Books #56

Reading in 2020 has been a struggle, for sure. Pre-pandemic, I read so much! I’d read on the bus to and from work. I’d read on the elliptical during my lunch break at work. I’d read on my breaks at work…then of course, every night at bedtime. But now, while I have the time, I just don’t read other than at bedtime. And I do not feel overly motivated to find time in my day to do it. I don’t know why (other than a general feeling of being burned out).

Despite that, I am reading some good books lately. Here are a few:

1 – Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton

I absolutely loved this book!

I heard an interview of the author on a podcast, talking about adoption and what it was like raising black boys in today’s world. She touches on that a little bit in this book. But this book is more about her life as a mother, the multiple miscarriages she went through, the horrific and traumatic processes of adoption (one was in Haiti and took 3 years and an earthquake for her to finally bring her son home).

She opened up about her struggles with anxiety, depression, struggling with balancing work and home life, how to do everything and raise 4 kids. How her marriage suffered and ended. The book was revealing and raw and I think a lot of mothers can relate to at least one thing in this book. She wrote about being lonely and not having many friends, especially when they left their church because she disagreed with their stances on racism, LGBTQ rights, etc.

The book was also hilarious. I laughed out loud too many times to count. I could relate to so much.

“They turned up their noses at vegetables or any kind of sauce, requesting instead the Bland Beige Food Group. They were uninterested in quiet family meals. Our table felt more like the breakfast scene from Cheaper by the Dozen than something painted by Norman Rockwell.”

“I was an amazing mother before I had kids. I had it all planned out. There were meadows involved. There would be handmade wooden toys and organic, home-cooked meals. There would be picnics on hippie-inspired blankets (in the meadows) and vintage books and lazy days at the park (more meadows).” (I had the same vision!)

Instead of the bliss she said it was:

“I felt tired and frazzled. I no longer recognized the body I inhabited. I didn’t have time for things like hair appointments or workouts. Or showers. Going shopping for food felt like an insurmountable challenge, and I may have once started crying in public when there were no double carts left at the grocery store. It hardly felt like living. I was surviving.”

I highly recommend this book. It was so funny, real and relatable.

2 – Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent

I enjoyed this book a lot. I’ve known a few midwives and they are all cool, calm and collected. It was fun reading about the early days of “modern” midwifery.

Peggy was a new OB nurse in the 1970’s in Berkeley. She didn’t agree with the way the male doctors treated labor and decided to become a midwife and go off on her own.

“Midwives believe birth is normal till proven otherwise. Doctors don’t.”

She got the training, kind of became a bit of a hippie (Birkenstocks and all) and started her own midwife practice. Each chapter was a short story about a woman’s birth that she attended. They were all different and interesting. There were a few that I felt like they could have left out of the book, but the majority were great stories.

“Just think about it. As midwives, we meet wildly interesting people and stay up all night with them. We ask them questions about their sex lives, eat their food, feel inside their bodies, snoop around their houses, drink champagne at all hours, and best of all, we get to catch delicious little naked, wet babies. What I can’t figure out is, why doesn’t everyone want to be a midwife?”

Toward the end of the book, Peggy had the unfortunate experience of a birth gone wrong. She’d warned the woman that she should birth at the hospital because of certain things, the woman refused, and then called Peggy to her home when she was in labor. Peggy arrived and saw immediately there was an issue. The ambulance service and EMTs bungled things. They got to the hospital. The doctor chose to do a C-Section and the baby had major issues. The woman ended up suing everyone involved for “wrongful life”. This might have been one of the first cases.

It was a sad way to kind of end the book because Peggy ended up losing her midwife insurance as a result (the doctor did NOT lose his malpractice insurance) and she went back to shift work at a Kaiser OB unit (she called it a Ford Assembly Line of birth). It was a bit of a bummer. 🙁

But overall I loved the book and the stories and the connections Peggy made with the women and their babies.

3 – The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

This was a very interesting book. It was a different kind of dystopian world. In this one, The City is toxic. It’s overcrowded. People are getting sick and dying just from living in the city. Bea is desperate to safe her young daughter, Agnes, from a untimely death. So she, Agnes and her husband, go to the “New Wilderness.” It’s outside of the city, completely untouched wilderness, and they are supposed to live a nomadic life, one with nature.

There’s a group of them. There are rules. There are Rangers that track them, check in with them to make sure they are following the rules. They live off the land, hunt animals. They aren’t allowed to build permanent structures or stay in one place for very long because it will do damage to the environment.

These people live a “pure” life here. It seems to be going well. Years go by. People in their group die. Eventually they get some new people added to their “tribe.”

It’s a fascinating concept. It was a little Hunger Games, a little Lord of the Flies. It’s worth a read just for the interesting concept.

4 – Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams

Very very good. So informative, lots of history and very very current events. The afterword even talks about Covid-19. I appreciated her service and description of politics in Georgia, about gerrymandering, about the despicable things the GOP has done to suppress votes for so many people in America. She had some good types on how to get involved. I appreciated the book very much and was happy to support someone who has done so much for the democratic system.

5 – The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory

I recently watched this series: The White Queen, The White Princess and season 1 of the Spanish Princess and they were so good! I used to read Phillipa Gregory a long time ago but it’s been awhile. I am so glad I picked up this book because it’s very good. It is a super fast read, covers a lot of history in an engaging way and I highly recommend it!

6 – Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

I heard about this book on a podcast interview with one of the authors. It was a very interesting concept. There are so many books written about romantic relationships but rarely about friendships. Friendships play such a big part of our lives, but we don’t always put the “work” in like we would with romantic relationships. The story of the two authors, their friendship, the rocky times, how they worked to fix things, were all very interesting to read. It was part memoir style, peppered with research on friendships, etc but it never felt bogged down with quotes/facts/research.

The book also talked about race and feminism, among other topics. It gave me a lot to think about and I enjoyed reading the book.

Happy Reading!

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Books #55

My goal for 2020 was to read 150 books, which is usually doable for me. At this point, I am 10 books behind in order to reach my goal. I am thinking I won’t be making it this year. Oh well. Pandemic and all. There were some times this year where I could not focus on books and it was just too hard to read books. That’s ok.

Here are some of the good ones I read recently:

1 – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Excellent! Very well written, I loved the style and how the story was told by each person at the wedding. The atmosphere was perfect for a thriller/mystery: a remote, haunted island in Ireland with a crumbling castle remodeled to host guests. It felt like a cross between an Agatha Christie book and the movie Clue. It kept me guessing until the end, too. Very well done.

2 – When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

This book was amazing! So good, I would not change a thing. It was a well crafted novel, a slow burn that kept me guessing. The description was “Rear Window” meets “Get Out” and that is spot on. Sydney has returned to her mother’s home in Brooklyn after a nasty divorce and slowly realizes that something isn’t right. People are disappearing, but in weird ways, racism and gentrification is blatant and in your face, something dark and sinister is happening but she doesn’t know what.

The book is rich in history that most did not learn in history class. The story of redlining, gentrification, black people’s homes being stolen from them. The story is fascinating and horrifying and so well written.

3 – Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women by Lyz Lenz

This book is excellent! It came on my radar because I follow the author on Twitter and she is absolutely hilarious and smart and when her book came out, it sounded fascinating. Even if you are not pregnant, have never been pregnant, never plan to be pregnant, it is still a comprehensive, well-researched and informative read.

“In our cultural imagination the perfect mother is a white, middle-class, straight, cisgender, married woman. She announces her pregnancy on social media with a photo in which she’s smiling, draped in a gauzy dress, framing an almost nonexistent bump with her hands, wedding band glinting in the light. We are happy for her. We say, “Congrats,” over and over in the comments. Her hair is perfectly curled. Her husband smiles benignly behind her. She is the modern-day Virgin Mary.”

It’s funny, dark, depressing, hopeful and relevant in this current time. She writes about feminist issues, about women’s bodies, about pro-choice and anti-choice politics, about how men and politicians want to control women in all aspects of their lives. It felt like an “this day and age” Gloria Steinem book.

She writes about non-cis gendered women, writes about how women are supposed to 100% live up to an unreachable standard in all aspects (give birth, go back to work immediately, but DO NOT PUMP! Don’t bother your employer for modifications, but don’t take time off from work, but make sure you lose that baby weight in 2 weeks!). I liked that she was inclusive.

“America scorns a fat mother. In 2019, writer Virginia Sole-Smith reported in a story for New York Times Magazine that fertility clinics will refuse to work with women if they deem their body mass index (BMI) is too high.”

“To become pregnant and to have children is to wade deeper into a world where your body is no longer yours, your body is debated by politicians, your body is manhandled by medical practitioners who won’t listen, your body is a thing people in the Target checkout line and on the school playground and around a holiday table have opinions about.”

“Corporations will penalize you for taking time off. Childcare will be unaffordable. If you’re a white woman with a white smile, ruffly blouse, impossibly clean white jeans, a sign that reads “Live, Laugh, Love” on your wall, and perfect blonde curls cascading down your back (how does she do it, and with a baby?!), strangers will smile at you and tell you you’re blessed. But people will also tell you to use cloth diapers. Or disposable. Whichever one you are using is wrong. Whatever you do is wrong. You are exactly what society has told you to be, and yet, you are still wrong.”

This book will make you laugh, make you rage, make you want to BURN IT ALL DOWN. But I definitely recommend it. Read it. Especially now, when our rights are on the table, again.

(Under His Eye, right?)

4 – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This was a compelling, rich story about what the migrant’s story is. It was equal parts horrifying, sad, heartwarming and inspiring. These people are often fleeing horrific, deadly experiences and trying to save their lives or save their family member’s lives by trying to come to America. Immigration is a tough topic right now but reading about these stories and how hard it is to cross, it makes you wonder, perhaps they have earned their spot here?

5- Outsider (Kate Burkholder #12) by Linda Castillo

I really liked this installment in the series. I thought the story was good, the writing was great as usual. I liked that in this book they are taking refuge with the Amish as they hide from the bad guys. It was interesting reading about Kate’s background, too, and how she found law enforcement.

6 – The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Absolutely excellent. I loved the concept. It was relevant to our times. Rachel has a very popular crime podcast. She is on a new case for her podcast season, this time covering a rape trial. Intertwined with this trial is an unsolved murder from 25 years ago. There are small town politics, secrets, and classism. It was a very well done book and I enjoyed it a lot.

7 – When I was You by Amber Garza

“Then I drove to your house, irritated that you were forcing me to stalk you. It was annoying. I wanted to hang out with you in a noncreepy way, but you weren’t allowing it.”

This was a well done thriller. It was creepy, it kept me turning the page. I read 60% of the book in one sitting and then I had to stop to go to sleep because it was just getting too late!

The book reminded me of “You”. The creepy, stalker aspect. Kelly is a middle aged woman, her marriage is dying, she’s suffered some pretty horrible tragedies, and as a result had a mental break. The way the story unfolds is creative, slow and builds the suspense. Then Kelly meets a young mom and befriends her–but some people in Kelly’s life wonder if this new friend is real?

The story takes you in unexpected places and it’s very good. There were some parts towards the end I did not “buy” but overall I enjoyed the ride.

Happy Reading!

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