The good, the okay and the bad of books lately

I thought it was about time I shared some recent books I’ve read. I was totally in a reading slump in addition to this blogging slump of mine, but thanks to a cross country flight to Las Vegas, I had several hours to get in some quality book time and get me back on track.

Inside the O'Briens

The book Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova (who also wrote Still Alice) was a heartbreaking but very well developed story of a family impacted by Huntington’s Disease. I’d definitely recommend it but I’d follow it up with something light.

From GoodreadsJoe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Hausfrau

I was iffy when reading the book Hausfrau by Jill Essbaum. It’s about an American living in Switzerland and the emotional struggles she faces which lead to affairs that ultimately cause even more struggle. I can’t say this is one I would recommend but I didn’t regret reading.

From GoodreadsAnna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters into with an ease that surprises even her. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there’s no going back.

Single, Carefree, Mellow: Stories

Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny was a book I had to put down in the middle of reading. It’s a series of short series that seemed to glamorize adultery and cheating. I thought it was well-written but I couldn’t appreciate the messaging enough to continue reading.

From GoodreadsMaya is in love with both her boyfriend and her boss. Sadie’s lover calls her as he drives to meet his wife at marriage counseling. Gwen pines for her roommate, a man who will hold her hand but then tells her that her palm is sweaty. And Sasha agrees to have a drink with her married lover’s wife and then immediately regrets it. These are the women of Single, Carefree, Mellow, and in these eleven sublime stories they are grappling with unwelcome houseguests, disastrous birthday parties, needy but loyal friends, and all manner of love, secrets, and betrayal.

In “Cranberry Relish” Josie’s ex—a man she met on Facebook—has a new girlfriend he found on Twitter. In “Blue Heron Bridge” Nina is more worried that the Presbyterian minister living in her garage will hear her kids swearing than about his finding out that she’s sleeping with her running partner. And in “The Rhett Butlers” a teenager loses her virginity to her history teacher and then outgrows him.

In snappy, glittering prose that is both utterly hilarious and achingly poignant, Katherine Heiny chronicles the ways in which we are unfaithful to each other, both willfully and unwittingly. Maya, who appears in the title story and again in various states of love, forms the spine of this linked collection, and shows us through her moments of pleasure, loss, deceit, and kindness just how fickle the human heart can be.

Oh, and Vegas was amazing. I saw the Michael Jackson Cirque show One and spent plenty of time walking along the strip. This was the view from the room at the Cosmopolitan. I’ve also gone to a couple Red Sox games, hit up some baby and bridal showers, had a visitor in town and spent a weekend brewery hopping in Portland, Maine.

What have you been reading? I definitely need some ideas!

Life lately

It’s been quite a while since I posted but since as of earlier this week I’m now the wise old age of 32, perhaps I’ll get back into it. Because being wise totally has a parallel to blabbering on in a post about my life.

I think the last real thing I shared was about my cruise. So, what has happened since then?

I went to California, drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, hit up some breweries and saw the Kings beat the Sharks in the Stadium Series hockey game.

I flew straight from California to Atlanta for a work trip where a barely there rain detained me an extra day due to flights being cancelled and a state of emergency. Talk about a difference from California to Atlanta to Boston!

I also visited New York for part of a bachelorette party and to celebrate my friend’s fiance’s 35th birthday. She threw him a 90s prom-themed bash and I actually managed to rock my original prom dress and had my hair done in the fabulous style of the decade.

And just this past weekend, I had a visitor to Boston and had fun playing tour guide around the city hitting up the Harpoon Brewery, Cheers, Top of the Hub, the North End, Union Oyster House, a Bruins game and brunch in the South End.

So, it’s been a busy couple of months but I think those are the highlights.

What have I missed?

Showing you my books

When I logged on to Goodreads to see what books I’d added since my last recap, I was surprised there weren’t more. You’d think with all my hibernating I would have read a library’s worth but that just isn’t the case. Luckily, the ones I have read are definitely worth recommending. Although, don’t you sometimes value the “don’t read” reviews more than the “definitely read?”

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My three favorites recently were The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant and The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery. I didn’t realize until typing this out that all three had the word ‘girl’ in the title. Go figure.

The Girl on the Train had me absolutely hooked. I know a lot of people have compared it to Gone Girl and while I see why, I think it has a big draw all on its own. From GoodreadsRachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Boston Girl was written by the same author who wrote The Red Tent so I was excited to see if it lived up to my expectations. I’m happy to say that it did. I loved it. From GoodreadsAddie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery was a lighter read than the others but perfect for those hopefully soon approaching beach days. From GoodreadsNicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there’s a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she’s never seen. He won’t even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time at her Mischief Bay Pilates studio. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg rose to become vice president in her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all. And if she can, does she want it?

Although Pam Eiland has a beautiful house and a husband she adores, she feels… restless. She wonders who a stay-at-home mom becomes after the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her husband brings the heat and the humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she’ll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, three very different women will discover that friends can become family, and that life is richer with sisters at your side.

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These other four deserve to be read as well, just not as immediately as my first three (at least in my humble opinion).

War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen is about what happens when two woman find out they were married to the same man… at his funeral.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert is a light read sharing the love story between a restaurant owner and a food critic.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was a beautifully written but sometimes but almost too descriptive story of the Nazi occupation in Paris and its effects on two very different people.

And Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline, while definitely a great read, seemed from the description to be about a woman who is in a tragic car accident but turned out to be more about the complications of marriage.

So, there you have them… my recent reads.

I’m linking up with Jana Says and Life According to Steph for Show us Your Books. You can find more reviews there!