book reviews

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!

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Books #30

Here are some new books to add to your list!

1 ) Crimson Lake #1 by Candace Fox

This was a pleasant surprise of a book and I’m looking forward to reading the second book. Ted was a cop in Sydney, Australia, married with a newborn, when his life is turned completely upside down. He’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and his life is imploded. He’s wrongly accused of a horrific crime. It doesn’t matter that the case is dropped–the damage has been done.

The book begins after Ted has moved north; his wife has divorced him and he’s not allowed to see his daughter, his career is over and he’s holed up in a cabin on Crimson Lake trying to hide and heal. His lawyer suggests he pairs up with Amanda Pharell, the only private investigator within hundreds of miles, who needs a partner. Amanda has a past, as well, and the pair go on to solve a case.

The book is well written and you feel for Ted. I really had wrongly convicted/wrongly accused stories! It’s so stressful. But you like Ted and want him to clear his name and be redeemed. It was a great read!

 

2 ) Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

I LOVED this book! It takes place in Miami Florida, where 20 year old Aviva is an intern for the up and coming liberal, Jewish congressman. She makes the unfortunate mistake of having an affair with the congressman and of course it comes out.

“I’m not a murderer,” she says. “I’m a slut, and you can’t be acquitted of that.”

Her life is ruined. (It’s a similar parallel to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the book talks a lot about how the women are deemed the sluts, wearing the Scarlet “A”.)  She graduates from college and can’t get a job because every future employer Googles her. So, she changes her name and starts a new life somewhere else.

Aviva Grossman, whose résumé included a dual degree in political science and Spanish literature from the University of Miami, a tenaciously googleable blog, and of course that infamous stint as an intern, couldn’t get a job. They didn’t put a scarlet letter on her chest, but they didn’t need to. That’s what the Internet is for.

13 years later, Aviva is now Jane, a successful wedding and event coordinator in Maine. She has a daughter and Jane is kind of talked into running for mayor of their sleepy little town. So what happens when the secrets are discovered?

The story is told from several different points of view and it’s an interesting way to tell it. I wanted to read more from each storyteller and my only complaint about the book was that it ended too soon! I wanted to read more, I wanted to see how it all ended up.

 

3 ) Stalking Ground (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #2) by Margaret Mizushima

Second book in the series and it’s even better than the first! In this book, Officer Brody’s girlfriend Adrienne is missing and it sadly turns into a murder investigation. Mattie and her K9 dog Robo are back and at the heart of the investigation. At the same time, the town vet, Cole, is treating a race horse who is suddenly ill. The symptoms have baffled him and it’s an interesting twist how the two cases intersect.

The characters were even more developed than the first book, including a lot of personal stuff in there, too, which made you like the characters even more. I love the dog training information in the book and Robo is like the best character ever. 😀

The story is fast paced and exciting. And while it was a tad predictable (I guessed the murderer around the 75% mark of the book), I still enjoyed it a lot.

4 ) The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

This was an interesting story that seems pretty relevant to stuff that’s going on these days. Lauren is a twenty-something who finds herself suddenly widowed when her husband is killed in Iraq in the military. This story is different, though, because he was the nation’s hero who quit his job on the LA Kings hockey team to enlist in the Army. Lauren doesn’t know how to deal with the grief and the press surrounding her husband’s death so she disappears and hides out.

Four years later, a documentary filmmaker finally finds where she’s hiding out and wants to do an interview with her. Lauren is stuck in her grief and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. But she eventually caves in because she realizes she has a story to tell and wants it told right. Her husband, Rory, was suffering from CTE (traumatic brain injury) from hockey when he went into the military. Not only did he come back from his first tour in Iraq with the classic symptoms of PTSD, but he was a changed person.

She reveals secrets of their life together and their marriage that no one else knew, she discovers horrible secrets of her own family, and she tries to move on. It’s a really well written book and a good story. I liked it a lot and want to read more by this author.

 

5 ) Hunting Hour (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima

This book was a slight departure from the other two in the series. At the end of the second book, Mattie discovered some buried childhood memories of abuse and this book she is struggling to come to terms with it. She has a therapist who is helping her but she’s not doing well. She’s withdrawn from her friends, she’s not sleeping or eating, everyone is concerned about her and she’s kind of off her game at work. A teen goes missing and she starts to let her personal life creep in to her investigative skills, which is not a good thing!

But the book is faced paced and the descriptions of how dogs are used to track people are really fascinating. The author writes animals very well. You definitely feel like the dogs are real! This was a solid mystery book and the ending was satisfying.

 

6 ) Reunion by Hannah Pittard

Kate is getting on a flight when she gets the news that her father committed suicide. Her life is already in shambles–her marriage is over, her career is floundering, she in debt up to her ears. So she changes her plans and flies home to Atlanta to meet up with her brother and sister…and her father’s FIVE ex wives (plus their children) to deal with his death. It’s kind of a coming-of-age type of story, except Kate is in her 30s. She’s struggling in her life but finds some closure and direction because of her father’s death.

The book sucks you in right away. It’s complicated and the relationships are complicated. It’s kind of a dark comedy, I suppose, but there are definitely some deep and meaningful parts of the book. And makes you question whether you ever really know someone.

 

7 ) The Hideaway by Lauren Denton

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s not a new concept and it was fairly predictable but it was a pleasure reading it.

Sara is a designer in New Orleans, too busy to really live her life to the fullest, when she gets the news that her grandma, Mags, has passed away. She goes home to Alabama for the reading of the will and Mags left her The Hideaway, an amazing (but old and falling apart) Victorian house that used to be a B&B.

Sara fixes up the old house to either sell it or turn it into a thriving B&B again, and of course falls in love. The book is about Mags’s life and a secret love affair that she had as a young woman.

The book is good but Sara’s character is pretty boring and one-dimensional. Mags is the star of the book. Her story is way more interesting! This is a good summer/beach read.

Happy Reading!

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