book recommendations

Books #47

I like a lot of the books I’ve read lately. I discovered some new authors/series and got caught up on some favorite authors. Here are some of my favorites:

#1 The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

This was an interesting story. It turned out to be more of a courtroom drama but it was interesting and kept me reading. I liked it a lot and it was well written.

Chloe is a rich a famous New York magazine executive and feminist figurehead. She’s married to Adam, a lawyer. Except her past is a little more sketchy. Turns out, Adam was married to her sister Nicky before they got divorced and Chloe and Adam married. And Ethan is Chloe’s stepson, and also her nephew. But more comes to light when Adam is murdered and the trial brings out all the dirty secrets.

#2 Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

This was an excellent book! It was a heavy topic, but it wasn’t dry or bogged down with lots of dry facts and figures. The statistics were scattered around the book in an unobtrusive way and the way it was written was engrossing. The author wrote about several people and you got sucked into their stories and were interested in the outcomes.

“These days, there are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders.”

He followed several people in Milwaukee, WI, who were poor and struggling to keep a roof over their head. It was a mixture of races, ages and sexes. Some had families, some were single. One was a male nurse who had gotten addicted to opiates and due to drug abuse, lost his job, nursing license, and struggled to stay in his trailer.

“Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend over half of their income on housing, and at least one in four dedicates over 70 percent to paying the rent and keeping the lights on…Fewer and fewer families can afford a roof over their head. This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today…”

This book was definitely eye-opening. I had no idea how a lot of this stuff worked. I definitely had to face my own privilege reading this book and know that I never had to deal with the realities that a lot of Americans have to deal with. Deciding whether to feed their kids or pay their rent.

“It was a common strategy among cash-strapped renters. Because the rent took almost all of their paycheck, families sometimes had to initiate a necessary eviction that allowed them to save enough money to move to another place. One landlord’s loss was another’s gain.”

The book really does an excellent job describing such a broken system.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out… Men often avoided eviction by laying concrete, patching roofs, or painting rooms for landlords. But women almost never approached their landlord with a similar offer. Some women—already taxed by child care, welfare requirements, or work obligations—could not spare the time. But many others simply did not conceive of working off the rent as a possibility. When women did approach their landlords with such an offer, it sometimes involved trading sex for rent.”

One of the people he followed was a landlord, Sherrena. I found that really fascinating. Sometimes you got a glimpse of someone who had a heart and was really kind and actually cared…one single mother with two boys moved in to one of her units and she brought them a box of food when they first moved in. And yet…she ended up evicting them later because of police activity at that unit.

“Every month Sherrena collected roughly $20,000 in rent. Her monthly mortgage bills rounded out to $8,500. After paying the water bill, Sherrena—who owned three dozen inner-city units, all filled with tenants around or below the poverty line—figured she netted roughly $10,000 a month, more than what Arleen, Lamar, and many of her other tenants took home in a year.”

The other thing that was super frustrating was that a lot of the poor people were on SSI or SSD or welfare and given a certain amount of money each month. But they were never able to get ahead. If they had too much money in their bank account, they lost their services. It really doesn’t make people want to try and get out of poverty. Talk about a broken system! Thankfully Oregon doesn’t have that, they have a savings account program for people on benefits so that they can TRY and save and get out of poverty levels.

“She was allowed to have up to $2,000 in the bank, not $1,000 like she thought, but anything more than that could result in her losing benefits. Larraine saw this rule as a clear disincentive to save.”

“If Arleen and Vanetta didn’t have to dedicate 70 or 80 percent of their income to rent, they could keep their kids fed and clothed and off the streets. They could settle down in one neighborhood and enroll their children in one school, providing them the opportunity to form long-lasting relationships with friends, role models, and teachers. They could start a savings account or buy their children toys and books, perhaps even a home computer.”

I think this should be required reading in schools, honestly. It was so so good and so eye opening.

#3 The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal

Olivia Shaw is a food editor in San Francisco, in a dying engagement, struggling with the recent death of her mother and recovering from a car accident that has left her with chronic pain. The surprise news that she’s inherited a castle in England, is not what she’s expecting. It turns out she knew nothing about her mother’s past.

Olivia goes to England to settle things up and as the story unfolds, she realizes how much she didn’t know. She also realizes just how much she needed a “redo” for her life.

The book is surprisingly good for a romance. It’s not usually my type of book. It doesn’t feel like a “fluffy” romance book. It definitely deals with grief and healing. The topic of renovating the old estate was fascinating and the romance between the two main characters was very well written. I liked this story a lot!

#4 Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

This was a cute, fun little read. Naomi is a 30-something CEO of her own company and when her boyfriend dies and she finds out he was actually married, she decides it’s time to get her personal life in order.

There was a nice romance in the book that was well written (enemies into soul mates kind of a thing) and the book was funny and charming. I liked the characters!

#5 Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman

I absolutely LOVED this book. It was laugh out loud funny. I was cracking up the entire time I read the book and I could also relate to everything. It felt like she was writing my story. It was a great book about becoming a mother, being pregnant:

“This pregnant tiredness is so unearthly. I stagger into work and sit down at my computer, and it’s all I can do not to crawl under my desk immediately and go to sleep on the floor. I crave recumbency.”

… and the crazy time postpartum is:

“The postpartum period is like The Perfect Storm: all the wild forces of new-babyhood collide to make you ragingly, epically nuts. I know that I’ll look back on this period and understand the equation perfectly. I understand it even now: hormones + mewling subhuman + strange, sore body + moping older child – sleep=utter lunacy. I am an utter lunatic.”

…and how new babies change marriages:

‘ “Wow,” he’d say, “now that was a great night, right? Ben’s a great sleeper.” “Honey,” I’d say, “you had a great night. You’re a great sleeper. I nursed Ben every hour. I now have no choice but to leave you.” ‘

And then she wrote about having the second baby and what life was like with a toddler.

“…what I love about three-year-olds? They’re just so flexible. So come-what-may. Nothing needs to look a certain way or be done in a particular order. They’re always like, “Hey, Mom, however you want to do it. That’s just great with me.” ” LOL

I just couldn’t put the book down and I didn’t want it to end.

#6 A Dangerous Man (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #18) by Robert Crais

One of my favorite series! This was a great read in the series. I read it in one day and I couldn’t put the book down.

Isabel is a 20-something bank teller just living her life when she leaves work for lunch one day and is grabbed by two strange men. Pike is leaving the bank and sees the attempted kidnapping and intervenes. He saves Isabel but then finds himself embroiled in a mystery of who is trying to kidnap Isabel and why.

The outcome was very interesting! I liked the story and was happy to have beloved characters back. Definitely recommend.

#7 Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

Really strong start to a new series. Detective Gemma Monroe is 6 months pregnant and having relationship issues. She’s handed a new case that unravels the entire town.

Gemma is a strong lead character. I liked that she was vulnerable but not whiny or dependent on a man. The story isn’t too gruesome. There were plot points that were well done and believable. The mystery was well-written, good/believable dialogue and surprise ending. I liked the book and can’t wait to read the next one.

Happy Reading!

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Books #46

I’ve had my first cold since having my sinus surgery (in March). Yuck! I am not 100% yet, and crossing my fingers it doesn’t move into my chest next. But since I’ve been sick for the last week, I had some time to catch up on some reading.

#1 I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

Oh man this book was good! If I could give it 10 out of 5 stars I would! I liked it so much. It’s well written, the characters all seem very real, the story is engrossing and relateable.

Penelope is a middle-age mother of two kids, the primary bread-winner and her husband, who dropped out of medical school to be a writer is just kind of coasting through life.

“I loved my husband. I loved my kids. I mostly liked my life. But I was so damn tired.”

She’s overwhelmed, unhappy and feeling stuck and lost and kinda like she wants to escape all at the same time.

“Change was a privilege reserved for people whose families didn’t rely on them for food, shelter, and health insurance.”

“But something between us had shifted over the course of our marriage, particularly the last two to three years. We had gone from being lovers to best friends to . . . roommates who routinely irritated each other. If I was honest with myself, that was what it felt like most of the time.”

Then her life is hit by a tragic event that makes her reevaluate things. She realizes she needs to make some changes in her life, her career, her marriage, in order to survive.

It’s weird because the reviews are mixed about this book. Seems like people weren’t a fan of the audio version. Or they felt like “nothing” happened and I wonder–did they read the same book I did? Because a lot happened! Anyway, I liked it a lot and thought it was an interesting, thoughtful look at friendship, marriage, grief and life.

#2 Land of Shadows (Detective Elouise Norton #1) by Rachel Howzell Hall

Excellent! Loved this book. What a great start to a new series. Lou is a homicide detective in LA. She gets a case that at first glance looked like a suicide, but she knows in her gut it’s not. She was right. And the murder hits a little too close to home for her, bringing up a lot of ghosts from her past.

Lou is an AWESOME character. Multi-dimensional, feisty, smart, strong. The book is engrossing and fast moving. I totally pictured it as a movie and could not wait to read the rest of the series.

Highly recommend this book. The second I finished it, I downloaded the second book!

#3 Skies of Ash (Detective Elouise Norton #2) by Rachel Howzell Hall

The sequel. It’s just as good, although I guessed whodunit pretty early on in the story. I love the character so much, it didn’t matter.

In this book, Lou is called to a fire where three bodies are found. Juliet Chatman and her two kids have died in the fire and her husband, Christopher, was injured trying to save them. But Lou doesn’t buy it. Partially because she’s going through a rough spot in her marriage and doesn’t really like men much right now, but she doesn’t think the husband’s story pans out. And as she starts to investigate deeper, she discovers that the perfect couple wasn’t that perfect behind closed doors.

It was another fast, good read. I couldn’t put it down and downloaded book 3 immediately!

#4 Trail of Echoes (Detective Elouise Norton #3) by Rachel Howzell Hall

Another good book in the series. In this one, Lou and her partner Colin are investigating what turns out to be a serial killer who is kidnapping and murdering young, gifted, African American girls from the housing projects known as “The Jungle.”

Lou’s personal life is kind of a mess and she’s struggling to keep it out of her professional life. Lou’s dad is also trying to get back in her life. I didn’t find this storyline quite as compelling, but the investigation of the murders was great.

Fast-paced, witty writing, smart and funny. Lou if a great character–tough but emotional and you can relate to her. Again, I kind of guessed the killer pretty early on but that didn’t ruin the wild ride of the book. I still enjoyed it!

#5 Shamed (Kate Burkholder #11) by Linda Castillo

The newest book in the series about Chief of Police Kate Burkholder in Amish country. In this book, a child is missing. It starts with a brutal murder and kidnapping of an Amish child with special needs. Kate is running against the clock because she knows as each hour passes, the likelihood of finding a kidnapped child goes down.

The book is a super quick read and a non-stop roller-coaster ride. It was very engrossing and another great read in the series.

#6 An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Jessica Farris is a single girl in New York, struggling to make ends meet as a makeup artist. To make some extra money, she signs up for a psychological study for Dr. Shields. But the study grows more and more invasive and intense and soon Jessica is doing things she never thought she’d do. She starts to realize that Dr. Shields has other motives for her “study.”

It was a good book, a slow burn with “twists” throughout the book instead of one big twist at the end. The story switches back and forth between the narrator being Jessica and narrator being Dr. Shields. Dr. Shields is fascinating and twisted. The ending was slightly disappointing but overall the book was a good read.

Happy Reading!

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