books

Books #52

I am so thankful that I have access to library books on my kindle right now! If I didn’t, and had to rely on picking books up at a library during these closures, I would be losing my mind! ๐Ÿ™ I think I read on Facebook that Audible is offering some free books on their platform right now, so check that out too.

Here are some recommendations if you need some new things to add to your list:

#1 The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

I liked this book a lot. It took place on an eerie island in Australia, somewhere. The “Widow” is Kate. She thinks her life is going a long with no bumps in the road, when she goes to pick up her husband at the airport with their 10 year old daughter and he doesn’t show up. She tries to find him, he was supposed to be at a work conference, but it turns out he hasn’t worked in awhile.

Eventually, her husband’s body is found and she wants answers. She goes to the island where he was found and tries to find out what happened. Abby, the “Wife” has a story of her own. The story was a unique one and it was well done. The twist was unexpected. The ending was a bit obvious, but it was still a good book.

#2 In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

I could not put this book down. I started reading it after I read a few pretty heavy books and it was JUST the right type of story I needed. It was well written and pulled me in immediately. I read 60% of it in one sitting and had to force myself to go to bed.

In the end, it’s a story about love and friendship, grief and loss and learning to love and live again after tragedy. It was such a good story. The characters were all so well done. Loved it!

#3 Boundary Waters (Cork O’Connor #2) by William Kent Krueger

This was a solid mystery/thriller. A young country western singer is missing in the wilderness. Cork is no longer the sheriff. But he’s approached by the singer’s father to help him find her. The story has twists and turns and I liked the survival skills aspects of the story.

#4 Mercy House by Alena Dillon

This is an EXCELLENT book. It’s timely for the MeToo Movement.

Evelyn has been a nun in Brooklyn for most of her life. She runs Mercy House with a few other nuns for women who need help. Women who are victims of rape, abuse, domestic violence. Mercy House is a safe place for them to heal, find their footing and figure out their life.

But Evelyn’s past is coming back to her present to disrupt her good work and threaten to close Mercy House. The book is so so good. There are so many hot topics and it will make you so mad when you read it. Excellently done.

#5 In The Barren Ground by Loreth Ann White

This was an interesting good first book. I liked it because it was different and took place in a very remote area of Canada that was on the border of the Arctic Circle. The town is so remote, they have to rely on each other. A plane flies in once in awhile with supplies, but you are basically locked into the icy wilderness for months on end.

Tana is a new cop, and part native, so she is “Sort of” accepted by the community, but she has to police this community, cut off from everything, all by herself. And when some student scientists studying the local wildlife are mauled by wolves, Tana investigates but starts seeing things that are not quite right.

The story is pretty unique, the environment is creepy and remote, so good for a thriller. There are some pretty gory parts and in-depth descriptions, so if you are squeamish, maybe skim those parts, but it’s mostly in the beginning of the book, so if you get past that, you’ll be fine.

#6 Open Book by Jessica Simpson

I’ll be honest, what I new of Jessica Simpson was minimal. She wasn’t really on my radar except for what I read in tabloids back in the day (the body shaming, etc) and that infamous clip of “chicken of the sea” from her reality TV show. But when she became a big pop star, I was more of a Britney Spears fan, and even then I was on the tail end of that because of my age group so it wasn’t really for me. So I missed out on all of that.

This book was definitely a TELL ALL. She really did open up and because I didn’t know a lot about her going into it, it was all pretty new to me. I commend her openness. She really revealed a lot of stuff that is hard to talk about. She reveals she was sexual abused as a child by a family friend, she suffered from anxiety from a very young age and used medications (like Nyquil and Tylenol PM) to manage it and eventually a cocktail of alcohol, speed and Ambien. She opened up about her alcoholism and the failures in her marriage, her career, how much the public body-shamed her, and how she eventually found herself.

“The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at nightโ€”Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman.”

She went into detail about how she signed with Sony and as a young girl, barely 120 pounds, was told she had to lose 15. And that started the endless cycle of crash diet, dieting pills and body hating.

I immediately went on an extremely strict diet, and started taking diet pills, which I would do for the next twenty years. Off the diet, I obsessed over how I looked 24/7; on the diet, I was also hyperfocused on food. It made me nervous. My anxiety had something to hold on to, and instead of examining my emotions, I could just block them out by focusing on carb counts and waist sizes.

“..had managed to get myself down to 103 pounds. Everyone went on about how great I looked, but I couldnโ€™t enjoy it because I was so freaking hungry. I envied people who could eat whatever they wanted, while I had to microwave slices of turkey with Velveeta cheese on top and call it a meal. But when I ate anything, I yelled at myself, asking why I was getting in my own way and why I hadnโ€™t gone to the gym.”

I really appreciated and related to all the parts she wrote about her struggles with her weight, dieting, gaining 10 pounds and going into a shame spiral and then she had the added FUN of dealing with the public shaming (the whole “mom jeans” drama).

The book was definitely on the Jesus-leaning, which is not for me, but that’s where she found her strength. She probably should have gone into country music or Christian pop/rock, that seems to be where her heart is, but she clearly wanted to be a star and make money and at the time those were not the money-makers–pop music was.

I liked the book a lot. I appreciated her openness. I think a lot of people would enjoy it, even if her music is not your thing (I’ve never actually heard one of her songs)!

#7 The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The new “theme” for books now seems to be dual timelines. Most of the time this isn’t done very well. There are rarely books that do this format that hold my interest in both time lines. There’s usually a story or time period that I prefer and it drags on.

This book did a pretty good job holding my interest in both the current time and 1982. I did find myself confused a few times as to which time period I was reading but overall it was a good story. It kept me captivated and there was a lot of good creepy build up. There was a “supernatural” factor to the story, but not in a cheesy, unrealistic way.

I liked the book a lot.

Happy Reading!

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Books #49

My goal for 2020 is to read 150 books. A little less than last year. Usually I try and read more books each year but last year I just barely made the goal. ๐Ÿ™‚

1 – Save Me The Plums: A Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

I loved this book! It was so interesting! I was legitimately sad when the book ended and this might be one I buy and read again someday.

I’ve been a fan of Ruth for awhile. I’ve read one of her other books and liked it and I always liked it when she was a guest judge on Top Chef. Her critiques were thoughtful and interesting.

This is a memoir of her decision to leave her job as a restaurant critic and become the editor of Gourmet Magazine in the early 2000’s. It was the height of the magazine world but Gourmet, part of Conde Nast, was kind of floundering. The business side of the magazine was mismanaged, the ideas were stale. She came in and turned everything around at a time when chefs were becoming famous like rock stars.

Every chapter was a fascinating glimpse into the behind the scenes life of a food magazine. I loved reading about the test kitchen and how they created recipes. The chapter on 9/11 was a gripping and emotional read, written by someone who was there at Ground Zero, and after the fact fed the first responders.

“Iโ€™d learned an important lesson: When something frightens me, it is definitely worth doing.”

Her writing was excellent, descriptive, poetic and every time she described food I could taste it, smell it and desired it, and yet it wasn’t verbose or overdone. She didn’t drone on, I was never bored, I never skimmed. It was excellent!

2 – The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff

Wow, what an intense read. This book is definitely not for everyone. It’s a huge emotional roller-coaster. Anyone of a certain age remembers that day like it was yesterday. Those images will be etched in our memories forever. That is not something you ever get over or ever forget.

“It looked like a ticker-tape parade.”

The book is a first hand recounting of that day from people that were there. People that were on the flights that crashed (one of the flight attendants called in for help when it was hijacked and the book had the transcripts). It was transcripts of people that left voicemails from the hijacked planes (I totally cried reading those):

โ€œHey Jules, this is Brian. Ah, listenโ€ฆ Iโ€™m on an airplane that has been hijackedโ€ฆ if things donโ€™t go well, and theyโ€™re not looking good, I want you to know that I absolutely love you. I want you to do good, have good times, same with my parents. Iโ€™ll see you when you get here. I want you to know that I totally love you. Bye, babe, I hope I will call you.โ€

It was first hand telling from firefighters, police, nurses, doctors, regular people that were just going to work that day. People that SURVIVED the towers falling (their stories were INCREDIBLE).

“โ€ฆjet fuel blasted out of the central elevator bank and mushroomed everywhere. People wereโ€”20 yards from meโ€”lifted on this fireball and thrown through those lobby windows and incinerated.”

I literally could not put the book down. I could not stop reading it. It was SO INTENSE.

“One of the firemen from Rescue 1 looked up and said, โ€œWe may not live through today.โ€ We looked at him, and we looked at each other, and we said, โ€œYouโ€™re right.โ€ We took the time to shake each otherโ€™s hands and wish each other good luck and โ€œHope Iโ€™ll see you later,โ€ which is especially poignant for me because we all had that acknowledgment that this might be our last day on earth and we went to work anyway.”

The book is powerful, emotional, heartbreaking and just so gut-wrenching but really, really important to read.

“Ultimately, 60 of the FDNY personnel killed on 9/11 were supposed to be off-duty that morning.”

โ€œFrederick Terna, Holocaust survivor and Brooklyn resident: As ashes were falling, I was back in Auschwitz, with ashes coming down. In Auschwitz, I knew what the ashes were. Here, I assumed I knew what the ashes were- it was a building and human remains.โ€

This is a book that will stay in my memory for a long time. Incredible.

#3 – Anyjar by Jaimie Gusman

I don’t know where to begin with this review. It’s a book of poetry and it’s so raw and so beautiful. It took me about 4 months to read it (and it’s not a long book). I read each poem slowly, savoring each word, picturing the poems and stories the author was trying to tell.

The book of poetry is beautiful. With poetry, of course, it’s open to interpretation, but to me it seemed largely about grief and healing. But the imagery in the book was vast; oceans and birds and love and sex and memories and family. It was deep and had levels within levels.

I loved the book and will reread it again.

#4 Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

This was a really engrossing read. It spanned several generations. The story starts out in the early 70’s when two young guys become cops in New York and start families. They live next door to each other in the suburbs and then after some time has past, a tragic event happens that forever ties these two families and their kids together.

The story is really good and told well. It flows through the years and even as new characters are introduced, you are still interested and keep reading. In the end the book about is about forgiveness, love and life. I loved the ending. It felt right.

#5 – Dear Girls : Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

I love Ali Wong. Her standup is biting and hilarious and sometimes raunchy. This book is all of that. I found myself laughing out loud so many times and I could totally hear her voice while I was reading the book.

It was funny and she had some interesting life advice. It was sort of a memoir, but not really, in letter form to her daughters. Basically talking about her life as a single girl, what it’s like being an Asian American comic/actress and talked about her culture and heritage and family, but with humorous stories. I’ve read a lot of books by comics and they aren’t always funny. This one was.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters about pregnancy. (And if you’ve seen her stand up, you know.)

“Before I got pregnant, I was determined to have a kumbaya hippie birth in water, surrounded by a Santa Monica sorceress named Owlfeathers and lots of chanting. One TV director gave me her meditation CDs that were meant to guide you through an epidural-free labor. (Fun fact: You canโ€™t meditate your cervix to open wider so donโ€™t waste your time!)”

“Bring a nice blanket, something soft and cozy that feels like the inside of an Ugg boot or a Care Bearโ€™s vagina. Hospital bedding does not spark joy.”

“Babies are often born with fingernails so disturbingly long it made me wonder why nobody told me there had been a raccoon living inside my uterus.”

#6 Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

I heard a podcast about Isabella recently and wanted to know more about her so I got this book. It was long, very detailed but totally fascinating!

Isabella was a strong, powerful woman even when she was a teenager and defied her brother and married King Ferdinand in secret. She had a lot of forethought and wisdom at a young age.

She was also the Queen that financed Columbus’s adventures but she was also a kind, religious person who wanted the Native people to be treated with kindness. She was not too happy to hear the reports of how Columbus and the other explorers were treating the people they discovered in the new world.

There were a lot of facts and history so it’s a slow read but very fascinating.

Happy Reading!

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