reading list

Books #20

It’s that time of year…dark, rainy, cold weather that makes you just want to snuggle up with a good book. Well, this post is for you! Book recommendations galore.

1 ) Down A Dark Road (Kate Burkholder #9) by Linda Castillo

The newest book in the series and it was a good one. Kate is back as the Chief. She receives word that a childhood friend who was sent to prison for killing his wife, has escaped. She goes to the house where his kids are living now, just in case, and is ambushed by Joseph. She’s taken hostage in the house. But it’s not your typical hostage situation. He claims he didn’t kill his wife and was framed. Sure, typical of prisoners–but Kate is let go and has a nagging feeling that things don’t add up.

So the book is about Kate re-opening the investigation and finding things that aren’t quite right about the investigation. The book is about friendship, corrupt cops and Kate doing her due diligence. It was a fast read!

 

2 ) The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary #1) by Kristen Lepionka

What a really good read! I was pleasantly surprised by how great this book was (and I read it in about a day and a half! Could not stop reading). I can’t wait for book #2!

Roxane is a private detective. Her cop father died a few months ago and her life is falling apart a bit. But she gets a case that intrigues. Brad, an African American poet, is about to be executed for brutally murdering his girlfriend’s parents. And maybe the girlfriend? She disappeared the same night as the murders, never found. But Brad’s sister insists he’s innocent and wants Roxane to prove it before it’s too late. She starts to uncover things that made it unlikely that Brad is the murderer, but will she solve the crime in time to save him? (And the ending was not expected!)

The story was well-crafted. The characters were really well written and they felt real to me. I really liked Roxane, who was smart and witty. The author wrote about a bisexual woman in a real and respectful way, too, even though that wasn’t what the book was about. It just flowed well and made the character well-rounded. Roxane is also an alcoholic, which was a bummer for the book because you REALLY want her to fix her life and be successful.

3 ) Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #13) by Louise Penny

Another book in the series that does not disappoint!

This one was a different type of storytelling, a slight departure from her usual style. In this book, there is a murder in Three Pines that Armand and Jean-Guy investigate but the story is told in a unique way: the story unfolds through testimony in the murder trial (never revealing who was on trial for the murder), then instead of bogging down the story with testimony to tell the whole story, they flashback to describe what happened in Three Pines. On top of that, there is also a major, clandestine, investigation going on about drugs being run through the border by Three Pines.

The story is unique and riveting and because there are so many threads and so much double-speak you really have to pay attention. The ending was a surprise and left off for the next book in the series to continue what happens to the main characters we love, but it wasn’t a frustrating ending, it felt very satisfying. Another well done book!

 

4 ) Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

This was a delightful, tear-jerker, sweet, enduring book. The main character, Annie, is stuck. Her life sucks. Her jobs sucks. She’s divorced and some other tragedies in her past are keeping her stuck in this cycle of self-pity and depression. She’s at the hospital visiting her mom, who has Alzheimer’s, when she runs into Polly–this vibrant, colorful, full of life and energy woman who also happens to be dying of cancer.

Polly kind of forces Annie into a friendship and in the next 80 days or so they spend most of their time together kind of ticking things off Polly’s “Bucket List”. But Polly has ulterior motives–she wants her last gift to Annie and the people in her life to be for them to realize how much time they have and they should be happy and do things that MAKE them happy.

It’s really an uplifting book that makes you reconsider things in your own life.

5 ) There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secret for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids) by Linda Akeson McGurk

I enjoyed this book. It’s about a Scandinavian mom living in Indiana with her two small daughters and how she moves back to Sweden for 6 months to care for an ailing family member. She brings her daughters with her and they get to go to school in Sweden and experience the culture.

The book is a fascinating read about the differences between the Scandinavian countries and America.

“As my daughter’s pediatrician puts it: A generation ago, there were maybe one or two overweight or obese children in a class of twenty. Today, being overweight is so common that the normal kids sometimes are the ones that stand out. Our expectations have changed: Overweight is the new normal. [pg 21]”

It’s really sad how little kids play outside. I see it even in my own neighborhood. When I first moved there, there were tons of kids on the street. But there aren’t that many anymore. Some have grown up but I feel like a lot of the kids just don’t even come outside anymore. It’s always slightly startling when you DO see kids!

“When I ask Kristoffer, a Swedish father of two young children, what he expects his children to learn between now and when they start formal schooling at age six, his answer is swift and affirmative: ‘I expect them to be children. Soon enough they’ll be in school and they’ll get the rest there. [pg 89]”

The difference in Sweden was striking. The kids are all very active and play outside a lot. No matter what the weather! The motto is to have good clothes! Who cares about the weather? The author described an outdoor birthday party in the middle of winter where all the kids invited showed up in snow pants and they spent all afternoon outside sledding and then had roasted hot dogs for a meal. The kids were ecstatic–and I doubt you’d see that here. You definitely wouldn’t see that in Portland!

“If my son wants to play soccer he can, but I’ll never make him. It has to come from him, and it will when he’s ready for it. Not everybody likes team sports, and if he doesn’t we’ll have to find something that’s a better fit. [pg 97]”

I could really relate to that approach. When I was a kid, I was forced to do piano lessons, soccer, gymnastics…a lot of stuff that wasn’t my personality. I hated it all. I hated being on display. I hated team sports. I was afraid of heights so gymnastics was awful but…I loved swimming. That was the thing that I wanted to do.

The kids in Sweden also go to “forest” school. I actually have a friend who’s daughter goes to something sort of similar here in Portland and I find it fascinating and so cool! The kids spend tons of time outside, they have gardens and grow fruits and vegetables that they eat and learn how to prepare the food. I think that’s amazing and I definitely want to do that with my kid.

“Children who spend a lot of time in nature have stronger hands, arms and legs and significantly better balance than children who rarely get to move freely in natural areas. In nature children use and exercise all the different muscle groups. [pg 101]”

We are so happy that Logan loves going outside. Since he was only a few months old he’s been out with us hiking! And now that he’s mobile, we are taking him on little “hikes” in the forests and parks in our city. He can “hike” on a trail and explore–pick up pinecones and sticks and smell the fresh air and he feels independent. It’s amazing watching him in the woods. 🙂

“…she doesn’t scold them for getting just about every square inch of their clothes and bodies dirty, including the lining of their nostrils. I’m not surprised. Messy, wild play is seen as a perfectly natural, even cherished, part of childhood in Scandinavia, and the way I was raised, muddy hands, piles of filthy clothes, and wet boots were almost considered badges of honor, a testament to a day filed with adventure, new experiences and lots of trial and error. [pg 145]”

I SO want that for Logan! I just need to get over my clean OCD/germphobia… 😉

“…risky play is nature’s way for children to teach themselves emotional resilience and learn how to manage and overcome their fears. [pg 189]”

The book was a fast read and it was really interesting. The author didn’t bog it down with too much facts/research/data but sprinkled that in throughout very nicely. She also had tips for ideas and stuff to try with your own kids. Definitely recommend!

6 ) Come Away With Me by Karma Brown

Wow. What a heavy book. I had mixed emotions about it as I was reading it but it pulled the whole story together at the end. The story is about Tegan, a mid-twenties woman who just got married and is about 6 months pregnant when her and her husband Gabe are in a horrific car crash right before Christmas.

Tegan loses the baby and is swallowed up by her grief. She is barely holding on to reality, choosing to stay in bed grieving instead. Everyone in her life is trying to help her.

“It’s amazing how one-dimensional my grief is. I am only capable of feeling numb. Even the pain, which used to be so sharp, has gone dull.”

Gabe and Tegan had a jar of “bucket list” type of trips and activities they wanted to do. So they decided to go to Thailand, Italy and Maui. The hope is that the trips shake Tegan out of her grief.

“If I want to make this work, I have to spend less time focusing on everything I lost that night and more time figuring out how to live without it.”

Tegan has a lot of anger towards Gabe because he was the one driving the car that night. It seems like she will never be able to let it go and forgive him and I thought, “Hmm I guess this is a book about divorce, too” but there is a twist at the end and the book is really about grief, how the mind heals and redemption.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Like I said, it’s a very heavy book. This author writes about grief very well. The pain is palpable–and that might be too much for some readers to handle. But overall the book was very well done.

7 ) Say Nothing by Brad Parks

Scott Sampson is a judge. The book starts with a bang when he realizes his six year old twins have been kidnapped. Where are there? Who took them? Who can they trust? Judge Sampson is forced to comply with the kidnapper’s demands, making certain judgments on trials he’s in, all in hopes of having his kids returned safely.

The book had many suspects, lots of suspense, lots of ups and downs. At the heart of the story it was about power and revenge and about parents trying to save their kids. The book is well written and full of tension, and not just regarding the kidnapping! The story hits the ground running and never lets up. The ending was really good, too. .

Happy Reading!

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Books #18

I’ve been reading a lot lately. With all the stuff that’s been going on in my life recently, I really needed the distraction.

1 ) Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

What a crazy roller-coaster ride of a book! It was SO GOOD! If you’re going to pick up a book to read, this is the one you should check out. I read it in a day and a half and could not put it down.

The story is dark–Gwen/Gina’s life is turned upside down. The idyllic home life she thought she had, married with two small kids, was not what it seemed when it turns out that her husband is a serial killer. The story isn’t necessarily about the discovery or the trial, or him going to prison to sit on death row, it’s about her survival and it’s about the rabid internet trolls that are trying to hunt her down to make her pay. They are convinced that she was an accomplice.

So she goes on the run with her kids, moving and changing identities whenever she thinks the stalkers and trolls are getting too close to finding them. But now she’s settled in Tennessee on a quiet lake with her teen kids. She’s still diligent, but starting to relax. And that’s when her past catches up to her. It’s such a fast, exciting story. Trust me when I say you cannot stop reading this book once you start!

 

 

2 ) The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

This is a story about friendship, motherhood and grief. Hannah and Kate have been best friends most of their lives. Hannah has been trying to have a baby for years, unsuccessfully, and Kate does the selfless thing of offering to be a surrogate. It’s not an easy road for any of them. Kate’s husband isn’t on board with it, there are complications and twists of fate that change their lives forever. But the story is heartwarming, as well as tragic.

I really liked the character development. You could really feel the close friendship between Hannah and Kate and the author describes grief very well. It was a good book that I read in two days.

3 )  Cold Earth (Shetland Island #7) by Ann Cleeves

This series kind of dropped off my radar for about a year. Then I remembered about it and got the newest book. It was fairly easy to pick it back up and the story starts out in a pretty exciting way.

Detective Jimmy Perez is back and he’s at a funeral for a local friend who died of old age. During the service at the cemetery, there is a landslide of mud, water and peat that crashes into a nearby house. They all watch in horror as it sweeps down the hillside. Then Jimmy discovers a body. They all assume that it was the landslide that killed her, but it turns out to be murder.

There were lots of twists and turns, and another murder, and I liked the book and it was a fast read…but the ending was a bit flimsy for me. The murderer was not who I was expecting it to be, which in a murder mystery is usually pretty good, but in this case I didn’t quite buy it. Other than that, I enjoyed the story.

4 ) Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

This was a really fascinating read about how cities and suburbs are designed and how they fail. The author discusses different cities — Bogota was especially fascinating in how they turned it around and also interesting was the San Joaquin Valley in California (and how it was completely destroyed by the housing crash).

So why are the citizens in Bogota so much happier?

“‘And what are our needs for happiness?’ he asked. ‘We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.’ [pg 6]”

It really is worth reading the book just for these two scenarios that are discussed, although the author talks about other countries and cities that have tried to make changes. 

“A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both. [pg 7]”

The story of Bogota was particularly interesting to me because Portland is going through something similar. There is SO much growth, so much building, so many condos and apartments and high rises…and no parking, horrible traffic, and people rallying on the side of biking rights to transform the city to something more livable. I saw a lot of parallels and I hope that our city leaders can try and find some kind of balance to make Portland…better….?

The horror-story of California was also an interesting read. Lots of people moved to this community and commuted to San Jose/San Francisco and their commutes were 2 HOURS EACH WAY! I cannot even imagine enduring that.

“A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45 minute commute were 40% more likely to divorce. People who live in mono-functional, car-dependent neighborhoods outside of urban centers are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walk-able neighborhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services, and places to work. [pg 55]”

I can definitely relate. We live in the suburbs of Portland and for years our neighborhood, while nice, didn’t exactly feel like a great neighborhood. We had to drive everywhere to do anything. There are no restaurants nearby, no bars, nothing really within walking distance. But once I had Logan and we started going on frequent walks (and runs) together, I started stopping by a local coffee-shop on our route. I chat with the people that work there, I chat with other patrons in the coffee-shop, people comment on my baby, and it’s a friendly experience. I also noticed that I started seeing the same people on our route who were also out walking/running/etc. We’d smile and say hi and it felt a little more like a community. It’s not quite the same because it would be nice to be able to walk to a restaurant close to the house. But it’s getting there.

The book was really interesting and gave me a lot to think about. It also made me think of what I want to look for in our next home/community. Having stuff within walking distance is a must have!

5 ) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

What a really great book! The story unfolds slowly, but you are engrossed the entire time. Eleanor is slightly weird…she’s very particular about things, is very black and white–has a routine and never deviates from that, and seems to have maybe some autistic tendencies but the book doesn’t really address that. She most certainly struggles with social skills and norms. But it’s quaint and funny.

She starts to become friends with Raymond, a coworker. Her and Raymond help a complete stranger, Sammy, an elderly man who collapses in the street. This series of events brings Eleanor out of her shell and forces her to re-evaluate her social life. Everything is off-kilter for her, but she starts making small changes and before she realizes it, her life is completely different. In a good way!

I absolutely loved the characters and the story. Eleanor is weird but charming and you are rooting for her the entire time. The ending was very shocking and unexpected, too. This is a really special book that I would recommend to anyone.

6) Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

I really liked this book! It had just the right amount of politics and humor. Al Franken writes briefly about his upbringing, his family and his career at SNL. Then he moves on to what made him decide to run for senate. The bulk of the book is about the campaign but he does spend some time writing about what it is like being a senator.

“And that’s how it’s supposed to be for every kid in America. You’re not supposed to have to be rich or lucky to have a chance to do great things…Democrats aren’t just the party of equality for all–we’re the party of opportunity for all. [pg 9]”

I also love how much “behind the scenes” stories he shares. They were interesting and funny. It was interesting to get more information on politics and how stuff happens and how the left and right actually do sometimes try to work together.

He also talked about the 2016 election and the aftermath, so there is relevant information in there, too. He ended his book with advice, too.

“Keep showing up and keep speaking out. The Women’s March didn’t force Trump to resign. It didn’t even stop any of his Cabinet nominees from going through. But it really, really mattered. It sent a clear message to the president (and to Republicans in Congress) that the American people won’t surrender their rights or their core values without a fight–and it sent a clear message to Democrats that, when we stand up to Trump, people will have our backs. [pg 382]”

He encourages people to come out at mid-elections and actually get involved and vote and try. Keep trying.

“This comeback starts with standing up for our values and making it clear that no president has a mandate to spread bigotry or roll back the clock on progress (especially not one who lost the popular vote by three million). It continues through next year, when we have a chance to punish Republicans for enabling this disaster and take back governorship and state legislatures all across the country. [pg 384]”

It’s worth a read!

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