summer reads

Books #31

Don’t you hate it when you read a bunch of books and they are disappointing? Especially if it’s a trusted author that you like! I’ve read a few duds lately but finally had a stretch of some noteworthy books. Here are a few to check out!

1 ) Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This book may not be for everyone–it’s particularly timely for what is going on in our world with immigrant kids being separated from their families. This book also describes child abuse, so this may not be the book for a lot of people.

It’s fiction, but based on a true store. Rill is the oldest of several kids “river rats” living on a boat in the south in the 1939. Her mother goes to the hospital to give birth to twins and while Rill’s parents are away, they are basically kidnapped and taken to a Children’s Home. The book is based on the real life Georgia Tann, who ran an illegal adoption agency (basically stealing babies and kids from poor people and then selling them to the rich). The paperwork was falsified, names were changed and she’d shake down the rich adoptive parents later for more money claiming the birth parents want to change their minds on giving up their rights.

The whole thing is horrific and there was child abuse that takes place at the “children’s home”. It’s hard to read about and the idea of kids and babies being ripped from their families is truly awful. But the book describes the real history well. And it takes place in current times, too, and that part was interesting. It’s a really good, emotional book.

 

2 ) If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin

I think this is a really important book to read about our current society. It’s about mob-mentality, online trolls and just how far it can go to break people.

Jackie is a single mom enjoying her life for the most part. Her teenage sons are growing distant, especially Wade, her oldest. He’s distant and moody and she breaks a rule she told herself she’d never do–she snoops in his room and his phone.

At the same time, there’s a tragic accident in their small town and one of Wade’s classmates, Liam, is killed stopping a carjacker. Online rumors and mob mentality take over and soon Wade is the target of the town’s hatred. Jackie is asked to take a leave from her real estate job she’s had for over a decade because of the bad press, Wade’s car is trashed, they are harassed and they all lose friends. Jackie loses 50 Facebook friends in one day when Wade is arrested.

Do we really know our kids? Can we really rely on our friends? Or is it just about the social media boosting and popularity that people care about? This is a very stressful read! But a good one.

 

3 ) You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac

This was an interesting story. It starts out kind of like a chick lit/beach read but there are definitely some more serious aspects to the book.

Jess is a single mom living in England. Her son William is 10 years old and barely knows his father, Adam, who lives in France. Jess and Adam were together and it sounded like they were each other’s soulmate but when she got pregnant he freaked out and the relationship ended.

Now, her mom is dying of a horrible disease and Jess is faced with some bad news about herself and realizes it’s very important for William to get to know his father. So William and Jess spend the summer at Adam’s hotel in France so father and son can bond.

It’s a really nice story, definitely has some heavy topics in it, but I loved the book a lot!

4 ) Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton

This was an interesting book with layers to it.

Betsy is a “farmers wife” in Alabama. Her husband Ty runs a dairy farm and their marriage seems a bit strained. You don’t find out why for awhile, but they’ve been facing infertility for a few years.

Betsy’s sister, Jenna, is a twenty-something single mother to two small girls who gets the opportunity of her lifetime: to go to an artist’s retreat in Florida for two weeks. She abandoned her art when she became a mother and she’s feeling like she missed out on her life and is stuck in a rut of paycheck to barely paycheck life. Her mentor gets her into this elite retreat — and a scholarship. She just needs to find someone to watch her kids while she’s gone.

So Jenna basically drops of her girls at Betsy and Ty’s house with no notice and goes on her retreat. Two weeks later when she’s supposed to be back, she’s decided to stay longer at the retreat. Betsy starts to wonder if the answer to her prayers of having a kid is taking over for Jenna while she “finds herself.”

It’s a sweet story about sisters and relationships and motherhood. I liked the story and the characters.

5 ) The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

I almost gave up on this book but I’m glad I didn’t because it turned out to be really good and tackled some important issues.

The story is about a new mom’s group that meets once a week with their babies to get support and friendship navigating the craziness of newborns. The group decide to go out for drinks on the 4th of July to get some downtime away from being a mom. That’s when something terrible happens: one of the mom’s babies is taken. Midas was left with a nanny but she gets home to find him gone. The nanny fell asleep. Where is baby Midas?

The group of friends band together to try and support each other and help Winnie, Midas’s mom. But the press gets wind of the fact that the women were out drinking when Midas was kidnapped and now it’s a media frenzy plus public outrage and mob mentality about “how dare those mothers go out drinking” (so many eye rolls but you can totally see that happening in our social media culture). And of course secrets start coming out about each of the women in the group.

Spoiler alert: Midas is ok. This was one of the reasons I almost gave up on the book. They implied that maybe Winnie had postpartum depression and possibly killed her own baby and that was too upsetting for me so I almost stopped reading. I just can’t deal with the topic of babies being hurt or dying but THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN so don’t worry.

I liked the book a lot. It tackled a lot of really important issues: motherhood, postpartum depression and anxiety, breastfeeding, going back to work, lack of maternity leave, lack of maternal support, how hard newborns are on marriages, the EXHAUSTION of being a new mother…so many things I could relate to.

It was a super fast read, I read it in about a day and a half and while the first part of the book is a bit slow and confusing, the second half is so good you can’t put it down. And I did not guess the ending!

6 ) The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

John and Ella have been married for over 50 years. They now have adult children and several grandchildren. Unfortunately, John has Alzheimer’s and his lucid moments are becoming few and far between.

“After a while, just staying alive becomes a full-time job. No wonder we need a vacation. [pg 18]”

Not only that, Ella has cancer. Ella decides that at her age it doesn’t make sense to try and treat the cancer. So they “escape” from their adult children, ignore the doctors recommending they don’t do this, and hit the road in their “Leisure Seeker”.

She describes how vacations used to be–rush, rush, rush– and “Now, there’s all the time in the world. Except I’m falling apart and John can barely remember his name. But that’s all right. I remember it. Between the two of us, we are one whole person. [pg 12]”

They take the Route 66 road from Michigan to California. The book is about the people they meet along the way, the adventures they have (good and bad) and their loving relationship. It’s also about life, death, losing your friends to death along the way and cherishing your memories.

“[Going through the address book] Names and numbers and addresses scratched out. Page after page of gone, gone, gone. The sense of loss that you feel isn’t just for the person. It is the death of your youth, the death of fun, of warm conversations and too many drinks, of long weekends, of shared pains and victories and jealousies, of secrets that you couldn’t tell anyone else, of memories that only you two shared. It’s the death of your monthly pinochle game. [pg 125]”

Ultimately, this book is about love and choosing death with dignity.

“But then, that’s the sad ending. One of us without the other. It’s what would happen if I didn’t end the story this way. [pg 272]”

“After a long boring stretch of malls, storefronts, and construction, we finally arrive in Santa Monica. It looks like a nice town, but we’re not here to see the sights. We’re here for one thing only–to get to the end of the road. [pg 244]”

Apparently there is a movie based on this book! I can’t wait to see it.

7 ) The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen 

Very solid, good mystery! Looking forward to a sequel.

Ellery Hathaway is a 28 year old cop in a small Massachusetts town with secrets. 14 years ago she was the lone survivor of a serial killer. Ellery hasn’t told anyone of her past and changed her name to protect her past.

Three people disappear in her town and her chief isn’t interested in her theories. But she’s seen this before, obviously, yet she doesn’t want to tell her cop coworkers why she has a bad feeling about these missing people. She finally decides to call the FBI agent who rescued her 14 years ago to ask him for help. Agent Reed Markham, struggling in his own life, immediately flies to Ellery to help.

The book is written very well and is compelling and hard to put down. I didn’t particularly love Ellery, she was a bit naive and wishy-washy at times, but I did like the story a lot and didn’t guess the ending!

Happy reading!

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Summer Reads

When I first read The Hunger Games series, I loved it. It was unlike anything I’d ever read and despite being a YA book, I couldn’t get enough. I told Michael about the book and he said “They already did that, it’s a movie called Battle Royale.” I didn’t give it much thought, even though he described the premise and it did sound similar. We went to see The Hunger Games movie together and when we left the theater Michael stated it again. Well recently I finally watched Battle Royale.

It was a terrible movie. It was in Japanese with English subtitles, the acting was atrocious and over the top and everything about it was just so cheesy (yet very, very gruesome at the same time). But Michael was right. I wondered, how did the author blatantly rip off this Japanese movie, write a series and get it filmed and not be sued? I’m still wondering this, so if someone knows, please tell me!

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I mention this because I’ve been going through a dystopia phase with my books lately. I don’t know why but I’ve always been interested in this type of topic–the end of the world, or some natural catastrophe and people need to survive, or rebuild. I can’t get enough now that I’ve discovered there are so many books out there about this topic!

Last summer I went through the Divergent Series like my life depended on it. Like The Hunger Games, I read all the published books in about a week or two. In fact, I might actually like Divergent more than Hunger games!

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1. The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The book sucks you in in the first paragraph. It opens with the main character, Thomas, awakening in an elevator that opens to a large group of boys who are stuck in a maze. The slow unraveling of the story reveals that once a month one boy is brought to the maze through the elevator. No one knows why or where they come from, their memories are wiped clean and their goal is to solve the maze to escape. Then one day the elevator doors open and it’s a girl! I don’t want to give anything else away but I was reading The Maze Runner and kept thinking “WOW this needs to be a movie!” And I think it will be in 2014!

I don’t want to tell you about the sequel, The Scorch Trials, because it will give away the ending of the first book. But trust me, you should read this series!

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2. Prodigy and Legend by Marie Lu

I liked Legend (the first book) and read it in about a day. It was a new, interesting concept and the sequel, Prodigy was even better than the first book. The story was essentially about the United States becoming two nations, the Republic and The Colonies. There’s a plague that requires medicine but of course the rich people are the only ones that can afford it. At the heart of it is a love story, of course, between an elite soldier, June, and the most-wanted criminal, Day.  It didn’t read like a YA book and pulled you in immediately, slowly revealing the story without the backstory.

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I’m not just reading disaster books! I’ve read some other good books lately. Here goes my list:

1. The Woman Who Fell From The Sky by Jennifer Steil

I found this book very interesting, even if I wasn’t stoked about the ending. It’s a memoir about a female journalist from New York City who goes to Yemen to help a friend who is running an English speaking newspaper in Yemen. She goes there for a few weeks to train the staff on how to be reporters, essentially, but when she returns to New York she finds that her life is unsatisfying. She ends up quitting her job and going back to Yemen to be the co-editor of the newspaper. It was fascinating to read about the culture and specifically how women act, are treated, and what they are really like under the burqa.

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2. Heft by Liz Moore

This book was unexpected. I thought I knew what it was about, but was very wrong once I got started. Arthur Opp is 550 pounds and hasn’t left his house in 10 years. But it’s not really about that. It’s about the relationships of the other characters.

3. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

I read this book with my book club. I really enjoyed it. Sometimes the subject matter was a little sad, but overall it was a book about redemption and hope and starting over. Harold is a retired, 70-something man who gets a letter from an old friend he hasn’t seen in decades. She’s dying of cancer and he decides to walk to her hospice in hopes of saving her. Except he doesn’t tell his wife or anyone else, isn’t prepared for it, and just sets out to walk 600 miles across England. It was such a sweet book and I loved it a lot!

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I’ve been reading a lot lately and enjoying most of the books I’ve picked up. Some are total “trashy” summer beach reads that have no depth and some (like above) are a little better. What are you reading this summer?