GoodReads

Books #51

Well….if you are trapped in your house, now is a good time to read, right? If you have a kindle, you can download books from your library. I’m sure there are other ways to get books for free, too. Here are some suggestions for reads:

#1 My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

I have mixed feelings about this book. I’d recommend it because the story is nuts and it’s a fascinating read. Anna was a fake heiress. Claimed to be German (was Russian), and lived in expensive hotels in New York while being a socialite, basically. But she was really a grifter, writing bad checks, cheating people out of money, not paying bills, scamming hedge funds out of investments to fund her lifestyle…it was all really crazy.

Rachel was a photographer at Vanity Fair who became friends with her and got swept up in her lifestyle, and in the end, Anna scammed her out of $70k and almost ruined her life.

What makes me hesitate in rating the book higher was that I didn’t really like Rachel. I felt for her, I really did. The $70k would be devastating to anyone. But…she kinda wanted to be part of that lifestyle. She let Anna “pay” for expensive lifestyle stuff and meals and trips because she enjoyed the fancy life. She just didn’t see that it was a scam, which is tragic. So it was hard for me to be entirely sympathetic since it felt like Rachel put aside a lot of stuff (like ignoring that Anna was kind of a mean girl) to enjoy the spoils.

Despite that part, the book was good because it’s a fast read and the story is pretty crazy. I even googled it after I finished the book and read more and looked at pictures. Anna was truly a sociopath.

#2 The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

This book was nuts. It sucked me in immediately. It was so weird, so out there, so twisty and surprising and different…I don’t want to give too much away because every step of the way was a “wow!” factor. Definitely pick this book up!

#3 Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

This book was EXCELLENT! Get it immediately! While I didn’t enjoy the ending, if left me wanting more and feeling a little disturbed and unresolved…I loved the rest of it.

This book tells the story of a 1950’s housewife in New York and then current day. Usually this format isn’t very good, but it’s good in this book and I enjoyed both timelines. Alice, modern day, moves from Manhattan to the suburbs with her husband after losing her job. They buy an old house, “as is”, and finds some old belongs from the previous owner, Nellie (the 1950’s story line).

I don’t want to give away any more because the story unfolds in an excellent way, with some surprises. There’s some darkness, and a little bit of domestic violence (trigger warning) and miscarriage. But I loved the book. So good!

#4 Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Last time I was home sick I watched this show on Netflix and enjoyed it. It was a bit soap-opera-ish but I still liked it. I finally read the book. I probably would have liked the book better had I read it before seeing the tv series. I will also say I liked the book plot points better than what they changed in the tv series.

#5 Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

I’ve had this book on hold forever and it was finally available…a few days after Harvey Weinstein was sentenced. I had a moment of, why do I need to even read this book now?

But damn, read the book.

“‘Textbook sexual harassment’ was how Nestor described Weinstein’s behavior. She recalled refusing his advances at least a dozen times. “‘No’ did not mean ‘no’ to him,” she said.”

It’s engrossing and in-depth about the background research, investigation, the coverup, how deeply HW was protected…how many people were complacent. How many people knew. I mean Ronan Farrow implicated so many people…Trump, the Clintons, soooo many people. Most of Hollywood.

“Arquette’s story was important because of how closely it hewed to others I’d heard: professional pretext, meeting moved upstairs, hotel room, request for massage, bathrobe.”

The details from the women were all awful and hard to read. But important.

” Sorvino had suspected that her romantic relationship with Tarantino at the time had shielded her from retaliation, and that this protection had dissipated when the two split up. Later, Tarantino would say publicly that he could have, should have, done more. “This is the big boys’ club, the Hollywood mafia,” she said. “They protect each other.” “

I am so glad Harvey got what was coming to him and this book shows just how hard people fought for this story to come forward.

#6 Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker

Timely read. I heard this author on the Joe Rogan Podcast when the Corona virus was first kind of taking hold in the US. The book is really interesting and was written about 4 years ago…but clearly we are seeing stuff happen NOW he wrote about then. Experts have been talking about pandemic for a long time and we are seeing now that the World wasn’t prepared.

” ‘The microbe that felled one child in a distant continent yesterday can reach yours today and seed a global pandemic tomorrow.’ “

“… a pandemic spreads around the world and lasts for an extended period of time. It does not hit just one locale, leaving all others with the ability to come to its aid.”

There was a whole chapter on Corona viruses (MERS and SARS, etc) that was super scary and chilling to read as we are in the middle of this crisis now.

“A pandemic hits many locales simultaneously, all of them needing emergency assistance. It has a rolling effect as it hits first individuals, then civil authority, then business, then interstate or international commerce or both. The effects are immediate and devastating, the consequences long-term.”

“For reasons we still don’t completely understand, certain individuals with coronavirus become ‘superspreaders.’ “

The book doesn’t really give you a silver lining, so right now may not be the right time to read this book if you are experiencing anxiety. The chapter on coronaviruses in particular was scary and the author gave a scenario of what would happen in a pandemic and so far it’s happening to a T. So that was scary to read what is probably coming…

“Ordinary civic and commercial functions were not being carried out because so much of the workforce was sick or dead. Some sick people starved to death, not because there was a food shortage but because so many people were afraid to come in contact with them. Unlike a virus such as Ebola, which is not communicable until the victim starts having symptoms, with influenza, you’re contagious before you even feel sick.”

“A catastrophic influenza pandemic will unfold like a slow-motion tsunami, lasting six to eighteen months. “

So yeah. Good read, scary though.

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. 🙂

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.

“I’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):

“Hey Jules, this is Brian. Ah, listen… I’m on an airplane that has been hijacked… if things don’t go well, and they’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. I’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.”

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).

“…jet fuel blasted out of the central elevator bank and mushroomed everywhere. People were—20 yards from me—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, “We may not live through today.” We looked at him, and we looked at each other, and we said, “You’re right.” We took the time to shake each other’s hands and wish each other good luck and “Hope I’ll see you later,” 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.”

“Frederick 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.”

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 can’t meditate your cervix to open wider so don’t waste your time!)”

“Bring a nice blanket, something soft and cozy that feels like the inside of an Ugg boot or a Care Bear’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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