GoodReads

Books #47

I like a lot of the books I’ve read lately. I discovered some new authors/series and got caught up on some favorite authors. Here are some of my favorites:

#1 The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

This was an interesting story. It turned out to be more of a courtroom drama but it was interesting and kept me reading. I liked it a lot and it was well written.

Chloe is a rich a famous New York magazine executive and feminist figurehead. She’s married to Adam, a lawyer. Except her past is a little more sketchy. Turns out, Adam was married to her sister Nicky before they got divorced and Chloe and Adam married. And Ethan is Chloe’s stepson, and also her nephew. But more comes to light when Adam is murdered and the trial brings out all the dirty secrets.

#2 Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

This was an excellent book! It was a heavy topic, but it wasn’t dry or bogged down with lots of dry facts and figures. The statistics were scattered around the book in an unobtrusive way and the way it was written was engrossing. The author wrote about several people and you got sucked into their stories and were interested in the outcomes.

“These days, there are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders.”

He followed several people in Milwaukee, WI, who were poor and struggling to keep a roof over their head. It was a mixture of races, ages and sexes. Some had families, some were single. One was a male nurse who had gotten addicted to opiates and due to drug abuse, lost his job, nursing license, and struggled to stay in his trailer.

“Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend over half of their income on housing, and at least one in four dedicates over 70 percent to paying the rent and keeping the lights on…Fewer and fewer families can afford a roof over their head. This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today…”

This book was definitely eye-opening. I had no idea how a lot of this stuff worked. I definitely had to face my own privilege reading this book and know that I never had to deal with the realities that a lot of Americans have to deal with. Deciding whether to feed their kids or pay their rent.

“It was a common strategy among cash-strapped renters. Because the rent took almost all of their paycheck, families sometimes had to initiate a necessary eviction that allowed them to save enough money to move to another place. One landlord’s loss was another’s gain.”

The book really does an excellent job describing such a broken system.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out… Men often avoided eviction by laying concrete, patching roofs, or painting rooms for landlords. But women almost never approached their landlord with a similar offer. Some women—already taxed by child care, welfare requirements, or work obligations—could not spare the time. But many others simply did not conceive of working off the rent as a possibility. When women did approach their landlords with such an offer, it sometimes involved trading sex for rent.”

One of the people he followed was a landlord, Sherrena. I found that really fascinating. Sometimes you got a glimpse of someone who had a heart and was really kind and actually cared…one single mother with two boys moved in to one of her units and she brought them a box of food when they first moved in. And yet…she ended up evicting them later because of police activity at that unit.

“Every month Sherrena collected roughly $20,000 in rent. Her monthly mortgage bills rounded out to $8,500. After paying the water bill, Sherrena—who owned three dozen inner-city units, all filled with tenants around or below the poverty line—figured she netted roughly $10,000 a month, more than what Arleen, Lamar, and many of her other tenants took home in a year.”

The other thing that was super frustrating was that a lot of the poor people were on SSI or SSD or welfare and given a certain amount of money each month. But they were never able to get ahead. If they had too much money in their bank account, they lost their services. It really doesn’t make people want to try and get out of poverty. Talk about a broken system! Thankfully Oregon doesn’t have that, they have a savings account program for people on benefits so that they can TRY and save and get out of poverty levels.

“She was allowed to have up to $2,000 in the bank, not $1,000 like she thought, but anything more than that could result in her losing benefits. Larraine saw this rule as a clear disincentive to save.”

“If Arleen and Vanetta didn’t have to dedicate 70 or 80 percent of their income to rent, they could keep their kids fed and clothed and off the streets. They could settle down in one neighborhood and enroll their children in one school, providing them the opportunity to form long-lasting relationships with friends, role models, and teachers. They could start a savings account or buy their children toys and books, perhaps even a home computer.”

I think this should be required reading in schools, honestly. It was so so good and so eye opening.

#3 The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal

Olivia Shaw is a food editor in San Francisco, in a dying engagement, struggling with the recent death of her mother and recovering from a car accident that has left her with chronic pain. The surprise news that she’s inherited a castle in England, is not what she’s expecting. It turns out she knew nothing about her mother’s past.

Olivia goes to England to settle things up and as the story unfolds, she realizes how much she didn’t know. She also realizes just how much she needed a “redo” for her life.

The book is surprisingly good for a romance. It’s not usually my type of book. It doesn’t feel like a “fluffy” romance book. It definitely deals with grief and healing. The topic of renovating the old estate was fascinating and the romance between the two main characters was very well written. I liked this story a lot!

#4 Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

This was a cute, fun little read. Naomi is a 30-something CEO of her own company and when her boyfriend dies and she finds out he was actually married, she decides it’s time to get her personal life in order.

There was a nice romance in the book that was well written (enemies into soul mates kind of a thing) and the book was funny and charming. I liked the characters!

#5 Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman

I absolutely LOVED this book. It was laugh out loud funny. I was cracking up the entire time I read the book and I could also relate to everything. It felt like she was writing my story. It was a great book about becoming a mother, being pregnant:

“This pregnant tiredness is so unearthly. I stagger into work and sit down at my computer, and it’s all I can do not to crawl under my desk immediately and go to sleep on the floor. I crave recumbency.”

… and the crazy time postpartum is:

“The postpartum period is like The Perfect Storm: all the wild forces of new-babyhood collide to make you ragingly, epically nuts. I know that I’ll look back on this period and understand the equation perfectly. I understand it even now: hormones + mewling subhuman + strange, sore body + moping older child – sleep=utter lunacy. I am an utter lunatic.”

…and how new babies change marriages:

‘ “Wow,” he’d say, “now that was a great night, right? Ben’s a great sleeper.” “Honey,” I’d say, “you had a great night. You’re a great sleeper. I nursed Ben every hour. I now have no choice but to leave you.” ‘

And then she wrote about having the second baby and what life was like with a toddler.

“…what I love about three-year-olds? They’re just so flexible. So come-what-may. Nothing needs to look a certain way or be done in a particular order. They’re always like, “Hey, Mom, however you want to do it. That’s just great with me.” ” LOL

I just couldn’t put the book down and I didn’t want it to end.

#6 A Dangerous Man (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #18) by Robert Crais

One of my favorite series! This was a great read in the series. I read it in one day and I couldn’t put the book down.

Isabel is a 20-something bank teller just living her life when she leaves work for lunch one day and is grabbed by two strange men. Pike is leaving the bank and sees the attempted kidnapping and intervenes. He saves Isabel but then finds himself embroiled in a mystery of who is trying to kidnap Isabel and why.

The outcome was very interesting! I liked the story and was happy to have beloved characters back. Definitely recommend.

#7 Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

Really strong start to a new series. Detective Gemma Monroe is 6 months pregnant and having relationship issues. She’s handed a new case that unravels the entire town.

Gemma is a strong lead character. I liked that she was vulnerable but not whiny or dependent on a man. The story isn’t too gruesome. There were plot points that were well done and believable. The mystery was well-written, good/believable dialogue and surprise ending. I liked the book and can’t wait to read the next one.

Happy Reading!

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Books #45

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. I read some good books (see below) and then had a rash of duds. Books I just could not get into at all and gave up before finishing. And they were recommended books! So I don’t know. Maybe my head wasn’t in the right space for them or something.

But here are a few good ones to add to your list.

#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

A friend recommended this book and I liked it a lot! Lori is a therapist in LA. She has an 8 year old son, she’s supposed to be writing a book on happiness. She’s engaged. And then her boyfriend breaks up with her and she finds herself in her mid-40s suddenly floundering.

“I’m convinced that Boyfriend has quickly transitioned into his post-me life completely unscathed. It’s a refrain I recognize from divorcing couples I see in which one person is struggling mightily and the other seems fine, happy even, to be moving on.”

She has writers block, she’s depressed and crying all the time, she’s having some health issues the doctors can’t seem to diagnose. So, even though she’s a therapist, she ends up going to therapy.

“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

It’s a very interesting read. She writes about some of her clients (names changed, of course) and it was interesting to read about the journey people had in therapy. Even if you can’t relate to her clients there is a little tidbit in each other their stories that I think most people can relate to. Grief. Loss. Big life changes.

“One of the most important steps in therapy is helping people take responsibility for their current predicaments, because once they realize that they can (and must) construct their own lives, they’re free to generate change.”

While I didn’t find her own therapy sessions as interesting as the clients she shared about (Julie in particular), I enjoyed the book a lot!

#2 Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan Stack

I liked most of this book. I found it really interesting from a cultural standpoint. There were definitely parts of it I didn’t like, but overall it was a good read.

It’s a memoir about a reporter, Megan, who is living in China with her husband when she gets pregnant and quits her reporting job. They decide to hire help (housework and help with the baby) so she could write a book. She writes about her struggle as a new mom, the lack of sleep that caused some insanity. I could totally relate to that and remembered the haze of early motherhood.

Then, pregnant again, her husband gets a job in India and they move there. She hires help in India, too. She struggles with the realities of having help and the cultural differences and what happens when you try and help “the help” based on your culture.

There were some parts of the book that were definitely uncomfortable. Her privilege definitely came through and was gross, but at the same time, I’m a middle-class white woman with privilege (even though I don’t have hired help), so maybe it’s uncomfortable to read because of that? Who knows. Either way, there were some “icky” parts but some really interesting parts.

#3 Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

I liked this book a lot. I read it in one day! There is a sequel coming out this fall, that I am dying to read, too.

Irene is a 50-something woman with two grown boys and a husband who is away a lot for work. She gets a shocking, and mysterious, phone call on New Year’s Day that her husband died in a helicopter crash in the Caribbean. She’s confused because he was supposed to be in Florida for work. Why was he in the Caribbean?

She flies down there to discover that not only was he lying about where he was most of the time, he had a villa and another life–complete with a mistress and a love child. Irene, with her adult boys, are trying to piece together who he really was because Russ Steele apparently lied about everything.

It was a good book and a fast read.

#4 From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

I loved this book. It was so well written and heart-felt and passionate and sad.

Tembi is an African American actress. When she was in college, she spent some time abroad in Italy for her her Art History degree, where she met and fell in love with her future husband, Saro. They had a long distance relationship for awhile and then got marriage, despite Saro’s family’s displeasure–which caused a family rift.

Saro and Tembi were in love for a long time, focused on their careers and then he got cancer. She nursed him back to health, tried to broker a family reunion to fix whatever drama was going on, and when Saro was well they adopted a baby daughter. Years later, he dies of cancer and Tembi is now faced with healing, dealing with grief, raising their daughter alone, and going back to Sicily once a year to be with Saro’s family.

It’s a truly heart-felt book. You definitely feel for the young widow, feel for the daughter, the mother…She’s trying her best to heal her own grief, while helping her daughter with the loss of her father.

“‘Children, especially those your daughter’s age, are prone to magical thinking. You will need to help her understand what is happening because her brain will want to forget. Her brain and heart will not be able to hold it. One day when she’s sixteen and all her grief is new and fresh, triggered by all the ways he is not in her life, she will be angry and hurt and confused. And mad at you, mad at life. She may say, ‘And you never let me say good-bye to my dad’ or ‘I never got to go to his memorial service.’ And she won’t be making it up. It will be real to her. Children can bury what is too big to bear. That is why you will have the picture.’ “

The descriptions of Sicily are magical. The book is about grief and healing and it’s just really well done.

“…they sat in front of Saro’s childhood home waiting for us. They were prepared for mourning. They had done this before, many times—for themselves, for family, for neighbors, perhaps since the dawn of time. Sicilians were accustomed to welcoming home the dead.”

I can’t recommend it enough.

#5 The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The premise of this book is absurd and unrealistic but totally delightful. Suspend reality, be ready to just read fluff and enjoy it. I read it camping and finished the book in one day.

Olive and Ami are twin sisters. Ami is getting married to Dane. But at the last minute, almost the entire wedding party gets sick, including the bride and groom, so Ami insists that Olive goes on her honeymoon for her. It’s non-refundable, afterall.

So Olive and the groom’s brother, Ethan, whom Olive dislikes a great deal, pretend to be new husband and wife for a free trip to Hawaii. Absurd and predictable, you can totally see where this is going and where it ends up. But still, I liked it. I needed something fun and light and not a deep think and this hit the spot.

#6 Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

This was an interesting story. Molly and Aidan are 30-something and unfortunately, suffered a loss at 20-something weeks pregnant and Molly had to have a hysterectomy. Now they are going the adoption route, which has it’s own ups and downs. But it’s bringing up a lot of ghosts for Molly.

The book spends most of the time in the past, describing one summer in Molly’s childhood. At first I wanted the story to stay in present day but the story sucked me in. It was a good read and a compelling story.

Happy Reading!

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