What I’m Reading
It’s been awhile since I’ve talked books. Here are a few more reviews of some (lucky) books that made it out of the TBR Pile* and onto my nightstand.
*Definition of TBR (To Be Read) Pile: an ever-growing stack of books that an avid reader is “definitely going to read some day.” Usually the pile gets bigger, not smaller.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
Adult Fiction, Mystery
So get this: there is an entire series of books that combines baking and good ol’ fashioned who-done-it murder mysteries. I was floored too when I first heard of this series by Joanne Fluke. It’s about a baker/coffee shop owner named Hannah who solves mysteries. And to make it sweeter, each book also contains recipes of the desserts mentioned in the book! I was so excited and so sure that this would be a winner, that I made #1 in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder my first read of 2022.
Too good to be true?
Yes, it was.
I really really really wanted to like this book. C’mon, a coffee/bake shop owner really could make a good sleuth. They hear everything! But no, this is not how this novel unfolded. Hannah’s job is not much more than a biography note and an excuse to always be bribing people with cookies, as she strikes out to solve a crime at the behest of her cop brother-in-law, who is desperate for her help so he can close a big case and make detective. (I’m sorry, what?)
I’m more than willing to suspend a little reality for fiction’s sake, but this was already a hard sell for me. Then it got worse:
- Hannah’s mother is constantly setting her up with men and shaming her for being unmarried.
- Meanwhile, Hannah’s sister is described as being a “hobby mother” for having a job and sending her daughter to preschool.
- Women in college are stereotyped as either being so dumb that they flunk out, or only there to earn an “Mrs. Degree.”
- The outdated words “Indian” and “retarded” are used.
- A woman admits to being physically abused by her husband, and nothing is done about it because he’s “in therapy” and only hits her occasionally now.
- There is a scene where Hannah uncovers evidence of multiple sexual assaults, only to decide all on her own that it would be too embarrassing for the victims to dredge it up, so she destroys the evidence.
I remember actually flipping to the front of the book mid-read to check the copyright date. I was expecting 1950’s not 2000! I can’t even give this book the “product of its time” defense. Apparently this series is very popular and has even been adapted into movies for Hallmark, but it would take a lot of convincing to get me to give it a second chance after the first book left such a poor taste in my mouth. (Pun fully intended.)
A Brief History of Stigma by Ashley L. Peterson
Adult Non-Fiction, Textbook/Academic Paper
I discovered this book through blogging. Author Ashley L. Peterson is a blogger herself and writes about mental health at her blog: Mental Health at Home. She found my blog because of its tags and followed me. Then I followed her. And here we are.
To say that she knows her stuff is an understatement. Ashley is a pharmacist, turned mental health nurse, turned mental health patient, after experiencing a severe depressive episode. She writes extensively about mental health on her blog and in her books, and can give perspective on medication and treatment from both the medical community’s point of view and a patient’s point of view.
A Brief History of Stigma is her latest book. She looks at stigma against mental health disorders and those who experience them throughout history, the ways that modern mental health campaigns have tried to combat stigma, and evaluates what seems to be working and what isn’t.
As someone who battles Depression and Anxiety daily, it was both a disturbing and a hopeful read. It’s not pleasant reading about what people just like me went through only one or two generations ago, but it certainly causes me to be very thankful!
As a note to potential readers, I will warn you that this is a very academic book. It’s written like a textbook. It’s a good read, but it’s not the kind of thing you pack on vacation. You’ll want to approach it with a research mindset and take it in small bites.
My Life With Karma by Travis Sackett
Adult Non-Fiction, Memoir
Of all the undergraduate courses I took as a Criminal Justice major, not even one offered any clarity on how to survive serving time as a former officer.
And so Travis Sackett, former law enforcement officer and security detail to the governor, found himself serving jail time after injuries took him down a path of prescription drug addiction.
I discovered this book in a Facebook group called “The Book Hangout Spot.” Basically it’s a bunch of book nerds reviewing books, promoting books, sharing reading memes, and drooling jealously over photos of each other’s bookshelves. It came highly recommended, and at only $1.25 for the Kindle Edition, I really had nothing to lose. It is easily the best $1.25 I have spent.
This memoir is a very vulnerable account of childhood abuse, addiction, mental illness, and the roles that law enforcement and mental health professionals play in it. It truly helps one understand how a person can get caught in a cycle of repeat brushes with the law as their past keeps restricting their future options for living a clean, financially stable life, and their root mental health issues go untreated or misdiagnosed. It’s a read that should cause us all to have a little more compassion for others.
The title My Life with Karma references “Karma,” Sackett’s rescue dog who ended up rescuing him by being a motivation and a calming presence through detoxing and the long road ahead.
I’d recommend this one to just about anybody.
Check out What I’m Reading for more book reviews.
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