Book Review: Why Mummy Drinks

IMG_0902Title: Why Mummy Drinks
Author: Gill Sims
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 19, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Harper Collins: It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’
But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.
Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this free arc in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: Mom’s who feel undervalued, overworked and spread thin will love and relate to WHY MUMMY DRINKS, a laugh out loud story about an exhausted mom who loves her husband and her children dearly but needs a drink (or two) to see her through.

Ellen is like so many mom’s out there. She’s taken a lesser profile job to cut childcare costs and be available for her children. She dreams about what a perfect day looks like – breakfast made to order for her beloved Peter and Jane, dishes done, house tidy and a delicious dinner put into the slow cooker. But, instead her day goes like this: oversleep, throw cereal in front of children for breakfast, rush out the door dragging the kids and dog to school, argue with kids after school about everything and realize you forgot to turn on the slow cooker at 5:30pm. Drink wine.

There were so many laugh out loud moments but one is most memorable for me. Ellen’s husband Simon’s off-the-grid, hippy sister announces her family will drive down for Christmas and crash with Ellen and Simon. It will be lovely for her six children to visit their cousins! Over the span of their visit Ellen will endure Louisa (Amaris – her goddess name) breastfeeding all six of her children, two of the children won’t use the toilet, one uses the floor and the other the garden and Amaris whipping up the nastiest smoothie (trust me on this one!) that her husband Bardo contributes to. Oh and Ellen’s self absorbed sister invites her family too and fusses over bringing Christmas pudding. But it wouldn’t be Christmas without your dearest friends so Ellen invites her besties, Sam and Hannah – the more the merrier!

This is a light-hearted and humorous take on everyday life as a mom and wife. There are high moments and low moments but after every moment it seems there’s always room for a drink.

 

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Book Review: Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta Book ReviewTitle: Mrs. Fletcher
Author: Tom Perrotta
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Scribner: Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

My Review: Thank you to Scribner and Netgalley for providing me this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance. The topics explored cut to the emotional quick as most readers will be familiar in some way. But they are presented in a light manner which keeps the story upbeat. Tom Perrotta’s well-defined characters, engaging narrative and thought provoking subject matter really took this story to another level. Written from both Eve and Brendan’s perspectives, I felt like Perrotta nailed it perfectly coming from both angles.

Eve Fletcher is a single mom and brand new empty nester. After getting her son Brendan off to college she channels her loneliness in a gender studies course at the local community college. One night she receives a wildly anonymous text, U R my Milf! This text sets the wheels in motion for Eve’s indulgence in MILFateria.com, an erotic website that gets mileage out of middle aged women.

Eve is enjoying her new found freedom, a student pondering feminist theory, she’s drinking and dancing, exploring her sexuality and making stupid mistakes. One evening things really heat up after a small gathering of friends and this event is the defining moment where Eve realizes she’s just plain lonely. And it doesn’t help that her married friends plaster their Facebook walls with sappy Valentine’s Day messages.

Meanwhile, Brendan’s jerk-like behavior isn’t winning anyone over at college. After finally getting a date with pretty Amber he screws up any possibility of a relationship due to his chauvinistic sexual behaviour. His roommate Zack has pretty much ditched him because he doesn’t like the person he becomes when he’s around Brendan. He quickly realizes he is a big disappointment on campus and drops out of school and moves back home.

Eve’s freedom is stifled with Brendan at home again. She gives up taking another class at the community college to spare Brendan the embarrassment of running into his mom at school. Her freedom and carefree lifestyle is quickly swapped out for domesticity as she falls back into daily life as ‘mom’.

That hot and heavy night plays over in Eve’s head as she comes dangerously close to making a regrettable mistake. Fighting back her inner desires not a moment too soon, she offers up one lasting memory that is sure to never fade away.

I think the biggest takeaway from this book is our views and acceptance of others. This really came thru in Brendan’s transition as the story progressed. I think anyone who enjoys an entertaining story will appreciate this one. It’s light, funny and interesting from start to finish.

June Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0628Happy Summer! Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids so we are officially on summer break. The plan is to enjoy a couple weeks of downtime including chilling at the beach and pool, which is code for R-E-A-D-I-N-G. Mid-month I’m taking my kiddos to visit my parents for 3 weeks – woo hoo! We will be swimming, shopping, sewing and reading. My mom is a huge reader so I look forward to lots of book discussions with her.

I read some great books in June. It’s a toss-up between Beartown and UNSUB for my favourite. Both were amazing stories that kept me fully engaged from the first page to the last page. What are you reading this summer?

The People We Hate at the Wedding – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
The People We Hate at the Wedding is scores of family dynamics and dysfunction. It was like watching an upper echelon reality show chock-full of painful moments and endless entertainment.

The Fourth Monkey – ⭐️⭐️ / 5
The Fourth Monkey is portrayed as a cross between Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. Both movies are creepy, have disturbing aspects, literally keep you on edge but most of all stay with you. Years later you still remember those movies and may re-watch them. The Fourth Monkey has none of those attributes. It did not check off those typical suspense / thriller checkboxes for me. I am surprised because a bit of research into J.D. Barker and he has some near-award worthy books out there, unfortunately this one isn’t one of them.

Beartown – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book can be summarized in one word: POWERFUL! Beartown instilled emotion in me that made my heart want to explode from page one. Backman transported me into a place where I could feel the pain of every resident who inhabited Beartown, flailing on the cusp of survival but longing for so much more.

Chemistry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Chemistry is a uniquely written story that reads like a non-fiction book. Wang’s brilliant depiction of an unnamed woman who recounts why she left a chemistry PhD program is coursely humourous. This kind of fiction writing is a departure from what I would normally pick up and read but I am so glad I ventured outside of my reading comfort zone. This book is written like a succinct diary and reads quickly so if you are looking for a book in between heavier stories this one is perfect.

Sweet Home Cowboy – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This was my first book from the Love at the Chocolate Shop series and I thought it was a cute story. This was a pretty big variation in my reading choice. I normally don’t read romance-y books and definitely not western’s but this was light on the western romance. I thought it was entertaining and quick to read – perfect for summertime sitting poolside or at the beach.

UNSUB – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
UNSUB is the most intense and engrossing book I have read, which speaks volumes because I have read many true crime books. This book is fiction but Meg Gardiner made it feel like true crime. The story is a takeoff of the Zodiac Killer that haunted the Bay Area in the 60’s and 70’s but with a dialled up creepy factor. This book is not for the squeamish – it’s graphic and cuts to the quick, but totally suitable for any true crime lover. And the best part, a sequel is coming! This is a series I look forward to and know I will dig into.

The Secrets of Married Women – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Jill, Wendy and Leigh are best friends, each have very different personalities. Jill is married to Rob of 10 years, they adore each other but can’t have children because Rob is infertile. Wendy and Neil buried their baby daughter Nina and Wendy has never recovered from the loss but rarely complains and puts on a happy face. Leigh’s husband, Lawrence is a stay at home dad with OCD. He loves her dearly, would do anything for her but she no longer feels that spark with him and finds him a bit of a wuss.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book is super-cute! I listened to the audio book version narrated by Laura Knight Keating. Her narration is amazingly authentic as if Lara Jean herself were reading the story out loud. This book is entertaining and fast-paced making it a perfect summertime read.

Book Review: Chemistry

Chemistry by Weike Wang Book ReviewTitle: Chemistry
Author: Weike Wang
Publisher: Knopf
Format: Ebook
Verdict: Read it
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Knopf: Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

My Review: Chemistry is a uniquely written story that reads like a non-fiction book. Wang’s brilliant depiction of an unnamed woman who recounts why she left a chemistry PhD program is coursely humourous. This kind of fiction writing is a departure from what I would normally pick up and read but I am so glad I ventured outside of my reading comfort zone. This book is written like a succinct diary and reads quickly so if you are looking for a book in between heavier stories this one is perfect.

The main character reaches a boiling point in her academic career and walks away from the program when she fails to make the leap from technician to scientist. She suffers a breakdown and her boyfriend, Eric, who keeps asking her to marry him, and she repeatedly puts him off, suggests she seek professional help. During her counselling sessions, with ‘the shrink’, the character takes us thru her upbringing as an only child of Chinese immigrant parents, their own personal struggles coming to the United States and the high expectations they placed on her. She wonders what it is like growing up in Eric’s family having your mother slip notes of encouragement into your lunch box every day in contrast to her dysfunctional family. Her parents do not get along with each other, often throw things in the house and show her no compassion and understanding.

What I really enjoyed about this book is how the main character’s ramblings are random but purposeful. They are humourously dry, totally factual and every bit entertaining. What I found unique is Wang’s decision to name only one character in the story, Eric, and everyone else was a descriptor; the shrink, the best friend, the lab mate, the dog. I can only speculate that Wang did this to drive home the importance Eric was to the unnamed woman.

The ending was abrupt and I would have liked to see where the unnamed woman’s future took her but overall it was an enjoyable read.

 

Summer Reading List 2017

This is a loosely curated list of books I think are great summer reads covering several genres.  Some of these books I have already read and highly recommend to you, others are from my extensive to-be-read (TBR) list which I’m excited to read and a few will be published this summer.

It is likely this summer book list will continue evolving throughout the summer.  As I read new books that I think are summer-worthy reads I will add them here so please check back!

UNSUB by Meg GardinerTitle: UNSUB (review coming soon!)
Author: Meg Gardiner
Genre: Suspense & Thriller | Crime Mystery
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
From Dutton: A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

The Forever Summer by Jamie BrennerTitle: The Forever Summer
Author: Jamie Brenner
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
From Little, Brown and Company: When a DNA test reveals long-buried secrets, three generations of women reunite on Cape Cod for the homecoming of a lifetime.

The Arrangement by Sarah DunnTitle: The Arrangement
Author: Sarah Dunn
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
From Little, Brown and Company: A hilarious and emotionally charged novel about a couple who embark on an open marriage-what could possibly go wrong?

Dark Matter by Blake CrouchTitle: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Suspense & Thriller | Science Fiction
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
From Crown Publishing: – “Are you happy with your life?”

 

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin KwanTitle: China Rich Girlfriend
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Fiction – Women’s
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
From Knofp Doubleday: From the bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians comes a deliciously fun story of family, fortune, and fame in Mainland China.

Bear Town by Fredrik BackmanTitle: Beartown
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Fiction – Literary, Humourous
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
From Atria Books: People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys…

Ginny Moon by Benjamin LudwigTitle: Ginny Moon
Author: Benjamin Ludwig
Genre: Fiction – Coming of Age, Family Life, Literary
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
From Park Row Books: Ginny Moon is an illuminating look at one girl’s journey to find her way home. In this stunning debut, Benjamin Ludwig gives a voice to the voiceless, reminding us that often we only hear those who speak the loudest, and there’s much to be learned by opening up our ears and our hearts.

The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionTitle: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Genre: Fiction – Romance, Humourous
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
From Simon & Schuster: The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers…

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen WaiteTitle: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing
Author: Jen Waite
Genre: Biography & Memoir | Psychology
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
From Penguin Random House: What do you do when you discover that the person you’ve built your life around never existed? When “it could never happen to me” does happen to you?

The Hatching by Ezekiel BooneTitle: The Hatching
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Genre: Science Fiction | Suspense | Horror
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
From Atria Books: An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.

Book Review: The People We Hate At The Wedding

The People We Hate At The Wedding by Grant GinderTitle: The People We Hate at the Wedding
Author: Grant Ginder
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Format: Netgalley Digital ARC
Verdict: Read it!
Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Flatiron Books: Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins.
They couldn’t hate it more.

My Review: The People We Hate at the Wedding is scores of family dynamics and dysfunction. It was like watching an upper echelon reality show chock-full of painful moments and endless entertainment.

This was my first Grant Ginder read and it won’t be my last.  The People We Hate storyline and plot were so well developed.  Ginder has a devilish knack for drawing you into unlikable characters and wanting to get to know them – he is a gifted writer!

Early on I found the characters somewhat unlikable and a bit abrasive but as the story unfolds so do their personalities, which at first glance are mere facades.  The story is told from several points of view, which works well for me because the characters are fleshed out and I get a sense of who they really are and feel drawn into the story.

My favourite character is Paul.  He drinks a lot, is full of ups, downs and pure drama – likely from imbibing too often!  I got a chuckle out of his shenanigans throughout the story.  He is a caseworker with a jerk for a boss and a crazy caseload – literally!  He recently followed his professor boyfriend, Mark to Philadelphia.  Post tenure track promotion, Mark has become dismissive and patronizing towards Paul and to make matters worse wants an open relationship – inviting others into their bedroom for casual sex.  Estranged from his mother, Donna for three years, Paul has no idea that his father harboured bigoted feelings towards his sexuality and his mother fell on her own sword protecting Paul from the truth.  Towards the end of the book he tries to right his wrong with Donna, which gets him in a hilarious predicament winding up in a foreign jail the eve of his half-sister’s wedding.  He really does wear his emotions / heart on his sleeve!

Beneath all of the humour are the real issues guiding the characters.  Paul’s sister Alice, likened to a train wreck, is really a broken soul (thanks to Mexico) and lonely.  Their half-sister Eloise isn’t a spoiled brat with a trust fund.  She wants to be a big sister and protect them but lacks understanding who Paul and Alice really are.

I like digging into great family dynamic books because they are easy to relate to, funny and entertaining.  I think anyone who likes a good laugh, drama and well-rounded characters will also enjoy The People We Hate at the Wedding.

Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for a free digital ARC of this book.  My review is my own.

May Book Wrap-Up

The Arrangement, Crazy Rich Asians, Dumplin', Into the WaterHello Readers! This is the time of year where everything seems to ramp up instead of slow down. My kids have one more month of school until summer break (I live in Canada) and on top of their regular school day and extra curricular activities come piling on performances, Sports Day, end of year teacher gifts, etc. Our weather has been pretty summery the last two weeks so I’m in summer mode – swimming pools, the beach, camping, visiting grandparents!

May was a good reading month for me. I imbibed in The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. Any month where I read two 5-star books is a good month!

The Arrangement – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

This is THE book of the year, for me, and the one I am recommending to everyone. The Arrangement is hilarious times ten – a total riot!  Sarah Dunn is a brilliant writer. Her character and plot development were on point and I found the characters very relatable, they were just like you and me. Lucy and Owen are real people managing everyday life with their autistic son, Wyatt. All couples married ten or more years should read this book.  Dunn had me in hysterics with this one.

Opinion: Highly recommend!

Crazy Rich Asians – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

After reading this book I wondered what took so long for me to join the Kevin Kwan trilogy party. I devoured this book quickly and thought it was super funny and entertaining. I found myself drifting into Rachel’s shoes wondering if I could handle Nick’s family with such grace and in the end I decided I would not be able tolerate the superficial shallowness inflicted on her – my hat goes off to Rachel!  It has taken a lot for me not to immediately jump into the next book in the series, China Rich Girlfriend. When I fall in love with a series, like this one, I need to add a bit of distance between the books otherwise the stories begin to feel diluted.

Opinion: Highly recommend!

Dumplin’ – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

I listened to the audiobook version of Dumplin’ and really enjoyed Eileen Stevens’ narration. The story takes place in small town Texas so it’s ideal to listen to it read with a southern drawl. It added an authenticity to a story I may not have enjoyed as much if I were reading it. The take home message here is body image acceptance. Sixteen year old Willowdean Dickson, known as Dumplin’ (the nickname her mother gave her) is a fat girl with a big personality. She’s well versed in defending her size to her mother and her peers. I admired Willow’s tough-girl exterior because sixteen is a challenging age without body shaming. Underneath the tough exterior Willow is like the rest of us – she harbours insecurities which is the pivotal point in the story.

Opinion: Recommend

Into the Water – ⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

Into the Water was swirling with hype – lots of hype. Unfortunately there was no substance behind the hype. After TGOTT, which I though was good not great, this book was a let down and here is why: Hawkins cast such a dreadfully depressive mood on this story; the men were mysogonistic (same with TGOTT) and everyone else seemed pathetic. I’m casting some pretty big stones here but the hype really was too big for this book. And now nearly every suspense / thriller on the shelves is lumped into the same vein as TGOTT and Into the Water. I’m pulling away from titles advertised this way. There were way too many characters in Into the Water (too much time spent confused and re-reading), we didn’t know much about them and they were unlikable. I know I’m an outlier here as the book has quite a following. It just didn’t work for me.

Opinion: Don’t bother

Have you read any of these books and if so what did you think?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

I will publish my summer reading list shortly – I have some really good books lined up!