Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

outside reading

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

Each week, I get an email from my local bookstore with the list of their best sellers for the week. Often after I see a book on that list, I start seeing it all over the place. That is what happened with this week’s book. It was like it was following me around.  I placed a request at the library and it came before I could take a breath. I think I was supposed to read it.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a very interesting and absorbing book. Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist and writer. This book is her first work of fiction. I didn’t realize that the book is a mystery. Even after I read it, I would not have said it was a mystery. It is not a classic “who done it”.

Crawdads

The book has two stories intertwined. The first and most lengthy is the story of Kya Clark. Kya lives out in the marsh outside of town and is the youngest of five children. As the book opens, Kya is watching her mother walk away from the house. She waits for her mother to return but she never does. Kya’s father is a card playing drunk who is abusive. Over the next couple of years, all the children leave the house except Kya.  Kya has attended one day of school but she has been taught to read by Tate Walker, a boy from town. She is a talented illustrator and makes drawings of all the nature and wildlife that live around her.

The people in the town refer to her as “the Marsh Girl” and when a local man is found dead, the first person blamed is Kya. But Kya is not the person most in the town thinks she is. Interspersed with Kya’s story is the story from the sheriff’s investigation into Chase Andrew’s death. Chase was the high school football hero and from an influential family in town. Why would Kya have anything to do with him and why would she have killed him?  Is it easier to blame her than to look at Chase’s background?

The book had beautiful descriptions of the wildlife and the landscape of the marsh. But it does not get bogged down in the descriptions. The descriptions in the book set the scene more than they feel like a nature study.

I liked the book and would recommend it. I felt it was absorbing and an interesting story. For those who might not like mysteries, I think you could read this book and not feel like you are reading a mystery. It is much more an interesting story about a young woman raising herself and the people who help her.

As a side note, I read this book, The Great Alone, and Educated all within about two weeks. All three books had a theme of an abusive father. (Where the Crawdads Sing is the only one where the father is more of a minor character.) I would rank this book as my favorite of the three followed by The Great Alone. In contrast to what seems to be the rest of the world, I did not like Educated. It might be an instance of too many books with the same theme. I will say, that Educated has stuck in my mind but I am not a fan.

Thanks for reading!

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Me for You by Lolly Winston

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Dear Fellow Reader,

I am looking out my window at the snow. I wish I was looking at a beach or something that would make me feel warm. The sun is out and perhaps this winter will move along sometime soon. The weather person thinks that we may not have any more single-digit temperatures. It’s about time!  Winter is a great time for reading; there is something about a blanket and a book.

This week’s book is brand new. So brand new that it is being released today. Congrats to Lolly Winston on her book release day!  I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. (On the philosophical side, can there be an unbiased review? Enough of that!)

Me for YouMe for You by Lolly Winston is a story about Rudy. Rudy wakes up one morning to find that his beloved wife, Bethany (Bee), is dead in bed next to him. He feels bad that it takes him a few minutes to figure out that she is dead. He is in shock that she could be dead. She had felt poorly the day before and he took her to the doctor but the doctor hadn’t found anything wrong with her.

Bee and Rudy had met in college and had one daughter and one granddaughter. They loved each other and were looking forward to Bee’s retirement. Bee was a pharmacist at a hospital. Rudy had been downsized out of his job. It was a few years before he had planned to retire and with Bee still working, he took a job at his local Nordstroms playing the piano. He loved to play so the job suited him.

After Bee’s death, he continued to work at Nordstroms. While working at the store, he met Sasha and they became friends. Sasha had immigrated to the United States from Hungary. Sasha’s marriage had broken up and she was trying to get a divorce from her husband, Gabor. Gabor and his new girlfriend had stayed in the house that he and Sasha had purchased. One day Gabor announced he and the girlfriend were moving. It was then that Sasha discovered that Gabor had not paid any of the bills. She had no idea what to do about the mortgage and other bills. She was working two jobs (one at Nordstroms and one cleaning at a gym) but didn’t understand the paperwork. She asked Rudy’s advice and he helped her to get her finances in order.

While Rudy and Sasha grew closer, Rudy still missed Bee. And his daughter, CeCe, who had always been independent, was having marital problems. For the first time, Rudy felt she needed him. He was happy he could be there for her.

Me for You is a nice book. It is a good beach read candidate. While it does take an unexpected turn, it is a light, pleasant read. There is nothing that will change the world but it does make some worthwhile points. So, if you are looking for a book to read to lighten up your reading, I think you would do well with Me for You.

Thanks for reading!

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

 

Dear Fellow Reader:

Okay, I have a book for you to read. The main problem is that I don’t know how to describe the book to you.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us  will lead you down one path only to find that your basic assumptions about the plot are all wrong.  Anything I say will give away too much of the plot. I know that sounds crazy, but this book is one twist after another. On one level it is the story of Vanessa and Richard Thompson and their marriage. But wait, it is also about Nellie and Richard. But then there is Emma. And who is who?

Perhaps the best description comes from Amazon.

 

“When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.

You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.

You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.

You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.

Assume nothing.”

So, I can’t describe the book, but I can tell you to read it. It is absorbing and you will try to figure out what is going on but then you’ll be amazed by the plot. This book is well done. It would have been hard for one person to plot out this book but to think that two people worked together on it is amazing to me. My only criticism of the book would be that I would leave off the last chapter. It “tidies” up the plot too much.

Just read it and let me know what you think. Really, I would love to know your thoughts on the plot.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah

Dear Fellow Reader,

If you follow this blog, you know that when I go on vacation, I read a lot. I am back from a week away and I am happy to tell you that I finished several books (okay, 6). There were several that I felt were very good. I had been on a streak of books that were okay but nothing great. I am so glad that streak is broken. So, let’s get started.

I liked The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah. I will tell you a secret. I know that Ms. Hannah’s The Nightingale was a huge favorite. I never finished it. I did not engage for some reason. I know everyone loved it but that happens. BUT I did enjoy The Great Alone. I will also say that this book has not been the hit The Nightingale was, but I liked it much better.

The Great Alone tells the story of the Allbright family. The story is told from the perspective of the daughter Leni, who is 13 when the story begins. Leni has been in and out of several schools and never seems to fit in. She longs to have a friend. Leni’s father was a POW in Vietnam and suffers from alcoholism, anger issues, and PTSD. He can’t hold a job, so they move frequently. At the beginning of the book, Ernt, Leni’s father, receives a letter telling him that he inherited a house and some land in Homer, Alaska. Ernt feels that moving to Alaska will be his salvation. That it will be better for him where there are fewer people. Leni doesn’t want to move. She urges her parents to let her finish the school year, but her father is all fired up so off they go.

The first person they meet in Homer is Large Marge. Large Marge has been in Alaska for a long time. She warns them that they need to prepare for winter. She and some other women in the community come to the house to help put together chicken coops, goat pens, and garden beds. Their help was a big step in getting the Allbrights to start preparing for the winter ahead.

When Leni gets to school in Homer, she meets Matthew Walker, the only other child her age. The immediately become friends. Leni is happy because she now has a friend, but her father is drinking more and there is less daylight every day.

Will Ernt do better with the wide-open spaces of Alaska or will the long winter nights cause him to have more problems? Will the family discover the value of friendship and community in this cold, dark land?

I felt that the story pulled me in quickly. It is not an upbeat story, but Leni is so likable that you want it all to work out for her. I thought this was one of the best books I have read lately. With that said, it seems that the message from my book group was that depending upon what drew you to the book made a difference in how you felt about the book. If you are drawn in by the descriptions of Alaska and life there, you probably will like the book. If you don’t like stories that are about dysfunctional families, alcoholism, and abuse, this is not the book for you.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

woman in hammock

Dear Fellow Reader,

I don’t really like the term self-help books. There is something about that term that makes me want to steer clear of them. It isn’t fair. There are lots of good and helpful books that fall under the self-help category but I always start with a bit of wariness. So, had that doubt in my mind when I took Girl, Wash Your Face out of the library. I knew that it was on the best-seller lists, and  I wanted to see what the brouhaha was about it.

girl

 

I had no idea who Rachel Hollis is. I am not familiar with her blog/empire. She is the founder of TheChicSite.com and CEO of Chic Media. A quick look at her site shows that she is very much the center of her empire but there seem to be several interesting sounding blog posts to check out. She is the author of Girl, Wash Your Face. The subtitle of her book is “Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be”

 

In the introduction to the book, in fact on the first page of the book, she states the following:

“The truth? You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are. That’s the takeaway.”

Okay, she hooked me right there. And I think that sets the tone for the book. Each of the twenty chapters in the book deals with a lie that she told herself and how she turned that concept around. Then at the end of the chapter, she provides a section “Things That Helped Me” where she provides ideas of how to make changes. She is very open in sharing the “messiness” of her life. She talks about weight, adoption, sex, dating, motherhood, parenting, and work among other things. While she has done very well for herself, she has not had an easy life and has worked hard. Some of the stories about her life are incredibly sad or scary.

“I am successful because I refused to take no for an answer. I am successful because I have never once believed my dreams were someone else’s to manage. Thats the incredible part about your dreams: nobody gets to tell you how big they can be.

When it comes to your dreams, no is not an answer. The word “no” is not a reason to stop. Instead, think of it as a detour or a yield sign. No means merge with caution. No reminds you to slow down- to re-evaluate where you are and to judge how the new position you’re in can better prepare you for your destination.

“You don’t see things as they are; you see things through the lens of what you think and feel and believe. Perception is reality and I’m here to tell you that your reality is colored much more by your past experiences than by what is actually happening to you. If your past tells you that nothing ever works out, that life is against you, and that you’ll never succeed than how likely are you to keep fighting for something you want? “

In reflecting on the book, several things stand out. One of my favorites was about exercise. If you are constantly saying that you are going to start doing something, but you never do or you only start for a little while, then you are not being a very good friend to yourself. You would not put up with constant disappointment from a friend, so why are you doing it with yourself?

The book is very easy to read and is funny and sad and light and hard. If you are looking at your life and attitudes, I suggest that this book provides an interesting starting point. Not every bit of it might apply to your situation but I think that you will find words of wisdom in this book.

Thanks for reading.

 

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