Friday, October 27, 2017

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Title: The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena
Pages: 308
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book of the Month Club

Summary:

Anne and Marco Conti are new parents to baby Cora, and they appear to have it all - their new baby, a loving marriage, a beautiful home. However, while attending a dinner party next door, a horrible crime is committed that shatters this image, revealing the truth underneath. Nobody is perfect, everything is complicated, and there are secrets everywhere.

Detective Rasbach is immediately suspicious of the seemingly panicked parents - he is determined to get to the bottom of what happened and he can't shake the feeling that Anne and Marco are hiding something. As the story unfolds, Anne and Marco each learn the other has been keeping secrets, and that the people in their lives may not be what they seem.

This is a chilling tale of deception, desperation, and an unraveling family. How well do you really know the couple next door? How well do you know your spouse? How well do you know yourself?

Review:

This book was great. I read it in only a few days, which for me (working full time and juggling a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old) is really fast. I was looking for something fast-paced that had an element to suspense that could get me in the Halloween mood. I found the right book! I don't often read books in the thriller or suspense genre, so this was a real treat for me.

I really enjoyed the writing in this book. Lapena does a great job revealing the true story to the reader. One thing that can drive me nuts about this genre is when the author reveals a plot twist completely out of left field (...but he couldn't have been at the scene of the crime because it was a full moon that night and he is a werewolf! What????). Lapena doesn't do this - there are certainly plot twists, but they're on slow release. For each twist, although the actual details surprised me, I kind of had the feeling that there was something going on - maybe that character's story doesn't quite add up, or I don't like the vibe when certain characters are in the room together.

The characters were all multidimensional. I didn't necessarily like them all, but that's not a requirement for me to enjoy a book. They all have flaws, they're all human, they all have secrets. Some of them have big, horrible secrets. Some secrets are fairly small. With the exception of one character (who truly is just a horrible person), the reader is able to understand the character's point of view (even if you think they're wrong or selfish). All the characters have depth, and it makes for a really engaging story.

This book is certainly worth your time! If you want to pick up your own copy, consider using this affiliate link to help support Kate's Library! 

Oh, and just another quick pitch for you. I got this book a few months ago in my Book of the Month box. If you're not familiar with Book of the Month, it's a great subscription service! Each month there are five books to choose from, each chosen by a different judge. Thus far, the books have been fairly new releases, they are hardcover, and they always look interesting! Want more than one book? No problem - you can add up to 2 additional books to your box for only $9.99 each (great deal for a newish hardcover)! They also have an entire stash of older books you can also throw in for $9.99. Oh, and one of the best parts? If you don't see anything that your'e interested in you can skip that particular month. And it's not wasted... your subscription renew just gets pushed out an additional month. You don't lose any money. Sound interesting? Click here to use my referral link! (Thank you!)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hands

I could write so much about your little hands.

I remember being in the hospital, moments after we met, and marveling at how small your little finger joints and fingernails were. It didn't even seem possible to see such familiar things presented so small. I'd put my finger in your little palm and you'd grasp instinctively with a surprising amount of force.

We spent a lot of time together in the rocking chair, you and I.  I'd be feeding you - sometimes gazing at your little face, sometimes gazing at my phone, sometimes gazing at a book, and sometimes dozing just praying you'd fall asleep because my alarm was due to go off sooner than I'd like. In these moments, you were sometimes restless - kicking your legs about or moving your arms haphazardly. In these moments I'd extend my index finger and you'd clamp your little hand around it and somehow find stillness as you nursed yourself back to sleep.



When you were very small we'd walk around our yard or our street. I'd extend my index finger to you and you'd hold it as we sought out new adventures (to you).



You're starting to fuss in the car. I reach back to give you a sippy cup, a cheerio, or a toy. I'll never forget the feeling of your chubby little fingers surrounding mine as I pass treasure into your hands.

After dinner, after bath, we spend a little time cuddling on the couch. Downtime before bedtime begins. It usually starts with a little TV and always ends with books. You nestle into the crook of my arm as we read together (progressing from board books to picture books, to easy chapter books, and tonight you read a couple of books to me). But as we watch TV (or more specifically, as you watch TV and I browse on my phone or read a book) you reach to hold my hand because you're really enjoying The Grinch (even though it's still technically summer...).



"Care to hold hands?" you say from the backseat. I say "Yes!" of course, and reach back. The joke is that you give me silly things the first two times - a stuffed animal ("ooh, your hand is so soft!!") or a water bottle ("oh man, your hand is so cold!") - and the third time you give me the real deal. Occasionally, your ask me if we can hold hands forever.  Yes, please.  Let's.



Your hands as they grasp my face to give me a kiss. Or to use my legs as a means to pull yourself up to a standing position. Reaching for me in the parking lot ("there are lots of cars, let's be safe!"), or as you get onto your bike. Asking me to pick you up (I don't want to admit that a time will come where this will be impossible for me to physically do), or to spin you around, or to help you reach something. As I clip your little fingernails - first a process of pinning you down, then of bribing you with TV/iPad, and now just saying "let's cut these bad boys!".

I can't even imagine your hands being bigger than mine, but I know they will be someday. I can't imagine them calloused or rough. I can't fathom what it will be like to feel the cool metal of a wedding band on your finger.

I'll forever remember your chubby little fingers grasping mine as you drift off to sleep or try to navigate your way across the living room floor. Or your warm hand as we walk from the car to the beach, talking about how much fun our day will be.

Your sweet voice asking "care to hold hands?".

Always.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Mask of Motherhood by Susan Maushart

Title:  The Mask of Motherhood: How becoming a mother changes our lives and why we never talk about it
Author:  Susan Maushart
Pages:  247
Publisher:  Penguin Books
Genre:  Nonfiction
Format:  Paperback
Source:  Personal copy (Book Outlet)

Summary:

Susan Maushart explores the vast range of emotions that come along with motherhood, and why many women are afraid to speak honestly about the low moments for fear of being viewed as bad mothers.  Maushart is a sociologist and mother of three.  She writes about how motherhood affects marriage, friendship, self-esteem, and sex.  She writes about lactation, being a mom who works outside the home, being a stay-at-home mom, juggling the many jobs associated with motherhood, and about how becoming a mother changes your life.  Most importantly, by writing about these things, Maushart is letting women know that they are not alone.

Motherhood is certainly rewarding, but it's not always an easy walk in the park, a point that not many women talk about openly.  Maushart is examining this mask that many women wear to conceal the realities of motherhood, looking at what lies beneath and asking why it's being worn in the first place.

Review:

I found this book quite interesting.  Personally, I find the women in my life to be fairly open about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.  I'm lucky to have friends with whom there is nothing held back, even when it's unpleasant or difficult (I'm looking at you, Andrea!).  The Mask of Motherhood was published in 1999, and I think that in some ways the mask has been removed with access and outlets to real talk about childbirth and child rearing.  In other ways, the mask is more in place than it ever was.

The Internet has certainly provided an outlet for women to share the nitty gritty about pregnancy, giving birth, and caring for a baby.  Women are able to access information like never before, and especially with sites like Scary Mommy (for example), read some candid pieces about what it means to be a mother.  There may be a humorous spin, but the sentiment is there - caring for a small human is not as straightforward as one may think.

I do, however, see certain aspects of the mask present itself even more forcefully in 2016.  Fueled by social media, it can be hard to not be under the impression that all the other mothers have it all together.  I can scroll through their instagram and see pictures of smiling children, nutritious lunches with veggies cut into fun little shapes, everything captioned with #soblessed.  It's not real life.  But I think there's pressure to present yourself as a mother who has her shit together.  If we're having an "off" day and we end up inside on a beautiful fall afternoon, I can scroll through facebook seeing my friends post pictures of their kids playing in apple orchards and start to feel bad - even though the baby was fussy and the 4-year-old was overtired and a trip to an orchard would have resulted in a slew of meltdowns.  I'd be interested to see an updated version of this book with chapters about the Pinterest moms and mommy bloggers, the desire some women have to make every moment magical and caught on camera, and pressure to feed your kids only gluten free, chemical free, organic snacks.
I found some of the statistics presented in the book to be the most interesting parts.  Of course they're slightly dated, so numbers are no longer exact.  In particular I found it interesting to read about women making the transition into motherhood.  According to Maushart, that transition is harder for women over 30 who have established themselves both as individuals in their personal lives and in their careers.  I found myself nodding my head so hard during this particular chapter.  I remember the stress and the anxiety associated with my first born.  Some of it had nothing to do with my age or making the transition into motherhood.  But in hindsight, some of it did.  I agreed with so much of what Maushart had to say about making this transition - I wish I had read this when I was about 3 weeks postpartum with Dominic.  

Maushart has a great voice, mixing cited factual information with personal stories.  It's a perfect balance.  She provides tremendous insight on many of the unspoken parts of the journey to and through motherhood.  She writes about identity, working, and the roles women play in their families.  Statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, as figures and trends have shifted in the last seventeen years.  

Overall I really enjoyed this book.  If you're pregnant with your first child, if you just gave birth for the first time, or if you're a seasoned parent - there's lots of food for thought here.  I think Maushart presents a lot of ideas about what so many women are thinking or have thought about childbirth and child rearing.  I am guilty of wearing the mask - not necessarily about sharing real information, but in trying to give the impression that I have everything running smoothly.

Highly recommend!  Click here to purchase a copy (and to support Kate's Library)!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Title:  Hex
Author:  Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Translator:  Nancy Forest-Flier
Pages:  380
Publisher:  Tor
Genre:  Horror
Format:  Hardcover
Source:  Personal copy (Barnes & Noble)

Summary:

In the beautiful town of Black Spring, a seventeenth-century witch roams.  Her eyes and mouth have been sewn shut, and she walks the streets of Black Spring, entering homes at will, where she sometimes stays for days at a time just standing in the living room or a bedroom with her thread-bound eyes and mouth.  For the people of Black Spring, she is a part of their daily lives.  They know that her eyes must never be opened - the consequences would be beyond comprehension.

The Black Spring elders have basically quarintined the town.  They monitor outsiders and the Black Rock Witch by using a surveillance system with the accronym HEX.  It is essential that the Witch remain the business - and the burden - of Black Spring.  Once you become an official Black Spring resident, you can never leave.  The Witch and the power she has over Black Spring makes it impossible to travel far or to travel for long before being forced back.

A group of the town's teenagers are fed up with the lockdown and decide to take matters into their own hands.  Violating the town's strict regulations, the boys wish to go viral with the haunting.  Their actions send the town spraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

Review:

I thought Hex was fantastic.  I was in the mood for a creepy read and this fit the bill.  There were a few times I decided I couldn't read this book while feeding my newborn at 2am in the dark by myself.  Certain things really give me the creeps - the thought of this witch just appearing and standing in your home, her whispering something and the stitches on her mouth pulling on her old dead looking flesh.  The book was deeply unsettling.  I feel this way about Stephen King as well.  It's not gore and blood and guts on every page (although there was some gore for sure), but rather an overall chilling quality to the story.  I loved it.

The setting is great.  I read the Acknowlegements in the back of the book and found out that Thomas Olde Heuvelt is actually a Dutch author and when working on the English translation of this book he took the opportunity to change a few things.  He reset the story to the Hudson River Valley, and changed the ending a bit.  So if you're Dutch, please drop me an email and tell me the original ending, okay?  Anyway, the setting and set-up of the town and the people living there captured small-town New England (I know the Hudson River Valley is in NY and not technically New England).  It gave it a Salem witch trial feel that worked beautifully with the story.

The chapters are told from alternate perspectives, each having a distinct feeling and voice.  Wonderful writing.  If you're looking for a spooky read, look no further.  And in case you feel like you missed the boat because Halloween is past (which is nuts because it's always a good time for something creepy!) you'll be happy to know much of the story takes place in November!  So now is the perfect time!

Click here to get yourself a copy (and support Kate's Library)!  And click here if you're interested in seeing the book trailer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baby Zach


If you follow me on social media (and if you don't, please do!), you've probably figured out that I've recently had a baby!  We welcomed Zachary Bruce to the world on September 21.  He tipped the scales at 8 pounds, 9 ounces.  He's a delightful baby, and I'm enjoying the 12 weeks I get to stay at home before returning to work.


My four-year-old son, Dominic, was born at 36 and a half weeks - almost a month early.  You can imagine my surprise when Zachary was overdue and I had to be induced.

Everything about this baby is different than Dominic - down to labor and deliver.  Dominic was unexpected - my water broke and I was having no contractions.  We hung out at the hospital, watched the Olympics and ate chicken fingers until they finally to give me Pitocin.  I got an epidural early on because at that point it was really late at night and the anesthesiologist was about to be occupied with another patient for an unforeseeable length of time.  I pushed for a couple of hours.  We were joking around between pushes.  Dominic was a peanut - 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

I was expecting Zachary to be a bigger baby because he was in the oven an extra month.  I scheduled my induction and they got me going on Pitocin.  Contractions escalated quickly, and with each contraction, Zach's heart rate was dropping.  They experimented with Pitocin levels, and turned it off for awhile before turning it back on again.  The only position they could get me where his heart rate stayed normal was laying far over on my right side.  Those contractions sucked because I couldn't move around.  Our doctor was dealing with an emergency, so it took longer than I expected to get the epidural - which was fine... I was thankful we weren't the emergency he was dealing with.  When it came time to push it was super painful, even with the epidural.  We found out afterward this was because Zach turned around in there and was born "sunny side up", or face up.  Apparently, this makes for a really difficult labor and delivery because the plates in the skull that are supposed to be able to squish together are on the wrong side.  The entire top of his head was bruised!


Our doctor is amazing.  The nurses are amazing.  I think that having a child is a humbling experience in so many ways.  And one of those ways is the care you receive by the doctor and nurses.  We felt this way after Dominic was born as well.  We feel like we chose our OB/GYN office and hospital well!

Baby Zach is wonderful.  He is an easy baby compared to Dominic.  He figured out how to nurse from the get go, he gets up in the night (of course), but he isn't up screaming.  He's pretty chill and just wants to cuddle.  And we know he's our last, so I'm trying to soak up those cuddles and not wish these early moments away.  I have another post about this brewing in my brain, but for now I'll say that it's been wonderful to actually get to enjoy maternity leave instead of spending the first 2/3 of it feeling completely overwhelmed and barely above water.  We're having fun.


Dominic loves being a big brother.  He kisses Zach's head and says he's his best friend.  After a somewhat difficult week where he was acting out (sharing mom and dad's attention is hard), he's settled down and eager to be a big helper.  I think he's watched and assisted with every diaper change thus far.  Dennis is a super dad.  Zach loves to sleep on his chest.  To make Dominic feel special, Dennis is taking lots of time to make sure he gets to do big boy stuff.  He's taking him on special trips to the store, to the park, to indoor play parks.  It's been so appreciated.



For the most part, I feel wonderful.  I'm getting plenty of sleep if you count the hours, but it's interrupted.  So I'm tired but not miserable.  When Zachary wants to pull up a seat at the milk bar I have been occupying myself with lots of reading and podcast listening.  My alone time is limited, I haven't been back to the gym yet, and we're eating more take-out and/or meals that are pre-made than usual.  But I have some perspective and I know that I'll be back to yoga soon enough and will eventually have time to cook more complicated and healthy meals.  I've come to realize that having this perspective is everything.  I'm quite aware at just how fleeting these moments are.


My maternity leave adventures and lots of cute baby pics are flooding my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Feel free to follow on one or all three!  Thanks for reading!