Review: How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson

If you’re a woman over 40 — either working or going back to work after taking time off to raise children — you’ve got to read this. Actually, if you’re any woman you’ve got to read this. You’ll either identify with it because you’re just like Kate, or you’ll identify with Alice or Candy or Sally. If you’re a husband you should read it for its eye-opening characteristics. If you’re a single guy with a job, well, it might enlighten you too, man.

I’m just going to admit it. This is exactly what’s it’s like to be a 40ish woman going back to work after a decade off. Luckily I have a husband and colleagues who are a little more forgiving, but other than that, How Hard Can It Be is the cold unvarnished truth about raising teenagers, the pressures and interruptions of managing a home and extended family problems, the difficulty finding time to exercise, and the change of life that hits everyone with XY chromosomes.

It’s funny, authentic, heartbreaking. I furrowed my brow wondering how Kate could miss so many red flags with her kids, but in her defense, she had a LOT going on., And throughout every chapter I thought It is so nice to know I’m not the only one in this particular boat!

-calliope

P.S. This book reminded me of a couple of women in real life who are offering an online course for women wishing to re-enter the workforce after opting out to care for family. You can find details at Prepare To Launch U.

Buy HOW HARD CAN IT BE

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Review: The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart

Book two in a series, The Sugarhouse Blues continues the sister drama among Des, Cara and Allie, while filling in the family tree with their Aunt Barney and third generation Nikki.

Reading this is like watching a home renovation show on HGTV, the Real Housewives of Small Town America, and a Hallmark movie all rolled into one. You’ve got your historical theater renovation, the dwindling inheritance, a spitfire auntie, the cute-no-nonsense-friendly-yet-alpha sheriff, a boyfriend or three, and the sisters who love each other – most of the time – and have very little patience for each other’s antics. I love it all.

Read book one first so you’re not lost, then get a hold of this one, pronto. And then you can wait with me – watching Housewives and eating popcorn – until Ms. Stewart releases book three.

-calliope

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Review: The Family Gathering by Robyn Carr

The Family Gathering is book 3 in the Sullivan’s Crossing series, where I loved book 1, but had some reservations about book 2 (quirky wanderer gave me pause). I’m feeling the love again for this installment.

Dakota needs time to decompress after serving his country, so he visits his sister and brother in Sullivan’s Crossing. Besides building a relationship with his siblings and their families, Dakota starts to build a life in town (he sees it as temporary but come on now).

I very much enjoyed Carr’s customary secondary plot lines that reference past books but don’t depend on them. I also liked that she focused so much on family — because Dakota’s family totally had some issues to resolve! And of course the romance…. well, it’s obvious Sid would be a tough nut to crack. Question is, is Dakota the guy to do it…

As for my favorite part of most books: I won’t tell the hows and whys and wherefores, but after some work, Dakota and his family experience some pretty nice happily ever afters.

-calliope

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Review: The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

Abby, Caroline, and Lee hop on a cruise ship with their guys and their kiddos… to celebrate a 20th wedding anniversary, share some personal news, await a proposal, and straighten out some of life’s twists and turns.

I loved the cruise ship setting. So fun! For an hour or two each night I was whisked away into the land of lounge chairs and umbrella drinks — and hot sunny days. Wendy Francis did a fantastic job making the friendships real and easy. The women were like sisters with each other – just how I’d imagine this trio in real life. And although some of the plot was predictable, Francis developed it in a fresh, engaging way. I was in it for the whole cruise: laughter, tears, and mouth agape. Nicely written, very entertaining!

-calliope

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Review: The Runaway Wife by Dee MacDonald

Oh Connie. Taken for granted by her husband and adult children — and not done a thing about it for years. Finally she and her little car set out find freedom on the open road, but of course they find so. much. more. I can’t really say all of what she finds because that would be giving away the good stuff, but let’s just say she has quite a few adventures and makes some new lovely friends who really appreciate her. Connie also meets up with some old friends who remind her how much they value her.

One big surprise is the ending. I don’t mean the ending ending, but like the last few chapters. I didn’t realize I was going to be reading such heartwarming stuff… but be forewarned and have a tissue ready.

Apart from a little morality misalignment (but that’s just me personally), I really just loved the entire book. Maybe because I sometimes feel taken for granted or ignored, like Connie did, I could truly relate. Or maybe because I’m feeling the itch for a good road trip, I was happy to live vicariously through Connie. And it could even be that I so loved this book because it provides a helpful perspective on seeing people and situations in a hopeful, positive light.

The end of the book mentioned a future sequel, so I’ve now added Dee MacDonald to my “regularly search for this author on NetGalley, Amazon and Overdrive” list.

-calliope

Buy THE RUNAWAY WIFE

Review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

I should have expected it. Every book I’ve read by Lisa Genova has pulled on my heartstrings, tugged at something inside me. But she still throws me for a loop every single time. I think it’s because she writes stories that could happen to anyone, tales of heartbreak that are far too real.

Richard and Katrina were in love once, the deep kind of love that’s supposed to last forever. Their love didn’t last, though. Richard became a world-renowned pianist. And Katrina? She gave up her dreams so that he could follow his. Eventually they drifted apart, and then finally their love was no more. In fact, it became a deep hate on both sides.

And then Richard becomes ill. More than just ill, however. He’s diagnosed with ALS. Denial at first, but that’s not enough to keep its progression at bay. When Katrina finds out she’s torn. She wants to feel compassion for him but it’s hard. Soon enough, the day comes when Richard can no longer live on his own. To her surprise, Katrina does the only thing she knows to do. She moves Richard and all of his medical equipment back home, to the home they once shared. And thus begins their journey to the end.

This story makes you feel so many things. It could easily happen to any of us. And how would we react? Would I be able to put my feelings of resentment and anger aside as Katrina did? Would I be able to put my life on hold to care for a person who I once loved but now hated? The answer is, I don’t know. None of us do until we are in that situation. And if we’re lucky, we never will be.

~ Thalia

Buy It Now: Every Note Played

Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Beautiful. Poetic. Haunting. Lyrical. This latest story from Celeste Ng is all that and more.

Izzy has finally gone over the edge. Everyone knew it was going to happen eventually. But what caused this inevitable collapse? Things are never as simple as they seem, and that rule applies to the Richardson house being burnt to the ground by their erratic, youngest daughter.

Rewind to the beginning. That’s when Mia and her daughter Pearl arrive in town. At first just tenants in a rental house owned by the Richardsons, they soon find themselves ingrained into the family. Pearl finds friendship among the four Richardson children while Mia takes up employment as their housekeeper. Their nomadic, artistic lifestyle is too tempting to resist. Soon their lives are intertwined in unimaginable ways. But all families have secrets, and these two families are no exception. As secrets typically go, when one is discovered another soon follows. Some secrets aren’t so big, others are huge and life changing.

These characters are amazing, every single one of them. Mrs. Richardson is controlling and disciplined beyond belief. Mia is free spirited and thoughtful. The teenagers are, well, what you would expect of teenagers. The way they all come together is simply spellbinding. This is a story that I both wanted to end and wanted to last longer at the same time. An outstanding tale!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Little Fires Everywhere