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Books #17

I’ve been reading some good books lately! Several of them have been rather “heavy” so to speak, and I wrote individual posts about those books. But I have been reading a lot of other types of books lately. So here is another post with some recommendations.

If you want to follow me on Goodreads, here I am. You can also read old book reviews here.

1 ) The Third Option (Mitch Rapp #4) by Vince Flynn

In this book, Mitch Rapp is back and working on a mission in Germany to assassinate a dirty Count. The mission goes wrong and his partners attempt to kill him. He goes on the run, not sure who to trust, and then eventually makes it back to the States to confront the higher ups in his organization. It turns out there’s a leak in the department and someone is out to get Mitch and his handler, Irene. It’s a really fast story and well written. The ending was both exciting and frustrating because it was a bit of a cliff hanger! Another good book in the series!

2 )  The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway #9) by Elly Griffiths

The last book in this series was a dud–major let down since I love the series. But this book turned it around. It was back to focusing on Ruth and her adventures.

This particular story was unique and creepy and fun to read. A homeless woman goes missing and suddenly several homeless men are murdered. At the same time, two women from the community go missing and there are rumors of kidnapping and underground societies.

It was an interesting story and I loved the ending and where it left off! Can’t wait for the next book!

3 )  The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Man, did I love this book! It was so good. I loved the characters–they came alive in this book and I felt the pain, sorrow, and happiness that the characters felt. I would describe this book as a cross between “A Man Called Ove” and “Take Me With You” by Catherine Ryan Hyde. So if you liked either of those books, you’ll like this one.

The story is told in different ways–Ona is 104 years old and “the boy” comes to her house every Saturday to help her and to work on his Boy Scout’s badge where he interviews her about her life.

Then the boy dies unexpectedly (heart-breaking!! get your Kleenex) and his estranged father, Quinn, takes over his quest to help Ona each Saturday. They basically become family and the entire family heals, and tries to fulfill the boy’s goal of getting Ona into the Guiness Book of World Records.

It’s a tear-jerker, but often in a happy way. The book is beautiful written and I did not want it to end. I wanted the story to keep going.  This book was so excellent! Read it!

4 ) Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

What a beautiful, heart-warming and heart-breaking book! The book is told from two points of view. The first is Soli, a 20 year old who is trying to escape the poverty in Mexico to cross the border into America. The story is about her journey, the absolutely horrific things she endures to cross the border, and the love she finds on her journey. She arrives in Berkeley, California, pregnant, poor, and safe. She lives with her cousin and gets a job as a housekeeper/nanny.

The second story is Kavya and Rishi, Indian-Americans living in Berkeley who want a child and try and try unsuccessfully to get pregnant or go to term. The desire to be a mother is palpable through the pages.

“Having a child was like turning inside out and exposing to the world the soft pulp of her heart. If something happened to Ignacio–if illness took him or an accident, she herself would never recover. If the night stole his breath away, as sometimes happened to the very very young, her own breath would never return. At night, thoughts like this sat vigil around her bed. [pg 181]”

Through a horrible twist of fate, Soli’s son is taken into DHS custody and Kavya gets the opportunity to become a mother. She is immediately in love with little Ignacio. This is a story of a very lucky boy, loved by two mothers.

“Why did people love children who were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone, and because there was no point running from earthquakes into tornadoes, blizzards, terrorist attacks. Because destruction waited around every corner, and turning one corner would only lead to another…She’d built her love on a fault line, and the first tremors had begun. [pg 350]”

Rishi is a little slower to fall in love with the boy. He was afraid of getting too close, since they were temporary foster parents and knew the mother could try to get Ignacio back. But eventually, something clicks, and he becomes his son.

“Being a father made him a part of this place, Rishi realized. He was no longer just a scientist, a pizza eater, a line dweller, a street crosser. Ignacio rooted him to the hum of this sidewalk. Ignacio brought him to Earth. [pg 327]”

It was interesting to read the cultural differences between Soli and her Mexican heritage and Kavya and her Indian culture, a culture that apparently is not welcoming to the idea of adoption. Biological children were very important to her parents–but even her parents eventually fall in love with Ignacio. How could they not??

“In her gaze, even from this distance, Soli could see a mist of love. She couldn’t deny this, and it shrank her inside, the love. [pg 417]”

Reading about the horrible treatment of illegal immigrants by ICE was absolutely awful and revolting. It made me really angry. The book was very well-written and I did NOT want the book to end. I didn’t like the ending, really, but there wasn’t an easy answer on how the story should end. Throughout the book you feel very strongly and root for Soli to win in the end–but at the same time you are rooting for Kavya and Rishi because they love Ignacio like he was their own. So it was truly a no-win situation. 🙁

“Grief was a solitary practice, though they would cling to each other that day and in the days to come. [pg 461]”

As a mother, the book was very hard to read but it was so so good. I absolutely loved it. When I got towards the end of the book, I felt a panic and raced to daycare to pick up Logan. All I wanted was to pick him up and hug him and never let him go. 

5 ) The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

After reading several super heavy, dark, difficult reads, I needed something light and fluffy to give myself a break. I read another chick lit type of book, that wasn’t very good, and then picked up this one from the library. I actually really enjoyed it! For a “chick lit” book it was pretty well-written.

Dempsey is a lobbyist in DC who loses her job, and could possibly be heading to prison, after a boss with her scandal breaks. Perfect timing: a distant, elderly relative died and left his house to her father. She decides to go down to Georgia to fix up the house, called Birdsong, and get it ready to sell, while she figures out how to fix her life.

She gets down to the house and it’s a mess. Overgrown yard, house falling apart, piles and piles of junk and magazines. Plus–an ornery old squatter! So the book is basically about her fixing up this house, meeting someone down in Georgia, clearing her name from the scandal and figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

It was a very satisfying read and the characters were well-developed. The story was good, even for a fluffy book! I liked the book a lot.

6 )  Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

This book starts out with a bang! LOVED the writing style, the crisp, fun writing and the way the author reveals parts of the story in bits and pieces in a shocking way. The first chapter is one the best first chapters I’ve read in a long time and it instantly sucked me in and made me want to read the whole book in one sitting.

This is a story about Georgia, about to get married and move to London to start a new job. She goes home to wine country, and finds her whole family in shambles. Everyone in her life is having relationship issues.

” ‘Because that’s the only way to get somewhere better.” He shrugged. “If you fight, you work it out. If you don’t fight, you move into your own corners, and nothing gets decided there.'[pg 146]”

She’s conflicted about getting married in a week. Everyone in her life has advice for her.

” ‘I stopped paying attention to her. I stopped doing the things that someone does for the person he loves. Because I was tired. Because other things always seemed to matter a little bit more…That doesn’t happen overnight, you know. It happens slowly. You should be careful of that. You should be careful not to take the person you love for granted. Not only because they’ll notice. But you’ll notice too. You’ll think it means something it doesn’t.’ [pg 239]”

There is a lot of “will they, won’t they” in the middle of the book, back and forth on the wedding, but the story is so well written and engaging that it wasn’t cliqued. And I absolutely LOVED the ending! I wanted the book to keep going, I wanted more. I loved the world and characters this author created. I will definitely be reading more of her work. And I hope they make this book into a movie!

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links. 

Books #15

If you want to catch up on old book reviews I’ve done, there is a page for that! Just go here!

1 ) Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp #2) by Vince Flynn

Book #2 in the series starts off with a bang! Super-bad-ass Mitch Rapp is now a “seasoned” assassin, after a year on the job, and is in Paris for what should be an easy task. Of course it goes wrong. Very wrong, and then Mitch isn’t sure who to trust. All signs point to a leak in the dark organization he’s a part of. And he definitely has an enemy who is out to get him.

The book reads super fast. I read the book in one day. The action is non-stop and the double-crossing of everyone is really good. I loved how the book ended. It was very satisfying and made me want to immediately read book #3.  I can totally see these books as movies. But knowing our luck they’d cast Tom Cruise and ruin it…like they did with my beloved Jack Reacher!! 😛

 

2 ) Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley and Thomas French

“Our baby was born at a unique window of time, at twenty-three weeks and six days gestation. She was an averted miscarriage, not yet fully her own person with her own standing. Because the questions were so unanswerable, the decision to put her on life support and allow her a chance to live had belonged to Tom and me, not the doctors and not the state. [pg 111]”

Don’t worry, the baby lives. I don’t think they could have gotten people to read this book had they not been upfront in the description that the baby lives and is healthy. Because this is a HARD book to read. I heard an interview of Tom and Kelley on a podcast and it was such an amazing story–a miracle, really–that I had to read the book!

The story begins with a little background into Tom and Kelley’s relationship and how they met, the rocky road that tore them apart a few times, their eventual marriage and the struggle to get pregnant. They ended up getting an egg donor (from a friend) and everything seemed to be going well until…little Juniper was born early. Way too early.

“Babies born this young almost always exceeded $1 million in medical expenses. If she lived, there would be deductibles, therapies, maybe even long-term care. Ability to pay did not determine who got treatment and who did not. Most of the babies ended up on Medicaid. [pg 114]”

“The card on the foot of her incubator said, simply, ‘French, Baby Girl’ and gave her birth weight: 570 grams. I’ve eaten burritos at Chipotle bigger than that. [pg 115]”

Each chapter is told from either Tom or Kelley’s point of view and I really enjoyed that. You got a different perspective on the entire thing with each chapter.

It was very, very touch and go for Juniper from the start. The 190+ days or so she was in the NICU were not easy ones and it was a roller-coaster of horrific ailments and then recovery and growth. Kelley was pumping at home and bringing milk in for her every day, even though should couldn’t really drink it.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry–while the book is very descriptive, they do a really excellent job describing what’s happening medically without going over your head, bogging down the story with medical jargon, or being gross.

“None of our friends knew what kind of card to send. Were we celebrating or grieving? Even we didn’t know. [pg 116]”

Tom and Kelley basically live in the very special wing of the NICU for micro-premies. Juniper has so many procedures and surgeries done in the beginning of her life…and what helped them all were the amazing doctors and nurses who became like family for them. It was really heart-warming to read.

“Even if she died, trying to save her had been the right decision. We’d gotten to know her. We’d let her hear our voices, and hear music, and feel our hands on her. Some of the greatest moments of my life had been tucked inside this misery. Memorizing her face. Holding her hand. Feeling her warm and weightless form on my chest. Reading her a story. [pg 185]”

During Juniper’s stay in the NICU, Tom read her the Harry Potter series. Kelley read Winnie the Pooh.

“‘A story is a promise,’ Tom had told me, ‘It’s a promise that the end is worth waiting for.’ [pg 199]”

And the ending is worth it. I cried many times during this book. The story is amazing, terrifying, heart-breaking, heart-warming and in the end, wonderful. I hope you read this book!

 

3 ) The Nature of The Beast (Gamache #11) by Louise Penny

I went into this book a little skeptical. In the last book Chief Inspector Gamache has retired and moved to Three Pines with his wife. I wasn’t sure how the books could continue with him retired. It wasn’t quite the same BUT it was still pretty good because Armand gets sucked into a new mystery in Three Pines. The usual characters are still present, with a few new ones, and it’s a satisfying read but not the best book in the series. The story was a bit confusing at times but the author wrapped it up at the end.

 

4 ) The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The sort-of memoir by Carrie Fisher is a fast read, a short book, and very open. She talks about her time filming Star Wars as a 19 year old girl who wasn’t sure she wanted to be an actress. The role defined her life in big ways.

“I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. [pg 31]”

“The hairstyle that was chosen would impact how everyone–every filmgoing human–would envision me for the rest of my life. (And probably even beyond–it’s hard to imagine any TV obituary not using a photo of that cute little round-faced girl with goofy buns on either side of her inexperienced head.) [pg 34]”

It was interesting how she looked back at that role fondly, and I think with a little resentment. She made peace with the fact that that was who she would always be to people–Princess Leia.

In the book she also reveals that she had a short-lived affair with Harrison Ford. At first it was a little off-putting to me. Harrison Ford was 35, she was 19, and he was married with kids. Apparently his marriage was failing, but…still…it made me look at him a little differently.

Carrie started the story about Harrison with talking about how she’d never thought she’d be the other woman. Especially after seeing what it did to her mother–she briefly discusses what it was like when her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. Yet at 19 Carrie does become the other woman, at least for one summer in London on the movie set.

“We have no feeling for one another. We lie buried together during the night and haunt each other by day. Acting out something that we don’t feel and seeing through something that doesn’t deserve any focus. [pg 114]”

She tried to make it seem like the affair wasn’t that big of a deal and they both moved on…but…she was very much in love with Harrison Ford and a bit obsessed. In the middle of the book she included excerpts from her diary during that time and it was what you’d think–the sad, longing, obsessing thoughts of a teenager in love, who can’t move on.

“I wish you would love me more so that I could love you less. [pg 118]”

I think every woman could relate to that!

She also discussed aging and how that effected her life, her identity and her career. I found this quote particularly wonderful:

“I didn’t like my face when I should have and now that it’s melted, I look back on that face fondly. [pg 241]”

I feel the same way, when I look back at old pictures and think “I looked great!” and yet at the time I didn’t appreciate it and I was very critical of myself.

I liked this book. Sometimes Carrie’s writing style was a little difficult for me to read. She would often ramble in stream of consciousness run-on-sentences. But I did like the book. She came across as very open and vulnerable and shared a lot!

 

5 ) Venomous by Christie Wilcox

If you get the creepy-crawlies easily, this book may not be for you. She discusses a lot of venomous creatures–from the platypus (who knew they were venomous?!) to spiders and snakes and sea creatures, bees and zombie wasps and bullet ants.

There was even a chapter about mosquitoes. Why not just get rid of ALL the mosquitoes on the planet? Well, the author kind of maps out what could happen if we didn’t have mosquitoes. One example:

“In the arctic, mosquito populations can be so dense that caribou herds will alter their migration course just to avoid them…even small alteration by such a large herd have dramatic effect on the land they trample…[pg 36]”

Bummer. I’d love it if the mosquitoes were wiped from the planet.

The stories about bullet ant stings, and the horrific initiation rites of the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil that include the ants…are just cringe-worthy.

“Bullet ant stings are so insanely painful because unlike snakes or spiders, which use their toxins to capture or digest prey, the little ant has one goal: defense. [pg 68]”

The book sometimes gets a little too technical and there were definitely medical and scientific things that went over my head, but that didn’t impede me from reading and enjoying the book and I learned a LOT.

The author also did a good job describing what these venomous creatures can do, what the toxins feel like, and she shared anecdotal and personal stories that were very interesting.

“You feel dizzy, nauseous, lightheaded. There’s a coppery taste in your mouth, like you’re rolling pennies around on your tongue. Then it’s like a truck has hit you–massive bruises appear throughout your body…massive internal hemorrhaging…you’ve just had a close encounter with a Lonomia moth caterpillar, one of the most venomous insects in the world. [pg 96]”

There were a lot of near-death stories in this book. I did a LOT of googling of creatures that she described to see pictures of these things. YIKES.

When you think about venom, your first thought is probably snakes. And she does talk a lot about snakes! Rattlesnake bites are common in the US but rarely lead to death. But in other parts of the world, especially poor parts, vipers that are even more venomous are often fatal because the victims don’t have access to doctors or anti-venom. She goes into great deal about snakebite necrosis–I will spare you the description here, but it was gross and fascinating at the same time.

I have a very hard time with spiders. Seeing them, reading about them, YUCK! But I was able to read about them in this book. I found this interesting:

“30% of people who thought they had spider bites actually had the potentially deadly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. [pg 129]”

(MRSA scares the shit out of me, so that was very scary to read!)

The book also covers a LOT of sea life, and talks a lot about things found off Hawaii! That scared me to death! Apparently there are cute little blue-ringed octopuses off Australia that are just as deadly as pufferfishes:

“Tetrodotixin is among the deadliest compounds known to man. It’s more potent than arsenic, cyanide or even anthrax. It’s 120,000 times as deadly as cocaine and 40,000 times as deadly as meth. [pg 137]”

The book ends with a chapter talking about how different venoms are being tested for medical cures. That sounded really interesting to me and there were a few stories about that I won’t share here (too long) but are fascinating if they are true!

It’s a good book! Definitely recommend it.

 

6 ) Eleanor & Park by by Rainbow Rowell

Oh man! Loved this book! It takes place in the 80’s and it was a walk down memory lane…the music, making mixed tapes and sharing your favorite songs with friends, endlessly talking about bands like The Cure and The Smiths…be still my heart! Great nostalgia!

The story is absolutely sweet and heart breaking and romantic and lovely at the same time. The writer really wrote Eleanor’s story well–the horrible home life, the awful stepdad…I felt every emotion of anger and fear that Eleanor felt.

“Richie had been drinking all day again, so he was all kinds of festive at dinner–laughing too much and too loud. But you couldn’t enjoy the fact that he was in a good mood, because it was the kind of good mood that was just on the edge of a bad one. They were all waiting for him to cross over… [pg 198]”

The bullying that Eleanor experienced at school–the horrors or riding the bus, the misery of gym class…Very well written.

The love story was great.

“Thinking about going out with Park, in public, was kind of like thinking about taking your helmet off in space. [pg 173]”

I also loved Park’s parents. They were wonderful and, no spoilers, the ending where his parents step up and help them is so good. I was not a huge fan of how the book ended but at the same time, it kind of worked.

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.