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.

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Review: A Vicarage Reunion by Kate Hewitt

Oh Esther and Will… hard workers, loyal to a fault, family-oriented… and then one trauma busts it all up and unearths some unexpressed feelings. Thankfully, their little town — including Esther’s family — provides the guardrails to help Esther and Will find their way.

Their struggle was real. I’ve felt it and I’m sure all married couples have felt it at some time in their marriage. Things are going fine until they aren’t. And sometimes the solution isn’t exactly staring anyone in the face. That’s why I am grateful for all the family and friends who witness wedding ceremonies – they’re there to help support the marriage when it’s foundering.

Kate Hewitt wrote more than just Esther and Will’s relationship though. There were family dinners, lonesome walks, friends meeting at the pub, sibling love, the wisdom of a mother, the comfort of a father, and so much forgiveness … all in a little village around an old vicarage in a wonderful, delightful series.

-calliope

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Review: The Ladies Of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

I simply loved this book, and when I realized it was book 2 in a series, I wished I had read book 1!

Rachel and Mercy share a home with the two elderly Miss Groves. The young ladies try to keep out of trouble, contribute to society, and progress their lives educationally, socially, and romantically. The Miss Groves try to help without butting in too much!

Not surprisingly, my very favorite part of this book is Rachel’s homegrown library. I’m envious! I mean, opening up a library by yourself, getting to organize all those books… sigh. Love love love. And good for Mercy standing up for herself and her school for girls. These are my kind of ladies!

-calliope

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Review (quick and dirty #1): Marry Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

I’m behind on book reviews, so here’s my attempt at redemption: Five quick and dirty reviews on a Friday night. 🙂 

This is the BEST of the Willoughby Close novels — light, fun, witty, believable. Loved Alice’s story, including her realistic fears about feeling settled after being a drifter for so long, and her reactions to handsome-but-snobby Henry. Alice was the perfect companion to elderly and frail Lady Stokely, unobtrusive and kind. I liked the cameos by the Willoughby Close neighbors from previous books in the series, and Hewitt did a fabulous job having them stay true to themselves — as did Alice, even when she fell in love. This is one of my favorite summer British chick lit reads, but you might want to prep by reading book 1 first. 

-calliope

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Review: A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe 

Lovely story, but not what I expected. I thought, “A wedding! France! Cheese! Pastry!” And I got a wedding… but not until the very very end; France… well a part of France  caught very much in between England and France in language and culture; cheese… yes, but not everyone liked it; and pastry… oh the very best pastries and cakes made by chef Juliette. 

Juliette set aside her personal baggage to be Max’s personal chef. For Juliette, life was even easier that way. When Max invited a bunch of friends to stay at his home for the weekend, Juliette was ready to cook for them like a madwoman. But things went wrong at every turn due to the shadow Max’s mood cast. Whether he meant to or not, Max kind of ruined everything for his friends and his chef. And that kind of ruined the story for me. 
Good writing, good plot, depressing main character. 

-calliope 

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Review: A Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

pale-horsemanThis series is just breathtaking. Seriously, I kid you naught, it left me breathless more than once. I won’t say that Cornwell’s battle scenes are g rated, but I have read much more graphic…however Cornwell does have me having to slow myself down, alternately, afraid of what I am about to read, whilst at the same time trying to rush ahead to see what happens next. At one point in the novel, I think I actually said, “HOLY SHIT” in the middle of the night.

But before you wander off, thinking this isn’t the story for me because you hate that type of thing, let me remind you that this isn’t just about battles. In fact, there are only a few that take place in this novel. This is a novel about a young warrior named Uhtred. Northerner nobleman by birth, English by circumstance, Dane by force, Pagan by choice, but warrior at heart.

One has to be reminded time and time again that Uhtred is only a young man in this, the second novel, of the Saxon Stories. He is still battling with his choices, his conscious, his loyalties, his religion and most definitely with his warrior soul.

Watching Uhtred make his journey into adulthood and trying to weave his way through all that he faces, be it strategical, personal, or political, is in of itself, well worth the time it takes to read this series. You will be hard pressed to find someone who inspires or moves you as much as Uhtred does.

More than that though, this is an amazing retelling of history through fiction. I find myself searching for Alfred the Great and reading more about these battles and the locations. Of the defeats and the obsession of religion. Of how he came to be…and of how he came not to be..This is a story that inspires one to learn more about what came before.

I have always found England fascinating. From time to time, I’ve asked people, here in England, how does it feel to know that you walk where kings and knights have walked? On the very same ground. Where legends were born and countries were made? They often look at me like I am either daft or a lunatic. Here, however, is the proof. The very same places that I see around me are here, mentioned in this novel. The chalk grounds I see are where blood was spilled in the wars between the Saxons and the Danes.

That is what great story telling is about. As I went to sleep each night reading this novel, I awoke, not in the 21st century, but in the 9th. In England as it must have been then, the damp, the sound of battle cries in my head, the smell of fires, the bitter cold, and the knowledge that we fight for a cause…and her name is England…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now A Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

Review: A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

winter*Note of interest* The kindle edition of this novel has the acknowledgements in the front of the novel. Those acknowledgements gave away a huge part of this novel. If you’re at all familiar with the synopsis, then it probably won’t give anything away for you…However, I hate to know anything other than the title of a novel before reading it, so I was a wee bit peeved at this oversight of the formatters. The DTB copy that I own has the acknowledgments at the end…WHERE THEY BELONG!!!

This novel…I loved it. I was so fascinated by it that I found myself trying to find out more about PG himself…and of how this story was inspired/loosely based upon his grandfather. Knowing these things…and well…because of the book itself, Harry Cale haunted me.

Other reviewers say PG’s writing is beautiful. I’m sorry…I didn’t see his writing as lyrical or beautiful. If you happen to read this review, Mr Gale, no offense meant! I promise! However, I found Harry Cale beautiful. I could hear the silence of his solitude. My ears were deafened by it. I believe Harry will haunt me for a very long time. I so much want to sit beside him. I want him to know how much I admire his strength and his sense of honor. I want him to know that he is not alone.

Yes, this story is interesting. It’s opened up conversations with me and other people. I just had to tell others about this book. It’s made me think. To try to imagine what society must have been like not so long ago. It has made me sad. It has made me admire. It has made me ponder what all of this meant to PG, the author. Has it shaped the man he was…or shaped the man he is…or is it shaping the man he hopes to become? I spent only several hours reading this novel…but I have spent countless hours thinking about it….

Yes, again, the story itself is wonderful. It’s interesting. No, I’m not going to tell you what the novel is all about…you should know by now that’s not how I do reviews! What I will tell you is that, no matter how wonderful and interesting the story is/was…Harry Cale is even more interesting and wonderful…

I’m telling you…he is going to haunt me for a very long time…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale