recommendations

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!

This post has Amazon affiliate links.

Books #17

I’ve been reading some good books lately! Several of them have been rather “heavy” so to speak, and I wrote individual posts about those books. But I have been reading a lot of other types of books lately. So here is another post with some recommendations.

If you want to follow me on Goodreads, here I am. You can also read old book reviews here.

1 ) The Third Option (Mitch Rapp #4) by Vince Flynn

In this book, Mitch Rapp is back and working on a mission in Germany to assassinate a dirty Count. The mission goes wrong and his partners attempt to kill him. He goes on the run, not sure who to trust, and then eventually makes it back to the States to confront the higher ups in his organization. It turns out there’s a leak in the department and someone is out to get Mitch and his handler, Irene. It’s a really fast story and well written. The ending was both exciting and frustrating because it was a bit of a cliff hanger! Another good book in the series!

2 )  The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway #9) by Elly Griffiths

The last book in this series was a dud–major let down since I love the series. But this book turned it around. It was back to focusing on Ruth and her adventures.

This particular story was unique and creepy and fun to read. A homeless woman goes missing and suddenly several homeless men are murdered. At the same time, two women from the community go missing and there are rumors of kidnapping and underground societies.

It was an interesting story and I loved the ending and where it left off! Can’t wait for the next book!

3 )  The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Man, did I love this book! It was so good. I loved the characters–they came alive in this book and I felt the pain, sorrow, and happiness that the characters felt. I would describe this book as a cross between “A Man Called Ove” and “Take Me With You” by Catherine Ryan Hyde. So if you liked either of those books, you’ll like this one.

The story is told in different ways–Ona is 104 years old and “the boy” comes to her house every Saturday to help her and to work on his Boy Scout’s badge where he interviews her about her life.

Then the boy dies unexpectedly (heart-breaking!! get your Kleenex) and his estranged father, Quinn, takes over his quest to help Ona each Saturday. They basically become family and the entire family heals, and tries to fulfill the boy’s goal of getting Ona into the Guiness Book of World Records.

It’s a tear-jerker, but often in a happy way. The book is beautiful written and I did not want it to end. I wanted the story to keep going.  This book was so excellent! Read it!

4 ) Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

What a beautiful, heart-warming and heart-breaking book! The book is told from two points of view. The first is Soli, a 20 year old who is trying to escape the poverty in Mexico to cross the border into America. The story is about her journey, the absolutely horrific things she endures to cross the border, and the love she finds on her journey. She arrives in Berkeley, California, pregnant, poor, and safe. She lives with her cousin and gets a job as a housekeeper/nanny.

The second story is Kavya and Rishi, Indian-Americans living in Berkeley who want a child and try and try unsuccessfully to get pregnant or go to term. The desire to be a mother is palpable through the pages.

“Having a child was like turning inside out and exposing to the world the soft pulp of her heart. If something happened to Ignacio–if illness took him or an accident, she herself would never recover. If the night stole his breath away, as sometimes happened to the very very young, her own breath would never return. At night, thoughts like this sat vigil around her bed. [pg 181]”

Through a horrible twist of fate, Soli’s son is taken into DHS custody and Kavya gets the opportunity to become a mother. She is immediately in love with little Ignacio. This is a story of a very lucky boy, loved by two mothers.

“Why did people love children who were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone, and because there was no point running from earthquakes into tornadoes, blizzards, terrorist attacks. Because destruction waited around every corner, and turning one corner would only lead to another…She’d built her love on a fault line, and the first tremors had begun. [pg 350]”

Rishi is a little slower to fall in love with the boy. He was afraid of getting too close, since they were temporary foster parents and knew the mother could try to get Ignacio back. But eventually, something clicks, and he becomes his son.

“Being a father made him a part of this place, Rishi realized. He was no longer just a scientist, a pizza eater, a line dweller, a street crosser. Ignacio rooted him to the hum of this sidewalk. Ignacio brought him to Earth. [pg 327]”

It was interesting to read the cultural differences between Soli and her Mexican heritage and Kavya and her Indian culture, a culture that apparently is not welcoming to the idea of adoption. Biological children were very important to her parents–but even her parents eventually fall in love with Ignacio. How could they not??

“In her gaze, even from this distance, Soli could see a mist of love. She couldn’t deny this, and it shrank her inside, the love. [pg 417]”

Reading about the horrible treatment of illegal immigrants by ICE was absolutely awful and revolting. It made me really angry. The book was very well-written and I did NOT want the book to end. I didn’t like the ending, really, but there wasn’t an easy answer on how the story should end. Throughout the book you feel very strongly and root for Soli to win in the end–but at the same time you are rooting for Kavya and Rishi because they love Ignacio like he was their own. So it was truly a no-win situation. 🙁

“Grief was a solitary practice, though they would cling to each other that day and in the days to come. [pg 461]”

As a mother, the book was very hard to read but it was so so good. I absolutely loved it. When I got towards the end of the book, I felt a panic and raced to daycare to pick up Logan. All I wanted was to pick him up and hug him and never let him go. 

5 ) The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

After reading several super heavy, dark, difficult reads, I needed something light and fluffy to give myself a break. I read another chick lit type of book, that wasn’t very good, and then picked up this one from the library. I actually really enjoyed it! For a “chick lit” book it was pretty well-written.

Dempsey is a lobbyist in DC who loses her job, and could possibly be heading to prison, after a boss with her scandal breaks. Perfect timing: a distant, elderly relative died and left his house to her father. She decides to go down to Georgia to fix up the house, called Birdsong, and get it ready to sell, while she figures out how to fix her life.

She gets down to the house and it’s a mess. Overgrown yard, house falling apart, piles and piles of junk and magazines. Plus–an ornery old squatter! So the book is basically about her fixing up this house, meeting someone down in Georgia, clearing her name from the scandal and figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

It was a very satisfying read and the characters were well-developed. The story was good, even for a fluffy book! I liked the book a lot.

6 )  Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

This book starts out with a bang! LOVED the writing style, the crisp, fun writing and the way the author reveals parts of the story in bits and pieces in a shocking way. The first chapter is one the best first chapters I’ve read in a long time and it instantly sucked me in and made me want to read the whole book in one sitting.

This is a story about Georgia, about to get married and move to London to start a new job. She goes home to wine country, and finds her whole family in shambles. Everyone in her life is having relationship issues.

” ‘Because that’s the only way to get somewhere better.” He shrugged. “If you fight, you work it out. If you don’t fight, you move into your own corners, and nothing gets decided there.'[pg 146]”

She’s conflicted about getting married in a week. Everyone in her life has advice for her.

” ‘I stopped paying attention to her. I stopped doing the things that someone does for the person he loves. Because I was tired. Because other things always seemed to matter a little bit more…That doesn’t happen overnight, you know. It happens slowly. You should be careful of that. You should be careful not to take the person you love for granted. Not only because they’ll notice. But you’ll notice too. You’ll think it means something it doesn’t.’ [pg 239]”

There is a lot of “will they, won’t they” in the middle of the book, back and forth on the wedding, but the story is so well written and engaging that it wasn’t cliqued. And I absolutely LOVED the ending! I wanted the book to keep going, I wanted more. I loved the world and characters this author created. I will definitely be reading more of her work. And I hope they make this book into a movie!

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.