Book Reviews–December 2017

I often post short reviews of books I’ve read in my personal social media pages, as I love to share my passion for books with others.  I’m listing the books I’ve read each month here on this blog, with my thoughts on each as well as whether I’d recommend them to others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  (Most, if not all, of the books below include links to the Kindle store on Amazon, and the page numbers reflect the number of Kindle pages).  I hope you enjoy this series on my blog!

UntangledBook #1: 

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour, PhD (Length: 352 pages).  This is a MUST READ for all parents of girls, starting at age 9 or 10.  I’ve recommended this to several girlfriends and they’ve ALL found it to be incredibly helpful in navigating the tween and teen years with their own daughters.  I always attributed teen angst and melodrama to hormones but that can’t be further from the truth–it’s all about how girls’ brains are developing.  This book tackles each developmental stage (using excellent real-life examples from the author’s own dr/patient practice), and demystifies what’s happening with your daughter at each age, resulting in a less emotional relationship.  This is a total game changer!  

From the publisher:  In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest research to reveal the seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with Adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including

• My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry with her about it. How should I respond?
• Do I tell my teen daughter that I’m checking her phone?
• My daughter suffers from test anxiety. What can I do to help her?
• Where’s the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
• My teenage daughter wants to know why I’m against pot when it’s legal in some states. What should I say?
• My daughter’s friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl’s mother to let her know?

Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughter tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman.

If you lived hereBook #2: 

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende  (Length: 294 pages).   I really enjoyed this little book!  The author lives in a very small town, Haines, Alaska, which was also home and near to the residence of the family featured on Alaskan Bush People on the Discovery Channel.  The author writes obituaries for her town newspaper, so most of the chapters center around some of the past obituaries she’s written.  However, this isn’t a depressing book at all, but rather it’s funny, a fast read, and very illuminating  regarding small town life in Alaska.  Worth checking out from the library for sure!

From the publisher:   Tiny Haines, Alaska, is ninety miles north of Juneau, accessible mainly by water or air—and only when the weather is good. There’s no traffic light and no mail delivery; people can vanish without a trace and funerals are a community affair. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for her local newspaper. If anyone knows the going-on in this close-knit town—from births to weddings to funerals—she does.

Like Bailey White’s tales of Southern life or Garrison Keillor’s reports from the Midwest, NPR commentator Heather Lende’s take on her offbeat Alaskan hometown celebrates life in a dangerous and breathtakingly beautiful place.

The last anniversaryBook #3: 

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (Length: 402 pages).  This was an enjoyable read, overall.  This novel features several mini-mysteries, tied up into one over-arching mystery, all of which take place on a tiny island named Scribbly Gum in Australia.  This is Moriarty’s second book (I’m a fan of Big Little Lies) so the writing isn’t as strong as her later books, but this is absolutely a fun read!  The characters are multi-dimensional and vividly drawn, and while I’m no Nancy Drew, I enjoyed not being able to figure out the larger mystery before the author revealed the answers.  

From the publisher:  

From Liane Moriarty, author of #1 New York Times bestsellers The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies, comes an unforgettable novel defined by her signature sharp wit, page-turning storyline, and lovable and eccentric characters.

Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one who got away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was going to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island—home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery.

Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family, where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions.

As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around—and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.

Of Mess and MoxieBook #4: 

Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker (Length: 286 pages).   While I’m not a fan of organized religion, I do enjoy exploring different viewpoints of spirituality.  This author is a Christian motivational speaker (and wife of a pastor) but she’s not preachy, and embraces alternative lifestyles such as gay marriage without judgment, which I appreciate (as such non-Jesus like judgment is why I’m not a fan of organized religion).  Anyway, this was a Kindle Daily Deal impulse purchase since I typically enjoy the author’s Instagram posts.  Many of the chapters I found to be relatable to my own life, and some are just downright funny (ie, chapters on parenting and exercise), but there were a few chapters that were overly religious in my opinion.  A fast, fun read overall.

From the publisher:  

New York Times bestselling author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF Jen Hatmaker returns with another round of hilarious tales, shameless honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie.

In this highly anticipated new book, beloved author Jen Hatmaker parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere. Whether it’s the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”) or the way she learned to forgive (God was super clear: Pray for this person every day, which was the meanest thing He ever said to me. I was furious.), she offers a reminder to those of us who sometimes hide in the car eating crackers that we do have the moxie to get back up and get back out. We can choose to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold, and lead vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives.

A Share in DeathBook #5: 

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie (Length: 212 pages).  This is the first book in a HUGE series featuring Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James, both law enforcement officers in Great Britain.  I found this new-to-me series when a blogger recommended this series for Louise Penny fans.  Since Penny only releases new books once a year, I was excited to check out a similar series.  And I’m officially hooked!  This book was very well-written (especially for a first novel) and very well-constructed in terms of plot.  The main characters weren’t too developed but I know that will come in future books in this series.  The central mystery is very believable as well as solvable, but I missed the clever clues sprinkled throughout . . . it reminds me of Agatha Christie in this regard.  

From the publisher:  A week’s holiday in a luxurious Yorkshire time-share is just what Scotland Yard’s Superintendent Duncan Kincaid needs. But the discovery of a body floating in the whirlpool bath ends Kincaid’s vacation before it’s begun. One of his new acquaintances at Followdale House is dead; another is a killer. Despite a distinct lack of cooperation from the local constabulary, Kincaid’s keen sense of duty won’t allow him to ignore the heinous crime, impelling him to send for his enthusiastic young assistant, Sergeant Gemma James. But the stakes are raised dramatically when a second murder occurs, and Kincaid and James find themselves in a determined hunt for a fiendish felon who enjoys homicide a bit too much.

How to Murder your lifeBook #6: 

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell (Length: 385 pages).   Wow.  I’m not sure what to say about this one.  This Kindle Daily Deal was another impulse buy (but aren’t they all?!) after I read a few book bloggers recommend this memoir.  There are some very descriptive chapters regarding the author’s serious drug abuse which became a little off-putting, especially given her inability to halt such abject self-destruction even while living a life of such privilege.  This is more than a garden-variety addiction tale.  I kept reading further in the hope that she would get sober.   I’m glad I finished it but I’m not sure I’d recommend it.  

From the publisher: From the New York Times bestselling author and former beauty editor Cat Marnell, a “vivid, maddening, heartbreaking, very funny, chaotic” (The New York Times) memoir of prescription drug addiction and self-sabotage, set in the glamorous world of fashion magazines and downtown nightclubs.

At twenty-six, Cat Marnell was an associate beauty editor at Lucky, one of the top fashion magazines in America—and that’s all most people knew about her. But she hid a secret life. She was a prescription drug addict. She was also a “doctor shopper” who manipulated Upper East Side psychiatrists for pills, pills, and more pills; a lonely bulimic who spent hundreds of dollars a week on binge foods; a promiscuous party girl who danced barefoot on banquets; a weepy and hallucination-prone insomniac who would take anything—anything—to sleep.

This is a tale of self-loathing, self-sabotage, and yes, self-tanner. It begins at a posh New England prep school—and with a prescription for the Attention Deficit Disorder medication Ritalin. It continues to New York, where we follow Marnell’s amphetamine-fueled rise from intern to editor through the beauty departments of NYLON, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and Lucky. We see her fight between ambition and addiction and how, inevitably, her disease threatens everything she worked so hard to achieve. From the Condé Nast building to seedy nightclubs, from doctors’ offices and mental hospitals, Marnell “treads a knife edge between glamorizing her own despair and rendering it with savage honesty.…with the skill of a pulp novelist” (The New York Times Book Review) what it is like to live in the wild, chaotic, often sinister world of a young female addict who can’t say no.

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