Thursday, January 16, 2020

Book Reviews - Stories That Stay With You

If I had to pick an overarching theme for this quartet, I'd say these are stories that really "stuck" with me. Long after I finished I was thinking about what I read and/or telling someone about it. Those were for four very different reasons. Check out why. . . 

Nature's Best Hope: An Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard by Douglas Tallamy was a book that taught me so darn much y'all! I didn't really have any expectations going in, but I was intrigued by the summary. What I quickly found was that I was this was a call to action grounded in so much important information about the world around me. The premise of the book is that the answers to current struggles with insects, plants, and animals caused by humans are best solved in our own backyards. If we each took the time to understand why nature is so important, and we intentionally cultivated a physical space to preserve and protect nature, we'd all be better off. The best part of these solutions is they are all very practical. This isn't about spending exorbitant amounts of money rather it shares simple and easy to cultivate additions to our yards that could go a long way. What I loved about this book was the depth of research, but again, it was explained in my way that someone who didn't know a great deal about this topic could understand. However, as a result of this book, I'm ready to transform my yard, and my husband and I already have some ideas for how we might do that this spring. This is a book for both those who are well-versed in conservation, and it's also for those who are just beginning to learn about what this entails. Ultimately, our livelihood depends on the world around us, and we owe it to those other creatures to get things together. Thanks to Timber Press for the advanced copy. It's one I (unexpectedly) cannot stop talking about!

File this under: Conversation, Nature, Books That Teach You Stuff

Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction and Tragedy by Eilene ZImmerman was a powerful memoir about the author's ex-husband's death. Once a goal-oriented and driven lawyer who was financially successful, Peter's life ended due to his secret drug addiction. After his death, Eilene begins to explore what happened. How did she not know Peter's struggles? Why did this happen? What could have been done differently? The story begins with her backtracking through their past. She looks back at moments before Peter's overdose, and she sees new truths. What she realizes is that Peter was going to great lengths to hide his addiction, and she could not have known. However, at the same time, she sees for the first time what he was doing for his addiction. In the other sections of the book, she explores trends around career and addiction. She puts her journalist skills to work, and she does immersive research on the commonality of Peter's struggles. Throughout, she does not try to tell Peter's story and fill in gaps. Instead, she shares what she knows of his story and what she then learns from her research. To me, this gave the story power. She was writing from a place of someone who lost someone they loved and wanted to understand why this happened. This is a powerful and raw story of addiction. Peter's story was incredibly emotional, and the impact was further amplified by the information about the prevalence of this happening. This is an important read to understand the impact of addiction today. Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced look at this February 2020 release.

File this under: Memoir, Emotional Reads, Addiction

First Came Us by Rachel Cullen was a book I have mixed feelings about. Part of that is because the story was just being real, and part of that is because I wanted more of some aspects of the book. The story focuses on the marriage of Jack and Ellie. They appear to "have it all" but then a blast from a poor decision in Jack's past threatens to upend this life. Meanwhile Jack and Ellie's high-achieving teen daughter Sydney is making choices that threaten her future. Part of my struggle was with Sydney's storyline. I wanted her to be stronger, and I didn't want her to just give up on all she'd worked for to get ahead. I found myself frustrated with this storyline, but I can also recognize that these choices are complicated for a teenager. With that, the storyline I really enjoyed involved Ellie's relationship with an elderly woman who came to her yoga studio. She was a driving force behind the story I ultimately wanted more of, as she was a vehicle to encourage Ellie to figure out what she really wanted out of life. She built depth in the story that I craved as I read. This was an intriguing read about the complexities of family, the danger of secrets, and the way we learn to heal together. Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced look at this March 2020 release.

File this under: Family, All the Secrets, Relationships

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid is a book I already want to re-read. Let me explain. This is a book I'm still reflecting on days after I've finished. The story begins with Emira, a young black woman, who is a regular babysitter for the Chamberlain family. One late night, she gets a call asking her to come immediately. She does and takes their baby to a grocery store. While there, a guard accuses her of kidnapping the white baby she is watching. Another shopper films the interaction. Alix, the baby's mother, is upset and wants to do all she can to resolve the pain Emira has experienced. The story from here takes so many different turns. Through each character, there are actions that allow for reflections on race and privilege. The moment in the grocery store is a catalyst for relationships and secrets to be revealed. Through a fictional story, the author explores these topics in such a profound way. She uses the points of view of each character to wrestle with complicated topics. As the reader, you have to then consider each character's motives and actions. Throughout, connections and choices are revealed that continue to change what you believe you know to be true. This is book is brilliant in so many ways. I could not stop reading, and after its last page I continued to reflect on what I just read. Wow, wow, wow.

File this under: BOOKS YOU NEED TO READ RN, Books That Make You Think

Onto the next ones!