GoodReads

Books #19

I’ve been reading a lot of really great books lately! I’ve got a ton of new ones added to my “to read” list on Goodreads . Last year I barely made it anywhere near my goal for the year (new baby!) but this year I’ve already surpassed my goal of 65 books.

Now on to the reviews!

1 ) Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was definitely a good read and I read it in about two days. I had a hard time putting it down. However, I should probably add a trigger warning because this book pretty graphically (and accurately) describes domestic violence. I can see this book being too hard for some people to be able to read. So be warned in that.

Lindsey marries the love of her life, Andrew, and she thinks her life is great…but slowly things start to change. Andrew becomes controlling and possessive and eventually violent and abusive. The way the author unveils the story is well-written. She tells the story of the abuse in flashbacks and balances it out with present-day. So just as it starts to feel a bit overwhelming to read about the horrific abuse Lindsey is enduring, you get a little relief as a reader.

The present-day story is about Lindsey and her daughter Sophie, 10 years later. She escaped the abuse with her daughter and Andrew spent a decade in prison. But now he’s out and he’s found them.

Like I said, the book was a good, fast, engrossing read, but a bit an emotional roller-coaster that may not be for everyone. The ending and the twist regarding Andrew and his post-prison stalking was unexpected.

2 ) We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

This book is SO damn funny! Like laugh out loud until your sides ache funny. It’s a collection of essays by blogger/comedian Samantha Irby. I was not familiar with her before I got this book, and honestly I’m not sure how it got on my radar but I’m glad it did because I loved her voice. She is a hilarious writer!

“I don’t wear evening gowns and booty shorts every day. I wear daytime pajamas and orthopedic shoes, and lately I’ve become a big fan of the “grandpa cardigan.” [Loc 231]

I could relate to a lot of her stories. She talked about her upbringing and what her 20’s were like as a plus-sized woman. The stories were always funny, even the ones that had a little dark edge to them, you never felt bummed out reading about her hardships because her humor and resilience got her through everything.

“Words like ‘outdoor music festival’ are why I am so glad summer in Chicago lasts approximately seven minutes. I nearly wept tears of seasonal affective disordered joy as I pulled out my North Face boots at the end of last November…summer can be an exercise in torture (but not an exercise in actual exercise, duh, it’s too humid) if you don’t want to do crazy shit like ‘wear sleeveless shirts’ and ‘enjoy close proximity to actively sweating strangers’. [Loc 1275]”

I laughed so hard at her struggles with her weight and dieting. I could relate to that and it was funny, not depressing.  She was charming and self-deprecating but not negative.

“Dieting is crazy and turns most of us jerks into insufferable babies. Either (1) you’re a crabby asshole on the verge of tears all day long because you’re desperate for a handful of Cheetos, or (2) you’re perched atop a high horse made of fewer than 1200 daily calories, glaring down your nose at me and pointing out how much saturated fat is in my unsweetened iced tea. [Loc 1911]”

“You need bitches to write about comfortable maternity jeans are for women who aren’t really pregnant. And sexy ways to remove a bra that has four hooks. [Loc 1932, “Fuck It Bitch, Stay Fat”]”

She talks about her serious health conditions (she has Crohn’s, depression, and arthritis and maybe something else because she has to wear braces on her wrists and has orthopedic shoes–that even in her poverty she happily spent $375 on each year).

“Working out is a bummer. Walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes while listening to the same Metallica playlist over and over and trying to read the closed captioning of a television show you don’t even care about is a total drag. The elliptical machine makes uncoordinated people like me look stupid. The stair machine reduces mere mortals to tears within four minutes. The stationary bike feels like uncomfortable butt sex. [Loc 1951]”

“Staying committed to things is hard. I have seven different body washes lining the edge of my bathtub right now. [Loc 2060]”

LOL! That’s totally me.

“I spent too much time trying to mold myself to fit the romantic ideals of humans who proved themselves unworthy of that effort, and I regret it. Never again will I be with someone who is unwilling to accept me as I am, or who has any desire to mold me into something that makes me uncomfortable. [Loc 3539]”

Her writing was real and hilarious and deeply honest, sometimes very vulnerable. I very much enjoyed this book and will be checking out her blog!

3 ) The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

First word that comes to mind: DIABOLICAL!

I was unsure of what the book was really about…the description was a little vague. The story starts out interestingly enough: a large family who loses their matriarch and each member of the family has something big going on in their lives. Sophie is about to give birth to her fourth child when she discovers her husband cheated on her. Felix was disfigured as a kid and suddenly has a new girlfriend, who is odd herself. The patriarch of the family is grieving the death of his wife. The family comes together for a holiday weekend at their country home to scatter the mother’s ashes when everything starts to go awry.

But the story kind of stops there. The middle part of the book switches to a different point of view and it turns out that someone in their midst is not who they say they are and in fact, this person has been plotting to destroy their whole family for years. I don’t want to give away any spoilers because the “reveal” in the middle of the book was quite jolting! I was not expecting it at all!

The rest of the book was so so good!!

 

4 ) The Boy in the Woods by Carter Wilson

This book premise immediately sucked me in–when I read the blurb I had to read the book immediately and I’m so glad it lived up to the blurb! That doesn’t usually happen!

The book opens with a bang — it’s 1981 in Oregon and three fourteen-year-old boys witness a horrific murder. They are forced into a cover-up and they swear never to talk about what happened. Flash forward 30 years: Tommy Devereaux has become a bestselling author or serial killer mystery books.

He is ready to tell his story but disguises it as his new fiction book. He is approached by a woman who asks for his autograph, leaving behind a note which reads: ‘You didn’t even change my name.’  Chilling!

The book was a super fast read (read it it in two days) and even though there were parts of the story that seemed a little ridiculous, it was pretty enthralling and I kept reading. Be prepared, the subject matter is pretty dark.

 

 

5 ) Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

I heard about this book on a podcast. Apparently the author let her 10 year old take the Subway by himself and it made the news…and then blew up on her, where everyone was criticizing her parenting. She ended up starting a blog about raising “free-range” kids.

“Any risk is seen as too much risk. A crazy, not-to-be-taken, see-you-in-the-local-news risk. [pg 5]”

“Normal childhood has become just too risky to permit. [pg 45]”

I’ve been noticing this change for awhile, but especially now that I have a child. I think back to my own childhood memories and how my parents let me be somewhat “free-range.” I grew up in Seattle, in the suburbs, and I used to walk to the bus stop three blocks away, by myself. I never lived close to my school, so I never really walked to school by myself, but I wasn’t under constant supervision. If I wanted to hang out with a friend who lived in the neighborhood, I walked there by myself. I remember going trick-or-treating as a kid and young teen with a friend and no adult supervision.

When I was growing up, I used to spend a week or two in Oregon on my aunt’s farm with my cousins. She literally kicked us out of the house, locked the door and said we had to go play outside until lunchtime. My cousins and I spent all day running around free outside on the farm, getting into mischief, exploring, creating our own games and fun and just hanging out. It was liberating! Especially for a city kid!

I think these things are really important for kids and their development, but it doesn’t happen much these days, and that’s really sad.

“What’s worst about about this kind of defensive thinking is that eventually it seeps into our own parenting decisions. We start to wonder if it’s OK to let our kids do anything, because….what if? [pg 47]”

There is a lot of fear-mongering these days. And not only that, there’s a ton of JUDGMENT. Judgment from complete strangers–especially on the internet. It’s gross.

“Blamers thrive on shame. Take away their power. Do not be ashamed of making parenting choices based on who your kid is, rather than on what the neighbors will say. Why are they talking about you anyway? [pg 58]”

I remember a facebook friend posting a panicked status about seeing a dog locked in a car. It was like February and maybe 60 degrees. Clearly not unsafe. But she was in a complete panic and posted “should I break the window?? Should I call the police??” And commenters on her FB were like “calm down the dog is fine.” I mean really, it’s like no one has common sense anymore and it’s all this “gotcha” society thinking.

“The idea is that if you’re worrying, then you’re doing the right thing. Worrying is ‘like a demonstration to yourself that you’re being responsible.’ It has become our national pastime. [pg 94]”

The book is really interesting and it debunks a lot of the paranoia people have about child abductions and all sorts of horrific things that could happen if you let your kids walk three blocks to school by themselves. It also discussed a lot of the absolutely ridiculous things that are happening –like how school buses won’t drop off kids at their bus stop unless there’s a parent standing there (seriously, it takes the kid back to school and the parent is called).

“But the whole new thinking about happiness (and maturity) is that these qualities come from actually doing things. Creating. Exploring. Being independent. [Loc 278]”

“The cell phone keeps the parent-child relationships back where it was when the kids were very young and needed constant supervision. When parents are always available to tell their kid what to do, they will, even when otherwise the kid would start making decisions himself. [pg 96]”

It’s so important for kids to explore and problem-solve and I feel like currently, our society is taking all that away and we’re raising giant adult-babies that can’t really do anything for themselves. 🙁

“Childhood is supposed to be about discovering the world, not being held captive. [pg 193]”

“We want out children to have a childhood that’s magical and enriched, but I’ll bet that your best childhood memories involve something you were thrilled to do by yourself. These are childhood’s magic words: ‘I did it myself!’ [pg 193]”

It was a really good book and I liked reading it. The stories made me kind of angry and dreading our future interaction with “other” parents who are fear-mongering. But the book gave lots of good tips to make change happen.

 

6 ) See Jane Die by Erica Spindler

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The two main characters are artist Jane and her homicide detective sister, Stacy. When they were teens, Jane was horribly disfigured in a freak accident and years of plastic surgery have helped her heal (on the outside). The sisters have been estranged for awhile, but when Jane’s husband is suddenly suspected and arrested of murder, the sisters reunite to find the real killer.

There were a lot of twists in this book, nothing super shocking, but I thought I had guessed who the real killer was and was surprised by the ending and the reveal. It was a pretty good mystery/thriller book and I read it in one day.

 

7 ) Arrowood  by Laura McHugh

What an excellent book!

Arden is a 20-something student trying to finish her master’s degree when she gets word that her estranged father has passed away and the home in Iowa that has been in her family for a century is suddenly hers. Reluctantly she goes home to a house she hasn’t been in since she was 8 years old and her twin sisters tragically disappeared–an event that tore her family apart.

Home, she is suddenly haunted by the memories of her sister’s disappearance and wrecked with guilt because she was watching them when they were kidnapped. Her sisters were never found. Could they still be alive? Were they murdered? She suddenly starts doubting what she saw that day.

This is your quintessential gothic mystery novel that is so very well done and the story is great, the ending is very satisfying and I loved this book!

Happy Reading!

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Books #18

I’ve been reading a lot lately. With all the stuff that’s been going on in my life recently, I really needed the distraction.

1 ) Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

What a crazy roller-coaster ride of a book! It was SO GOOD! If you’re going to pick up a book to read, this is the one you should check out. I read it in a day and a half and could not put it down.

The story is dark–Gwen/Gina’s life is turned upside down. The idyllic home life she thought she had, married with two small kids, was not what it seemed when it turns out that her husband is a serial killer. The story isn’t necessarily about the discovery or the trial, or him going to prison to sit on death row, it’s about her survival and it’s about the rabid internet trolls that are trying to hunt her down to make her pay. They are convinced that she was an accomplice.

So she goes on the run with her kids, moving and changing identities whenever she thinks the stalkers and trolls are getting too close to finding them. But now she’s settled in Tennessee on a quiet lake with her teen kids. She’s still diligent, but starting to relax. And that’s when her past catches up to her. It’s such a fast, exciting story. Trust me when I say you cannot stop reading this book once you start!

 

 

2 ) The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

This is a story about friendship, motherhood and grief. Hannah and Kate have been best friends most of their lives. Hannah has been trying to have a baby for years, unsuccessfully, and Kate does the selfless thing of offering to be a surrogate. It’s not an easy road for any of them. Kate’s husband isn’t on board with it, there are complications and twists of fate that change their lives forever. But the story is heartwarming, as well as tragic.

I really liked the character development. You could really feel the close friendship between Hannah and Kate and the author describes grief very well. It was a good book that I read in two days.

3 )  Cold Earth (Shetland Island #7) by Ann Cleeves

This series kind of dropped off my radar for about a year. Then I remembered about it and got the newest book. It was fairly easy to pick it back up and the story starts out in a pretty exciting way.

Detective Jimmy Perez is back and he’s at a funeral for a local friend who died of old age. During the service at the cemetery, there is a landslide of mud, water and peat that crashes into a nearby house. They all watch in horror as it sweeps down the hillside. Then Jimmy discovers a body. They all assume that it was the landslide that killed her, but it turns out to be murder.

There were lots of twists and turns, and another murder, and I liked the book and it was a fast read…but the ending was a bit flimsy for me. The murderer was not who I was expecting it to be, which in a murder mystery is usually pretty good, but in this case I didn’t quite buy it. Other than that, I enjoyed the story.

4 ) Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

This was a really fascinating read about how cities and suburbs are designed and how they fail. The author discusses different cities — Bogota was especially fascinating in how they turned it around and also interesting was the San Joaquin Valley in California (and how it was completely destroyed by the housing crash).

So why are the citizens in Bogota so much happier?

“‘And what are our needs for happiness?’ he asked. ‘We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.’ [pg 6]”

It really is worth reading the book just for these two scenarios that are discussed, although the author talks about other countries and cities that have tried to make changes. 

“A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both. [pg 7]”

The story of Bogota was particularly interesting to me because Portland is going through something similar. There is SO much growth, so much building, so many condos and apartments and high rises…and no parking, horrible traffic, and people rallying on the side of biking rights to transform the city to something more livable. I saw a lot of parallels and I hope that our city leaders can try and find some kind of balance to make Portland…better….?

The horror-story of California was also an interesting read. Lots of people moved to this community and commuted to San Jose/San Francisco and their commutes were 2 HOURS EACH WAY! I cannot even imagine enduring that.

“A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45 minute commute were 40% more likely to divorce. People who live in mono-functional, car-dependent neighborhoods outside of urban centers are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walk-able neighborhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services, and places to work. [pg 55]”

I can definitely relate. We live in the suburbs of Portland and for years our neighborhood, while nice, didn’t exactly feel like a great neighborhood. We had to drive everywhere to do anything. There are no restaurants nearby, no bars, nothing really within walking distance. But once I had Logan and we started going on frequent walks (and runs) together, I started stopping by a local coffee-shop on our route. I chat with the people that work there, I chat with other patrons in the coffee-shop, people comment on my baby, and it’s a friendly experience. I also noticed that I started seeing the same people on our route who were also out walking/running/etc. We’d smile and say hi and it felt a little more like a community. It’s not quite the same because it would be nice to be able to walk to a restaurant close to the house. But it’s getting there.

The book was really interesting and gave me a lot to think about. It also made me think of what I want to look for in our next home/community. Having stuff within walking distance is a must have!

5 ) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

What a really great book! The story unfolds slowly, but you are engrossed the entire time. Eleanor is slightly weird…she’s very particular about things, is very black and white–has a routine and never deviates from that, and seems to have maybe some autistic tendencies but the book doesn’t really address that. She most certainly struggles with social skills and norms. But it’s quaint and funny.

She starts to become friends with Raymond, a coworker. Her and Raymond help a complete stranger, Sammy, an elderly man who collapses in the street. This series of events brings Eleanor out of her shell and forces her to re-evaluate her social life. Everything is off-kilter for her, but she starts making small changes and before she realizes it, her life is completely different. In a good way!

I absolutely loved the characters and the story. Eleanor is weird but charming and you are rooting for her the entire time. The ending was very shocking and unexpected, too. This is a really special book that I would recommend to anyone.

6) Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

I really liked this book! It had just the right amount of politics and humor. Al Franken writes briefly about his upbringing, his family and his career at SNL. Then he moves on to what made him decide to run for senate. The bulk of the book is about the campaign but he does spend some time writing about what it is like being a senator.

“And that’s how it’s supposed to be for every kid in America. You’re not supposed to have to be rich or lucky to have a chance to do great things…Democrats aren’t just the party of equality for all–we’re the party of opportunity for all. [pg 9]”

I also love how much “behind the scenes” stories he shares. They were interesting and funny. It was interesting to get more information on politics and how stuff happens and how the left and right actually do sometimes try to work together.

He also talked about the 2016 election and the aftermath, so there is relevant information in there, too. He ended his book with advice, too.

“Keep showing up and keep speaking out. The Women’s March didn’t force Trump to resign. It didn’t even stop any of his Cabinet nominees from going through. But it really, really mattered. It sent a clear message to the president (and to Republicans in Congress) that the American people won’t surrender their rights or their core values without a fight–and it sent a clear message to Democrats that, when we stand up to Trump, people will have our backs. [pg 382]”

He encourages people to come out at mid-elections and actually get involved and vote and try. Keep trying.

“This comeback starts with standing up for our values and making it clear that no president has a mandate to spread bigotry or roll back the clock on progress (especially not one who lost the popular vote by three million). It continues through next year, when we have a chance to punish Republicans for enabling this disaster and take back governorship and state legislatures all across the country. [pg 384]”

It’s worth a read!

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