reading list

Books #48

My goal for 2019 was 165 books and I just reached that goal!

I’ve read some good ones lately! I also had a FLOOD of library books all come available at the same time, of course, so it was hard to get through everything. But here are some favorites:

#1 A Season to Lie (Detective Gemma Monroe #2) by Emily Littlejohn

Really strong sequel. I enjoyed this mystery a lot. Gemma is back, a new mother, and trying to fit back into work after maternity leave. She gets a big case–a famous author is murdered. I didn’t guess who the doer was until almost the end, so I liked the surprise. There were lots of twists and turns and red herrings. The characters showed some growth, too, and seemed a little more fleshed out.

#2 The Birth House by Ami McKay

I really enjoyed this book! It was a fascinating read and I loved the characters.

It takes place in the early 1900’s in a remote Canadian community in Nova Scotia. Dora is a teenager and is befriended by the town midwife, Miss B, who takes her under her wing and teachers her how to “catch babies.”

“Miss B. never asks for payment from those who come to her. She says a true traiteur never does. Grandmothers who still believe in her ways and thankful new mothers leave coffee tins, heavy with coins that have been collected after Sunday service. In season, families bring baskets of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and anything else she might need to get by.”

It’s a fascinating time period because it’s a clash of two worlds. The old world, where women went to the midwife for everyone, and the new “shiny birthing center” built by an insurance company and run by a man. This is also the time of “twilight birth” being touted as the BEST way to give birth! Chloroform and ether! Yay!

““The latest methods of obstetrics—chloroform, ether, chloral, opium, morphine, the use of forceps—these things can make birthing the joyful experience it was meant to be. I can even administer Twilight Sleep if desired.” “

There was so much history and interesting stuff in this book and it was a real joy to read. The book was well written and a fast read.

“If women lose the right to say where and how they birth their children, then they will have lost something that’s as dear to life as breathing. I’m tired of being afraid.”

#3 Old Bones (Nora Kelly) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

So good! Nora Kelly is “back”–she was first introduced in one of my FAVORITE books (Thunderhead) so it looks like they are making a series out of her. In this book, Nora is approached by a historian who has knowledge of a secret third camp from the Donner Party in the Sierra Nevadas. Together they convince her boss at the Museum to put together a team to search for it.

The book is really well written. You get sucked into the story immediately and it’s exciting and faced paced. Felt like an Indian Jones movie, with a little twist of horror. Loved the ending!

#4 Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Laurel Mack is a 50-something mother of three who never really got over the fact that her 15 year old daughter, Ellie, disappeared 10 years ago. It destroyed her, destroyed her marriage, fractured her relationship with her other two kids. Now she’s trying to piece together her life and move on. She starts by dating a handsome stranger, Floyd, whom she meets in a cafe.

But as the buzz of new happiness starts to dissipate, Laurel starts to question some things about Floyd and his 9 year old daughter, Poppy.

So the book was good. It kept me reading long after I should have put the book down. The writing and the dialogue was good. The atmosphere created was good. The plot points were obvious and predictable and unrealistic, but I still liked the book a lot so it kept me reading.

#5 The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Wow! This book blew me away. It was so so good. The author expertly created a vibe of creepiness that never wavered throughout the book. The creepy, remote house in the middle of nowhere in Scotland. Creepy kids. A house that is super high tech where you’re constantly feeling watched…All the elements were there.

Rowan takes a job as a live-in nanny in remote Scotland. The parents are rich architects and away a lot. Rowan is kind of thrown into the mix immediately and strange things start happening in this weird house, where there’s a history of “ghosts” and hauntings and there’s a poison garden on the grounds. Everything about the place and the kids and the situation has Rowan on edge. In the end, a child ends up dead. (Thankfully, it’s not described in detail, so don’t let that aspect deter you from reading the book like it almost did me.) The ending had several twists and turns that were surprising.

#6 The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

I found this book enduring and sweet and heartwarming. Arthur is an 80-something year old man who visits his wife in the cemetery every day for lunch. He’s lonely. Maddy is a teenager who is also lonely and visit her mom in the cemetery. They become unlikely friends. The book was reminiscent of Catherine Hyde Ryan books. I enjoyed it.

Happy Reading!

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Books #47

I like a lot of the books I’ve read lately. I discovered some new authors/series and got caught up on some favorite authors. Here are some of my favorites:

#1 The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

This was an interesting story. It turned out to be more of a courtroom drama but it was interesting and kept me reading. I liked it a lot and it was well written.

Chloe is a rich a famous New York magazine executive and feminist figurehead. She’s married to Adam, a lawyer. Except her past is a little more sketchy. Turns out, Adam was married to her sister Nicky before they got divorced and Chloe and Adam married. And Ethan is Chloe’s stepson, and also her nephew. But more comes to light when Adam is murdered and the trial brings out all the dirty secrets.

#2 Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

This was an excellent book! It was a heavy topic, but it wasn’t dry or bogged down with lots of dry facts and figures. The statistics were scattered around the book in an unobtrusive way and the way it was written was engrossing. The author wrote about several people and you got sucked into their stories and were interested in the outcomes.

“These days, there are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders.”

He followed several people in Milwaukee, WI, who were poor and struggling to keep a roof over their head. It was a mixture of races, ages and sexes. Some had families, some were single. One was a male nurse who had gotten addicted to opiates and due to drug abuse, lost his job, nursing license, and struggled to stay in his trailer.

“Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend over half of their income on housing, and at least one in four dedicates over 70 percent to paying the rent and keeping the lights on…Fewer and fewer families can afford a roof over their head. This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today…”

This book was definitely eye-opening. I had no idea how a lot of this stuff worked. I definitely had to face my own privilege reading this book and know that I never had to deal with the realities that a lot of Americans have to deal with. Deciding whether to feed their kids or pay their rent.

“It was a common strategy among cash-strapped renters. Because the rent took almost all of their paycheck, families sometimes had to initiate a necessary eviction that allowed them to save enough money to move to another place. One landlord’s loss was another’s gain.”

The book really does an excellent job describing such a broken system.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out… Men often avoided eviction by laying concrete, patching roofs, or painting rooms for landlords. But women almost never approached their landlord with a similar offer. Some women—already taxed by child care, welfare requirements, or work obligations—could not spare the time. But many others simply did not conceive of working off the rent as a possibility. When women did approach their landlords with such an offer, it sometimes involved trading sex for rent.”

One of the people he followed was a landlord, Sherrena. I found that really fascinating. Sometimes you got a glimpse of someone who had a heart and was really kind and actually cared…one single mother with two boys moved in to one of her units and she brought them a box of food when they first moved in. And yet…she ended up evicting them later because of police activity at that unit.

“Every month Sherrena collected roughly $20,000 in rent. Her monthly mortgage bills rounded out to $8,500. After paying the water bill, Sherrena—who owned three dozen inner-city units, all filled with tenants around or below the poverty line—figured she netted roughly $10,000 a month, more than what Arleen, Lamar, and many of her other tenants took home in a year.”

The other thing that was super frustrating was that a lot of the poor people were on SSI or SSD or welfare and given a certain amount of money each month. But they were never able to get ahead. If they had too much money in their bank account, they lost their services. It really doesn’t make people want to try and get out of poverty. Talk about a broken system! Thankfully Oregon doesn’t have that, they have a savings account program for people on benefits so that they can TRY and save and get out of poverty levels.

“She was allowed to have up to $2,000 in the bank, not $1,000 like she thought, but anything more than that could result in her losing benefits. Larraine saw this rule as a clear disincentive to save.”

“If Arleen and Vanetta didn’t have to dedicate 70 or 80 percent of their income to rent, they could keep their kids fed and clothed and off the streets. They could settle down in one neighborhood and enroll their children in one school, providing them the opportunity to form long-lasting relationships with friends, role models, and teachers. They could start a savings account or buy their children toys and books, perhaps even a home computer.”

I think this should be required reading in schools, honestly. It was so so good and so eye opening.

#3 The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal

Olivia Shaw is a food editor in San Francisco, in a dying engagement, struggling with the recent death of her mother and recovering from a car accident that has left her with chronic pain. The surprise news that she’s inherited a castle in England, is not what she’s expecting. It turns out she knew nothing about her mother’s past.

Olivia goes to England to settle things up and as the story unfolds, she realizes how much she didn’t know. She also realizes just how much she needed a “redo” for her life.

The book is surprisingly good for a romance. It’s not usually my type of book. It doesn’t feel like a “fluffy” romance book. It definitely deals with grief and healing. The topic of renovating the old estate was fascinating and the romance between the two main characters was very well written. I liked this story a lot!

#4 Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

This was a cute, fun little read. Naomi is a 30-something CEO of her own company and when her boyfriend dies and she finds out he was actually married, she decides it’s time to get her personal life in order.

There was a nice romance in the book that was well written (enemies into soul mates kind of a thing) and the book was funny and charming. I liked the characters!

#5 Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman

I absolutely LOVED this book. It was laugh out loud funny. I was cracking up the entire time I read the book and I could also relate to everything. It felt like she was writing my story. It was a great book about becoming a mother, being pregnant:

“This pregnant tiredness is so unearthly. I stagger into work and sit down at my computer, and it’s all I can do not to crawl under my desk immediately and go to sleep on the floor. I crave recumbency.”

… and the crazy time postpartum is:

“The postpartum period is like The Perfect Storm: all the wild forces of new-babyhood collide to make you ragingly, epically nuts. I know that I’ll look back on this period and understand the equation perfectly. I understand it even now: hormones + mewling subhuman + strange, sore body + moping older child – sleep=utter lunacy. I am an utter lunatic.”

…and how new babies change marriages:

‘ “Wow,” he’d say, “now that was a great night, right? Ben’s a great sleeper.” “Honey,” I’d say, “you had a great night. You’re a great sleeper. I nursed Ben every hour. I now have no choice but to leave you.” ‘

And then she wrote about having the second baby and what life was like with a toddler.

“…what I love about three-year-olds? They’re just so flexible. So come-what-may. Nothing needs to look a certain way or be done in a particular order. They’re always like, “Hey, Mom, however you want to do it. That’s just great with me.” ” LOL

I just couldn’t put the book down and I didn’t want it to end.

#6 A Dangerous Man (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #18) by Robert Crais

One of my favorite series! This was a great read in the series. I read it in one day and I couldn’t put the book down.

Isabel is a 20-something bank teller just living her life when she leaves work for lunch one day and is grabbed by two strange men. Pike is leaving the bank and sees the attempted kidnapping and intervenes. He saves Isabel but then finds himself embroiled in a mystery of who is trying to kidnap Isabel and why.

The outcome was very interesting! I liked the story and was happy to have beloved characters back. Definitely recommend.

#7 Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

Really strong start to a new series. Detective Gemma Monroe is 6 months pregnant and having relationship issues. She’s handed a new case that unravels the entire town.

Gemma is a strong lead character. I liked that she was vulnerable but not whiny or dependent on a man. The story isn’t too gruesome. There were plot points that were well done and believable. The mystery was well-written, good/believable dialogue and surprise ending. I liked the book and can’t wait to read the next one.

Happy Reading!

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