book recommendations

Books #32

Get your reading list out! I have some good ones for you to add to your “to read” list. 😀

1 ) The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

This book was SO GOOD. Run out now and get it! It was a YA book but didn’t read like a YA book, it just read fast. I could not put it down.

The story is about a super religious family who are also reality stars. Think the Kardashians but religious. The father is a famous preacher and they have a crap-ton of kids. Essie is the youngest at 17. Her entire existence has been on the TV. It’s a very odd life.

Then Essie discovers she’s pregnant. Her mother, Celia, has a secret meeting with the show producers and they decide the best move is for Essie to get married. It will boost their ratings and hide the illicit pregnancy. Except Celia doesn’t realize that Essie is manipulating her mother as a way out of that life.

It is such a fascinating read and I loved it!

 

2 ) A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

I was a bit on the fence at the start of this book but then it took off and was so good!

Ginny (“Big”)  is the matriarch of the family. She got pregnant at 15 and left her family and town with her baby, Liza, went back to school and got a job and tried her best to be a good mom. Liza then, at 15, gets pregnant, and has Mosey. She leaves town with the baby but returns two years later asking Big for help. She needs rehab and help with her baby. Big takes her in and they all live together. Liza gets sober, Mosey grows up.

Now Mosey is 15. Liza has had a stroke and Big is taking care of both of them. She decides to have a pool put in to help Liza rehab from her stroke. Except when they take down a tree and start to dig up the yard, bones of a baby are discovered. Who is it? Who buried it?

This book was so incredibly good. I absolutely LOVED the characters. Big and Liza were so real and you just LOVE them. It’s heartwarming how they take care of each other.

 

3 ) No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

“If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?”

That’s the question in this memoir. Glynnis is a Canadian writer living in New York City. She’s had a somewhat successful career with some ups and down, but as she gets closer and closer to her 40th birthday, she starts to question the script that women are given. Meet a man, get married, have a baby.

At the same time as this, her mother is deteriorating from Parkinson’s and Dementia. She flies back to Toronto frequently to help her parents and her younger sister who has two kids and a baby on the way.

“…this definitely feels like an excellent time to make an exit. But now that the person exiting belonged to me, it didn’t feel that way at all. As it turned out, standing by death’s door, no matter how long you spend there with a person, no matter how comfortable you think you are with its presence, is a great deal different than having that person walk through it. [Loc 71]”

The stress and grief she feels about her mother failing and eventually dying might be hard for some to read, but it’s not the entire focus of the book. The book is about her experiences in her fortieth year trying to figure out what she wants, what she wants her life to look like and to come to peace with the expectations of society.

“I was thirty-nine, the age at which women made do with what they have, take the parts and construct them into something usable. [Loc 586]”

“I was certain that come the stroke of twelve my life would be cleaved in two, a before and an after: all that was good and interesting about me, that made me a person worthy of attention, considered by the world to be full of potential, would be stripped away, and whatever remained would be thrust, unrecognizable, into the void that awaited. [Loc 121]”

I could definitely relate to this book in a lot of ways. I’m almost 39 and I feel 40 looming. Even though I am married and have a toddler, part of me wonders if we will have another baby and then I start doing “the math” and realize we are “running out of time.”

“As thirty-seven became thirty-eight became thirty-nine the calculations became even more pressing and less feasible. Married next week, and pregnant the next morning? Time ticked on. Eventually there was no way to make the numbers add up. I couldn’t outrun my own clock. [Loc 199]”

The book is also about feminism and independence.

“Not every encounter needed to be the first step in a permanent decision. Men, it occured to me, perhaps for the first time in my life, did not need to be a goal. [Loc 1254]”

The book is beautiful to read. The experiences she has are fascinating and the fact that she takes control of her life is very empowering.

“Every woman I knew seemed to think she was failing in some way, had been raised to believe she was lacking, and was certain someone else was doing it better. Had been told never to trust her instincts. [Loc 2957]”

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think a lot of women would relate to her stories.

4 ) The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Excellent story! Riveting and creepy. There was a gothic theme, supernatural creepiness, with a murder mystery and really good character development.

Fiona is a journalist in a small town in Vermont. Twenty years ago her older sister was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, who is now in prison. But Fiona just can’t let it go and she’s kind of obsessed with where her sister’s body was found — the grounds of Idlewild Hall.

In the 1950’s, Idlewild Hall was a girls boarding school where the “troublemakers” were sent. The girls who were illegitimate offspring, the ones that had no family, or mental illness. Shipped away to the creepy school that definitely has ghosts.

The two stories are intertwined and it was so unexpected and interesting and I really didn’t want the story to end!

5 ) The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

This was a well-written, fast-paced book that could have been “ripped from the headlines.”

Annabel Lerner’s husband is a banker for a Swiss Bank when his plane mysteriously crashes and she’s informed he’s dead. But there’s no body. And now she’s left behind in Geneva, looking for answers and realizing she’s not sure who she can trust.

Marina is a journalist engaged to Grant, son of one of the most powerful men in America who is going to run for president. She uncovers a story so big she can’t sit on it. A story that will have the answers Annabel is looking for.

Very solid thriller. Good story and I could not put it down!

 

6 ) The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

Holy smokes! This book was so good! I could not stop reading it!

There is a horrific explosion in a building in downtown Chicago. Over 500 people were killed. One of them was Cecily’s husband. She is now a widow with two teenage kids and her best friend was also killed in the explosion.

A year later, Cecily is trying to put her life back together, at the same time participating in a documentary film about the explosion and aftermath. She now regrets participating because she can’t escape the tragedy. At the same time, there are two other women who were touched by the explosion and the struggling with the aftermath. The secrets the three of these women are keeping are pretty mind-blowing.

The story was addicting, horrifying and had so many twists and turns. So good!

 

7 ) The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland

Cass and Jonathan have been married for 5 years. Cass has had a rough year–a miscarriage and her mentor and boss died. Suddenly she is jobless (by choice) and noticing things about her husband that are grating. Feeling unsatisfied with her life, she decides that they will take an “intermission” from their marriage for 6 months and decide if, in fact, they still belong together.

“It felt to her like the absence of intimacy was a third person in the room with them, hovering just out of reach. [pg 53]”

“Until that point, she’d viewed their marriage like a car moving along a highway–some patches were rough, others were smooth sailing, but still they forged onward with a definitive destination in mind. Driving forward as if getting off at any random exit and ditching the car was out of the question. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. And she was all the way in California, a detour if there ever was one. [pg 112]”

Cass moves from New York City to Hollywood and gets a cushy job that is inspiring and exciting. They share “custody” of their dog in monthly increments where one of them flies back and forth to pass off the dog to the other.

This is a time of reflection for both of them. They both have secrets from each other, some bigger than others. What will happen after 6 months? Will they find their way back to each other? Realize the grass isn’t greener? Or discover things about themselves and each other that reveal they aren’t a good match?

The chapters alternate between Cass and Jonathan’s different perspectives. And with each chapter, you see the story from the other point of view and you start to side with one of the couple over the other…then it flips. I found myself disliking Cass quite a bit, but on one hand I kind of understood where she was coming from. Both characters were flawed and someone unlikable but at the same time, I liked their story. It’s complicated! Like marriage.

“She knew what it felt like when a relationship had substance. It was like a weight you could in your hand, and this wasn’t it. [pg 332]”

This is a book about marriage and self-discovery. It was a character study, so not quite a “page turner” until you get towards the end, then I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out the ending!

Happy Reading!

These posts have Amazon Affiliate Links.

Books #31

Don’t you hate it when you read a bunch of books and they are disappointing? Especially if it’s a trusted author that you like! I’ve read a few duds lately but finally had a stretch of some noteworthy books. Here are a few to check out!

1 ) Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This book may not be for everyone–it’s particularly timely for what is going on in our world with immigrant kids being separated from their families. This book also describes child abuse, so this may not be the book for a lot of people.

It’s fiction, but based on a true store. Rill is the oldest of several kids “river rats” living on a boat in the south in the 1939. Her mother goes to the hospital to give birth to twins and while Rill’s parents are away, they are basically kidnapped and taken to a Children’s Home. The book is based on the real life Georgia Tann, who ran an illegal adoption agency (basically stealing babies and kids from poor people and then selling them to the rich). The paperwork was falsified, names were changed and she’d shake down the rich adoptive parents later for more money claiming the birth parents want to change their minds on giving up their rights.

The whole thing is horrific and there was child abuse that takes place at the “children’s home”. It’s hard to read about and the idea of kids and babies being ripped from their families is truly awful. But the book describes the real history well. And it takes place in current times, too, and that part was interesting. It’s a really good, emotional book.

 

2 ) If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin

I think this is a really important book to read about our current society. It’s about mob-mentality, online trolls and just how far it can go to break people.

Jackie is a single mom enjoying her life for the most part. Her teenage sons are growing distant, especially Wade, her oldest. He’s distant and moody and she breaks a rule she told herself she’d never do–she snoops in his room and his phone.

At the same time, there’s a tragic accident in their small town and one of Wade’s classmates, Liam, is killed stopping a carjacker. Online rumors and mob mentality take over and soon Wade is the target of the town’s hatred. Jackie is asked to take a leave from her real estate job she’s had for over a decade because of the bad press, Wade’s car is trashed, they are harassed and they all lose friends. Jackie loses 50 Facebook friends in one day when Wade is arrested.

Do we really know our kids? Can we really rely on our friends? Or is it just about the social media boosting and popularity that people care about? This is a very stressful read! But a good one.

 

3 ) You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac

This was an interesting story. It starts out kind of like a chick lit/beach read but there are definitely some more serious aspects to the book.

Jess is a single mom living in England. Her son William is 10 years old and barely knows his father, Adam, who lives in France. Jess and Adam were together and it sounded like they were each other’s soulmate but when she got pregnant he freaked out and the relationship ended.

Now, her mom is dying of a horrible disease and Jess is faced with some bad news about herself and realizes it’s very important for William to get to know his father. So William and Jess spend the summer at Adam’s hotel in France so father and son can bond.

It’s a really nice story, definitely has some heavy topics in it, but I loved the book a lot!

4 ) Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton

This was an interesting book with layers to it.

Betsy is a “farmers wife” in Alabama. Her husband Ty runs a dairy farm and their marriage seems a bit strained. You don’t find out why for awhile, but they’ve been facing infertility for a few years.

Betsy’s sister, Jenna, is a twenty-something single mother to two small girls who gets the opportunity of her lifetime: to go to an artist’s retreat in Florida for two weeks. She abandoned her art when she became a mother and she’s feeling like she missed out on her life and is stuck in a rut of paycheck to barely paycheck life. Her mentor gets her into this elite retreat — and a scholarship. She just needs to find someone to watch her kids while she’s gone.

So Jenna basically drops of her girls at Betsy and Ty’s house with no notice and goes on her retreat. Two weeks later when she’s supposed to be back, she’s decided to stay longer at the retreat. Betsy starts to wonder if the answer to her prayers of having a kid is taking over for Jenna while she “finds herself.”

It’s a sweet story about sisters and relationships and motherhood. I liked the story and the characters.

5 ) The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

I almost gave up on this book but I’m glad I didn’t because it turned out to be really good and tackled some important issues.

The story is about a new mom’s group that meets once a week with their babies to get support and friendship navigating the craziness of newborns. The group decide to go out for drinks on the 4th of July to get some downtime away from being a mom. That’s when something terrible happens: one of the mom’s babies is taken. Midas was left with a nanny but she gets home to find him gone. The nanny fell asleep. Where is baby Midas?

The group of friends band together to try and support each other and help Winnie, Midas’s mom. But the press gets wind of the fact that the women were out drinking when Midas was kidnapped and now it’s a media frenzy plus public outrage and mob mentality about “how dare those mothers go out drinking” (so many eye rolls but you can totally see that happening in our social media culture). And of course secrets start coming out about each of the women in the group.

Spoiler alert: Midas is ok. This was one of the reasons I almost gave up on the book. They implied that maybe Winnie had postpartum depression and possibly killed her own baby and that was too upsetting for me so I almost stopped reading. I just can’t deal with the topic of babies being hurt or dying but THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN so don’t worry.

I liked the book a lot. It tackled a lot of really important issues: motherhood, postpartum depression and anxiety, breastfeeding, going back to work, lack of maternity leave, lack of maternal support, how hard newborns are on marriages, the EXHAUSTION of being a new mother…so many things I could relate to.

It was a super fast read, I read it in about a day and a half and while the first part of the book is a bit slow and confusing, the second half is so good you can’t put it down. And I did not guess the ending!

6 ) The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

John and Ella have been married for over 50 years. They now have adult children and several grandchildren. Unfortunately, John has Alzheimer’s and his lucid moments are becoming few and far between.

“After a while, just staying alive becomes a full-time job. No wonder we need a vacation. [pg 18]”

Not only that, Ella has cancer. Ella decides that at her age it doesn’t make sense to try and treat the cancer. So they “escape” from their adult children, ignore the doctors recommending they don’t do this, and hit the road in their “Leisure Seeker”.

She describes how vacations used to be–rush, rush, rush– and “Now, there’s all the time in the world. Except I’m falling apart and John can barely remember his name. But that’s all right. I remember it. Between the two of us, we are one whole person. [pg 12]”

They take the Route 66 road from Michigan to California. The book is about the people they meet along the way, the adventures they have (good and bad) and their loving relationship. It’s also about life, death, losing your friends to death along the way and cherishing your memories.

“[Going through the address book] Names and numbers and addresses scratched out. Page after page of gone, gone, gone. The sense of loss that you feel isn’t just for the person. It is the death of your youth, the death of fun, of warm conversations and too many drinks, of long weekends, of shared pains and victories and jealousies, of secrets that you couldn’t tell anyone else, of memories that only you two shared. It’s the death of your monthly pinochle game. [pg 125]”

Ultimately, this book is about love and choosing death with dignity.

“But then, that’s the sad ending. One of us without the other. It’s what would happen if I didn’t end the story this way. [pg 272]”

“After a long boring stretch of malls, storefronts, and construction, we finally arrive in Santa Monica. It looks like a nice town, but we’re not here to see the sights. We’re here for one thing only–to get to the end of the road. [pg 244]”

Apparently there is a movie based on this book! I can’t wait to see it.

7 ) The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen 

Very solid, good mystery! Looking forward to a sequel.

Ellery Hathaway is a 28 year old cop in a small Massachusetts town with secrets. 14 years ago she was the lone survivor of a serial killer. Ellery hasn’t told anyone of her past and changed her name to protect her past.

Three people disappear in her town and her chief isn’t interested in her theories. But she’s seen this before, obviously, yet she doesn’t want to tell her cop coworkers why she has a bad feeling about these missing people. She finally decides to call the FBI agent who rescued her 14 years ago to ask him for help. Agent Reed Markham, struggling in his own life, immediately flies to Ellery to help.

The book is written very well and is compelling and hard to put down. I didn’t particularly love Ellery, she was a bit naive and wishy-washy at times, but I did like the story a lot and didn’t guess the ending!

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon Affiliate links.