Books #42

It will probably be a little while before I post another book post! I’ll be busy moving/packing/unpacking…I have no idea if I’ll actually have time to read. I sure hope so. But either way, here are a few books I’ve read lately you might want to check out:

#1 The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This was an interesting read. It was based on interviews from survivors and apparently based on real people. Lale is a Slovakian Jew who was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Nazis discover he speaks multiple languages and so they use that to their advantage (and in the end, to his) and he is now the Tattooist. His job is marking all the prisoners with their numbers.

He is in the concentration camp for two and a half years. But he’s treated fairly well and given more rations, because he is the tattooist. He also figures out how to smuggle in more food and supplies, which he gives to other people. He meets a woman, Gita, when he is working and they fall in love. The book is about their love story and about their survival in the camp.

It’s a good read. The book doesn’t delve too much into the gruesome details of the concentration camps or the death and torture, so that’s good. I didn’t feel like the book was an amazing read, but it was decent. I enjoyed it enough.

#2 If She Wakes by Michael Koryta

This is the second “girl in a coma but she can hear everything around her” type of book I’ve read lately and I almost didn’t read it because the premise didn’t interest me, but the author is one I’ve read before and I really liked the other book I read by him.

It turned out to be a unique, interesting book full of hitmen and exciting twists and turns. Tara Beckley is a senior in college in Maine. She is driving a visiting professor to a conference when there is a car accident that leaves the professor dead and Tara in a coma. Abby is an insurance investigator hired by the college to look into the accident. Except, Abby used to be a stunt driver in Hollywood and she immediately sees that something isn’t right about the accident.

It turns out that Tara is the key to the mystery, but she’s in a vegetative state. And there are two hitmen trying to get to what Tara knows.

#3 Life Will Be the Death of Me: and you too! by Chelsea Handler

I have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of Chelsea Handler. I never watched her shows, I haven’t read any of her other books. But I recently heard her interviewed on Howard Stern about her new book and she really opened up and was vulnerable and emotional about what this book was about and I decided to give it a chance. I’m really glad I did. The book is excellent!

It’s a memoir, with some humor, but it’s a deeply personal book about a few topics: her year of self-discovery in intensive therapy to become a better person and come to peace about her brother’s death. He was her best friend and died when she was 9 years old and that death was definitely traumatic and shaped her entire personality.

“Chet was my very first breakup. That my nine-year-old brain had no ability to distinguish between death and rejection. That my nine-year-old brain didn’t understand that my brother didn’t choose to die. That Chet didn’t find another family with a little sister he liked more.”

She put up so many walls and put everyone in her life at arm’s length her entire life because of this trauma and the therapy helped her realize this.

“I learned from Dan that being in motion was a way for me to avoid sitting still with my feelings. You can’t let anyone see you cry, so you move. “

“Well, you probably loved him still, but you were hurt, and it sounds like you turned that hurt into anger, because, as I said, anger is motion, and it allows you to avoid sitting with your feelings. In a sense, you felt that your father had broken up with you too. That must have been really scary for a little girl. No one helped you with your pain, you were too young to deal with it on your own, and it sounds like when everyone around you disengaged, your pain turned into anger, which turned into motion, and from everything you’re telling me, you haven’t stopped moving since.”

She wrote about how she’d become so codependent and also unable to do anything on her own.

“How did I become so useless? And how many assistants did I actually have? I did live in a bubble, inside a bigger bubble, which was inside an even bigger bubble. Three bubbles. Two assistants, two cleaning ladies (who are more like my nannies), a driver, a pool guy, a landscaper, a florist, a houseman.”

She also talked a lot about her relationships with her dogs, which I loved reading about, since I’m a dog lover.

The book is dark, honest, insightful, and sometimes really hilarious. I got a lot out of it for myself, too.

#4 Have You Seen Luis Velez? By Catherine Ryan Hyde

Raymond is a 16 year old kid in New York City that doesn’t really fit in. His only friend moves away. He doesn’t like his mother’s new husband and his half siblings. His dad’s new wife doesn’t really like him. He doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere.

One day he’s leaving for school when an elderly lady stops him in the hallway, asking for help. It turns out that Luis Velez, a caretaker that used to stop by and take her shopping and check in on her, has disappeared. She’s all alone, down to her last can of food that she’s rationing out and she’s also blind, so she can’t go to the store herself. So Raymond takes it upon himself to help Millie and then to track down Luis and find out what happened to him.

Along the way, Raymond and Millie become good friends. Raymond finds his voice and discovers who he really is and shows the world how important it is to reach out and care about people around us. It’s a story about love, compassion, empathy, kindness and friendship.

#5 Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin

I enjoyed this book a lot. I guess this author was a blogger at some point but I’d never heard of her or read her blog. The first 60% of the book is a memoir of her life and childhood. She had a really rough life. Her mom was a single mom raising her and her older brother, Michael. I suspect her mom had some mental health issues, maybe bipolar, but it wasn’t addressed in the book.

They were dirt poor. Her mom was a great cook and taught Sasha the love of food and cooking. “There’s a difference between poverty of resources and poverty of spirit. For a long time, Michael and I were oblivious to hardship because of Mom’s determined efforts.”

Eventually, Sasha and her brother are taken away from her mother and put into foster care for awhile. Her mother tries to get them back but can’t and so she writes letters to everyone she knows asking for someone to take in her kids. Her college friend agrees. Their kids are mostly grown and they have money. So Sasha and Michael now have guardians who can provide anything they will ever need. They travel, live in Europe, go to good schools. But things aren’t all great. It’s still a pretty rough childhood.

Later in the book, Sasha writes about going to college and culinary school and starting her blog about cooking. The last part of the book felt a little disjointed and almost like a different book altogether but that didn’t ruin the book for me. I still enjoyed it and devoured the book in just a few days. I highly recommend this!

Happy Reading!

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Books #41

I’ve been so busy lately, the book reading has slowed down, but I am still reading. So here are a few to add to your list:

  1. A Beautiful Corpse: Harper McClain #2 by Christi Daugherty

This is the second book in the series. Harper is back, front and center, still the crime reporter for the flailing newspaper in Savannah. Her personal life is also flailing a little bit. Her ex is back in town, but they aren’t really back together and things are weird between them. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of what happened in the first book–and the whole police force is kind of punishing her for it. Which makes her job harder.

Harper is just trying to do her job when she gets a story that changes everything. Naomi Scott is a law student who also works as a bartender to make ends meet. She works at the same bar as Bonnie, Harper’s best friend. Naomi is murdered and Harper is convinced the police are on the wrong path.

This was another good book. I really enjoyed the story. All the characters come to life, you really picture the world created. I couldn’t put the book down.

#2 One Day in December by Josie Silver

This is a typical far-fetched, rom-com/chick lit book with vibes of Bridget Jones.

Laurie is on a bus in London, going home from work in December. She sees a guy standing outside at a bus stop, he looks up, they make eye contact, sparks fly, she thinks He’s The One. Then the bus drives away. She can’t get him out of her mind. Months later, her best friend and roommate, Sarah, brings home her new boyfriend, Jack, and of course it’s the guy from the bus stop. But Laurie doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to wreck anything for her best friend.

The book spans years, many relationships, marriages, divorces, will Laurie and Jack ever be together? I liked the characters and the writing style. Overall, I enjoyed the book, it was easy to read. I don’t know that it’s a super memorable book but I liked it.

#3 Educated by Tara Westover

I’m not even sure where to start with this book…it’s a memoir. Tara describes what it’s like growing up in rural Idaho in the mountains with a deeply religious family, bordering on cult-ish behavior, where her and her siblings are “home-schooled” but not really. It doesn’t seem like they get any schooling beyond learning basics.

“Grandma thought we should be in school and not, as she put it, ‘roaming the mountain like savages.’ Dad said public school was a ploy by the Government to lead children away from God. ‘I may as well surrender my kids to the devil himself,’ he said, ‘as send them down the road to that school.’ [pg 4]”

Her father is a right wing End of Days nutjob who is thinks schooling is the work of the devil. It’s clear early on he has some severe mental illness and his wife is compliant, or bullied. There’s hints of domestic violence, too. Randy Weaver and the Ruby Ridge incident happened nearby them and that fueled Tara’s father’s paranoia.

“…by the time I was ten, the only subject I had studied systematically was Morse code, because Dad insisted that I learn it. ‘If the lines are cut, we’ll be the only people in the valley who can communicate.’ [pg 45]”

Then one of Tara’s older brother’s goes away to college, despite their father’s refusal. Tyler had figured out a loophole: being “homeschooled” didn’t keep them from being able to go to college.

“There’s a world out there, Tara. And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear. [pg 120]”

So that plants the seed. Tara decides she wants to go to college, even though she’s had no formal schooling, hasn’t even learned math…she gets some books, studies for the ACT, takes the test and fails, then takes it again. And lies about her age (she’s 16) and gets into BYU. She’s definitely a fish out of water. She goes to college and for the first time in her life she’s discovering things are not as her father said they were. And she’s learning things she was never taught–like The Holocaust.

The first half of the book is about her growing up in the horrific environment of insanity, lies and mental illness. The second half is about her going to school, learning EVERYTHING normal people learn in a short period of time and then ridding herself of the shackles she’s had her whole life (her family).

It was a great book, very compelling, but I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable reading…it was definitely intense reading!

#4 Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Marianne is accomplished in her career, married with an adult daughter, living a posh life in London. Then she goes back home to her rundown town to help care for her mother who is suffering from dementia. She is faced with the dark secrets she left behind.

Her husband surprises her by buying a flat in a newly renovated building that used to be the insane asylum in her hometown. He thinks this is a good thing since they are going to be there for awhile taking care of her ailing mother. But Marianne is suddenly faced with her secret past and everything is threatening to be revealed and ruin her life.

The book was told in a very interesting way. I enjoyed it a lot and liked the unique writing style. The book starts slow but picks up the pace and get pretty good.

#5 The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

I loved this book!

It’s 1943. Tess lives in Little Italy in Baltimore with her mom. She’s finishing nursing school. She’s engaged to the love of her life, Vincent, who is a doctor. Her life is planned out and she thinks things are going the way they should. Then Vincent goes off to Chicago for what they believe will be a few weeks, to help out with a polio outbreak. A few weeks turns into months. Their relationship suffers. Tess is lonely, starting to have doubts about Vincent and whether he still loves her.

Tess and Gina go to Washington DC for a weekend of fun and to get Tess’s mind off her worries. Tess makes one mistake and ends up cheating on Vincent and getting pregnant. Since she’s a “good Catholic” girl, she can’t end the pregnancy. She decides to leave Baltimore and find the one night stand to see if he’ll give her some money so she could disappear with her baby. Instead, Henry proposes. Tess decides this is the best option. Her baby will have a name. So she leaves Vincent, Baltimore, everything she knows, and moves to North Carolina, marries Henry and realizes she made a huge mistake.

The book is compelling and an easy read. You get sucked in immediately. It discusses WWII, race issues, polio, women’s issues, women’s independences, so many things. It was really, really interesting!

#6 Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern

I’m not sure how to rate this book. I’m a huge fan. I’ve been a faithful radio listener for 20+ years. So of course I pre-ordered the book. But this book, I feel, is not necessarily for the faithful listeners. This book is clips and transcripts of some of Howard’s best interviews over the years, with some thoughts and such in between. He reveals some personal stuff in the book but it’s not necessarily a “tell all” type of memoir. So if you’ve listened to the interviews and heard every show (like me) then this is all stuff you’ve already heard.

BUT, it is very good and it’s very interesting because he chose interviews that were very compelling. Where guests really revealed intimate or tragic things about themselves and their lives. So even if you aren’t a Howard Stern fan, you could read this book and enjoy every word of it because you will learn things about celebrities you wouldn’t learn anywhere else.

He talks about a LOT of heavy topics, too. Like how Pamela Anderson was gang raped. Lena Dunham was raped. Stephen Colbert’s father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash. Rosie O’Donnell talked about the really hard childhood she had losing her mother at a young age. Howard wrote:

“…she announced she was gay. That really struck a chord with me. I had an older cousin, Stacy, who came out in the 1950s, when he was thirteen. This was in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, but my family was very accepting. My mother would set him up on dates, and even as a little kid I appreciated how courageous Stacy was. The same went for Rosie. I couldn’t imagine how much guts it took for her to come out, especially considering the potential risk to her career, yet she did it. “

Several celebrities discussed their run-ins with Harvey Weinstein. And Howard shared his interview with Harvey (where Harvey lied outright about the casting couch rumors).

Courtney Love talked about what it was like losing her husband to suicide. “No, he was weak. He was weak. Howard: Does that bother you that you guys weren’t on good terms when he died? Courtney: We were on good terms. He was just really weak. Howard: He couldn’t fuck at that point or think about anything other than his own condition. Courtney: He couldn’t think of anything but drugs. Howard: It is sad. So sad.”

Chris Cornell talked about his addiction to Oxy. “Yeah, it’s—you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t feel anything. Kicking it is so hard because all of a sudden your whole body comes to life, and you’ll have had all of these physical problems you didn’t realize you had because you don’t feel a damn thing. And so your knees will hurt. Your joints ache. Your brain hurts. It’s very depressing. It’s very hard to stay off. Getting off isn’t as hard as staying off. “

The interviews were really heavy at times. “Sometimes the conversations can be funny, like Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogen talking about their love of weed. Sometimes it can get dark, like hearing about Anthony Kiedis and Drew Barrymore being exposed to drugs when they were just kids.” And then it could be funny–like Alex Trebek revealing that he went to a party in Malibu and ate a bunch of Hash brownies because he has a sweet tooth. LOL!

And of course, Howard talks a lot about the animal rescue him and his wife do. He opened up about his cat, Leon: “We had Leon for eight years. We were never sure how old he was. This past September, the vet found a large tumor. We had to get it removed or else Leon would die. The surgery was routine, we were told, and he was expected to come through it fine. I had this strange feeling. A few days before he went to the hospital, I had a long talk with him. I said, “Leon, you’re going in for an operation. I can’t lose you. You’ve been with me through thick and thin. Don’t worry, you’re going to be all right. We’re going to be spending a lot more time together.” But deep in my mind I knew this could be it. Sadly, he died on the operating table. The tumor was even bigger than they thought, and he lost too much blood during the procedure. We had Leon cremated, and we put the small box containing his remains in a large Chinese vase in our bedroom. In that vase we keep the remains of our dog Bianca and all our resident cats who have passed away: Apple, Charlie, Sophia, and now Leon. Inside Leon’s box is also his collar with contact information in case he ever got out of the house. “My name is Leon Bear Stern,” it read. “Here is my phone number in case I am lost.” I was the one who had been lost—lost until I found Leon.”

I still cry whenever I read about his experiences losing his pets (they’ve lost a few cats over the years). It touches me pretty deeply.

Anyways, the book is excellent.

Happy Reading!

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