a beautiful story! Rosie, an ER doctor and Penn, a writer, have 4 boys. She gets pregnant a fifth time and they are secretly hoping they have a girl but…nope. Another boy! Except as Claude grows up, they realize he is very different. At only three years old, he says he’s a girl.

They are all very open-minded, despite living in rural Wisconsin. They allow Claude to dress as a girl. But once he becomes a little bit older and goes to kindergarten, they start to feel the societal pressures. School doesn’t understand and is not tolerant, and basically forces them to make Claude dress as a boy.

“I’ve lived life. I know what’s important. I’ve seen it all by now. You think he’s the first boy I ever saw in a bikini? He’s not. You think your generation invented kids who are different?”

“Claude wore his bikini because Penn found he could not say to his son, ‘The suit you love is okay at home but not in public,’ because Rosie would not say, ‘We’re proud of you in private but ashamed of you at the pool. [pg 46]”

Claude is miserable and depressed. And only a few years old. It’s heartbreaking for all involved. Then Rosie treats a trans-gendered patient in the ER who was beaten almost to death at a frat party.

” ‘Everyone loves you for who you are.’ “

“‘No one but you,’ said Claude. ‘No one but us. We are the only ones.’ [pg 58]”

Rosie decides it’s time to leave. They move to Seattle, a liberal, open-minded area where Claude can become Poppy.

“Maybe parents just wanted their kids to invite Poppy over so they could gossip to their own friends or make a big show of being open-minded and tolerant. Maybe the kids wanted to play with Poppy because they were curious about him rather than because they liked him. [pg 98]”

Except Rosie is still terrified that something horrible will happen to her child. So they don’t tell anyone that Poppy used to be Claude. The story goes from there. Poppy lives as a girl, has girl friends, no one knows the difference except for family.

“Just being yourself never worked, but if you made yourself up, you got to be exactly who you knew yourself to be. [pg 285]”

The book is an emotional, beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming read. While the book does address bigotry and trans-phobia, it’s not your typical book where something horrific and homophobic happens. It’s really more about navigating the trans-gendered world as parents, what’s right, what’s wrong, how they decide what to do during puberty, etc.

I highly recommend this book!

 

5 ) The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is the newest Catherine Ryan Hyde book. Aiden is a cattle rancher who gets a “wake up” on a hunting trip. All of a sudden he can feel the emotions (the fear, the terror, the pain) of all animals. It definitely throws a wrench in his career as a rancher and breeder, and alienates him from his ranch hands and the community. His girlfriend breaks up with him. He’s feeling very sensitive about his new ability to sense animal’s emotions.

Gwen is new to town with her two pre-teen kids. She left an abusive marriage and is trying to rebuild her life. She meets Aiden and they fall in love. The problem is that her son, Milo, has some very serious mental/emotional issues due to the abuse he suffered from his father.

“You hope wildly. And, as a result, having a child tends to mean getting your heart broken on a regular basis. It takes courage to hope for something you know you might not get. But the alternative is not to believe in your child or hope for great things for him. [pg 236]”

Milo is showing some not-so-kind behaviors towards animals and with Aiden’s new ability to sense pain in animals, this is particularly difficult!

“But people come into our lives and point things out to us for a reason. [pg 34]”

The story is about relationships and about healing, for both Aiden and Milo. It’s also about family, (sort of) about alcoholism recovery and step-parenting.

“It’s easier to see the big picture when you’re standing a few steps outside it. [pg 198]”

“Human nature. After something works out, we forget the frustration of the steps we took in getting there. [pg 316]”

It’s a really, really lovely read. It was a fast read, I read it in about two days. There were a lot of layers in the book and kept you thinking about things long after you were done reading. I will end the review with the best quote from the book:

“He would say, ‘Are you doing what your heart says to do?’ [pg 317]”

Excellent advice.

HAPPY READING!

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Best 10 Books of 2017

What makes a book a GOOD book?

For me, a good book is one I can’t stop reading. It’s a book that I stay up late reading because I keep saying “just one more chapter, then I’ll go to sleep.” A good book is a story that sticks with you long after you are done reading it.

I read a lot of books. I like gritty, well-written mystery/suspense books. Sometimes they can be a little graphic, which I know is not for everyone. I also love books that evoke serious emotions while reading it. These are the ones that stay with me for a long time.

Since I’ve already done full reviews on these books in previous posts, I won’t do it again here. But I did want to share my favorite 10 books of 2017. These are books that were so beautifully written, so poignant, so important in some way, that I hope everyone reads them! You can follow me on Goodreads, too.

Without further ado, the BEST BOOK I read of 2017 was LUCKY BOY.

1 ) Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Most heart-breaking and most heart-warming story

 

2 ) The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Most Beautifully Written

3 ) Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Most “Feel Good” book with a great message

4 ) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Best characters

5 ) Stillhouse Lake #1 by Rachel Caine

Most exciting, can’t-stop-reading book

 

6 ) Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Best story that stays with you

7 ) The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Best Happy Tear-Jerker

8 ) The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Best book about grief, healing, motherhood and love

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

Best social movement/social justice book

10 ) Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Best gothic/atmospheric thriller

Happy reading!