what I’m reading

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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Books #34

I’ve read a few books lately that did not make the cut for me but I wanted to share a few of them anyways because they are apparently popular! The first was “The Party” by Robyn Harding. The characters were all so horrible I had a hard time liking the book. “Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman was another one with unlikable characters. It was a story of things going horribly wrong because of one small decision. It kind of reminded me of that AWFUL movie “Very Bad Things.” And finally, “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney. Another popular book right now and I just didn’t get it. It was confusing and convoluted.

Anyways, let’s get to some of the GOOD books I’ve read lately…

 

1 ) Burning Ridge (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #4) by Margaret Mizushima

Another good book in the series! In the latest installment, Mattie and her K-9 dog, Robo, are on a case when a charred foot in a boot is found in the forest. Robo leads them to uncover a horrific grave–a burned body. And that lead to more graves up in the forest being uncovered. Who are the bodies?

This case uncovers a lot of secrets and shocking things in Mattie’s own past that she didn’t know. It also brings her closer to Cole, the local veterinarian she’s been seeing.

The story is fast-paced and I always love reading about Robo and how he tracks bad guys. I also love the relationship she has with her dog partner. Great read!

 

2 ) The Wanted (Elvis Cole #17) by Robert Crais

“It seemed like a simple case before the bodies started piling up…”

Elvis Cole, private detective, is back. He’s contacted by a single mother who found suspicious items in her teen son’s bedroom–a rolex that costs at least $60k and thousands of dollars in cash. She hires Elvis to investigate and find out what is going on with her son. Except Elvis starts to unravel a complicated case involving a burglary ring and witnesses are being murdered. Who is also investigating these crimes and eliminating people?

The story is quick and fun to read. Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike are two of my favorite characters ever written in a book, so it was nice having them back. The characters are all well-developed and felt real, even the hitmen.

 

3 ) Tear Me Apart by JT Ellison

What a weird, crazy book!

Mindy is 17 years old and already a world-class skier with her eye on the Olympics. A tragic crash at a meet leads to a broken leg and a surprise diagnosis of leukemia. The cancer is not responding to treatment and she needs a stem cell transplant. Except when they test her parents she discovers that they aren’t related.

There were so many levels to the lies. Mindy’s aunt, Juliet, works for CBI doing blood analysis and tracks down her birth father and the lies and half-truths start unfolding even more. This was a pretty intense book and you really liked (most) of the characters. I guessed pretty early on what was going on but I didn’t guess the entire ending. There was clearly something a little off about Mindy’s mom, Lauren, but the ending was quite a creepy tale.

 

4 ) The Promise (Elvis Cole #16) by Robert Crais

Not sure how I read these out of order…! But This book was outstanding! So good! I could not put it down. The book was an exciting rollercoaster ride and all I wanted to do was sit in a comfy chair and read the book from start to finish.

Elvis was hired by a friend of Amy Breslyn’s. Amy is missing. Her friend Meryl is worried something horrible has happened. Amy’s son was recently killed in the middle east by a suicide bomber and she’s grief-stricken and possibly obsessed with what happened to her son. But as Elvis digs deeper, he uncovers lies by both Amy and Meryl and the real story comes out.

In addition to Joe Pike, super awesome side-kick, there is a K-9 office, Scott,  and his dog, Maggie, who are part of the story and a joyful addition. Love Maggie!

I did not guess the ending of this book at all. Fast-paced, well-written, easy to follow but lots of twists and turns.

5 ) Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

This was a really good read. I will be giving some spoilers, though, so be prepared and maybe skip it if you don’t want spoilers. The reason I’m giving spoilers is because the subject matter was brutal and there were several parts of the book where I quit and wasn’t going to read it anymore but I kept going back. I’m glad I did.

Ellen is a social worker. She’s spent 20 years of her career taking children away from unfit parents. So that is a difficult subject matter for a reader. The author doesn’t go into explicit detail about child abuse, but it’s a theme in the book, so it might be hard for some people.

One summer morning Ellen is rushing to work, late and frantic, while her husband takes their two older kids to soccer and as Ellen is rushing, she gets a phone call from one of the kids of her clients calls her. The mom’s boyfriend is abusing their mom and the two girls have locked themselves in the bathroom. They are terrified their mother is dead. Ellen jumps into action and turns the car around to go to their house. The police come, Ellen is trying to explain the situation to the cops, a crowd of neighbors gather outside and as the police go inside and rescue the two girls, there’s a commotion behind her. Ellen turns to find that her infant daughter, Avery was in the car seat in her van and she hadn’t known.

This the spoiler because as soon as this happened, I quit the book for a bit. AVERY SURVIVES. I seriously could not deal with an infant dying in a hot car. But thankfully, by the end of the book, she’s ok.

Except Ellen gets arrested for child neglect and investigated for child abuse. There’s a protective order that says she can’t go near Avery while she’s in the hospital. It’s an absolutely horrific situation and you just feel awful for Ellen.

Despite the rough subject matter, it was a well-crafted story with very real characters. I think every parents has that fear that one mistake could lead to something life-changing. So this is very relatable.

Happy reading!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.