Goodreads recommendations

Books #19

I’ve been reading a lot of really great books lately! I’ve got a ton of new ones added to my “to read” list on Goodreads . Last year I barely made it anywhere near my goal for the year (new baby!) but this year I’ve already surpassed my goal of 65 books.

Now on to the reviews!

1 ) Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was definitely a good read and I read it in about two days. I had a hard time putting it down. However, I should probably add a trigger warning because this book pretty graphically (and accurately) describes domestic violence. I can see this book being too hard for some people to be able to read. So be warned in that.

Lindsey marries the love of her life, Andrew, and she thinks her life is great…but slowly things start to change. Andrew becomes controlling and possessive and eventually violent and abusive. The way the author unveils the story is well-written. She tells the story of the abuse in flashbacks and balances it out with present-day. So just as it starts to feel a bit overwhelming to read about the horrific abuse Lindsey is enduring, you get a little relief as a reader.

The present-day story is about Lindsey and her daughter Sophie, 10 years later. She escaped the abuse with her daughter and Andrew spent a decade in prison. But now he’s out and he’s found them.

Like I said, the book was a good, fast, engrossing read, but a bit an emotional roller-coaster that may not be for everyone. The ending and the twist regarding Andrew and his post-prison stalking was unexpected.

2 ) We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

This book is SO damn funny! Like laugh out loud until your sides ache funny. It’s a collection of essays by blogger/comedian Samantha Irby. I was not familiar with her before I got this book, and honestly I’m not sure how it got on my radar but I’m glad it did because I loved her voice. She is a hilarious writer!

“I don’t wear evening gowns and booty shorts every day. I wear daytime pajamas and orthopedic shoes, and lately I’ve become a big fan of the “grandpa cardigan.” [Loc 231]

I could relate to a lot of her stories. She talked about her upbringing and what her 20’s were like as a plus-sized woman. The stories were always funny, even the ones that had a little dark edge to them, you never felt bummed out reading about her hardships because her humor and resilience got her through everything.

“Words like ‘outdoor music festival’ are why I am so glad summer in Chicago lasts approximately seven minutes. I nearly wept tears of seasonal affective disordered joy as I pulled out my North Face boots at the end of last November…summer can be an exercise in torture (but not an exercise in actual exercise, duh, it’s too humid) if you don’t want to do crazy shit like ‘wear sleeveless shirts’ and ‘enjoy close proximity to actively sweating strangers’. [Loc 1275]”

I laughed so hard at her struggles with her weight and dieting. I could relate to that and it was funny, not depressing.  She was charming and self-deprecating but not negative.

“Dieting is crazy and turns most of us jerks into insufferable babies. Either (1) you’re a crabby asshole on the verge of tears all day long because you’re desperate for a handful of Cheetos, or (2) you’re perched atop a high horse made of fewer than 1200 daily calories, glaring down your nose at me and pointing out how much saturated fat is in my unsweetened iced tea. [Loc 1911]”

“You need bitches to write about comfortable maternity jeans are for women who aren’t really pregnant. And sexy ways to remove a bra that has four hooks. [Loc 1932, “Fuck It Bitch, Stay Fat”]”

She talks about her serious health conditions (she has Crohn’s, depression, and arthritis and maybe something else because she has to wear braces on her wrists and has orthopedic shoes–that even in her poverty she happily spent $375 on each year).

“Working out is a bummer. Walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes while listening to the same Metallica playlist over and over and trying to read the closed captioning of a television show you don’t even care about is a total drag. The elliptical machine makes uncoordinated people like me look stupid. The stair machine reduces mere mortals to tears within four minutes. The stationary bike feels like uncomfortable butt sex. [Loc 1951]”

“Staying committed to things is hard. I have seven different body washes lining the edge of my bathtub right now. [Loc 2060]”

LOL! That’s totally me.

“I spent too much time trying to mold myself to fit the romantic ideals of humans who proved themselves unworthy of that effort, and I regret it. Never again will I be with someone who is unwilling to accept me as I am, or who has any desire to mold me into something that makes me uncomfortable. [Loc 3539]”

Her writing was real and hilarious and deeply honest, sometimes very vulnerable. I very much enjoyed this book and will be checking out her blog!

3 ) The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

First word that comes to mind: DIABOLICAL!

I was unsure of what the book was really about…the description was a little vague. The story starts out interestingly enough: a large family who loses their matriarch and each member of the family has something big going on in their lives. Sophie is about to give birth to her fourth child when she discovers her husband cheated on her. Felix was disfigured as a kid and suddenly has a new girlfriend, who is odd herself. The patriarch of the family is grieving the death of his wife. The family comes together for a holiday weekend at their country home to scatter the mother’s ashes when everything starts to go awry.

But the story kind of stops there. The middle part of the book switches to a different point of view and it turns out that someone in their midst is not who they say they are and in fact, this person has been plotting to destroy their whole family for years. I don’t want to give away any spoilers because the “reveal” in the middle of the book was quite jolting! I was not expecting it at all!

The rest of the book was so so good!!

 

4 ) The Boy in the Woods by Carter Wilson

This book premise immediately sucked me in–when I read the blurb I had to read the book immediately and I’m so glad it lived up to the blurb! That doesn’t usually happen!

The book opens with a bang — it’s 1981 in Oregon and three fourteen-year-old boys witness a horrific murder. They are forced into a cover-up and they swear never to talk about what happened. Flash forward 30 years: Tommy Devereaux has become a bestselling author or serial killer mystery books.

He is ready to tell his story but disguises it as his new fiction book. He is approached by a woman who asks for his autograph, leaving behind a note which reads: ‘You didn’t even change my name.’  Chilling!

The book was a super fast read (read it it in two days) and even though there were parts of the story that seemed a little ridiculous, it was pretty enthralling and I kept reading. Be prepared, the subject matter is pretty dark.

 

 

5 ) Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

I heard about this book on a podcast. Apparently the author let her 10 year old take the Subway by himself and it made the news…and then blew up on her, where everyone was criticizing her parenting. She ended up starting a blog about raising “free-range” kids.

“Any risk is seen as too much risk. A crazy, not-to-be-taken, see-you-in-the-local-news risk. [pg 5]”

“Normal childhood has become just too risky to permit. [pg 45]”

I’ve been noticing this change for awhile, but especially now that I have a child. I think back to my own childhood memories and how my parents let me be somewhat “free-range.” I grew up in Seattle, in the suburbs, and I used to walk to the bus stop three blocks away, by myself. I never lived close to my school, so I never really walked to school by myself, but I wasn’t under constant supervision. If I wanted to hang out with a friend who lived in the neighborhood, I walked there by myself. I remember going trick-or-treating as a kid and young teen with a friend and no adult supervision.

When I was growing up, I used to spend a week or two in Oregon on my aunt’s farm with my cousins. She literally kicked us out of the house, locked the door and said we had to go play outside until lunchtime. My cousins and I spent all day running around free outside on the farm, getting into mischief, exploring, creating our own games and fun and just hanging out. It was liberating! Especially for a city kid!

I think these things are really important for kids and their development, but it doesn’t happen much these days, and that’s really sad.

“What’s worst about about this kind of defensive thinking is that eventually it seeps into our own parenting decisions. We start to wonder if it’s OK to let our kids do anything, because….what if? [pg 47]”

There is a lot of fear-mongering these days. And not only that, there’s a ton of JUDGMENT. Judgment from complete strangers–especially on the internet. It’s gross.

“Blamers thrive on shame. Take away their power. Do not be ashamed of making parenting choices based on who your kid is, rather than on what the neighbors will say. Why are they talking about you anyway? [pg 58]”

I remember a facebook friend posting a panicked status about seeing a dog locked in a car. It was like February and maybe 60 degrees. Clearly not unsafe. But she was in a complete panic and posted “should I break the window?? Should I call the police??” And commenters on her FB were like “calm down the dog is fine.” I mean really, it’s like no one has common sense anymore and it’s all this “gotcha” society thinking.

“The idea is that if you’re worrying, then you’re doing the right thing. Worrying is ‘like a demonstration to yourself that you’re being responsible.’ It has become our national pastime. [pg 94]”

The book is really interesting and it debunks a lot of the paranoia people have about child abductions and all sorts of horrific things that could happen if you let your kids walk three blocks to school by themselves. It also discussed a lot of the absolutely ridiculous things that are happening –like how school buses won’t drop off kids at their bus stop unless there’s a parent standing there (seriously, it takes the kid back to school and the parent is called).

“But the whole new thinking about happiness (and maturity) is that these qualities come from actually doing things. Creating. Exploring. Being independent. [Loc 278]”

“The cell phone keeps the parent-child relationships back where it was when the kids were very young and needed constant supervision. When parents are always available to tell their kid what to do, they will, even when otherwise the kid would start making decisions himself. [pg 96]”

It’s so important for kids to explore and problem-solve and I feel like currently, our society is taking all that away and we’re raising giant adult-babies that can’t really do anything for themselves. 🙁

“Childhood is supposed to be about discovering the world, not being held captive. [pg 193]”

“We want out children to have a childhood that’s magical and enriched, but I’ll bet that your best childhood memories involve something you were thrilled to do by yourself. These are childhood’s magic words: ‘I did it myself!’ [pg 193]”

It was a really good book and I liked reading it. The stories made me kind of angry and dreading our future interaction with “other” parents who are fear-mongering. But the book gave lots of good tips to make change happen.

 

6 ) See Jane Die by Erica Spindler

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The two main characters are artist Jane and her homicide detective sister, Stacy. When they were teens, Jane was horribly disfigured in a freak accident and years of plastic surgery have helped her heal (on the outside). The sisters have been estranged for awhile, but when Jane’s husband is suddenly suspected and arrested of murder, the sisters reunite to find the real killer.

There were a lot of twists in this book, nothing super shocking, but I thought I had guessed who the real killer was and was surprised by the ending and the reveal. It was a pretty good mystery/thriller book and I read it in one day.

 

7 ) Arrowood  by Laura McHugh

What an excellent book!

Arden is a 20-something student trying to finish her master’s degree when she gets word that her estranged father has passed away and the home in Iowa that has been in her family for a century is suddenly hers. Reluctantly she goes home to a house she hasn’t been in since she was 8 years old and her twin sisters tragically disappeared–an event that tore her family apart.

Home, she is suddenly haunted by the memories of her sister’s disappearance and wrecked with guilt because she was watching them when they were kidnapped. Her sisters were never found. Could they still be alive? Were they murdered? She suddenly starts doubting what she saw that day.

This is your quintessential gothic mystery novel that is so very well done and the story is great, the ending is very satisfying and I loved this book!

Happy Reading!

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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!

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