Domestic fiction is one of my favorite subgenres, especially novels that are set in situations that are different than my normal life. Domestic fiction is usually written by, for, and about women. It is also usually told through multiple viewpoints. My latest read fits all the above criteria!
Dava Shastri’s Last Daytells the story of Dava Shastri and her family. Dava Shastri is one of the world’s wealthiest women. Devastated by a brain cancer diagnosis at the age of seventy, Dava is determined to approach her death like she approaches everything else in her life – with planning and determination.
Dava’s reputation has always been important to her. She wants her name to live on for generations. Both her public and private legacies are of utmost importance, but her family members don’t feel quite as strong about keeping the Shastri name alive.
Dava summons her four adult children, their spouses, and children to her private island where she tells them her news. In addition to having a terminal illness, Dava has also arranged for the news of her death to be released early, so that she can read the obituaries and articles written about her before she dies. Since she spent her life dedicated to the arts and to the empowerment of women, Dava expected that the articles written after her death would focus on those topics. Instead she finds the articles to be significantly more scandalous, focusing on two secrets that have the power to destroy her life, secrets she hoped would stay buried forever.
Now that her secrets are published, her children know and the fallout is not great. Dava must use what little time she has left to come to terms with the life she has lived and the various decisions that have led her to this point. Most importantly she must use that time to talk it out with her family and make peace with their past, present, and future.
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Coping with grief is hard and never-ending. As a librarian, I am constantly on the lookout for books that discuss the topic of grief in a new way. Enter author and illustrator Tyler Feder. She has written Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, what Feder describes as ‘sad but also silly and weird, just like loss’. Feder’s illustrations are soft, gentle, and simple which serve as the perfect accompaniment to her heartbreaking subject matter. This book is part cancer memoir telling the story of Feder’s mom’s death and part reflection on her motherless life. Feder gives readers a glimpse into a devastating time into her life, while also being humorous. She makes note several times throughout that this memoir is for the people who are struggling with loss who just want someone to understand and get what they are going through.
Tyler Feder loves her mom Rhonda. That has never been in doubt. As the oldest daughter, Tyler made Rhonda a mom and shared a special bond with her. No one loved more in Tyler’s life than her mom, all be it a bit blunt but full of joy. It’s hard to distill such a large personality to a single memoir, but Tyler pays devoted homage to her by weaving poignant yet piercing details throughout.
When Tyler was 19 years old, her mom died of cancer. This memoir covers everything from her first oncology appointment to the different stages of cancer to the funeral. Feder then goes a step further to show her family sitting shiva and how they adjust to the new afterward without their mother and wife in the ten years after. The art in this book is gorgeous and seeing Tyler show her love and heartbreak through her work tore at my heart as I read this book. This graphic memoir also felt like a self-help book as reading Tyler’s journey somewhat mirrored my own travels through grief. You see Feder’s grief fresh after her mother’s death as well as how she is working through it ten years later. Highly recommend this graphic memoir to anyone who is looking for a new read.
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Did you know that Investigation Discovery has a book club? Working with Random House, the ID Book Club was formed as a way for fans of Investigation Discovery to read more about crime and justice. To see a list of past book club selections, check out their website!
Pretty Thingsby Janelle Brown was one of the ID Book club’s selections and my introduction to the club. This mystery novel weave together the stories of two very different women. Although they grew up in wildly different circumstances, their life decisions lead back to a handful of similar life-forming moments that they both shared.
All Nina ever hoped for was a decent childhood and to live a life that was different than her mom’s. Nina’s mother is a con artist who hustled throughout Nina’s entire childhood in order to hopefully give her daughter a better life. Moving constantly and trying to make new friends was hard for Nina until Nina and her mom ended up in Lake Tahoe. That year living in Lake Tahoe changed Nina’s life forever, introducing her to her closest friend and first love. That year of tranquility came crashing down around them and ended with Nina and her mom running from the town in a cloud of shame. Nina worked hard and went to college, graduating with a liberal arts degree that she hoped would lead her to a legitimate career. When she gets a call saying that her mom is sick and needs her help, Nina leaves everything behind and rushes home to help her. She ends up putting her life on the line and starts pulling scams with her Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina promised herself she wouldn’t turn into her mom, but what did she expect: she learned from the best and to deny the tricks she grew up learning from her mother doesn’t make sense anymore.
Vanessa is privileged. A young heiress who has had anything and everything in life handed to her, Vanessa wants to leave her mark in the world. She wants to do better than her parents. When her plans don’t turn out quite like she hoped, Vanessa becomes an Instagram influencer. Traveling around the globe, posing for pictures in exotic locations, and being showered in free clothes and products as long as she posts pictures of herself using them has become Vanessa’s life. Being an Instagram influencer quickly overtakes and becomes her entire life. Based on her Instagram, it looks like Vanessa leads a perfect and immensely covetable life. She shouldn’t be wanting for anything. Behind that facade however, Vanessa’s life is full of tragedy. The catalyst proves to be a broken engagement, which sends Vanessa, in desperate search of solitude, to her family’s estate, Stonehaven. This sprawling mansion on Lake Tahoe is full of dark secrets that haunt Vanessa and her family.
Lake Tahoe and Stonehaven sing a siren call to Vanessa and Nina, luring both women back to the site where their lives intertwine even tighter, leading to a twisting confrontation full of revenge, deceit, duplicity, and destruction.
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There are some authors that I know I can pick up a book by and not be disappointed with what they wrote. Sandra Brown is one of them. Her books spin thrilling stories of romance and suspense that keep me wanting more from beginning to end. Brown’s novel Tailspin was my latest read/listen and I finished it in two days!
Tailspin is the riveting story of Rye Mallett and Dr. Brynn O’Neal. Mallett is known as a ‘freight dog’, a pilot who can be called to fly anywhere in the world at anytime of day in any weather. Mallett is put to the test when he is called last minute to make a flight during stormy weather in order to deliver a black padlocked box to a demanding client. With his background as a fighter pilot in Afghanistan, not much scares Mallett and he isn’t going to let the weather hold him back, even though all the airports are grounded and no other pilot would even think of flying in that weather.
Despite a rough flight, Mallett makes it to the small somewhat dangerous runway where he is to meet the doctor charged with picking up his precious mysterious cargo. Coming in for a landing, something happens to Mallett that results in a near crash. After getting off the plane, Mallett has a run-in with Dr. Brynn O’Neal, who is not the doctor that he was expecting.
Brynn is a very dedicated doctor who is loyal to her patients, sometimes to a fault. She’s concerned with getting the contents of that black padlocked box to her patient within a strict forty-eight hour deadline. If that forty-eight hour deadline passes, the potential to save her patient’s life will expire.
Mallett doesn’t trust Brynn. Even though her intentions are noble, Mallett feels like there is something that Brynn is holding back. This doesn’t bother Brynn because she doesn’t trust Mallett either. Mallett is unpredictable and is an erratic variable that threatens to destroy Brynn’s forty-eight hour deadline. Despite their uneasiness towards each other, circumstances have necessitated that the two reluctantly team up. They are soon racing against the clock, different levels of law enforcement, and people who are willing to kill for the contents of that black box for a high-level client.
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Physician-turned-journalist Don Colbert, MD offers intriguing and practical advice for optimum nutrition and wellness in Let Food Be Your Medicine: Dietary Changes Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease.Early on, Colbert shares the deceptively simple insight that we catch colds but we develop chronic diseases like Type II Diabetes or Cardiovascular disease. That is not a coincidence, either. In Latin, “Dis” refers to being “apart”, disjointed, or having a negative or “reversing force.” Ease refers “freedom from pain” or being in a tranquil or peaceful state. In essence, disease signifies a breaking away from a peaceful or tranquil state. The process of developing and solidifying disease, however, is complex and involves lifestyle & environmental factors, as well as the interplay of all systems of mind, body, and spirit.
I tend to gobble up books about food, nutrition, and wellness and am naturally obsessed with how the gut or the “microbiome”, i.e. the ecosystem living in the core of your body, is more powerful and influential over our general health & well-being than we once imagined. A discussion about the microbiome is another conversation entirely and is far beyond my scope of knowledge; but Colbert does not overlook discussing current research about the delicate ecosystem living between our brain and bowel. How curious that we may even begin to view our food cravings as tiny demands from the bacteria in our guts who have lives of their own? In essence, we are feeding them. You better believe they don’t always have your best interests in mind, either. The little “voices in your head” (or, gut, in this case) take on a whole new meaning. Read this book to dig in a little deeper as to how and why our microbiome is so influential and critical to our overall health.
Colbert mixes testimonial with current medical evidence to present a compelling argument for being mindful and deliberative when it comes to what we put into our bodies. Learn about his struggle with autoimmune disorders and how his quest to heal himself resulted in weeding nightshade foods (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes) out of his diet. Not all food is equal in its ability to nourish, heal, or harm, either, as you may know. We often take for granted that we do not innately know what foods are harmful or helpful. Many of us grew up in homes in which our parent(s) worked and perhaps did not have the time to prepare and cook whole, nourishing meals all week long. In short, eating “healthy” is not common sense. Failure to meet your daily nutrient requirements or to altogether make harmful dietary choices is not therefore some testament to your lack of willpower. Quite simply, many of us have to learn how to make better food choices, and that starts with education. If you have any curiosity whatsoever in how you can better yourself simply by changing what you put into your body, read this book.
This book is not a fix-all for all that ails you, nor does it substitute for the relationship you have with your primary care physicians or doctors. Part of what is working about healthcare is that we acknowledge that wellness involves the alignment of mind, body, and spirit or the non-physical part of a human being. Grey’s Anatomy sums up the dilemma well in one episode in which Dr. Preston Burke, esteemed neurosurgeon, argues with Dr. Cristina Yang that nurturing a patient’s spiritual state is equally as important as the medical intervention being performed, for the reason that human beings are not merely physical bodies. The non-physical parts of us require care and respect, too. Though Colbert’s book does not discuss the role of spirituality in health in great depth, he no-doubt weaves his own faith into the book (but it is not oft-putting for non-Christians). I can most certainly recall a time in my lifespan of thirty-six years when the words “soul”, “spirituality” and “Ayurveda” would have never made an appearance in a discussion about disease, illness, or health & wellbeing. But today? We are becoming more interdisciplinary & holistic in how we not only view but “treat” illness — and how we care for whole human beings (not just symptoms).
If you are even the slightest bit curious about how food can harm or heal, read this book. If you would be amazed by the prospect of eating a diet that custom made to fight diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, auto-immune disorders — read this book. Believe it or not, one of the most powerful statements that Colbert makes in this book is this: cancer, depending upon the type and staging, can and very well does constitute a chronic disease that can actually be managed like other chronic diseases not unlike COPD, heart disease, and diabetes. I don’t know about you, but aside from a cure that’s the very best next thing! Bear in mind, Colbert is not claiming to have a cure for cancer; but he lays out, in one case, a diet plan that is tailored not only to the cancer patient but to the specific stage of cancer in order to increase the chances of putting the cancer into remission…and we can do this with vegetables, micronutrients, plants–with the plentitude of healing, delicious foods that are available to us should we be inclined.
Certain movies tug at your heart strings and leave you pulling for every character to get their happy ending. Miss You Already, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, had me rooting for their friendship to stay strong and last through whatever they faced.
Miss You Already is a very powerful story that follows two best friends, Milly and Jess, through life’s many challenges. The two have been friends since childhood and have lived through many secrets, pregnancies, boyfriends, weddings, and sharing of clothes. Inseparable for as long as they can remember, both Milly and Jess are certain their relationship can survive anything. A trip to the doctor hits Milly with life-altering news, something that sincerely tests their friendship, as well as Milly’s relationship with her husband and Jess’s relationship with her husband. Everything is flipped upside down as Milly and Jess forge out a new path through their shared lives and find that even though life throws you curveballs, true friendship will last forever.
The English student in me cringes whenever someone says, “Let’s read an essay” because in my mind, the term “essay” is still equated with the five-paragraph, three-reasons-why type essays that you had to write in high school. When I was flipping through Allison Gruber’s You’re Not Edith, a book exclusively filled with autobiographical essays, I noticed that instead of the traditional format, her essays read like chunks of a story broken apart for relief, flashback, comedy, and a wide variety of other purposes. I started reading You’re Not Edith and discovered that I was in fact reading an autobiography with much shorter chapters, something that my brain found easier to digest because there were breaks where I could stop if I had to go do something else and I found that I was able to finish this book much quicker than I was other books. Books containing autobiographical essays have begun to grow on me.
In You’re Not Edith, Allison Gruber reflects upon her entire life as she’s experienced it so far. Just like in her life, Gruber takes risks when she explodes her life into these essays for readers to dissect. She pulls no punches as she describes how she tried to use her fascination with Diane Fossey to help her win her girlfriend in high school or how she was diagnosed with breast cancer as she was teaching at the collegiate level. Gruber is a hilarious writer who speaks with shocking candor and isn’t afraid to tell the truth about her struggles with cancer and how she figured that even though she wouldn’t allow others to take care of her, she would still be able to care for Bernie, a little dachshund who didn’t fit her perfect ideal of the Edith dog, but ended up being exactly what she needed.
I encourage you to pick up this book to check out her feelings on weddings, her father’s mental problems, and how she came into her own through music, drama, English, and many other interconnected things.
“When the odds were against me, I was always at my best.” When she retired at age 19, Shannon Miller did so as one of the most recognizable gymnasts in the country. The winner of seven Olympic medals and the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history, Shannon tells a story of surviving and thriving in It’s Not About Perfect.
A shy, rambunctious girl raised in Oklahoma, Shannon fell in love with gymnastics at a young age and fought her way to the top. In 1992 she won five Olympic medals after breaking her elbow in a training accident just months prior to the Games. Then, in 1996, a doctor advised her to retire immediately or face dire consequences if she chose to compete on her injured wrist. Undeterred, Shannon endured the pain and led her team, the “Magnificent Seven,” to the first Olympic team gold medal for the United States in gymnastics. She followed up as the first American to win gold on the balance beam.
Equally intense, heroic and gratifying is the story of her brutal but successful battle with ovarian cancer, a disease from which fewer than fifty percent survive. Relying on her faith and hard-learned perseverance, Shannon battled through surgery and major chemotherapy to emerge on the other side with a miracle baby girl. Her story of trial, triumph and life after cancer reminds us all that its life’s bumps and bruises that reveal our character. From early on in her career, Shannon knew that life wasn’t about perfection.
In this incredible and inspirational tale, Shannon speaks out so as to be seen and heard by thousands as a beacon of hope. (description from publisher)
First of all, don’t attempt to read the last third of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green in public. Find somewhere quiet and private so that you can read uninterrupted (because you won’t be able to stop) and where you can sob without alarming others (because unless you have a heart of stone, you’re going to cry) On the other hand, don’t let that warning scare you off – this book is also laugh-out-loud funny. It’s raw and honest and sweet and poignant and you’ll come out the other side a little different for it.
16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster has never been anything other than terminal since her diagnosis; treatments have extended her life, but there is no cure. She no longer attends school, her best friends are her parents and she has to carry an oxygen tank with her at all times. Her path is set. Then Augustus Waters – hot boy she meets at Cancer Kids Support Group – bursts into her life, and that path takes on new and completely unexpected turns both heartbreaking and hilarious. A life well lived isn’t defined by quantity; it’s defined by quality.
Hazel and Augustus find common ground beyond their illness; they laugh and bicker and watch movies together and share adventures. They fall in love. They grapple with big questions and support their friends and each other. They live the days they’re given. “It is a good life, Hazel Grace” says Augustus. And it is.
The plot here is not particularly groundbreaking or unusual – the probable outcome is fairly predictable – but the characters and their stories will keep you riveted and will stay with you long after you put the book down. Hazel and Augustus are amazing of course, but the supporting characters are also wonderful, especially their friend Issac and Hazel’s parents. There is no romanticized stereotype of the “brave cancer patient.” The people here are real – funny and sad and inquisitive and so angry, struggling with the Big Questions but also not waiting around for death. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been touched by cancer or other serious illness in their life – either yourself, a family member or a close friend or maybe all three – and you’ll recognize these emotions as real and honest. This book takes on the fear and the unknown, acknowledges them and then does battle with them. It’s a battle well worth joining.
The audiobook, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, read by the author, is bittersweet because he and the audience know his time is short. A computer professor who is aware that he has less than a year to live wants to leave his children and students a legacy of the principles, ideas and beliefs he has gathered over the years.
In this lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch is brutally honest about himself and his disease, yet he never loses his sense of humor.
Parenthood, marriage,education, science and Walt Disney are all examined. He is not falsely modest, and attributes his success to being able to learn from others and his mistakes.
It makes you wonder – what lessons you would impart to the next generation?
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