Book Review: Family Affair

IMG_0917Title: Family Affair
Author: Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Harper Collins: Lacey Lancaster always longed to be a wife and mother. However, after a painful divorce, she just wants to lay low in her charming San Francisco apartment with her beautiful Abyssinian cat, Cleo.
Everything would be wonderful if it wasn’t for her impossible neighbor, Jack Walker, who argues day and night with his girlfriend . . . and whose cat, Dog, is determined to get Cleo to succumb to his feline advances. And when Lacey discovers that Cleo’s in the family way, she’s furious that neither Jack nor his amorous animal seems terribly upset about it.
But things aren’t always what they appear. Jack’s “girlfriend” isreally his sister—and his intentions toward Lacey are quite honorable (though she’s not sure about Dog). And out of the blue, Lacey is discovering the tender joy of falling in love all over again.

My Review: Cat lovers and romance novel lovers will rejoice over FAMILY AFFAIR, a light and heartwarming story as only Macomber, the mother of sweet, tasteful romance can deliver.

Recently divorced and swearing off men, heartbroken Lacey Lancaster has a bone to pick with her neighbour Jack Walker. Jack’s cat, Dog, impregnates her Abyssinian, Cleo and Lacey wants to know what Jack (and Dog) are going to do about it. You see, Lacey intended to breed beautiful Cleo and now Dog has messed up her plans. Jack has been interested in Lacey since she moved into their San Francisco apartment complex and now he has Dog to thank for getting Lacey to let down her guard and let Jack into her life.

This is a short read about starting over and new love. Add a steaming cup of tea, a warm blanket and tuck in for a cozy afternoon.


Book Review: The Hopefuls

img_2062Title: The Hopefuls
Author: Jennifer Close
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Knopf: When Beth arrives in D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

My Review: THE HOPEFULS delivers a fun and engaging insight into political campaign life. The who’s who of Washington, D.C. flashing their security clearances and acronym employers. I’ve always found the whole D.C. political scene intriguing and glamorizing thanks to shows like Scandal and The West Wing. Close superbly blends a double narrative together about the campaign trail and it’s effect on personal relationships.

Beth and Matt trade in their posh NYC lifestyle for D.C. so Matt can join President Obama’s Inauguration Committee. Beth doesn’t fit the culture and never really acclimates and having Matt’s family close by (with a mother-in-law who treats her like an outsider) gives Beth more reason to hate D.C. When they meet Texans Jimmy and Ashleigh (Ash), the four of them hit it off. Matt’s career slows down while Jimmy’s takes off and Matt finds himself running Jimmy’s Texas Railroad Commissioner campaign. The two couples forge a close relationship and move in together during the campaign but friendships and marriages with the best intentions are tough to maintain with the strains of jealousy, tension and temptation.

I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narration, especially the Texas accents. I liked the characters despite Beth being a bit too negative and complain-y in the beginning, overall I think this is a worthy read.

Book Review: Brother

IMG_0911Title: Brother
Author: David Chariandy
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From McClelland & Stewart: An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.
Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me a free arc in exchange for my honest review. 

My Review: BROTHER is a timely short story and exploration of racism, poverty, and police brutality. This book will strike a chord with humankind. Chariandy doesn’t mince words as this story quickly unfolds about an immigrant Trinidadian family who moved to Canada to find the American Dream.

Brothers, Francis and Michael come of age during the late 80’s / early 90’s. Immigrants were not welcomed and received backlash to go back where they came from. Their mother works long days and wants better for her sons. Food is scarce and racism prevalent. The boys love hip hop music and Francis has high hopes the music scene will get him out of their rundown Scarborough neighbourhood. The brothers are close and do everything together but Michael has a hard time fitting in and navigating the tough crowd Francis befriends. Francis is the older brother and in the absence of a father falls in line as protector and shoulders the responsibility of income also leaving little in the way of being a child. Their mother has one expectation of them and that’s not to screw up this opportunity.

This is not a feel-good story. The narrative intensifies and the final scene is numbing. This book is about brotherly love, social injustice and survival. It felt cold and distant but it’s an important story that’s timely and appropriate for diverse reading.

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

IMG_0895Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste NG
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Penguin: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

My Review: Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a finished copy of Little Fires Everywhere in exchange for my honest review.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE exceeded my expectations in every possible way! Ng’s narrative and plot are top notch and the characters are heroic in their own right. I was 100% invested in this book from page one! I was every bit a part of Shaker Heights community as this brilliant cast of characters and personally woven into the family complexities brimming with every happy and heart breaking moment as I turned each page eager for more.

This is a story about family and community. Shaker Heights, Ohio is proud of its rules, lifelong residents and ordinariness. The Richardson’s are an upper class family who from the outside appear to have it all. Elena is a reporter and her husband an attorney. Their four children are typical, likeable kids. When newcomers Mia and Pearl Warren move into the Richardson’s rental house the family is instantly drawn to the mother and daughter. Mia is an artist who holds down a number of odd jobs to provide for Pearl. She is mysterious and wise and exudes compassion, empathy, courage – I completely and utterly adored her!

Elena and Mia find themselves on opposite sides of a custody battle involving Elena’s longtime friend and a poor immigrant mother. Shaker Heights is divided, damaging secrets are revealed and relationships strained. There are so many complexities woven into this story – an analysis of motherhood and family, vengeance, looking at a family through rose coloured glasses – so, so much intrigue!

I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s beautifully written and one I will hold onto forever and read again.


Book Review: Every Last Word

Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Hyperion Teens
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Hyperion: If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling. Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

My Review: When I finished EVERY LAST WORD I immediately thought about how hard it is to attain and maintain friendships during the difficult teenaged years, especially with superficial types like the Eights, but moreover when you throw a disorder like OCD into the mix. I applaud Sam on so many fronts; holding herself together so her friends perceive her as ‘normal’, her devotion to the swim team, her love for Poet’s Corner, her relationship with A.J. and just being real even when it’s not cool – I loved everything about Sam!

And as much as I admired Sam I also empathized with her. When she opens up to her friends, the Eights about her disorder and faces the reality that she’s not getting better my heart ached for her. She is so likeable – compassionate and caring and I completely and utterly adored her relationship with A.J., who was an oddball by her friends’ standards, but her love for him is too strong to let the Eights come between them. I felt a range of emotions with this one – happiness, heartbreak, acceptance, courage.

I listened to the audiobook version and did not relate at all to the narrator. This book is for teens and the narrators voice is sultry, which I found wholly inappropriate for this book.

Book Review: Still Life

IMG_0179Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 17, 2006
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Minotaur: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

My Review: I fell in love with the quaint and charming Québécois village of Three Pines, the picturesque setting of STILL LIFE. Three Pines is the kind of place you stumble upon accidentally and never want to leave. It’s an artistic community filled with eccentric folks who have known each other their whole lives and no one locks their doors at night and everyone counts on one another.

This tiny community is rocked to its core when longtime resident Jane Neal turns up dead Thanksgiving morning murdered. The townspeople want to believe Jane’s death is a hunting accident but according to Gamache this is no accident and he must confront the killer before another resident of Three Pines suffers a similar fate.

What you won’t get from STILL LIFE is a mystery leaving you on the edge of your seat. Penny pens a literary and sophisticated mystery with a narrative that sucks you into Three Pines quirkiness. And Inspector Gamache is every bit gallant, a highly respected member of the Surete du Quebec, a noble man who is amorous of his wife Reine-Marie.

STILL LIFE is the beautiful start to a series that I look forward to continuing and further getting to know the idiosyncracies of Three Pines!


Book Review: I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980

IMG_0860Title: I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Publisher: Scholatic
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Scholastic: It was one the most beautiful mountains in America, Mt. St. Helens, in Washington State. But what many didn’t know was that this peaceful mountain had an explosive past. For more than a century, it had been quiet. But below ground, pressure had been building, and soon, Kaboom! Mt. St. Helens would erupt with terrifying fury. Eleven-year-old Sally Tanner knew the mountain well, and like many, she never imagined that this serene wilderness could turn deadly. But on May 10th, 1980, Sally finds herself in the middle of the deadliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Trapped on the mountain, she must escape clouds of poisonous gas, boiling rivers, and landslides of rock, glacial ice, and white-hot debris. The newest book in the I Survived series will take readers into one of the most dramatic events in recent U.S. history where they will meet one of nature’s most devastating forces.

My Review: I’m drawn to the I Survived series because I like learning about real life natural disasters and I want my kids to learn about these important events in a context that’s fun and engaging.

There are two reasons I grabbed this book: First, I was six years old when Mount St. Helens erupted and fascinated by this enormous and catastrophic event. Second, this book is the only one in the series that features a girl as the main character and on the book cover, and as a mother of three girls this is pretty empowering.

This story covers the fast-paced action of events leading up to and after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and also treasures that are near and dear to us. Jessie loses the camera her late father left her in the eruption. I didn’t quite understand the reason for adding the part about the witch in the forest because it didn’t lend to the story.

I bought this book for my daughters and I listened to the audiobook for this review and we all enjoyed it.