May 022017
 

If you want to catch up on old book reviews I’ve done, there is a page for that! Just go here!

1 ) Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp #2) by Vince Flynn

Book #2 in the series starts off with a bang! Super-bad-ass Mitch Rapp is now a “seasoned” assassin, after a year on the job, and is in Paris for what should be an easy task. Of course it goes wrong. Very wrong, and then Mitch isn’t sure who to trust. All signs point to a leak in the dark organization he’s a part of. And he definitely has an enemy who is out to get him.

The book reads super fast. I read the book in one day. The action is non-stop and the double-crossing of everyone is really good. I loved how the book ended. It was very satisfying and made me want to immediately read book #3. ¬†I can totally see these books as movies. But knowing our luck they’d cast Tom Cruise and ruin it…like they did with my beloved Jack Reacher!! ūüėõ

 

2 ) Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley and Thomas French

“Our baby was born at a unique window of time, at twenty-three weeks and six days gestation. She was an averted miscarriage, not yet fully her own person with her own standing. Because the questions were so unanswerable, the decision to put her on life support and allow her a chance to live had belonged to Tom and me, not the doctors and not the state. [pg 111]”

Don’t worry, the baby lives. I don’t think they could have gotten people to read this book had they not been upfront in the description that the baby lives and is healthy. Because this is a HARD book to read. I heard an interview of Tom and Kelley on a podcast and it was such an amazing story–a miracle, really–that I had to read the book!

The story begins with a little background into Tom and Kelley’s relationship and how they met, the rocky road that tore them apart a few times, their eventual marriage and the struggle to get pregnant. They ended up getting an egg donor (from a friend) and everything seemed to be going well until…little Juniper was born early. Way too early.

“Babies born this young almost always exceeded $1 million in medical expenses. If she lived, there would be deductibles, therapies, maybe even long-term care. Ability to pay did not determine who got treatment and who did not. Most of the babies ended up on Medicaid. [pg 114]”

“The card on the foot of her incubator said, simply, ‘French, Baby Girl’ and gave her birth weight: 570 grams. I’ve eaten burritos at Chipotle bigger than that. [pg 115]”

Each chapter is told from either Tom or Kelley’s point of view and I really enjoyed that. You got a different perspective on the entire thing with each chapter.

It was very, very touch and go for Juniper from the start. The 190+ days or so she was in the NICU were not easy ones and it was a roller-coaster of horrific ailments and then recovery and growth. Kelley was pumping at home and bringing milk in for her every day, even though should couldn’t really drink it.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry–while the book is very descriptive, they do a really excellent job describing what’s happening medically without going over your head, bogging down the story with medical jargon, or being gross.

“None of our friends knew what kind of card to send. Were we celebrating or grieving? Even we didn’t know. [pg 116]”

Tom and Kelley basically live in the very special wing of the NICU for micro-premies. Juniper has so many procedures and surgeries done in the beginning of her life…and what helped them all were the amazing doctors and nurses who became like family for them. It was really heart-warming to read.

“Even if she died, trying to save her had been the right decision. We’d gotten to know her. We’d let her hear our voices, and hear music, and feel our hands on her. Some of the greatest moments of my life had been tucked inside this misery. Memorizing her face. Holding her hand. Feeling her warm and weightless form on my chest. Reading her a story. [pg 185]”

During Juniper’s stay in the NICU, Tom read her the Harry Potter series. Kelley read Winnie the Pooh.

“‘A story is a promise,’ Tom had told me, ‘It’s a promise that the end is worth waiting for.’ [pg 199]”

And the ending is worth it. I cried many times during this book. The story is amazing, terrifying, heart-breaking, heart-warming and in the end, wonderful. I hope you read this book!

 

3 ) The Nature of The Beast (Gamache #11) by Louise Penny

I went into this book a little skeptical. In the last book Chief Inspector Gamache has retired and moved to Three Pines with his wife. I wasn’t sure how the books could continue with him retired. It wasn’t quite the same BUT it was still pretty good because Armand gets sucked into a new mystery in Three Pines. The usual characters are still present, with a few new ones, and it’s a satisfying read but not the best book in the series. The story was a bit confusing at times but the author wrapped it up at the end.

 

4 ) The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The sort-of memoir by Carrie Fisher is a fast read, a short book, and very open. She talks about her time filming Star Wars as a 19 year old girl who wasn’t sure she wanted to be an actress. The role defined her life in big ways.

“I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. [pg 31]”

“The hairstyle that was chosen would impact how everyone–every filmgoing human–would envision me for the rest of my life. (And probably even beyond–it’s hard to imagine any TV obituary not using a photo of that cute little round-faced girl with goofy buns on either side of her inexperienced head.) [pg 34]”

It was interesting how she looked back at that role fondly, and I think with a little resentment. She made peace with the fact that that was who she would always be to people–Princess Leia.

In the book she also reveals that she had a short-lived affair with Harrison Ford. At first it was a little off-putting to me. Harrison Ford was 35, she was 19, and he was married with kids. Apparently his marriage was failing, but…still…it made me look at him a little differently.

Carrie started the story about Harrison with talking about how she’d never thought she’d be the other woman. Especially after seeing what it did to her mother–she briefly discusses what it was like when her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. Yet at 19 Carrie does become the other woman, at least for one summer in London on the movie set.

“We have no feeling for one another. We lie buried together during the night and haunt each other by day. Acting out something that we don’t feel and seeing through something that doesn’t deserve any focus. [pg 114]”

She tried to make it seem like the affair wasn’t that big of a deal and they both moved on…but…she was very much in love with Harrison Ford and a bit obsessed. In the middle of the book she included excerpts from her diary during that time and it was what you’d think–the sad, longing, obsessing thoughts of a teenager in love, who can’t move on.

“I wish you would love me more so that I could love you less. [pg 118]”

I think every woman could relate to that!

She also discussed aging and how that effected her life, her identity and her career. I found this quote particularly wonderful:

“I didn’t like my face when I should have and now that it’s melted, I look back on that face fondly. [pg 241]”

I feel the same way, when I look back at old pictures and think “I looked great!” and yet at the time I didn’t appreciate it and I was very critical of myself.

I liked this book. Sometimes Carrie’s writing style was a little difficult for me to read. She would often ramble in stream of consciousness¬†run-on-sentences. But I did like the book. She came across as very open and vulnerable and shared a lot!

 

5 ) Venomous by Christie Wilcox

If you get the creepy-crawlies easily, this book may not be for you. She discusses a lot of venomous creatures–from the platypus (who knew they were venomous?!) to spiders and snakes and sea creatures, bees and zombie wasps and bullet ants.

There was even a chapter about mosquitoes. Why not just get rid of ALL the mosquitoes on the planet? Well, the author kind of maps out what could happen if we didn’t have mosquitoes. One example:

“In the arctic, mosquito populations can be so dense that caribou herds will alter their migration course just to avoid them…even small alteration by such a large herd have dramatic effect on the land they trample…[pg 36]”

Bummer. I’d love it if the mosquitoes were wiped from the planet.

The stories about bullet ant stings, and the horrific initiation rites of the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil that include the ants…are just cringe-worthy.

“Bullet ant stings are so insanely painful because unlike snakes or spiders, which use their toxins to capture or digest prey, the little ant has one goal: defense. [pg 68]”

The book sometimes gets a little too technical and there were definitely medical and scientific things that went over my head, but that didn’t impede me from reading and enjoying the book and I learned a LOT.

The author also did a good job describing what these venomous creatures can do, what the toxins feel like, and she shared anecdotal and personal stories that were very interesting.

“You feel dizzy, nauseous, lightheaded. There’s a coppery taste in your mouth, like you’re rolling pennies around on your tongue. Then it’s like a truck has hit you–massive bruises appear throughout your body…massive internal hemorrhaging…you’ve just had a close encounter with a¬†Lonomia moth caterpillar, one of the most venomous insects in the world. [pg 96]”

There were a lot of near-death stories in this book. I did a LOT of googling of creatures that she described to see pictures of these things. YIKES.

When you think about venom, your first thought is probably snakes. And she does talk a lot about snakes! Rattlesnake bites are common in the US but rarely lead to death. But in other parts of the world, especially poor parts, vipers that are even more venomous are often fatal because the victims don’t have access to doctors or anti-venom. She goes into great deal about snakebite necrosis–I will spare you the description here, but it was gross and fascinating at the same time.

I have a very hard time with spiders. Seeing them, reading about them, YUCK! But I was able to read about them in this book. I found this interesting:

“30% of people who thought they had spider bites actually had the potentially deadly methicillin-resistant¬†Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. [pg 129]”

(MRSA scares the shit out of me, so that was very scary to read!)

The book also covers a LOT of sea life, and talks a lot about things found off Hawaii! That scared me to death! Apparently there are cute little blue-ringed octopuses off Australia that are just as deadly as pufferfishes:

“Tetrodotixin is among the deadliest compounds known to man. It’s more potent than arsenic, cyanide or even anthrax. It’s 120,000 times as deadly as cocaine and 40,000 times as deadly as meth. [pg 137]”

The book ends with a chapter talking about how different venoms are being tested for medical cures. That sounded really interesting to me and there were a few stories about that I won’t share here (too long) but are fascinating if they are true!

It’s a good book! Definitely recommend it.

 

6 ) Eleanor & Park by by Rainbow Rowell

Oh man! Loved this book! It takes place in the 80’s and it was a walk down memory lane…the music, making mixed tapes and sharing your favorite songs with friends, endlessly talking about bands like The Cure and The Smiths…be still my heart! Great nostalgia!

The story is absolutely sweet and heart breaking and romantic and lovely at the same time. The writer really wrote Eleanor’s story well–the horrible home life, the awful stepdad…I felt every emotion of anger and fear that Eleanor felt.

“Richie had been drinking all day again, so he was all kinds of festive at dinner–laughing too much and too loud. But you couldn’t enjoy the fact that he was in a good mood, because it was the kind of good mood that was just on the edge of a bad one. They were all waiting for him to cross over… [pg 198]”

The bullying that Eleanor experienced at school–the horrors or riding the bus, the misery of gym class…Very well written.

The love story was great.

“Thinking about going out with Park, in public, was kind of like thinking about taking your helmet off in space. [pg 173]”

I also loved Park’s parents. They were wonderful and, no spoilers, the ending where his parents step up and help them is so good. I was not a huge fan of how the book ended but at the same time, it kind of worked.

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.

Apr 032017
 

Sometimes I think about starting a new website just for book reviews. I keep thinking about it but I’m not sure if it’s something I want to do yet.

Anyhoo here’s some more books to add to your list!

1 ) Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

I wasn’t sure if I should include this book in my review series. I really liked the book, the writing was excellent, the character development was very good…I also could NOT put this book down. I stay up late, I couldn’t stop reading, I kept reading one more chapter and I finished it in two days.

However, and I won’t give away spoilers, there’s something that happens about 1/4 into the book that I find to be lazy writing and it irked me. The twist was a clique that I hate and I had a hard time getting over it. That being said, I couldn’t stop reading. It was fast-paced and exciting and the ending was very satisfying.

Estranged sisters are reunited to solve a mystery. And that’s all I’m going to say, so I don’t give anything away. ūüôā

2 ) Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde

What a story! It’s summer 1959 in Texas. Pete and Justin are 12 years old and become fast friends when Pete rescues an injured dog on the side of the road.

“What did it mean to be friends in a world where just walking down the street together could get someone viciously beaten? [pg 119]”

The catch? Pete is white and Justin is black and they aren’t allowed to be friends. Justin is beaten half to death because they were seen together. Dr. Lucy, who Pete just met when he asked for help with the hurt dog, steps in to help Justin. Justin’s dad, Calvin, is also helped by Dr. Lucy and they become sort of a little family…

It’s a story about racism, hate, love, animals, healing and loyalty.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story because it’s absolutely delightful and wonderful and heartwarming (and infuriating) to read.

“I began to get discouraged on the bus. I began to lose faith in what kind of world we live in. I wanted it to be a place where I could stay in Texas with you, harm no one, and live my life. But it’s not. It’s a world in which my son was beaten for doing nothing more heinous than being a friend. [pg 313]”

Unfortunately, things are too scary in Texas so Calvin takes his son Justin back to Philadelphia where it’s safer for them. Calvin and Dr. Lucy become pen pals over the years.

Dr. Lucy reads the newspaper every day following the case¬†Loving v. Virginia¬†and then one day…good news!

“Changing the laws of a country is not the same as changing its hearts and minds. [pg 340]”

The ending of the story was perfect! I loved the whole book. The story was often hard to read, but there was hope throughout, so that balanced it out.

3 ) Iron Lake (Cork O’Connor #1) by William Kent Krueger

This is the first book in the series. It takes place in Minnesota. Cork is half Irish and half¬†Anishinaabe Indian. He was a cop in Chicago and recently the sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota until an unfortunately event lead to him losing that job. He’s having a hard time letting go of his cop instincts and finds himself deep in the middle of many murders.

The book starts out slow but hang in there. It gets good in the middle and really picks up pace towards the end. I found it reminiscent of the Longmire book series, but it lacked the magic that Longmire has (in my opinion). I felt like some of the characters were a little flat, but by the end of the book I changed my opinion on that. I enjoyed it enough to read the next book in the series.

4 ) An Obvious Fact (Walt Longmire #12) by Craig Johnson

After reading “Iron Lake” and comparing it to Longmire I checked in to see if there was a new one out and there was!

In this book Walt and Henry are in Sturgis for the motorcycle rally and helping out an old colleague with a case. Vic joins them later. The first case is a hit-and-run with the victim in a coma. The second case ends up being a murder of an undercover ATF agent.

As always the story is fast-moving and the dialogue is hilarious. It wasn’t the best story in the series, and I was disappointed they didn’t follow up with the big story line from book #11, but overall it was a fun read.

5 ) Splinterlands by John Feffer

“Part Field Notes from a Catastrophe, part 1984, part World War Z, John Feffer’s striking new dystopian novel, takes us deep into the battered, shattered world of 2050.”

This was a short book, so a pretty fast read.¬†It was kind of a shocking read because it’s not THAT far into the future, like most dystopian novels, and there were a lot of things in the book that seemed to reference our current political times. And it makes it very scary and very real.

“…A grey fog of amnesia obscured the knowledge that war is hell. Perennially underestimated, nationalism did not go gently into the night. Quite the opposite: it literally remapped the world we live in. [pg 19]”

“The disunity that settled over our world came at precisely the wrong moment. As we are learning the hard way, a planet divided against itself cannot stand. [pg 19]”

The story is about how war, dishonest politicians and horrible global warming has ruined the earth. Flooding has taken out Washington DC and the surrounding areas. Everyone is out for themselves. The entire system has broken down.

“At home, it self-destructively refused to invest in the country’s decaying infrastructure, enabling foreign hackers and homegrown terrorists to exploit weaknesses in transportation and communication networks, causing several embarrassing and costly stoppages. [pg 112]”

“…domestic politics remained divided as Congress and the executive branch congealed like two pots of cold oatmeal…Up went higher walls to keep out foreigners and foreign products. [pg 112]”

Sound familiar? Very¬†apropos if you ask me…but I won’t get too political here.

“When a national educational system disappears, the nation itself is sure to follow, as it did in North America. [pg 70]”

“An increasingly embittered and armed white minority seemed determined to adopt a scorched-earth policy rather than leave anything of value to its mixed-race heirs. [pg 112]”

Hmmm…very very familiar….

“No one ever expected to see those images of people clinging to the base of the Statue of Freedom atop the US Capitol. The waters submerged the Supreme Court, the White House, the Pentagon, and everything else in what had once been the low-lying swamps between Maryland and Virginia. [pg 113]”

Because the book is short, it reads more like a short story and it ends in kind of an odd spot. It felt like the story could have easily gone forward. Despite that, it was a good read. And a very scary glimpse into what could be our future.

6 ) How The Light Gets In (Armand Gamache #9) by Louise Penny

Somehow I read book 10 before book 9 so I was anxious to go back and read 9 because apparently a lot had happened! And yes! TONS happened in this book.

First, the murder mystery was very interesting. One of the last surviving quintuplets (famous in Canada because they were conceived before IVF during the Depression) is murdered. Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines to investigate. (I would love to live in Three Pines!) So of course the favorite characters are back, which is great because I’ve invested 9 books in these characters and they feel like family at this point.

Second, the bigger part of this book was the story that has been building through all of the books in the series and it comes to a head in a very exciting, very dramatic way at the end of the story.

Third, Jean-Guy, Gamache’s former second in command, is addicted to drugs and is now working for his arch-enemy. The deception, the revenge and betrayal is palpable in the book. Can Gamache and Jean-Guy ever fix their damaged relationship?

If you’ve read the other books in this series, you will not be disappointed in this one. You’ll like it so much you almost want to read it again.

7 ) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book is short. It’s a¬†collection of short stories/essays/letters to the author’s son about race in America and his experiences growing up African American in Baltimore.

“…people forced for centuries to live under fear. The law did not protect us. And now, in your time, the law has become an excuse for stopping and frisking you, which is to say, for furthering the assault on your body.”

And in contrast:

“There were little white boys with complete collections of football cards, and their only want was a popular girlfriend and their only worry was poison oak. That other world was suburban and endless, organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and glens.”

It also talks about current events like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. He talked a lot about police and his fear for his son with the police.

“…the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction…And I am afraid. I feel the fear most acutely whenever you leave me.”

This book was so heartbreaking and very eye-opening to the African American experiences and how current events are effecting their day to day life. It’s a hard book to read, but an important one, I think.

“Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains–whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine…You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, and gold.”

Despite the heavy, heartbreaking topic, the author did not come across as angry. The theme was sadness, grief and fear.

“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered…[we are] a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with the moral authority of a protection racket. It was only after you that I understood this love, that I understood the grip of my mother’s hand.”

The author was writing a piece about the verdict of a shooting and he met with the grieving mother.

“Then the mother of the murdered boy rose, turned to you, and said ‘You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid to be you.'”

Heavy, heavy stuff. I teared up a lot during this book. I definitely recommend this book for everyone!

Happy reading!

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