Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Margot Cary had been curious about her biological dad for a long time, but nothing ever tempted her enough to leave big city life for a pack of estranged relatives and their rural southern lake life. Until a giant embarrassment at work got her fired – and blackballed from the industry. When a McCready relative offered her a job, she reluctantly went for it.

I loved that Margot took her job seriously at the Funeral Home/Bait Shop. I mean, this girl gave 100% every day. She even showed up in heels. I think Harper did a fantastic job with the cousin relationships, making them believable and three-dimensional without casting a shadow over the main events. And the main events? Meeting her dad of course, and … drum roll … a little sweet southern romance. Except the guy is pretty much just as southern as she is. I appreciated that Harper had Margot stay true to her non-southern-belle self!

This book had a little bit of humor (perfect milieu in the funeral home), and a lot of spunk. One liners abounded as Margot tried to take over running a town event. I think I also read a few Bless Your Hearts, and Harper provided some physical humor as well. All that fun was a good respite from the ever serious issue of Margot wanting to repair the relationship with her dad. Margot even used humor herself when uncertain about her romantic situation.

All in all, I loved this slice of southern life, with fresh characters I believed in, a big and loving family to find comfort in, and a couple of city folk who were making lake life their own.

-calliope

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Review: Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

Maybe not my favourite of David’s (NOT DAVE) books, but it was the most telling for me. It was fascinating to note the difference from the start to the finish. How different he was at the start. Still somewhat sarcastic and funny, but I felt that there wasn’t much enjoyment (I guess that’s pretty understandable when you’re sleeping in vomit covered rooms and showering in tubs that have your own vomit in them).

A couple of things. It was a lightbulb moment for me when David writes in his diary towards the end about his birthday wish. When he wished for not more…but for less. When he reflects how he can just go and buy what strikes his fancy, whilst in the past he was content with just being able to borrow a book for a library and have a cup of coffee uninterrupted at McDonald’s. I imagine we have all been there. Hopefully we are all in a better place than we were a couple of dozen years ago. I mean that’s how it’s meant to work. You work hard and then you can enjoy and stress less as you’re older….but how nice to remember that you were perfectly able to survive with less and still be happy. Seriously…it was a stop the book for a moment and reflect moment for me.

Another thing. Poor Hugh. I mean seriously….Poor poor Hugh. And thank goodness for Hugh. The honesty in David and Hugh’s relationship, in even a few short sentences from a diary entry…well…it’s amazing…and humbling as well. I wonder where David would be if he hadn’t met Hugh. I also wonder where Hugh would be. Talk about two opposites attracting. And the strengths of one complimenting the other…whilst the weaknesses of one smooth the rough edges off the other at the same time. I just imagine a household where there is a lot of eye rolling on both sides!

Another thing…I challenge ANYONE to read one of Sedaris’ novels without laughing out loud. I just don’t think it can be done.

Finally, when I’ve thought of diaries, or have kept journals in the past, I always imagined they had to have some sort of deep thought process…or that they had to be pages and pages long. Now I know they don’t have to be daily…and they don’t have to be word for word. They can be random. They can be funny. They can be sad. They can be angry. They can be just a single sentence. They don’t have to thought provoking…but funnily enough, a single sentence about an observation of a stranger CAN be though provoking!

So glad he published this one. Sure, I’ve read his other books and I know he’s had a substance and alcohol problem…but reading this novel really was an eye opener for what has really made David Sedaris the person that he is today. From social attitudes, how strangers have treated him, from family, to jobs, to being poor, from teaching, from lack of taking control, from a thousand different things that have shaped him…I think I love him even more…as if that was possible…and as only David can make you feel, I at times, absolutely dislike him…but that’s only the social pressure that says you shouldn’t allow people to say some of the things he does out loud….but I can’t help it…his honesty is one of the reasons I love him the most…and how can you stay annoyed at someone whilst at the same time you’re laughing your head off as well?

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Review: The Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin

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Yes, this is what might technically categorized as a children’s book.  But my reasons for reviewing it on this blog are many.  First of all, I’m a second grade teacher so much of what  I read falls into this category.  Plus, the holiday gifting season is upon us and books do truly make the best gifts.  And the best reason of all, it’s really a funny book!  In fact, so funny in parts that I couldn’t get the next word out as I was reading it to my class.

So there are these chickens.  Four of them, to be exact.  And there’s the mama chick, Moosh.  Oh and there’s J.J. the dog.  He’s in charge of keeping the chickens safe.  This first book sets the stage for future stories before diving headfirst into the mystery of “the big and scary thing” that Tail the squirrel finds in the yard.  The chickens take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

Without a doubt, it’s juvenile humor.  But any humor is good.  And I promise, any young person you read this story to or with will enjoy it.  Plus, it’s the first in a series that will appeal to all kinds of readers.  Enjoy!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Chicken Squad

 

Review: A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel


I loved loved loved A Blind Guide to Stinkville, and so there was no way I was going to miss out on the sequel, which proved to be very satisfying on many levels. (Both of these books are YA, by the way, for grades 5-7 I would guesstimate.)

First, I understand why many authors use alternating narrators, but frankly it just confuses me and makes the story choppy and less engaging. Beth Vrabel is so clever that she didn’t need to use alternating narrators, because she used Alice as the narrator for book one and Richie Ryder as the narrator for this book. Presto: The benefits of alternating narrators without the abrupt shifts every chapter! 

Second, and I’ve said this about Vrabel’s other books, I just love when the book reflects the personality of the narrator/protagonist. I was so annoyed with Richie Ryder and his jokes and stupid way he had with people. He really got under my skin! I didn’t want to keep reading at one point… and THEN I realized that it was Beth Vrabel’s awesome writing talent making me feel that way. It was like she was channeling Richie across dimensions. (Beth, do you tesser?!)

My most favorite facet of A Blind Guide to Normal wasn’t the fabulous karate competition or the yard horse or even Richie Ryder’s heartfelt friendships with quilting classmates and Alice and Jocelyn and Max. The best part of the book for me was the ending, where everyone figures out that fear is pretty much the ONLY thing that’s normal, and where Beth Vrabel again writes a book within a book. 

-calliope

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Review ~ Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Phewf! Well, that was an intense week of listening! I’m going to hold my hands up shamefully admit that I’d held off from reading anything by the super popular author Liane Moriarty, simply because her fiction was so often labeled as chic lit. I conjured up aspersions of a bodice ripper type novel, empty angst or some other unfair generalization. Well, if this novel is classed as chic lit, then sign me the hell up! 

Big Little Lies follows a group of parents in a seaside Australian town. They have their rituals, meet at the school drop-offs, and have their cliques and issues. A new parent moves to town and soon makes fast friends, and indeed enemies. 

The novel starts off in an interview type manner, and we soon learn that something has happened at a school PTA quiz night. As we hear witness accounts of may or may not have happened that night, we are taken back to when Jane first arrives on the scene. 

What makes Moriarty’s novel such a hit, is not the plot; the plot, while good, is not one so unique that you wouldn’t ever see in a novel. No. Where Moriarty excels, is in her characters and their interaction. There is such razor sharp authenticity in how these parents and friends talk and act, that you really feel like you know them, and are there living with them. 

This is a brilliant novel that will keep you glued until the very end. If you’ve yet to start reading Moriarty, then Big Little Lies is a great place to start. 

~ Pegasus 

Big Little Lies

Review: “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” By Gina Barreca

  
I’ve been reading Gina Barreca’s columns in my local newspaper for years. I love her brash attitude that reminds me so much of my own, her exasperation at injustices that no one should allow – no one!, and her talent for capturing just the right facet of a social issue to make a difference. 

 The dozens of essays in this book are tied together by section headings such as “I’m not needy; I’m wanty” and “If you met my family, you’d understand,” but more importantly woven together by the exploration of feminism.  

Barreca doesn’t bash men or bash women who like men. She doesn’t tell me I can’t wear pantyhose or I have to be pro-choice or I shouldn’t read smut. What I think Barreca says is that women should do what they do for themselves. For themselves! What a concept. If cooking for your husband makes you happy, do it. But don’t do it because he tells you to, because you feel worthless to him if you don’t, or because society tells you that’s all you have to offer if you’re a housewife. Get it? Read the book. You’ll get it. 

For me, it was nice that someone put a bunch of my thoughts into rational written form and then published it for all to read. For others, Barecca might not echo your exact thinking, but she will give you some food for thought. 

-calliope

Buy ‘IF YOU LEAN IN, WILL MEN JUST LOOK DOWN YOUR BLOUSE?’

Review: Be My Valentino by Sandra D. Bricker 

  

This second book in the Jessie Stanton series finds Jessie and Danny developing their relationship, the Feebs taking liberties with Jessie’s new life, and Jack Stanton getting a little bit of what he deserves. You’ll also find yummy shopping, fancy clothes wearing,  and charming dates. 

I enjoyed this book – love the characters, the detective work and the faith aspect. I’m ambivalent about Danny. He seems too good to be true. I guess I expect that in a straight up romance, but not in a mystery series, as light as it might be. I do appreciate Danny’s love for Jessie, the entrepreneurial spirit of Ms. Stanton (Hart!) — and the wonderful support of her friends. 

The writing seemed to be a little looser than usual for a Bricker read. Overuse of the word “snickered” bothered me for some reason, and some of the chapters could have been tightened up. 

I like Bricker’s talent for continuity, and for integrating faith issues in a realistic and subtle way. 

I’m awaiting book number 3! 

-calliope

Buy BE MY VALENTINO