books to read

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 #13

I have been reading! Actually a lot, but a read some not great books that I didn’t feel like reviewing or sharing with you guys. So here is a post with a few good ones I’ve read in 2017 so far!

 

1 ) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”

I don’t know where to start with this book because SO much happens in it. It’s a story that starts in the 1920’s in Greece…an unexpected love story with the couple fleeing the country amidst war and fire, where they travel to the United States. The story spans three generations and you are definitely interested in every single character in this story. The character development is brilliant and beautiful. The writing is like poetry–absolutely gorgeous and you don’t want to stop reading. It’s an epic read, but never feels too long or too wordy.

“Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides’s command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie’s shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor.”

I cannot recommend this book enough. It might be one of the best books I read in 2016.

2 ) American Assassin (Mitch Rapp #1) by Vince Flynn

This book was recommended to me and I really liked it a lot! If you are a fan of Jack Reacher, you will probably like this book. The story is about Mitch Rapp becoming a spy and assassin loosely associated with the CIA. The Cold War is over and Islamic terrorism is the new thing–and these mysterious (CIA) operatives are creating a group of spies that “don’t exist.”

Since this was the first book in the series it was a lot of set-up and backstory but it didn’t feel bogged down or boring. It was interwoven well with the action of the story.

Spy novels can sometimes get tedious with too many details, or too much “spy” stuff that is sometimes over my head, but this book never fell in that trap. I will definitely keep reading the series.

3 ) The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch #21) by Michael Connelly

Books by Michael Connelly are ones that I wait for each year (same with the Jack Reacher series). The books are SO good and I devour them in a matter of days (sometimes hours). So I was very excited to see that the new Bosch book was out.

Harry isn’t a detective anymore, but don’t worry, the book is still good. He’s a reserve detective now, and also doing private investigation cases on the side. This book was about two stories–a serial rapist cold case investigation he was assisting with, and a private investigation case to find an heir for a very wealthy man in LA.

Both stories were excellent and fast-paced. The ending was unexpected and very fulfilling and I was bummed when I finished the book! SO GOOD!

4 ) Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes

Joe Goldberg is back. The story takes up pretty soon after where “You” left off. But this time Joe is double-crossed by Amy, his new love, and he leaves New York to chase her out to Hollywood and find her. He wants revenge.

I read some mixed reviews so I went into this book without high expectations but it was actually pretty good. I love the fast, crazy writing style and the first half of the book is great. It sucked me in right away and I couldn’t stop reading, much like “You.”

The second half of the book lagged a little bit and I didn’t really like the ending, but that didn’t necessarily ruin the book for me. I will say that this book wasn’t quite as dark as the first one–and less shocking–but maybe that’s just a magic that you can’t repeat once the shock is over. It was still a fun (and twisted) read.

 

5 ) Sideways by Rex Pickett

Sideways is easily in my Top 10 favorite movies. I absolutely love it! It’s so funny and fun and perfectly cast. So when my book club decided to read the book for our February choice I happily bought the book. I mean–how on earth had I not already read this book?!?!

The book is just as good as the movie, and pretty darn close to it. So if you’ve seen the movie you can hear the actor’s voices in the book. (I usually read books before they are movies, so it was weird to do it this way!) Sideways is a fun, hilarious and fast read. I read it in about two days and loved every minute of it.

6 ) The Royal We by Heather Cocks

I loved this book so much! It’s a modern fairy-tale about Bex, an American, who is studying abroad at Oxford and she falls in love with Nick, who will be King someday. (The story sometimes sounded like it was copying aspects of William and Kate.) Their secret romance goes on for years, with the normal ups and downs of relationships and the not-so-normal royal problems.

I devoured the book in just a few days. I didn’t want to stop reading it. It was so romantic and fantastical and it’s fun living in that fantasy world for a bit. There were a few things I didn’t like about the book: I felt like it needed some editing in places and I did not like the story line with Bex’s sister–I felt she was unnecessary. But other than that, I loved it and was so bummed when I finished the book!

7 ) The Beach by Alex Garland

I saw this movie years ago and remember it being really good. It’s been so long that reading the book now it felt fresh and new; I didn’t really remember most of the story so it wasn’t “spoiled” for me.

The book is a fast read and you’ll have a hard time putting it down. The chapters are short, too, so that also makes it easy to just keep reading…One more chapter, one more chapter…

Richard is a 20-something (I think) British backpacker in Thailand who is given a map to a secret beach from a stranger he meets in a hostel (who dies mysteriously–suicide??) the next day. He pairs up with a couple of French travelers and they find the beach….This story is basically a modern version of Lord of The Flies. The ending it pretty dramatic and brutal. The experiences on the beach with the community is also an interesting look into group dynamics, ego and people breaking from reality. Very very interesting read.

Happy reading!

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