reviews

Books #51

Well….if you are trapped in your house, now is a good time to read, right? If you have a kindle, you can download books from your library. I’m sure there are other ways to get books for free, too. Here are some suggestions for reads:

#1 My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

I have mixed feelings about this book. I’d recommend it because the story is nuts and it’s a fascinating read. Anna was a fake heiress. Claimed to be German (was Russian), and lived in expensive hotels in New York while being a socialite, basically. But she was really a grifter, writing bad checks, cheating people out of money, not paying bills, scamming hedge funds out of investments to fund her lifestyle…it was all really crazy.

Rachel was a photographer at Vanity Fair who became friends with her and got swept up in her lifestyle, and in the end, Anna scammed her out of $70k and almost ruined her life.

What makes me hesitate in rating the book higher was that I didn’t really like Rachel. I felt for her, I really did. The $70k would be devastating to anyone. But…she kinda wanted to be part of that lifestyle. She let Anna “pay” for expensive lifestyle stuff and meals and trips because she enjoyed the fancy life. She just didn’t see that it was a scam, which is tragic. So it was hard for me to be entirely sympathetic since it felt like Rachel put aside a lot of stuff (like ignoring that Anna was kind of a mean girl) to enjoy the spoils.

Despite that part, the book was good because it’s a fast read and the story is pretty crazy. I even googled it after I finished the book and read more and looked at pictures. Anna was truly a sociopath.

#2 The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

This book was nuts. It sucked me in immediately. It was so weird, so out there, so twisty and surprising and different…I don’t want to give too much away because every step of the way was a “wow!” factor. Definitely pick this book up!

#3 Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

This book was EXCELLENT! Get it immediately! While I didn’t enjoy the ending, if left me wanting more and feeling a little disturbed and unresolved…I loved the rest of it.

This book tells the story of a 1950’s housewife in New York and then current day. Usually this format isn’t very good, but it’s good in this book and I enjoyed both timelines. Alice, modern day, moves from Manhattan to the suburbs with her husband after losing her job. They buy an old house, “as is”, and finds some old belongs from the previous owner, Nellie (the 1950’s story line).

I don’t want to give away any more because the story unfolds in an excellent way, with some surprises. There’s some darkness, and a little bit of domestic violence (trigger warning) and miscarriage. But I loved the book. So good!

#4 Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Last time I was home sick I watched this show on Netflix and enjoyed it. It was a bit soap-opera-ish but I still liked it. I finally read the book. I probably would have liked the book better had I read it before seeing the tv series. I will also say I liked the book plot points better than what they changed in the tv series.

#5 Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

I’ve had this book on hold forever and it was finally available…a few days after Harvey Weinstein was sentenced. I had a moment of, why do I need to even read this book now?

But damn, read the book.

“‘Textbook sexual harassment’ was how Nestor described Weinstein’s behavior. She recalled refusing his advances at least a dozen times. “‘No’ did not mean ‘no’ to him,” she said.”

It’s engrossing and in-depth about the background research, investigation, the coverup, how deeply HW was protected…how many people were complacent. How many people knew. I mean Ronan Farrow implicated so many people…Trump, the Clintons, soooo many people. Most of Hollywood.

“Arquette’s story was important because of how closely it hewed to others I’d heard: professional pretext, meeting moved upstairs, hotel room, request for massage, bathrobe.”

The details from the women were all awful and hard to read. But important.

” Sorvino had suspected that her romantic relationship with Tarantino at the time had shielded her from retaliation, and that this protection had dissipated when the two split up. Later, Tarantino would say publicly that he could have, should have, done more. “This is the big boys’ club, the Hollywood mafia,” she said. “They protect each other.” “

I am so glad Harvey got what was coming to him and this book shows just how hard people fought for this story to come forward.

#6 Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker

Timely read. I heard this author on the Joe Rogan Podcast when the Corona virus was first kind of taking hold in the US. The book is really interesting and was written about 4 years ago…but clearly we are seeing stuff happen NOW he wrote about then. Experts have been talking about pandemic for a long time and we are seeing now that the World wasn’t prepared.

” ‘The microbe that felled one child in a distant continent yesterday can reach yours today and seed a global pandemic tomorrow.’ “

“… a pandemic spreads around the world and lasts for an extended period of time. It does not hit just one locale, leaving all others with the ability to come to its aid.”

There was a whole chapter on Corona viruses (MERS and SARS, etc) that was super scary and chilling to read as we are in the middle of this crisis now.

“A pandemic hits many locales simultaneously, all of them needing emergency assistance. It has a rolling effect as it hits first individuals, then civil authority, then business, then interstate or international commerce or both. The effects are immediate and devastating, the consequences long-term.”

“For reasons we still don’t completely understand, certain individuals with coronavirus become ‘superspreaders.’ “

The book doesn’t really give you a silver lining, so right now may not be the right time to read this book if you are experiencing anxiety. The chapter on coronaviruses in particular was scary and the author gave a scenario of what would happen in a pandemic and so far it’s happening to a T. So that was scary to read what is probably coming…

“Ordinary civic and commercial functions were not being carried out because so much of the workforce was sick or dead. Some sick people starved to death, not because there was a food shortage but because so many people were afraid to come in contact with them. Unlike a virus such as Ebola, which is not communicable until the victim starts having symptoms, with influenza, you’re contagious before you even feel sick.”

“A catastrophic influenza pandemic will unfold like a slow-motion tsunami, lasting six to eighteen months. “

So yeah. Good read, scary though.

Happy reading!

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Books #35

This will probably be my last book post of the year! Enjoy!

1 ) Dead Souls (DI Kim Stone #6) by Angela Marsons

Excellent book! It started off a little weird–it felt like there were so many story lines happening all at once and it was kind of confusing. It was definitely a different format than the usual books in this series and there was less about Kim and more about the other cops on her team. But in the end it all pulled together and all the weird, random story lines came together into one.

Kim is instructed by her boss to join a nearby precinct’s task force. So Kim has to take a back seat from being in charge, and work with DI Travis, whom there is a lot of bad history with.  While Kim is working with this other team, her team is working on a few other cases without her. She feels torn in both places.

The story is about hate crimes and it was definitely chilling. It tackles some heavy subjects! This was definitely a page turner once the book picked up momentum.

 

2 ) And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell

I really liked this book a lot. I felt like it was something I could have written in my postpartum days. The writing was funny and real and sometimes brutal.

Meaghan and Dustin are young, living in New York City and focusing on their careers, newly engaged, when she gets pregnant. Meaghan is excited but scared, which is normal I think.

“I spent most of my life being just a little bit fat and always figured that pregnancy would be a nice reprieve. [pg 49]”

“I had this image in my mind of how I’d look pregnant, mostly based on the type of woman who posed on lifestyle blogs and looked ‘like a beanpole swallowed a bowling ball.’ [pg 49]”

I laughed out loud at the part. It’s so true. I can remember being kind of jealous of this stick thin women who get pregnant and gain basically no weight except for the basket ball stomach. The author doesn’t write a ton about the pregnancy, but she gives highlights. And then she described the birthing process, which was dramatic for her.

“I had drunk the Kool-Aid. I had wanted a ‘natural labor and birth’ for reasons that, now that I was actually living through natural labor, I no longer related to. [pg 87]”

What interested me most about the memoir was the postpartum stories she shared. I could relate to so many of them. The zombie-like existence from lack of sleep and most interestingly, her struggle with Postpartum Anxiety.

“We slept in short bursts. Whether the baby was crying or not, I woke up with a start and rushed over to him to make sure he was alive. Day and night bled into each other, coalescing into one big nightmare. [pg 114]”

“At night, whether he was crying or not, I woke up every hour or so with a gasp and shone the light of my phone over his face, put my fingers under his nose to feel for breath. [pg 164]”

“What’s neurosis and what’s maternal instinct? [pg 172]”

It was weird that she never called it PPA in the book. I don’t recall that she saw a therapist or was diagnosed with it, but she most definitely had it. I went through that same exact thing: waking up to check on the baby and make sure they are still breathing, being afraid to sleep, checking on them when they make noises and when they don’t.

I feel like the author had a real opportunity to shine a light on something people don’t talk much about. There is so much focus of PPD and I think a lot of women suffer from PPA and don’t even know it. I wish I had known it earlier on, maybe I could have managed some of the anxiety in a better way. So in that regard, I was disappointed in the book. I wish she’d really delved deeper in that topic.

Another topic she brushed on (but didn’t elaborate on and should have) was how much your relationships and friendships change with people once you are a mom–especially if your friends don’t have kids.

“My body would never be the same. My life would never be the same. My relationship with these women would never be the same. I couldn’t make sense of it yet, even to myself, but I felt like there was a glimmer of understanding between us. [pg 128]”

Another part of the memoir I laughed about (which I can laugh NOW about, but not at the time) was her struggles with breastfeeding. This is another postpartum topic that is NOT discussed much. I know books I read barely wrote about it, the birthing class I took spent 15 minutes on breastfeeding and that was it. I went into the whole thing thinking it would be this perfect moment, easy and without struggle, where the baby would just latch on and everything would work like magic–with cherubs and angels singing. Yeah. Nope.

“I couldn’t remember what The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding said anymore. Breastfeeding at this point didn’t feel like a success so much as an assault, something coming at me faster than I could cope with, happening almost constantly. [pg 139]”

“As soon as the baby latched on, I burst into tears–of relief, of rage. I’d had this idea of what breastfeeding would be like. Not the physical experience, but the lived reality, the timing, the way it was supposed to fit between other things. I thought it would be something happening in the background while I went about my actual life. [pg 142]”

Breastfeeding is HARD and there’s a reason why statistic show a large majority of women quit after 6 weeks. When I heard that statistic in my labor class, I was shocked and confused. When the time came to breastfeed my tongue-tied baby? I totally understood. When breastfeeding doesn’t work like magic? It kind of sucks. It’s hard, it can be painful, your supply can be so bad that it’s not even worth it…and then there is all the society pressure of “breast is best”. The guilt that moms feel when they have to (or chose to) use formula. If I had to do it again, I would not have stressed so much. Breastfeeding LITERALLY becomes your entire life: feeding, pumping, cleaning the pump supplies, storing the milk, defrosting milk, living by the rigid schedule of breastfeeding or pumping every two hours, or if your baby is cluster feeding, all the time.

“It was hard to see this time with our son for what it was: an investment in another person, the sacrifice at the start of a long, rewarding project. It was like a hazing ritual, with all the hardest parts at the beginning. [pg 207]”

I really liked the above quote. It was a good reminder that yes, pregnancy and raising a kid is tough but it’s a rewarding investment. A good reminder for those sleepless nights. 😉

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I’d give it 5 (I did love it a lot) but I really wish she’d written more about clinical postpartum anxiety. (Especially reading the reviews on Goodreads where some people said she was “whiny”– I mean really??? PPD and PPA is not whining. I think people are really ignorant on these topics.)

 

3 ) The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

This was an odd book. It was a domestic thriller, I guess, but it was subtle. The unnamed young woman, in her late 20’s, lives and works in the Cayman Islands and is swept off her feet by an older man. Max Winter, a recent widow, a rich politician from New York, he brings her back to his home, Asherly, in the Hamptons. It’s a stark change from the sunny, warm beauty of the Caribbean. Especially when she meets Max’s spoiled teenage daughter, Dani.

The narrator tries her best to become friends with Dani, to show that she’s not just some gold digger trying to replace her dead mother. But Dani is spoiled, evil and trying to punish her. So you think. The story unravels slowly, but it draws you in and keeps you guessing. I did not expect the ending at all!

4 ) The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

What a gut-wrenching, excellent, heart-breaking book.

It’s a memoir, told by Ruthie, about her childhood growing up in a polygamist Mormon family. Her mom was married to one of the prophets and moved down to Mexico to live in the “colony”. When her husband is murdered, she remarries Lane, who has several wives and keeps collecting wives…and having children.

The whole book is just horrible. I mean, it’s well written and evokes a lot of emotions–some good. You really fall in love with the innocent children in Ruthie’s family. The kids are survivors, that much is true. But it’s also so sad to read about a childhood of violence, abuse, sexual abuse, girls being married off as teens, women pumping out dozens of children for “God” when their husbands are basically deadbeats who can’t take care of the kids they have. They lived in squalor with no running water or indoor plumbing, ate rice and beans and traveled back and forth between Mexico and Texas to get their food stamps and government assistance. The neglect was palpable. Yet…more children are being born.

It was hard to read about, but Ruthie was such a strong girl and you really rooted for her to succeed and get out of that hellhole. The ending of the book was a shock and came out of nowhere for me. It was sad and tragic, but I’m glad I read the book because in some ways it was inspiring. The author is a true survivor.

5 ) A Borrowing of Bones: Mercy & Elvis Mystery #1 by Paula Munier

This was a great book and a good start of a new series! Mercy is a retired Army MP who has returned home to Vermont to heal and grieve after losing her fiance in Afghanistan. But she’s not entirely alone. She has Elvis, her fiance’s bomb-sniffing dog who is also retired from the Army. Elvis has PTSD from the war and from losing his master but he’s slowly getting better. One of the things that helps is the daily hikes he takes in the Vermont wilderness with Mercy.

Except one day, Elvis discovers an abandon baby in the woods. Along with some old bones and possibly a bomb. This unravels a mystery that Mercy can’t ignore.

The book sucks you in right away, you really like the characters and it keeps you guessing til the end. I really loved Elvis and Mercy and can’t wait to read book 2!

6 ) Little Comfort (Hester Thursby Mystery #1) by Edwin Hill

This was an interesting little mystery thriller. Hester is a librarian at the Harvard Library. As a side job, she’s also a kind of private investigator who finds people. Her new client, Lila, asks her to find her long lost brother, Sam, who ran away with his childhood friend, Gabe, after a mystery incident in their teens.

It doesn’t take Hester more than a few days to find Sam, who over the years has changed his name half a dozen times, moved around the country and infiltrated rich communities with his new identities. Basically, making lonely rich women fall in love with him. But Hester’s investigation takes a deadly turn and soon she’s worried about her own safety.

The book is a page turner and the ending was very exciting. This was a good first book in a series!

 

7 ) Jar of Heats by Jennifer Hillier

I don’t even know where to start! This book was so good! I could not put it down.

Georgina “Geo” Shaw, is an executive and rising star in a Seattle pharmaceutical company, engaged to the CEO’s son, wears expensive suits and drives a Range Rover. The book opens with Georgina in a courtroom, testifying to her part in a murder 14 years prior, where her old high school boyfriend is on trial. Geo’s expensive, fancy life is falling apart. Her ex-boyfriend is the SweetBay Strangler, convicted of murdering multiple women–starting with Geo’s best friend in high school, Angela. And now Geo is headed off to prison for 5 years to pay for her part in keeping quiet for all these years. She got a “sweet” deal for agreeing to testify, but…that doesn’t mean her life isn’t over.

The book is a fascinating read and flawlessly flashbacks to the high school time before Angela is murdered, when Geo is in an abusive relationship with Calvin (before he turns into a serial killer), to the five years Geo is in prison–who she makes friends with inside, how she survives–and what happens when she gets released from prison.

Geo returns home to Seattle to live with her father. Except with multiple degrees and an impressive pedigree–and money–she can’t get a loan for a house, or a job. No one in the city will even talk to her and she walks around like the Scarlet Letter since getting released. A mysterious neighbor is spray painting horrific things on her father’s garage door and her car on a daily basis. The harassment feels overwhelming. You definitely feel sympathy for her–until the story starts to unravel a little more. What other secrets is Geo keeping?

The book is well written, has a good plot, well-developed characters and the events are shocking. This book is not for the faint of hearts but if you love a good thriller, you will fly through this book! Dark, twisted, compelling and surprising!

Happy reading!

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