Goodreads list

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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Books #40

Someone asked me where I find all my books. There are a lot of places to find book recommendations! Twitter, facebook, anytime I see someone talk about a book, or recommend a book, I add it to my growing Goodreads list. I find a lot of books on Goodreads. They have reading lists and new releases/upcoming releases lists. They also have “if you liked ____, you might like this book” recommendations on there, too.

I follow some different people on Instagram that do book reviews and I follow some book review blogs that help me find things to add to my list. I also look for stuff on my local library website and Amazon/Kindle.

 

1 )  Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

The author paints a picture of desolation well, which is crucial for a creepy thriller book.

It’s Christmas Day. Holly and Eric oversleep. Eric rushes out the door to get to the airport to pick up his elderly parents. Holly and their adopted daughter, Tatiana, are alone at the house, getting everything ready for a big family Christmas dinner. Then a freak blizzard hits and they are snowed in. Everyone cancels because they are stranded elsewhere. Eric is stranded with his parents.

The story is told in disturbing, erratic bits and pieces and flashbacks to when Holly and Eric adopted a 22 month old Tatiana from a Siberian orphanage. Holly is a little obsessed with the idea that Something followed them home from Russia.

The story is a slow boil. There are parts of the writing that feel a bit repetitive, but once you get to the end of the book, you understand why.

Mild spoiler–I realized early on that Holly was having some kind of psychotic/mental break. I won’t go into any more detail because the ending was so shocking I don’t want to ruin it.

 

2 )  How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis

Eloise is a personal chef for a few select people. She lives in Chicago with her corgi. She spends time alone, or with a few friends, but overall her life is quiet and kind of lonely. Then she hears that her mentor passes away. She goes to the memorial and is reunited with her high-school best friends, Lynne and Teresa. The three friends pick up where they left off and decide that they all need to revamp their lives in some way. They are all going to be turning 40 in a year and they all realize that they had goals they wanted to achieve before 40 that they abandoned.

This is a well-written chick-lit book about food, friendship, love and finding yourself. The characters were all well-developed and felt very real. The friendships in the book were good. The love story was great. The writing was a little on the wordy side and could use a little bit of editing, but overall I enjoyed the book a lot and it was a good palate cleanser after a lot of really dark, heavy books!

#3 Past Tense (Jack Reacher #23) by Lee Child

The newest Jack Reacher book in the series. Started out a little slow but then it picked up pace and got really, really good! There were two stories going on and they were both compelling and really exciting.

Jack is on the move again, as always, and is hitchhiking on the East Coast. He makes his way through New Hampshire where he sees a sign for a town that sounds familiar. It was where his dad grew up. He decides to stop and see if he can find the house his dad grew up in before he joined the Marines and basically became a nomad, kinda like Jack. Except Jack can’t find any records that his dad even existed. He can’t find anything. And a mystery needs to be solved.

In a nearby town, a couple also traveling through New Hampshire, who had given Jack a ride, stop at a remote motel where they are suddenly being held captive by the motel owners. I won’t give anymore away but the stories intersect and the ending was really good!

#4 The Adults by Caroline Hulse

This was an interesting book. Claire and Matt have been divorced for a few years now. They have a 7 year old daughter, Scarlett, and are co-parenting. Claire has a live-in boyfriend, Patrick, who is a lawyer and wanna-be Ironman. Matt lives with his girlfriend, Alex, who is a scientist.

For Christmas, they all decide to go away together for a holiday for Scarlett. They rent a lodge at the Happy Forest Holiday Park to give Scarlett a “normal” family Christmas. Scarlett brings her imaginary friend Posey, who is a giant rabbit, who happens to hate Alex.

Claire and Patrick plan an itinerary for everyone, “Forced Fun Activities”, and everyone tries to get along. But of course, things don’t go as planned. There is an undercurrent of tension and secrets come out. Things get snarky, biting, dramatic.

The book is a fun read. I enjoyed it. Even though I felt like both Patrick and Matt were misogynistic assholes.

#5 Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree

Dr. Michels is an OB/GYN doctor who keeps everyone in her life at arms length. When she was a teenager, her older sister died from a secret pregnancy that was ectopic. This drove her through her career, but also kept her from really enjoying her life in a genuine way. Now her boyfriend is ready to go to the next step in their life, her career is taking off, her family life is in a bit of turmoil and she’s still stuck in the past. She can’t move forward.

I enjoyed this book. I liked that it took place in Portland and the author included local stuff. I liked the story. At first I was annoyed by Dylan, the main character, but she grew on me and redeemed herself in the end. I look forward to reading more by this author. The writing was good.

#6 The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris

I heard a podcast with this author and immediately put the book on hold at the library. The Victorian era is super fascinating. I did not know about Joseph Lister, so this was a great book to introduce you to the history and the science behind medicine and how modern medicine evolved.

The book was a combination of a historical recount of the history of science and medicine and Victorian practices, but also kind of a biography of Joseph Lister and how he basically discovered that germs were behind creating infections and killing people who have surgeries or give birth.

At a time when surgeons believed pus was a natural part of the healing process rather than a sinister sign of sepsis, most deaths were due to postoperative infections. “

He invented an “antiseptic”–and of course was faced with a lot of backlash from the medical community all over the world. Doctors everywhere disagreed in his claim about germs and infection and how infection spread. They thought his antiseptic was unnecessary

“Surgeons still lacking an understanding of the causes of infection would operate on multiple patients in succession using the same unwashed instruments on each occasion. Instruments like the amputation knife of Lister’s student days were havens for bacteria. Fashion often trumped function. Many had decorative etchings and were stored in velvet cases, which bore bloodstains from past operations.”

Reading the book now, knowing what we know, it’s absolutely horrifying what people went through back then! This time period was also the time of the invention of anesthesia, which drastically changed medicine. Instead of holding down awake patients to amputate or do surgery, they could put them to sleep. Joseph Lister was also friends with Luis Pasteur and they collaborated.

The book is really interesting, creepy, fascinating! There were parts of the book that were over-detailed and a little wordy/too slow but overall it was a good book and I liked it a lot. I wanted to know more about all of the people in that world.

Happy reading!

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