what to read

Books #23

My goal for 2018 is to read 110 books! Here is the first post of 2018:

1 ) Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I was a little conflicted about whether or not to include this book in my reviews because for the first 40% of the book I was SO INCREDIBLY annoyed. “SOMETHING” happened at a BBQ. Something tragic, something horrific…and the first 40% of the book was alluding to that and it was so annoying, too drawn out, and I kept thinking “GET TO IT ALREADY!”

And then…? The incident was revealed and the way the rest of the story was told, from each person’s different point of view, was really really well-written. It was gripping and good and there were a few shockers at the very end of the book. So if you can get over the first part, it’s an excellent read!

2 ) Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

This was a very interesting book. Ava and Zelda are identical twin sisters. Two years before, there was some betrayal and a lot of family stress with their mother’s diagnosis of a degenerative disease, and Ava fled to Paris to avoid it all. Then Ava gets word that her sister has died in a fire at the family’s vineyard. She travels home to get the family affairs in order and plan the funeral.

But is Zelda really dead? Or is it a trick? Ava begins getting clues from Zelda that make her think she’s still alive and planned her own “death”, possibly for the insurance?

The book is very well-written and focuses on character development. The characters are all so real and written very well. The topic of alcoholism is also very real and well-written.

3 ) Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a memoir but it was more a reflection on aging, motherhood, marriage and feminism.

“Time passed, almost imperceptibly. First we were so young and then we were so busy and then one day we awoke to discover that we were an age we once thought of as old. [loc 65]”

The common theme throughout the book was aging and how to do it gracefully. The author reflects on her own life, the death of her mother when she was only 19 and how that changed her outlook on life and motherhood when she had her own kids.

“I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It’s a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error. [pg 4]”

She did write about marriage but nothing too specific about her own marriage. That wasn’t really what the focus was. I did like this quote a lot and I think it’s a good way to sum up a good marriage:

“I was never one of those women who tell you that their spouse is their best friend, that they’re always on the same page. I feel like you’re ahead of the game if you’re even in the same book. [pg 18]”

She also talked about friendships and how crucial they are at different stages of your life. It made me think about my own relationships and friendships that have withstood the challenge of time and changing lives. Having kids was the biggest “tell” for me. It’s weird how your friendships often change when you have a baby.

“As we grow older we weed out our friendship circles the way we do our closets. Most women have a story about the friend who truly wasn’t, whose calls and visits left her feeling dreadful, the friend who dined out on other women’s shortcomings and mistakes. [pg 32]”

“We trust our friends to tell us what we need to know, and to shield us from what we don’t need to discover, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest…They are savvy enough to understand that there are friendships worth fighting for. And sometimes, of course, there are those that are not. Over the course of our lives friends fall away, sometimes because they were never really more than friendly acquaintances…There were friends we lost when we had children and they did not…[pg 32]”

I really liked her take on motherhood, too:

“There comes that moment when we give our children custody of their own selves or blight their lives forever, when we understand that being a parent is not transactional, the we do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us. [pg 117]”

Those are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book. I read it in about three days and enjoyed most of it. Sometimes there were some run-on sentences that rambled a little bit and could use some editing…but overall I liked it a lot!

4 ) This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

“Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan.”

What a beautiful story! Rosie, an ER doctor and Penn, a writer, have 4 boys. She gets pregnant a fifth time and they are secretly hoping they have a girl but…nope. Another boy! Except as Claude grows up, they realize he is very different. At only three years old, he says he’s a girl.

They are all very open-minded, despite living in rural Wisconsin. They allow Claude to dress as a girl. But once he becomes a little bit older and goes to kindergarten, they start to feel the societal pressures. School doesn’t understand and is not tolerant, and basically forces them to make Claude dress as a boy.

“I’ve lived life. I know what’s important. I’ve seen it all by now. You think he’s the first boy I ever saw in a bikini? He’s not. You think your generation invented kids who are different?”

“Claude wore his bikini because Penn found he could not say to his son, ‘The suit you love is okay at home but not in public,’ because Rosie would not say, ‘We’re proud of you in private but ashamed of you at the pool. [pg 46]”

Claude is miserable and depressed. And only a few years old. It’s heartbreaking for all involved. Then Rosie treats a trans-gendered patient in the ER who was beaten almost to death at a frat party.

” ‘Everyone loves you for who you are.’ “

“‘No one but you,’ said Claude. ‘No one but us. We are the only ones.’ [pg 58]”

Rosie decides it’s time to leave. They move to Seattle, a liberal, open-minded area where Claude can become Poppy.

“Maybe parents just wanted their kids to invite Poppy over so they could gossip to their own friends or make a big show of being open-minded and tolerant. Maybe the kids wanted to play with Poppy because they were curious about him rather than because they liked him. [pg 98]”

Except Rosie is still terrified that something horrible will happen to her child. So they don’t tell anyone that Poppy used to be Claude. The story goes from there. Poppy lives as a girl, has girl friends, no one knows the difference except for family.

“Just being yourself never worked, but if you made yourself up, you got to be exactly who you knew yourself to be. [pg 285]”

The book is an emotional, beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming read. While the book does address bigotry and trans-phobia, it’s not your typical book where something horrific and homophobic happens. It’s really more about navigating the trans-gendered world as parents, what’s right, what’s wrong, how they decide what to do during puberty, etc.

I highly recommend this book!


5 ) The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is the newest Catherine Ryan Hyde book. Aiden is a cattle rancher who gets a “wake up” on a hunting trip. All of a sudden he can feel the emotions (the fear, the terror, the pain) of all animals. It definitely throws a wrench in his career as a rancher and breeder, and alienates him from his ranch hands and the community. His girlfriend breaks up with him. He’s feeling very sensitive about his new ability to sense animal’s emotions.

Gwen is new to town with her two pre-teen kids. She left an abusive marriage and is trying to rebuild her life. She meets Aiden and they fall in love. The problem is that her son, Milo, has some very serious mental/emotional issues due to the abuse he suffered from his father.

“You hope wildly. And, as a result, having a child tends to mean getting your heart broken on a regular basis. It takes courage to hope for something you know you might not get. But the alternative is not to believe in your child or hope for great things for him. [pg 236]”

Milo is showing some not-so-kind behaviors towards animals and with Aiden’s new ability to sense pain in animals, this is particularly difficult!

“But people come into our lives and point things out to us for a reason. [pg 34]”

The story is about relationships and about healing, for both Aiden and Milo. It’s also about family, (sort of) about alcoholism recovery and step-parenting.

“It’s easier to see the big picture when you’re standing a few steps outside it. [pg 198]”

“Human nature. After something works out, we forget the frustration of the steps we took in getting there. [pg 316]”

It’s a really, really lovely read. It was a fast read, I read it in about two days. There were a lot of layers in the book and kept you thinking about things long after you were done reading.¬†I will end the review with the best quote from the book:

“He would say, ‘Are you doing what your heart says to do?’ [pg 317]”

Excellent advice.


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Books #14

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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