Book Review: Dark Places + The Sisters Chase

July 30, 2017

Two dark books with two similar and intriguing protagonists. Both page turners. Both great. I could not put them down! As always, reviews are spoiler free.

Have a great rest of the summer!

PS: Currently reading: Truly, Madly, Guilty. Would love to hear what you’re reading!

1. Dark Places.

 

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, thrillers, page turners

If You Liked: Sharp ObjectsVernon God LittleWe Need To Talk About Kevin, Luckiest Girl Alive

My Review: I swore I’d never read another Gillian Flynn novel after Sharp Objects, but like a moth to a flame–I can’t quite give her up. Like her other novels, this book is dark, gritty, and sometimes hard to read. It’s also complex, well developed, and gripping. According to the acknowledgements, Flynn did extensive research before writing this book, and it shows. The writing is assured, well paced, detailed and full of deep emotion. If you’re okay reading about dark things in dark places, I fully recommend this mystery and another look at the disturbing but incredible mental workings inside Gillian Flynn’s brain. I could not put it down.

Their Review: “Flynn fully inhabits Libby—a damaged woman whose world has resided entirely in her own head for the majority of her life and who is prone to dark metaphors: ‘Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.’ Half the fun of DARK PLACES is Libby’s swampy psychology, which Flynn leads us through without the benefit of hip waders.”
Time Out Chicago

Quote: I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.

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2.  The Sisters Chase.

 

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, page turners

If You Like: Fates and FuriesLuckiest Girl Alive, Dark Places

My Review: Unsettling. Lovely. Gripping. This is a story about two sisters surviving on the run after the death of their mother. Very easy to read and full of suspense and intrigue. A great book to pick up for a long plane ride or vacation when you have a lot of time to binge read into the night. There is sadness and a certain heaviness throughout, but it is also charming and beautiful. I could not put it down.

Their Review: The Sisters Chase is a deliciously compulsive read, a miniature mystery of love, survival, and sisterhood written on the scale of the human heart. Deceptively simple, gracefully realized, and occasionally wicked, it lingers like a summer dream after the last page is turned.” —Amy Gentry, author of Good as Gone

Quote: The onslaught of the truths would be like relentless waves, knocking and knocking and knocking her down the moment she found her feet to stand back up.

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Book Review: A Man Called Ove + This Is How It Always Is

July 17, 2017

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1. A Man Called Ove.

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If You’re Looking For: Fiction, humor, light

If You Like: Good stories, Grumpy Old Men, Up

My Review: Sweet, thoughtful, well written, and funny. Not oh that was funny funny. Laugh out loud while you’re reading funny. Have you ever seen the movie Up? It’s kind of like taking him (the grumpy old man) and hearing his story all laid out into a charming and well worth it novel. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. 5/5 stars.

Their Review: “This charming debut novel by Backman should find a ready audience with English-language readers… hysterically funny… wry descriptions, excellent pacing… In the contest of Most Winning Combination, it would be hard to beat grumpy Ove and his hidden, generous heart.” –Kirkus Reviews

Quoted: Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves.

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2.  This Is How It Always Is.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, page turner, family & marriage

If You Like: Contemporary fiction

My Review: I finished this beautiful novel today. It’s about family, marriage, and the changes and learning curves in parenthood. I prefer reading books without any spoilers or overviews (I almost never read the flap), and this book especially reads better without introduction. Trust me and try it. The only critiques I read on Goodreads (after the fact) is that it isn’t darker. So if you’re looking for something dark and deep–you might try one of Gillian Flynn’s novels (I recently read Dark Places after swearing I’d never read another after Sharp Objects). This book is lighter, but full of enough depth and plot to keep you turning the page. A warm (but often heart wrenchingly sad) story on a topic most of us know nothing about. But most of all–it’s about family.

Their Review: “Deeply satisfying…An intimate family story…Day-to-day parenting dilemmas are where Frankel shines.” –The New York Times Book Review

From the author’s note: The novelist in me is inspired by how much raising children is like writing books: You don’t know where they’re going until they get there. You may think you do, but you’re probably wrong. Corralling and forcing them against their will to go where you first imagined they would isn’t going to work for anyone involved. Never mind you’re the one writing and raising them, they are headed in their own direction, independent of you. And scary though that is, it’s also how it should be. […] For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love. Who doesn’t want that? I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why.

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Novi Turns One

June 12, 2017

A year ago today I participated in a glorious unmedicated birth, surrounded by my loving husband and team of competent doctors and medical residents!!

Just kidding, the epidural failed and at one point I started yelling JUST PULL IT OUT because after 21 hours of labor, I was pretty tired. Luckily my wish came true when his shoulders got stuck (shoulder dystocia), and a resident had to press down as hard as he could on my abdomen to help push him out. Austin said he pressed so hard that you could hear an audible crunch. Luckily I couldn’t hear it over my very audible scream.

Of course it all feels a lot less horrifying and a lot more magical a year later. As crazy as it is, I would do it all over again if I could. There is nothing like the first time you meet your baby. The beginning of a love story.

Happy first birthday to the baby of the family. My little fox cub. You are the worst houseguest but we love you all the same.

Birthday Video on Youtube

 

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birth story

That’s Our Baby In There (A Follow Up Guest Post Surrogacy)

May 19, 2017

Continued from this first interview on infertility and this follow up interview on surrogacy.

1. First of all, CONGRATS on a special delivery coming this fall. What’s the countdown?

THANK you! We are so grateful and excited to be so close to holding our baby girl, Finella Pearl. She is due to arrive on August 23, however Kim, our carrier, usually goes about 2 weeks earlier than her due dates. So maybe early to mid August for us!

2. What was it like finding out the sex?

We found out it was a girl at week 16 at a super cool ultrasound boutique place that let us see her in 3D/4D. It was our first glimpse at her little hands and feet and we totally melted. Kim brought her whole family to the appointment so we all had placed our bets (1 for boy, 5 for girl). I remember sitting there watching the tv where the ultrasound was displayed, waiting to hear the news. My heart was racing! When the ultrasound technician said “girl” we all cheered. I knew it was a girl from the very beginning and I’m 100% wrong at guessing genders. This was the first time I was ever correct! We had picked out her name the week before, so when we got in the car Nate said “so, it’s Finella in there” which all seemed so real and fun. We FaceTimed some friends in the car on the way home who helped us keep it secret and I immediately started dreaming up her nursery that night.

3. How has the surrogacy process been going?

Surprisingly, it has been going really well. And I say surprisingly because I was worried that somehow I would feel left out in this process or ill-attuned to Finella. But the opposite has been true. We see Kim and her family at church on Sunday, so we see her belly grow each week. She sends me videos of Finella kicking or bump pictures, and I send her crazy worst-case-scenario birth videos.

We also recently purchased Belly Buds which allow us to record ourselves reading books to Finella. It even allows for others to record and send their files to us, so we had both our parents read and sing to Finella. I think it’s the best thing for surrogacy pregnancies, especially since she is now remembering voices. Kim just places the little buds on her belly and hits play and Finella gets to meet each of us, one by one.

 

4. What’s been the hardest part?

I think the hardest part is not being around Finella all the time. I’m not sure how much you can tell about a child’s temperament in utero, but part of me feels like I’m always missing out. This feeling is not nearly as constant and pervasive as I imagined it would be, but it still happens enough and it’s hard.

5. What’s been the most surprising part?

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who has used surrogacy or IVF. Every time I walk into a baby store I get “are you expecting?” or “shopping for a new little baby?” Part of me wants to punch them in the face, because I want to shop in peace, but the other part oozes all over and says “yes! it’s my baby, I’m shopping for my baby!” Which then turns into me explaining that I’m not pregnant, we are using a surrogate, yes we did IVF, and yes, it’s our genetics. And so far, 100% of the time the person says, “you know what, my son/daughter/niece/best friend/neighbor went through IVF or used a surrogate.” That’s when the whole conversation changes and they are so excited to help me find the perfect little outfit for this miracle baby. Somehow Finella touches them and their history in a way that allows such a tender part of them to emerge. The best is when Kim is with me, and I can say “that’s our baby in there.” People melt. And if I can soften just one person’s heart towards IVF or surrogacy, my hope is that the others they come into contact with will be offered the same tenderness that I felt from them in that moment.

6. Do you have an idea of what you’d like the birth to look like?

I’ve really let this up to Kim. She will be the superstar that day. We have asked to be in the room and I’ve asked to pull Finella out, but other than that Kim calls the shots. She has free rein to ask for what she needs and birth this baby however it’s comfortable for her. We have a midwife and Kim’s husband in the room too, and hopefully a new room in the hospital that is supposed to be closer to a “home birth feeling.” As long as Kim and Finella are safe during birth, she can do just about whatever. I already know I’ll be in awe of her strength.

7. At this point, would you consider doing surrogacy again down the road?

Wow, big question and one we’ve talked about a lot. If we had another embryo in storage, yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, we do not have any more embryos which means we would be starting IVF all over again to get some and my body is already cringing at the thought. So the short answer is no. But if there were embryos, then most definitely, yes. For now, we are going to enjoy Finella and if we feel another baby would fit well into our family, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

 

8. What’s the one thing you get asked about the most?

How did you find Kim? and Did you know her before this? This seems to be the most asked question since this process began. And I get it, it’s a unique arrangement though I often think people are also just asking themselves if they could do it. I imagine they are quickly flipping through their mental rolodex of people, wondering who they would trust to carry their child. I give them the story of how we met, which is usually followed up by, “When is she due?” and “Will you be there for the birth?” Or “What’s her name” then “How do you spell it?”

 

9. Do you recommend surrogacy to others when they ask?

Yes. I know it sounds so foreign (or at least it did for me), but it is so beautiful. I just walked with another woman this past month as she prepared for her embryo transfer to her surrogate. It is such a unique experience and I’ve had women contact me from all over the country asking for me to walk them through the process.

10. What advice do you give them?

After losing so many pregnancies, I often tell them that allowing another woman to carry your child is the most loving thing you can do as a mother. I lived with that reframe for months until I was ready to pursue surrogacy. After so many miscarriages you begin to think that maybe your uterus isn’t the most safe place, and I felt guilty for all the embryos my body couldn’t give life to and the potential future they would have had. And ultimately I came to the conclusion that if I ever wanted to give our frozen embryos a chance, the most gracious and motherly thing I could do is have them carried by someone else. Once I viewed it from that perspective, I warmed up to the idea pretty quickly. If you are dealing with protein in your urine like I was then check out the protein causes and how you can help fix it.

Whether you’re a mother to embryos, a growing fetus, or a baby in your arms, you would go to the ends of the earth to ensure their survival and wellbeing. This is no different.  It’s definitely a long journey and one of many sacrifices, but also one of much beauty and treasure.

Check back this fall for an update on Kristy. We can’t wait to meet Miss Finella Pearl!

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Beholding You Photography by Nicole Bressler

You can make donations to help fund Kristy and Nate’s miracle here.