Book review

Books #22

This is probably the last book review post of the year!

I used to average somewhere around 100 books a year. Last year I fell very short in my goal on GoodReads. I knew I’d be busy, new baby and all, so I set my goal low (80) and only read 62 books last year. I was ok with that. I just didn’t have a lot of time. 😉

This year has been easier to read more. I’m not breastfeeding anymore so I have time, and I have more time at work to read on breaks because of that. I read on the bus, I read before bed. This year my goal was 65 books and I surpassed that!

157%  —  39 books ahead of schedule


1 ) The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

This book may not be for everyone. There were parts that were a bit graphic, but the story was pretty good. I’ve read a lot of books by this author and she crafts good, interesting stories and is really skilled at character development.

In this particular stand alone book, there are a few stories going on in one. Sam and Charlie were teenagers in Georgia when two intruders murdered their mother right in front of them and tried to kill them both. The story is a bit about that and then 20 years later when Sam and Charlie are adults. They are both still feeling the effects of the tragedy and their family has been fractured since.

The other story is about a school shooting. Sam and Charlie’s father, Rusty, is a defense attorney (and the girls have also become lawyers) and takes on the shooter as his client.

The story is a little about the investigation and trial of the shooting (but that’s not the focus), about history and family secrets, but it’s feels more about the relationship between the sisters and healing and redemption.

2 ) What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I know what a lot of people might be thinking about feeling seeing this book on my list. You’re probably like me and burned out on politics, the 2016 election, Trump, Hillary…everything. I wasn’t clamoring to read this book (even though I wanted to) because I am so sick of all of it. But it finally came up available at the library and I was excited to get Hillary’s take on what happened.

The book begins with Trump’s inauguration. I remember watching part of it and thinking just how strong, brave (and crazy) Hillary was for attending. Sure, it was tradition. Sure, it showed the world she lost but wasn’t beaten. But damn, I don’t think I could have been that strong to sit on that stage and watch a buffoon blather on and on about winning.

“The new President’s speech was dark and dystopian. I heard it as a howl straight from the white nationalist gut. Its most memorable line was about ‘American carnage,’ a startling phrase more suited to a slasher film than an inaugural address. Trump painted a picture of a bitter, broken country I didn’t recognize. [pg 7]”

“…listening to Trump, it almost felt like there was no such thing as truth anymore. It still feels that way. [pg 8]”

” ‘That was some weird shit,’ George W reportedly said with characteristic Texas bluntness. I couldn’t have agreed more. [pg 11]”

I kinda loved George W for that. And I was not a fan at all when he was in office.

The books then goes on to describe the days and weeks following the election and how Hillary felt. She shared insights and stories into her personal and private life. She shared stories of her and Bill’s relationship. She said she hid out in their house in NY wearing yoga pants, drinking Chardonnay, watching HGTV, reading mystery novels and walking in their woods. I kind of LOVED that image. It definitely made her seem more human and relateable (And part of me was like, why didn’t we see THAT Hillary during the election cycle??!!!)

I am sure a ghost writer wrote this book, but despite that, I enjoyed reading it and I enjoyed Hillary’s “voice.” A lot of critics of this book said she spends a lot of time “blaming everyone else” for her failure. While there might be a little bit of that (yes, there were outside sources that did influence the election, as we are now seeing), I didn’t get the vibe she wasn’t taking any responsibility.

The book then shared the campaign ins and outs. I really enjoyed the chapter on her typical day on the campaign trail and a typical day with her family. It was nice and interesting.

She also shared advice she’s been given along the way. Obama said: ” ‘Don’t try to be hip, you’re a grandma,’ he’d tease. ‘Just be yourself and keep doing what you’re doing.’ [pg 67]”

I agree with her assessment that the Democrats played fair and Trump played dirty (and I think if the Dems want to take make progress in 2018/2020, they need to figure their shit out!):

“I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment. I was giving speeches laying out how to solve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter. Democrats were playing by the rules and trying too hard not to offend the political press. Republicans were chucking the rule book out the window and working the refs as hard as they could. I may have won millions more votes, but he’s the one sitting in the Oval Office. [pg 76]”

“Donald Trump did something else: appeal to the ugliest impulses of our national character. He also made false promises about being on the side of working people. [pg 81]”


I also liked how she described what it was like being in politics (and law) as a woman:

“I’m not jealous of my male colleagues often, but I am when it comes to how they can just shower, shave, put on a suit and be ready to go. The few times I’ve gone out in public without makeup, it’s made the news. So I sigh and keep getting back in that chair, and dream of a future in which women in the public eye don’t need to wear makeup if they don’t want to and no one cares either way. [pg 88]”

Whatever your personal feelings about Hillary might be, she’s an amazing, accomplished career woman and politician, who was more than qualified for the job of President.

“I was one of just 27 women out of 235 students in my class at Yale Law School. The first woman partner at the oldest law firm in Arkansas. The first woman to chair the national board of the Legal Services Corporation. The person who declared on the world stage that ‘human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.’ The first First Lady to be elected to public office. The first woman Senator from New York. [pg 113]”

“The moment a woman steps forward and says, ‘I’m running for office,’ it beings: the analysis of her face, her body, her voice, her demeanor; the diminishment of her stature, her ideas, her accomplishments, her integrity. It can be unbelievably cruel. [pg 116]”

There were about a dozen more highlights from the book that were really profound, but I won’t share them all here. This is just a taste. The book is 500+ pages, a fast read honestly, and there’s a lot of good information and insights in it.

It was a well done book. It could have been edited down a little bit in the middle, but other than that I enjoyed it.

3 ) In This Moment by Karma Brown

Meg is a middle-aged married mother of a teen daughter. She’s a realtor, her husband is a doctor. They seemingly have a good life in a nice town, albeit a bit hectic. Then a tragic accident happens right in front of Meg and her daughter, Audrey. The twin brother of Audrey’s boyfriend, Jake, is crossing the street near the school when another car comes out of nowhere and hits him. The other driver was texting and speeding.

As you can imagine, both Meg and Audrey are traumatized. The description of the accident was fast but real and I found myself almost hyperventilating as I read it. It was very real, very scary and fast (like an accident would be)…it just came out of nowhere.

The book is about the guilt Meg feels about waving Jake across the street, thinking it was safe. It’s also about Meg basically failing as an adult. She’s having a hard time with the guilt she feels, it brings up a traumatic event from her childhood, she’s drifting away from both her husband and her daughter, and she’s making mistakes at work. The story is about making mistakes, dealing with big consequences and healing.

4 ) Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #22) by Michael Connelly

Harry is back! Working as a volunteer for a local police department to solve cold cases. He gets pulled into a current investigation at a pharmacy (pill-mill) murder and ends up going undercover. It was fascinating to read about how pill mills function and how they use addicts to get more pills to sell on the streets. What a crazy system!

While Harry is undercover, his cover is blown because a 30-year old case makes the newspapers. The murderer is on death row and claiming that Harry planted evidence to frame him. So now Harry gets pulled into that debacle! And his half brother, the “Lincoln Lawyer” (aka Matthew McConaughey) joins the team to clear Harry’s name.

This was another stellar Harry Bosch book. The characters are all so well-written and well-developed it feels like you are reuniting with family when you read the books. The story was fast moving and unexpected.

5 ) The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858-1919 by Douglas Brinkley

A very, very detailed and long biography about Theodore Roosevelt and how our president established wilderness conversation laws. His legacies led to the creation of the US Fish & Wildlife Services, passage of the Antiquities Act and saved the Devils Tower, The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.

It’s a very long, very detailed book and I’m only about 50% done with it, but I wanted to include it here because it’s a really fascinating read!

6 ) Consent to Kill (Mitch Rapp #8) by Vince Flynn

I was a bit on the fence with this book for the first 40% or so. It was dragging a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the story much but then it got really good. I don’t want to give away a spoiler, but something pretty dramatic and awful happens and Mitch wants revenge.

Someone has hired an assassin to kill Mitch. The author develops this new assassin pretty well and their story was interesting and kept me reading, even when the book was a little slow.The last half of the book was a whirlwind and so, so good. I’m glad I hung in there. The finale was excellent and I can’t wait to read the next book to see where the story goes.

7 ) Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

WOW! What a crazy book!

The book starts with an exciting bang. About 12 people are in a hot air balloon in England. Two of the passengers are sisters and this was a gift for one of the sister’s 40th birthday. While they are up above the earth, taking in the sights, they see a horrific crime take place below them. The next few chapters are a crazy roller-coaster ride describing in great (and heart-pumping) detail the hot air balloon crash and aftermath.

There are SO many twists and turns and surprises in this book I don’t even know where to start and I don’t want to give spoilers. I will say every little bit of the story was absolutely unique and jaw-dropping. Such a great read!

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Books #21

Are you looking for a good book to get for a Christmas present? Check out my old book reviews here. Getting books under the tree is always a joy (in my book!). 😉

This group of books seems to have a theme: lost children and finding people! I don’t know how that happened. But there were several very good books that I read lately, so here they are:

1 ) The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

I don’t know if I can do this book justice. It’s not what it seemed. It wasn’t a mystery novel, not really, even though there is a mystery. It wasn’t gritty, even though the subject matter is gritty. It was a beautiful, artful, passionate and dark book that ends with light and happiness and hope. This was an amazing story, an amazing book, almost like poetry.

Naomi is “the child finder.” She has an ability to find missing children, even if it’s not a happy ending when she finds them. Why is she such a good investigator? Because she was once a missing child, too. The story is about Naomi’s past (which I wish they had spent a little more time fleshing out) and Naomi trying to find two separate kids. The story also takes place in the glacier wilderness of Oregon, which I enjoyed. I loved the story, I loved the ending, I loved the characters. They were so well-written. My only problem with the book is that it was too short–I read it in ONE day–and I wanted more!

2 ) Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker

“Wine is the intellectual part of the meal.” – Alexandre Dumas

Bianca Bosker was a writer who decided to change her career and study to become a sommeliers. It’s an exclusive club, a difficult journey, and an expensive one. For the next year and a half she befriended other sommeliers (and ones that were trying to become certified as sommeliers) to learn everything she could from them.

It’s a memoir about her journey, what she learned, the process of becoming a sommelier and the people she met along the way. She shared lots of informative things about wine and the restaurant business for readers:

“I now understood that restaurants would generally charge me as much for a glass of wine as they’d paid wholesale for a bottle, and I’d be charged about four times that to buy the bottle from them. [pg 21]”

She described “gimme” wines:

“They could charge more because most drinkers see a familiar grape, go on autopilot, and think, Give it to me; I don’t care what it costs. Those wines were status symbols and safe standbys. [pg 21]”

She went to a lot of tastings with professional and budding-professional sommeliers. The advice? “Do not swallow or you will be dead. [pg 44]”

What I liked about the book was the interesting information about wine tasting, how to wine taste, how to discover a wine just by taste and sight (she went to a lot of blind tastings, which sounds fun and interesting!). I wanted to share some of her tips for the process here:

“Step One: Look at it. Thick slow tears with clear definition suggest the wine has higher alcohol levels, where thin, quick tears, or wine that falls in sheets, hint at lower alcohol levels. 

Next: smell. Always.

Now you can sip. Swish the wine around your mouth, then purse your lips like you’re about to say “oh no” and suck in air over the wine so it feels like it’s bubbling on your tongue. “Aerating” the wine.”

Next, spit it out or swallow. Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and pay attention to how much you salivate. A lot or a little? Swimming pool or sprinkler? If you opened your mouth would you drool? If so, you’re tasting a higher-acid wine. If not, it’s likely a lower-acid wine.

The more a drink burns, the more alcohol it contains. 

Tannins are more a texture than a taste, and therefore distinct from whether the wine is “dry,” which refers to the absence of sweetness. Tannins leave your mouth feeling dried out and grippy. [pg 46]”

It was cool to read about that and have things explained I’ve always wondered about.

Overall, the book was pretty good. It was really interesting and descriptive and made me want to take a class to learn more about the process of tasting (other than just drinking LOL). The one thing I didn’t like about the book was that it felt a little long and rambling in some places. It definitely needed some editing down. Despite that, I recommend the book.


3 ) The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

I’m not sure how to rate this book, honestly. I read it for my book club and it was a decent book. I feel like it’s worth reading because of the experience Brent went through but it definitely reads like a YA novel, so the voice feels very juvenile.

In 1991 Brent was 14 or so and had been preoccupied with suicide and fire. Seemingly unprompted, he douses his bathrobe with gasoline and sets himself on fire. He’s rescued and the memoir is about his different experiences in the hospitals and burn units he spent the next 7 months in.

I found the descriptions of the healing process interesting. I don’t know a lot about what burn victims go through, so that was informative. The story is told in a raw, but juvenile, way and I think any reader would feel like they were transported to their own teen years when your life revolved around friends, school, cliques, dramas, bad grades, etc.

The one thing that really bugged me most about the book was, though, was that the author never really expressed exactly what caused him to want to kill himself. He had friends, he seemed popular in school, there was nothing that really stood out as a red flag to me for depression…maybe the author just chose not to include what was really going on and what led him to want to kill himself? If that was the case, then it seems to me that the author never really addressed it and that made the story seem a little emotionally stunted to me.

There were glimpses throughout Brent’s time in the burn unit (and in group therapy) where he realizes that life is worth fighting for and that suicide is not the option. He lives with a deep regret for what he did to his family, and to his body, even if he’s not very good at expressing it out loud to his family members.


4 ) He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

I absolutely LOVED her other book, “The Burning Air”. This new book was pretty good. The author writes revenge really well.

This particular story felt very relevant. The book starts out in 1999 in Cornwall. Kit and Laura are in their early 20’s and travel to a festival to see a total eclipse. Laura interrupts a rape and helps the woman, Beth. The story unfolds from there–Beth is appreciative and Laura becomes friends with her, feeling sorry for her plight. But Beth is not what she seems. Laura and Kit begin to regret allowing Beth into their lives.

After some scary things happen, Kit and Laura change their names, move away and go off the grid. But Beth finds them again.

The story is told in flashbacks and current times and from Laura and Kit’s point of view, so each chapter is a little bit of the puzzle. I was completely surprised by the twist at the ending and it was really, really good!

5 ) The Child by Fiona Barton

An old house in London is being torn down and the workers find a tiny skeleton. Kate Waters is a journalist with her job on the line–in the days of online media, print journalism is on it’s way out and half the reporters are being laid off. She needs a big story in a big way. The discovery of a dead newborn that may or may not be the infamous “Baby Alice” is just the investigation she needs.

The story is told from several points of view. The main character is Kate, the investigative journalist who uncovers a lot of creepy threads to this story. The next is Angela, the distraught mother of baby Alice who was kidnapped when she was only 1 day old and never found. There are a few other characters and you aren’t sure quite how their stories fit in, but at the end it makes total sense and it was really well done!


6 ) I Found You by Lisa Jewell

What an unexpected surprise! I was on the fence about the book. This was another story told by different points of views in different time periods and while I find that method of storytelling somewhat tired and overdone, the ending of this book was quite a surprise, so it worked.

In the current story time, Alice discovers a strange man on the beach by her house in England who can’t remember who he was or where he came from. She takes him in and gives him shelter, trying to help him remember who he was.

At the same time, in London, Lily discovers her new husband has vanished. She is worried and calls the police, only to find out that his passport and name are fakes. Who is her husband? Where is he?

Then the story flashbacks 20-something years where two teens, (brother and sister Gray and Kirsty), are tortured by a psychopath who has become obsessed with Kirsty.

Like I said, I was on the fence with the book at the beginning, mostly because I couldn’t tell yet why the Gray and Kirsty storyline was important but once I did, the book really took off. I absolutely loved the way the end wrapped everything up. Very well done.

7 ) After the Party by Lisa Jewell

Ralph and Jem have been together for a decade, through their fun-loving party days in their 20’s to having kids. The romantic nights just the two of them change with the addition of a few little ones and they find themselves growing up and growing apart from each other. Ralph, an artist, is preoccupied with his lifestyle and doesn’t help out with the kids like he should. Jem feels like she’s losing who she used to be before kids.

I liked a lot of aspects about this book. I feel like anyone in a long-term relationship with little kids can relate to a lot of this book. That’s why I’d recommend it. It wasn’t necessarily an outstanding book, though, so just know going in that it’s a bit chick-lit. (I guess this is a sequel, too, but I didn’t know that when I got the book and it didn’t seem to really matter that I hadn’t read book #1.)

Happy Reading!

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