Review: Class Mom

Class Mom Book Review
Title: Class Mom
Author: Laurie Gelman
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Fiction | Chick-Lit | Contemporary Women

About Class Mom: Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom—or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max—this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the “wisest” candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents’ response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of “special” brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen’s methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen’s past, a hyper-sensitive “allergy mom,” a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.

Review: Meet Jen Dixon. She’s one part snarky, one part plain-spoken, and she’s the kindergarten class mom who has been around this block before. I devoured this audiobook, read by the author, which is the best audio delivery, in two days!  I was so thoroughly entertained and humoured – this book was just what I needed after reading so many serious and heavier reads lately.

Jen’s take no prisoners approach to being class mom had me rolling from the get-go. I absorbed her emails to the parents and teacher. And I’m fairly certain all of us school mother’s have known a Jen at some point, which is why this story is so relatable.

The book is in no way deep but as the story unfolds Jen becomes more than the snarky class mom. She has a heart of gold and is a little misunderstood, a lot more experienced, and probably a tad bit fed up.

This was a really great read (or listen!) and I highly recommend it if you need a dose of laugh out loud hilarity.

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Review: The Brutal Telling

The Brutal Telling
Title:
The Brutal Telling | Book 5 Inspector Gamache Series
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur
Publication Date: September 22, 2009
Genre: Fiction | Mystery

About The Brutal Telling: Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

Review: Welcome back to the remote village of Three Pines. A place you stumble upon accidentally. A quaint and charming village brimming with eccentric folks with a penchant for attracting murder.

The Brutal Telling is the pivotal book in the Inspector Gamache series. Penny sets aside her gentler and drawn out mystery that I grew accustomed to in the previous four books. She severs the coziness of Three Pines and instills a hard edge leaving me pondering its future when Gamache arrests one of Three Pines beloved. And I loved it! Up to this point the series was inching towards blandness but Penny quickly thwarted the hum-drums.

The murder trail leads Gamache to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) to meet with indigenous people’s and investigate totem poles. The plot is infused in rich detail and cultural inspiration and I was drawn to the references of Emily Carr’s paintings about vanishing indigenous cultures in British Columbia.

Book Review: The Cruelest Month

F26B85A9-DB7B-4826-BC2B-2327EC215334Title: The Cruelest Month, Inspector Gamache Book 3
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur
Publication Date: March 4, 2008
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Minotaur: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

My Review: The Inspector Gamache Series gets better with each book and I am 100- percent invested in this series and all the charm, dysfunction and mystery Three Pines imparts. Book 3, THE CRUELEST MONTH, takes us back to Three Pines at Easter to a ‘cleansing’ of the Hadley House, but the seance goes wrong when one of the troupe dies.

Chief Inspector Gamache and crew return to Three Pines to solve the ‘whodunnit’ mystery with all the flair rendered, after all he is head of Sûreté du Québec. I am smitten with Gamache’s procedure for solving his cases; he is patient, inquisitive and listens to everyone. But moreover I admire his mantra of wisdom he demands of his subordinates: I don’t know, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I need help.

What I liked:

  • I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ralph Cosham and cannot praise his narration enough!
  • Inspector Gamache’s gentle heroism.
  • The delicacies – baguettes and cheese boards.
  • Ruth Zardo – her abrasiveness is part of her charm.

What I didn’t like:

  • The seance was my least favourite part.

Overall:
I cannot recommend this series enough. A modern day version of Agatha Christie in a French-Canadian setting, you will fall in love with Inspector Gamache!

Book Review: From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

273CA794-CE9C-43E1-8C5D-E9554330853CTitle: From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 2007 (originally published in 1967)
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Simon & Schuster: When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

My Review: FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER is a testament of timeless literature and it’s no surprise sealed itself a Newbery Award and still a favourite among both children and adults fifty years later.

I immediately fell in love with Claudia and Jamie. Their plan to run away and take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and learn alongside the visiting school groups exudes creativity and yearning for knowledge alongside their financial savviness and street smarts sucked me into this unique story.

The brief afterward is every bit as good as the story itself. The comparisons between then and now are thought provoking and nostalgic.

This story is good old fashioned literature at its finest and a book that should be on every child’s bookshelf.

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.

August Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0843Hi, Book Friends! It’s the end of August and the end of summer. I read 10 books the month of August and don’t know if it’s because I had that much more free time or neglected some responsibilities, or both! And, all of these books with the exception of one were 4 or 5-star reviews – woohoo!

MRS. FLETCHER – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.
THE GODDESSES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with.
MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!
DEAD WOMAN WALKING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them.
LAB GIRL – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.
THE FUTURES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008.
THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about an Italian immigrant family moving to LA to strike it rich in commercials in the early 1990’s. The themes are funny, disturbing, moving but most of all spot on. (Book Review coming soon)

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han Book ReviewTitle: P.S. I Still Love You
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

My Review: P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU is the follow up to TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE and every bit as charming and heartfelt. I listened to the audiobook version for this installment too because Laura Knight Keating’s narration is amazing.

It’s tricky writing a young adult novel that captures the readership of both young and old and Han brilliantly masters it. Some YA books leave me rolling my eyes because they are too silly but Han’s writing engages me and transports me back to my teenaged years. Her characters are lovable, sharp and witty, and when I want to dislike them I can’t because each one has a strong moral compass.

The all too familiar plot has Lara Jean stuck choosing between Peter Kavinsky and John Ambrose McClaren. Like most teenaged boys Peter does not wear his heart on his sleeve and his facade is somewhat coarse which makes me want to scream but on the inside he’s loving and compassionate.  No spoilers here – read the book to find out who Lara Jean chooses!

Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.  This is a young adult novel with mature content so it may not be suitable for all young audiences.