Book Reviews–February 2019

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, 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 (which will not affect your cost).  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: 

An American MarriageAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Length: 321 pages).  This book has been on my TBR list FOREVER, and my name made it to the top of the reserve list of my local library.  I have to say, it was worth the wait!  This novel is compulsively readable, which is a huge plus for me.  The chapters in this novel alternate between the points of view of two main characters at first, and then a third character is added.  Some of the chapters are letters between the initial two main characters; this format actually works really well, in my opinion, and doesn’t detract from the plot at all.  There are a lot of African American cultural references that are new to me, which I appreciated as I love to learn, and I found these particular references to be very illuminating, not only to the plot points and character development in the novel itself, but also to today’s society.  The false prosecution that forms the center of the plot also touched a nerve to me personally, given my career history (as a criminal prosecutor).  Please read this book!  

From the publisher:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.

Book #2:  

What to say nextWhat to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (Length: 301 pages). I adored this YA novel!  I wish I knew where I first heard about this book (I REALLY need to start tracking this type of information), but I’m so glad I cracked it open.  This is another novel where the chapters alternate between two points of view of two main characters . . . in this novel, they are Kit Lowell and David Drucker.  (As an aside, I told my teen daughter that I will always remember these names as these two characters really made an impression on me).  Kit’s dad has died recently in a car accident, and David has Asperger’s.  This charming novel is about the evolution of their relationship, whilst navigating the pitfalls of high school.  The dialogue is snappy, yet realistic, and the character development is top-notch.  I definitely want to read this author’s other novels.  This novel is VERY appropriate for ages 12 and up.   

From the publisher:

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they?  I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Book #3:  

The Eating InstinctThe Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith (Length: 285 pages).  This is an excellent book, and it is a must-read to help us change the ways we’ve been conditioned (by the multi-billion dollar food/health/diet industries) to think about what and how we eat.  This author proposes that diets such as Whole 30, FODMAP, and others are way too restrictive, and really have no real medical benefits.  Most of the symptoms that we attribute to our die, she argues, are actually just due to living busy lives and stress.  As the mom of two pre-teen/teen girls, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air, as I want my daughters to just look at food as food, and not worry so much about how much or what foods to put in their bodies.  Bottom line . . . we need to relax about food, and not give in to restrictive diets which are really only a form of eating disorders.  

From the publisher:

An exploration, both personal and deeply reported, of how we learn to eat in today’s toxic food culture.

Food is supposed to sustain and nourish us. Eating well, any doctor will tell you, is the best way to take care of yourself. Feeding well, any human will tell you, is the most important job a mother has. But for too many of us, food now feels dangerous. We parse every bite we eat as good or bad, and judge our own worth accordingly. When her newborn daughter stopped eating after a medical crisis, Virginia Sole-Smith spent two years teaching her how to feel safe around food again — and in the process, realized just how many of us are struggling to do the same thing.

The Eating Instinct visits kitchen tables around America to tell Sole-Smith’s own story, as well as the stories of women recovering from weight loss surgery, of people who eat only nine foods, of families with unlimited grocery budgets and those on food stamps. Every struggle is unique. But Sole-Smith shows how they’re also all products of our modern food culture. And they’re all asking the same questions: How did we learn to eat this way? Why is it so hard to feel good about food? And how can we make it better?

Book #4: 

Kingdom of the blindKingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Length: 375 pages).  This is my all-time favorite book series, ever, and I’m THRILLED with this 14th installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, set in the exquisite, albeit fictional, small town of Three Pines, just outside Montreal, Canada.   This particular novel was written after the death of the author’s husband (whom she modeled Inspector Gamache after), and the Acknowledgements pages of this novel are a must read.  I thought this book died a good job of tying up a few loose ends in the series, and the central mystery is a solid one.  I didn’t mind the parallel drug/carfentanil storyline like some reviewers did, as it’s very well-written as well as very realistic and prescient to our current drug culture.  This installment is my second favorite of the entire series (with my first favorite being #8, The Beautiful Mystery, set inside a monastery).  

From the publisher:

The new Chief Inspector Gamache novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.

Book Reviews–January 2019

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, 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 (which will not affect your cost).  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: 

thecuckoo27scallingThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (Length: 561 pages).  Wow!  I absolutely LOVED this book!  Of course I had heard about this book when it was first published, because Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.  But for some odd reason, I thought the (now-series) was about something very different than it actually is.  What I enjoyed so much about this book is the two main characters, private eye Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robyn.  They are quirky, with tons of depth, and learning more about them and what makes them tick is what I’m looking forward to in future books in this series.  The plot is very interesting in this first installment, but I did figure out who the killer was early on.  The “why” wasn’t as easy to parse, and this very intricately planned-out mystery is very well done!  Please read this charming book if you haven’t yet.  

From the publisher:

A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Book #2: 

wherethecrawdadssingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens(Length: 379 pages).  I was VERY excited to finally open this book, after hearing so much chatter about it.  And I think the praise is well deserved.   This book is very well-written, especially with its descriptive sense of place.  I adore the author’s descriptions of the marsh, with its flora and fauna.  The alternating chapters (in both time and place) take a bit getting used to, and the mystery at the center of the book is not as interesting as the setting, in my opinion, but the writing is where this is at!  (As a side note, this book is supposed to appeal to fans of Barbara Kingsolver, which I most admittedly am not, having met her in person at a book club over 20 years ago in Tucson, Arizona.  But that’s a story for another day. If you are a Kingsolver fan, this is definitely a similar genre. )   I love this book, and it’s one that I will always remember–it’s that good!

From the publisher:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Book #3: 

howibecamethefittestwomanonearth

How I Became the Fittest Woman on Earth by Tia-Clair Toomey (Length: 200 pages?).   I am obsessed with CrossFit, and have enjoyed my foray into functional fitness for the past few years, even in my “advanced” middle age.  😉  I discovered CrossFit by watching a few Netflix documentaries on the CrossFit Games, which is how I became a fan of Tia-Clair Toomey, the female winner of the 2017 and the 2018 Games.   The content of her book (published by a small Australian publisher) is very inspiring.  I really loved all of the details about her fitness journey, her training and her first-hand account of the 2017 Games.    That being said, she’s obviously not a good writer, as her writing style is that of a fifth-grader.  There are horrible grammatical errors throughout, which makes me think she either wasn’t assigned a copy editor, or someone was drunk on the job.  This is a fun, quick and easy read–but it’s not going to win any book awards.  

From the publisher:

I have loved to compete since primary school; where I lived for sport, particularly running, and would push myself to the limit to become better than yesterday. It may come as a surprise to you, but I always came second. I was always the underdog, that person who just fell short. I never gave up, I just felt that fire in my belly get stronger and stronger – I wanted do more, be more, achieve more.

The day I finally came first was something I had always dreamed of. At twenty-four years old, I was crowned the winner of the 2017 Crossfit Games and officially became the Fittest Woman on Earth. When I heard my name called in front of thousands of cheering fans, I felt like I was invincible. I was on top of the world and suddenly everything up until that point actually made sense.

With the support of my partner, Shane, my family and my coaches along the way, I was able to achieve my dream of being number one. This is the story of how I got to where I am today. I hope you enjoy it but more importantly I hope it inspires you to dream big, work hard and never give up!

Book #4: 

becomingBecoming by Michelle Obama (Length: 428 pages).  I was gifted this amazing book for Christmas, by my very sweet husband.  This absolutely perfect memoir will always be on my bookshelf as it’s that good.  It’s intelligent, thoughtful and incredibly well-written.  She includes dozens and dozens of amusing anecdotes, as well as introspective moments, and insightful analysis of historical and current events.  She does cover policies and politics but it’s not dry.  I will say that reading this made me even sadder about the current occupant of the White House, as well as the state of American politics and race relations, but like Michelle Obama, I’m very hopeful we will see another change in the tide of humanity in this country someday in the future.  (I have been told by several people that the audio version of this book is a do-not-miss.)   

From the publisher:

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Book Reviews–December 2018

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, 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 (which will not affect your cost).  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: 

All These Beautiful StrangersAll These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth (Length: 448 pages).  This book has been on the top of my TBR pile for awhile–I’m not sure why.  Maybe the private boarding school was the hook, as I’m a product of a boring public school.  😉  The plot in this suspense novel is very interesting (involving a murder at a boarding school with a private, very elite social club), but I did find the characters to be one-dimensional.  Because of this, I did figure out the plot twist very early on (which is a bit of a bummer).  I would still recommend this book but maybe only as a Kindle Daily Deal or as a library check-out.  If you’ve read it, what did you think of it?

From the publisher:

One summer day, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Alistair Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.

Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.

Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.

As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.

Book #2: 

I'd Rather be ReadingI’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel (Length: 161 pages).  I LOVED this book!  I’ve been an Anne Bogel fan for a long time.  I’m an avid reader of her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and I subscribe to her podcast, What Should I Read Next?  A lot of my book picks are a result of reading her blog and/or listening to her podcast.  I grabbed this book as soon as it went on Kindle sale (it still is!), and I’m glad I own it as I know I’ll re-read it in the years to come.  These essays on reading life range from the author’s personal history of reading, to how one can organize their bookshelves and to bookstores and libraries.  She also talks about “book twins” (I’m lucky to have a few!), as well as bookworm problems.  I always feel the stress of never having enough time (or years) to read all of the books that I’d like to read.  I absolutely enjoyed every minute of this book, and I know you will as well!

From the publisher:

For so many people, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to pass the time–it’s a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can’t imagine life without them.

I’d Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.

The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone’s life, I’d Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.

Book #3: 

A Great DeliveranceA Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (Length: 431 pages).  A “book twin” recommended this author and award-winning Inspector Lynley series to me several months ago, so I finally picked up the first installment in this (19 book?) series.  I’m a HUGE British mystery buff (books and TV series), and I’m obsessed with Scotland Yard, so I was very hopeful this would be a new series I’d plow through. The writing is absolutely exceptional . . . definitely a thinking person’s mystery novel.  For me, I found new vocabulary words on each page (many from the 19th century), so reading the Kindle version with its easy dictionary look-up is a must!  The main characters especially  are drawn with very detailed strokes, and the mystery in this first novel is well-constructed.  I will say the subject matter is very heavy (child molestation/religious overtones), but if you can stay the course, it’s worth it.  I’m not sure this series will be up there with Louise Penny/Three Pines/Armand Gamache for me, as it’s not as heartwarming but I will keep moving forward in the series for sure.  Heads up that this book is on deep Kindle sale right now!  

From the publisher:

To this day, the low, thin wail of an infant can be heard in Keldale’s lush green valleys. Three hundred years ago, as legend goes, the frightened Yorkshire villagers smothered a crying babe in Keldale Abbey, where they’d hidden to escape the ravages of Cromwell’s raiders.

Now into Keldale’s pastoral web of old houses and older secrets comes Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton. Along with the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been sent to solve a savage murder that has stunned the peaceful countryside. For fat, unlovely Roberta Teys has been found in her best dress, an axe in her lap, seated in the old stone barn beside her father’s headless corpse. Her first and last words were “I did it. And I’m not sorry.”

Yet as Lynley and Havers wind their way through Keldale’s dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes, they uncover a shattering series of revelations that will reverberate through this tranquil English valley—and in their own lives as well.

Book #4: 

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler (Length: 352 pages).  I enjoyed this memoir a lot.  (I have to say it was more enjoyable for me to read that her bestie Tina Fey’s book BossyPants.)  I enjoyed Poehler’s witty tone, her excellent writing, and her vivid storytelling.  Anything about Saturday Night Live will keep me reading.  This memoir has less written slapstick and gags as others in this genre, and more intelligent humor (a la David Sedaris).  I definitely recommend this read!

From the publisher:

Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.

Book Reviews–November 2018: Part Two

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 in this space, 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 (which will not affect your cost).  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: 

Tear me apart

Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison (Length: 496 pages).  This suspense novel was another fun, fast-paced read.  I absolutely wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next, which is always a delight!  I will say that this book deals with difficult subject matters for some readers (ie, suicide, molestation) but I think both topics are handled very appropriately.  The characters are developed well, even if I didn’t like all of them.  I will say there were a few factual errors in the writing itself that were disruptive to the narrative (ie, the “victim” in a capital murder case is the one who died–as well as the state, of course).   Hey Publisher–if you need a better editor with a bonus law degree, call me!  😉  Overall, I’d absolutely recommend this book!

From the publisher:

The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.
One moment will change their lives forever…
Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.
Who knows the answers?
The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

Book #2: 

Red Rising

Red Rising: Book 1 by Pierce Brown (Length: 401 pages).  I enjoy a good sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian novel, and this read is absolutely on the top of my list!  This is book 1 of a five-book series, and I’d agree it’s an “adult” Hunger Games.  Set on the planet Mars well into the future, this novel is essentially about class warfare with Greek mythology references.  Excellent writing, pacing and plot.  I can’t wait to read more in this series!  (Given there are a few references–no descriptions but it is mentioned–to rape, I would only recommend to ages 14ish and up.)  Let me know what you think if you’ve read it or do read it!  It’s usually on a Kindle deal as well.  

From the publisher:

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, BUZZFEED, AND SHELF AWARENESS

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Book #3: 

Where All Light Tends to Go

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy (Length: 274 pages).  This book was a Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, so I was excited to read it.  Holy cow!  This was NOT what I expected to read, at all.  It’s been described as a “Breaking Bad” of rural Appalachia, and it absolutely is this.  I’m also reminded of one of my favorite books (Hillbilly Elegy) which I reviewed in July of 2017.  In fact, after reading a quarter of this book, I had to double-check that it wasn’t actually a memoir–it’s THAT realistic.  This novel is very dark, with violent scenes, but none of the violence is gratuitous here.  And the ending is truly shocking.  Truly.  But the writing really took my breath away in parts.  I sped through some of the more violent scenes, and slowed down and reread some other passages. All of this to say, this is not a “feel-good” novel, by any means, but it’s one that I know I will never forget.  

From the publisher:

The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually.  The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.

Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when a fatal mistake changes everything, he’s faced with a choice: stay and appease his father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he’s ever known.

 

Book Reviews–November 2018: Part One

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 in this space, 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 (which will not affect your cost).  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: 

Then She Was GoneThen She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (Length: 369 pages).  My mom loaned me this suspense novel because she thought I’d enjoy it, and she was correct!  This novel is told from three different perspectives, but not equally as the majority of the book is written from the perspective of a mother whose 15 year old daughter goes missing.  Ten years later we learn of the aftermath of the disappearance, including when the mother meets a new man, with a daughter who reminds everyone of the missing girl.  This book was well-written, and the plot absolutely kept me reading.  (In fact, I read the entire novel in one day when I was home sick.)  Would recommend!  

From the publisher:

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?

Book #2: 

OriginalsOriginals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant (Length: 335 pages).  This non-fiction pick is based on an interesting concept–that original thinkers who go against the “normal” way of thinking are the ones who will move society forward in a way that’s consistent with our traditional values.  I absolutely loved this read!  It reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  Just three of the thoughts I bookmarked as I was reading: 

“In one study, for example, praising character boosted the moral actions of eight-year-olds but not five year-olds or ten-year olds. . . . When we shift our emphasis from behavior to character, people evaluate choices differently.  Instead of asking whether behavior will achieve the results they want, they take action because it is the right thing to do.”  (As a parent, I am going to make sure from now on that I focus on praising my girls for being good/kind/honest people versus praising their specific actions, based on what I’ve learned in this book.)

The author also tackles the subject of public speaking and the best way to conquer that fear is to frame your fear as being “excited” versus “anxious”.  “To overcome fear, why does getting excited work better than trying to calm yourself down?  Fear is an intense emotion:   You feel your heart pumping and your blood coursing.  In that state, trying to relax is like slamming on the brakes when a car is going 80 miles an hour.  The vehicle still has momentum.  Rather than trying to suppress a strong emotion, it’s easier to convert it into a different emotion–one that’s equally intense, but propels us to step on the gas.”  

The author also discusses how venting your anger or negative feelings isn’t necessarily a healthy thing to do (online or in person), and backs this up with studies.  “The better you feel after venting, the more aggressive you get:  not only towards your critic, but also toward innocent bystanders.”  

From the publisher:

With Give and Take, Adam Grant not only introduced a landmark new paradigm for success but also established himself as one of his generation’s most compelling and provocative thought leaders. In Originals he again addresses the challenge of improving the world, but now from the perspective of becoming original: choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battle conformity, and buck outdated traditions. How can we originate new ideas, policies, and practices without risking it all?

Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent. Learn from an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by highlighting the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who overturned the rule of secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees for failing to criticize him, and a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor. The payoff is a set of groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.

 

 

Book Reviews–October 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 in this space, 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 (which will not affect your cost).  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: 

Live Fast Die HotLive Fast, Die Hot by Jenny Mollen (Length: 273 pages).  First things first:  I did not finish this book.  I follow Jenny Mollen on Instagram (and I adore her dictator lunches she makes for her school-age son), but this memoir was WAY too neurotic and navel-gazing for me.  There are definitely funny anecdotes and her writing is decent, but I just reached a point of saturation and annoyance and quit.  Maybe you’ll have better luck?  

From the publisher:

Live Fast Die Hot is a collection of stories about what happens when you realize that some things are more important than crafting the perfect tweet. It follows Jenny to Morocco, where she embarks on a quest to prove to herself that she can travel alone without reenacting a plotline from Taken. It shows her confronting demons—most of them from childhood, a few from the spirit realm. And it culminates in Peru, where Jenny decides that maybe the cure for her anxiety as a mom lies at the bottom of a cup of ayahuasca.

Hilarious, outlandish, and surprisingly affecting, Live Fast Die Hot reminds you that even if you aren’t cut out for parenting, at least you can be better at it than your mother.

Book #2: 

the-outsider.jpgThe Outsider by Stephen King (Length: 577 pages!).  I LOVED this book!  The last King book I read was 11/22/63, and I really enjoyed that opus.  This suspense/horror novel, however, is a must-read, in my humble opinion.  This reminds me of old-school King, and showcases his talents in every respect.  There’s definitely a horror element but it’s not over-the-top, and his plot kept me reading.  (I will say that it’s a bit too long, and I didn’t get sucked in until about halfway through–exactly when the character Holly is first introduced).  Great pacing, strong writing, vivid dialogue and fast action scenes all make this one of my top 10 favorites of this year.  

From the publisher:

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

Book #3: 

The Paris ArchitectThe Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Length: 383 pages).  I really enjoyed this book because it’s very well-written and well-researched.  This is a very novel perspective of the Holocaust, and I appreciated the author’s creativity here.  The narrator is not very likeable, but he is very human given the time period, whether I agreed with him or not.  The resolution of the plot is a bit too pat, so for those reasons it’s not a five-star book for me.  I’d happily recommend it though!

From the publisher:

In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money – and maybe get him killed. But if he’s clever enough, he’ll avoid any trouble. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won’t find it. He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can’t resist.

But when one of his hiding spaces fails horribly, and the problem of where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal, Lucien can no longer ignore what’s at stake. The Paris Architect asks us to consider what we owe each other, and just how far we’ll go to make things right.

Written by an architect whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every soul hidden and every life saved.

Book #4:

The Other WomanThe Other Woman by Sandie Jones (Length: 304 pages).I really wanted to love this book because the writing is very strong, and very good.  But the characters all behaved in frustrating and frankly, quite unbelievable manners.  (Reading this novel made me think of watching a scary movie and yelling at the screen “Don’t go in there!  What are you doing?!”)  The twist propelled me forward in wanting to keep reading, but I was shaking my head the whole time at how unbelievable the characters’ actions were.  I will definitely read any future novels by this author, however, as I do enjoy her writing style.    

From the publisher:

The most twisty, addictive and gripping debut thriller you’ll read this year.

HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.
BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.
AND SHE’LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.

The Other Woman will have you questioning her on every page, in Sandie Jones’ chilling psychological suspense about a man, his new girlfriend, and the mother who will not let him go.

 

Book #5: 

Girl Wash Your FaceGirl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (Length: 240 pages).  After hearing about this book everywhere, I finally read it.  My verdict: cute!  The author’s writing style is very readable and engaging.  However, I do think her advice is all very trite, and therefore, not very memorable (ie, I won’t remember her little tips in a few months). I do appreciate her underlying message, however, which is quit whining, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get ‘er done!  You’ll be happier and more confident when you do.  

From the publisher:

As the founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Rachel Hollis developed an immense online community by sharing tips for better living while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own life. Now, in this challenging and inspiring new book, Rachel exposes the twenty lies and misconceptions that too often hold us back from living joyfully and productively, lies we’ve told ourselves so often we don’t even hear them anymore.

With painful honesty and fearless humor, Rachel unpacks and examines the falsehoods that once left her feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, and reveals the specific practical strategies that helped her move past them. In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be.

With unflinching faith and rock-hard tenacity, Girl, Wash Your Face shows you how to live with passion and hustle–and how to give yourself grace without giving up.

Book #6: 

Your Second Life BeginsYour Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One  by Raphaelle Giordano (Length: 256 pages).  I have no idea why I wanted to read this book or where I first heard about it (I really ought to track the origin of my TBR choices).  This is a cute self-help book disguised as fiction.  But I think the messages in this book are geared toward 20-30 year old women, so it’s not really helpful to me at this point in my life.  (Would be a cute gift for a college graduate even.)  I read this in one sitting, and I will always think of it as an adult Mrs. Piggle Wiggle thanks to the advice given by the “routinologist” in the book.  If you get that reference, then you’re likely not the targeted audience for this book either.  😉

From the publisher:

The feel-good #1 bestselling French novel about a woman whose mission to cure her “routine-itis” leads her to lasting joy and true fulfillment, for fans of The Alchemist and Hector and the Search for Happiness.

At thirty-eight and a quarter years old, Paris native Camille has everything she needs to be happy, or so it seems: a good job, a loving husband, a wonderful son. Why then does she feel as if happiness has slipped through her fingers? All she wants is to find the path to joy.

When Claude, a French Sean Connery look-alike and routinologist, offers his unique advice to help get her there, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. Camille’s journey is full of surprising escapades, creative capers, and deep meaning, as she sets out to transform her life and realize her dreams one step at a time…

Book #7: 

Molly's GameMolly’s Game  by Molly Bloom (Length: 273 pages).  I watched the movie adaptation of this book about a real-life, high-stakes poker game first, with my husband.  We both really enjoyed it so I was curious to read the book.  The movie hints at the identities of the celebrities involved in this weekly game, but they are straight-out revealed in the book itself.  Holy name-dropping!!  I will never look at Tobey Maguire the same way again.  😉  This book was a fast and enjoyable read, and I would absolutely recommend it.  

From the publisher:  

Molly Bloom reveals how she built one of the most exclusive, high-stakes underground poker games in the world—an insider’s story of excess and danger, glamour and greed.

In the late 2000s, Molly Bloom, a twentysomething petite brunette from Loveland Colorado, ran the highest stakes, most exclusive poker game Hollywood had ever seen—she was its mistress, its lion tamer, its agent, and its oxygen. Everyone wanted in, few were invited to play.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were won and lost at her table. Molly’s game became the game for those in the know—celebrities, business moguls, and millionaires. Molly staged her games in palatial suites with beautiful views and exquisite amenities. She flew privately, dined at exclusive restaurants, hobnobbed with the heads of Hollywood studios, was courted by handsome leading men, and was privy to the world’s most delicious gossip, until it all came crashing down around her.

 

Book #8: 

I Work at a public libraryI Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan (Length: 161 pages).  This is a collection of cute, funny and crazy anecdotes collected by librarians who work in public libraries.  This book is definitely worth a check out from the library (!) if only to have a better understanding and empathy for these stewards of our favorite resources.  I will always think of this book every time I am in a library from here on out.  

 

 

From the publisher: Straight from the library–the strange and bizarre, ready to be checked out!

From a patron’s missing wetsuit to the scent of crab cakes wafting through the stacks, I Work at a Public Library showcases the oddities that have come across Gina Sheridan’s circulation desk. Throughout these pages, she catalogs her encounters with local eccentrics as well as the questions that plague her, such as, “What is the standard length of eyebrow hairs?” Whether she’s helping someone scan his face onto an online dating site or explaining why the library doesn’t have any dragon autobiographies, Sheridan’s bizarre tales prove that she’s truly seen it all.

Stacked high with hundreds of strange-but-true stories, I Work at a Public Library celebrates librarians and the unforgettable patrons that roam the stacks every day.

Book #9: 

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover (Length: 336 pages).  One of my close friends loaned me her copy of this book urging me to read it ASAP.  I did, and wow!!!   The author was not just home-schooled, but she, along with her siblings in a survivalist family, was “unschooled”.  As a substitute teacher in an elementary school I’m horrified by this. And yet she went on to earn not only a BA, but a master’s as well as a PhD.   The author’s writing in this memoir is so vivid, and I was absolutely captivated throughout.  This is a must read!  I think it’s right up there with “The Glass Castle” and “Hillbilly Elegy”.  

From the publisher:

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

 

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.