Book Reviews–September 2018

I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here because I enjoy sharing my passion for books with 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.  (Disclosure I use Amazon affiliate links to help pay for the costs of this website.  Any and all posts on this site may contain affiliate links.  Finally, the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.  Thank you!)  I hope you enjoy this series.

Book #1: 

The AnimatorsThe Animators  by Kayla Rae Whitaker (Length: 386 pages).  Overall, this is an excellent, yet disturbing novel (ie, drugs, pedophilia are frequent themes so it’s not for everyone!).  And there is quite a bit of navel-gazing (not my favorite).  I put down this novel several times, with the intention of just giving up, but the incredibly strong character development throughout kept drawing me back in . . . just to see what happens to the two main protagonists (Mel and Sharon).  There is also a lot of very interesting background on the world of indie animation (not my thing, but I love to learn about new subjects).  So, the beginning dragged on a bit, but I’m glad I didn’t give up.  

From the publisher:

ONE OF THE BEST DEBUT NOVELS OF THE YEAR—Entertainment Weekly
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—NPR, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.

In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon’s home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known—her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy—reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

Book #2: 

Our HouseOur House  by Louise Candlish (Length: 416 pages).  My mom checked out this book from the library and let me read it after she was finished.  I thought this was a very fun read!  It will appeal to those who enjoy the “Gone Girl” suspense genre.  Very fast-paced (with a bit of a slow-down in the middle) and the most interesting premise I’ve seen in a while–coming home to your house that’s been sold without your knowledge or permission.  The writing is good, and the ending was a total twist (think Gift of the Magi).  I actually missed it the first read since I was speed-reading, and went back and re-read it for my a-ha moment.  Definitely worth reading!   

From the publisher:

There’s nothing unusual about a new family moving in at 91 Trinity Avenue. Except it’s her house. And she didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern coparenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

Book #3: 

Ill be your blue skyI’ll be Your Blue Sky  by Marisa de Los Santos (Length: 325 pages).  I LOVE this author!  She is such a talented writer, and evokes feelings and emotions with descriptive writing that never feels over-wrought.  This particular novel is the third in a “trilogy” (while I loved the first book–Love Walked In–I didn’t read the second one (Belong to Me) based on poor reviews.)  You can definitely read this particular novel without going back and reading the first two (although Love Walked In is also fantastic, and it’s so nice to reunite with a few of my favorite characters from the first novel–Clare and Dev). Both the plot (featuring an underground railroad of sorts for abused women in the 1950s) and the character development make this a worthwhile read.

From the publisher:

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiancé.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Book #4:  

A Noise DownstairsA Noise Downstairs  by Linwood Barkley (Length: 368 pages).  Another suspense novel, a la Gone Girl, but this one is different enough to make it stand out from the pack.  I had suspicions about the ultimate resolution, but when they were satisfied about 75% of the way through, there were enough loose ends to keep me reading.  The writing quality is decent.  The characters are not very likeable (except for 2), but the plot progression is satisfying enough to pique a reader’s interest.  Worth a read.   

From the publisher:

College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s “normal” existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.

However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.

Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.

Book #5: 

The high tide clubThe High Tide Club  by Mary Kay Andrews (Length: 465 pages).  I cannot, for the life of me, remember why I had a Mary Kay Andrews book on my TBR list.  I’m thinking I wanted a good beach read for the summer–but it just now popped up on my reserved library books ready to be loaned.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this cute, very fast-paced novel.  There is a bit of a mystery set on a small island in Georgia, but I figured it out almost immediately.  Again, there was enough of a hook that I wanted to keep reading.  The author does a great job of setting the scene, as there’s a fantastic sense of place.  The dialogue is a bit too juvenile and stilted in places (randomly so) but overall, a nice palate-cleansing “beach read”.  

From the publisher:

When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of The High Tide Club—so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.

The High Tide Club is Mary Kay Andrews at her Queen of the Beach Reads best, a compelling and witty tale of romance thwarted, friendships renewed, justice delivered, and true love found.

Book #6: 

Moody BitchesMoody Bitches  by Julie Holland (Length: 420 pages).  This book came highly recommended by a CrossFit pal after I mentioned to her how impressed I’ve been with CBD oil (for hot flashes, anxiety, inflammation, etc).  This is indeed a fantastic resource regarding the effects of various (often over-prescribed) medications on our mood.  The author discusses the pros and cons of various drugs as well as the link between food and our mood.  Her suggested strategies for regulating mood are obvious (exercise, sleep, diet) and not so obvious (natural therapies such as CBD to reduce and eliminate inflammation in our body’s systems).  This was a super-fast and well-written “self-help” book that’s not preachy in the slightest.  Two thumbs up from this middle-aged reader.  😉  

From the publisher:

As women, we learn from an early age that our moods are a problem. Bitches are moody. To succeed in life, we are told, we must have it all under control. We have to tamp down our inherent shifts in favor of a more static way of being. But our bodies are wiser than we imagine. Moods are not an annoyance to be stuffed away. They are a finely-tuned feedback system that, if heeded, can tell us how best to manage our lives. Our changing moods let us know when our bodies are primed to tackle different challenges and when we should be alert to developing problems. They help us select the right tool for each of our many jobs. If we deny our emotionality, we deny the breadth of our talents. With the right care of our inherently dynamic bodies, we can master our moods to avail ourselves of this great natural strength.

Yet millions of American women are medicating away their emotions because our culture says that moodiness is a problem to be fixed. One in four of us takes a psychiatric drug. If you add sleeping pills to the mix, the statistics become considerably higher. Over-prescribed medications can have devastating consequences for women in many areas of our lives: sex, relationships, sleep, eating, focus, balance, and aging.  And even if we don’t pop a pill, women everywhere are numbing their emotions with food, alcohol, and a host of addictive behaviors that deny the wisdom of our bodies and keep us from addressing the real issues that we face.

Dr. Julie Holland knows there is a better way. She’s been sharing her frank and funny wisdom with her patients for years, and in Moody Bitches Dr. Holland offers readers a guide to our bodies and our moodiness that includes insider information about the pros and cons of the drugs we’re being offered, the direct link between food and mood, an honest discussion about sex, practical exercise and sleep strategies, as well as some surprising and highly effective natural therapies that can help us press the reset button on our own bodies and minds.

In the tradition of Our Bodies, Our Selves, this groundbreaking guide for women of all ages will forge a much needed new path in women’s health—and offer women invaluable information on how to live better, and be more balanced, at every stage of life.

 


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