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

Buy SWEET TEA AND SYMPATHY

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Review: Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

Oh the drama! Quinn and Nora are distant sisters who would still do anything for each other. Tiffany is Nora’s bff… and a messed up drug addict with an illegitimate daughter. When Nora texts Quinn that she and Tiffany need her help, Quinn steps up. But it’s hard to know how to do the right thing when Nora won’t give her any details, and Tiffany is nowhere to be found.

I was psyched reading the first half of this book – there are good guys and bad guys, weak women and strong women, loving yet dysfunctional mothers, and a criminal so disgusting he turned my stomach. Baart weaves them all together in a dramatic and suspenseful plot, a story you don’t want to stop reading because you can’t believe what’s happening next.

And then — I’m not sure if it was my particular frame of mind, or if I’ve just read way too many books — I by mistake figured out the one big unknown. The mystery. The root of the drama. The guy who caused the secrets to grow bigger and bigger. And I hate that I figured it out, because it ruined the rest of the story for me. I skimmed the last half of the book, just in case there were some worthy plot points (and there were).

Baart is a master at expressing the love and confusion and envy and all the emotions in a sisterly relationship. What I appreciated most is that Baart lets her female characters be unapologetically themselves. There are no victims here, except maybe a little girl. The grown women own their choices, support each other, and make their own new beginnings.

-calliope

Buy LITTLE BROKEN THINGS (publishes on Nov.21, 2017)

Murder Over Mochas by Caroline Fardig

Solid, cute, cozy mystery with a dead guy, an amateur sleuth, an ex-fiancé, an ex-boyfriend, a potential boyfriend, and a couple of cops. Oh – and a coffee shop! I’m going to admit, I often choose books based on their covers, and I chose this one for the coffee. #yesidid

The protagonist Juliet is likable and genuine. I liked that I could envision her expressions and feel her exasperation. The police officers and a few other secondary characters were a little bit one dimensional to me, but I didn’t mind, as I was busy trying to solve the mystery before they did. I liked Juliet’s best friend Pete, also. He’s a sturdy, reliable dude – and every cozy mystery needs a Pete.

Fardig did a nice job weaving a creative, fresh mystery with just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. I was onto the perp before Juliet was, but it still took me a good while to do it, and I had fun from beginning to end.

-calliope

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Review: Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick 

Some people might rate this book 4 or 5 stars for the authentic southern characters that Kilpatrick introduces with such aplomb you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Some readers might fall in love with “fun Posey” who uses the 7 deadly sins as a guide to make up for 10 sucky years married to a controlling, manipulative jerkhead.  And some readers might call this book a winner for its excellent writing – and easy dialogue among a hippie mom, sisters named after natural elements, and a best friend who literally saves more than one day. 

I’m giving Bless Her Heart a bunch of fat stars because it made me so sufficiently mad at Chad Love, so ticked off that he thought it was okay to treat any human being the way that he treated his wife, and so angered with a patriarchy that thinks “Wives, submit to your husbands” isn’t part of a speech that says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Love your wives like your own bodies,” that now I am taking steps to help some people who are in situations like Posey’s. Sally Kilpatrick, any gratitude that comes my way from women who are tired of being controlled and interrogated and mentally beaten down – that gratitude is due to you. 

-calliope

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Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

How does one review this book? Looking at near 250k ratings and over 10k reviews on Goodreads.com I reckon I don’t have to. However, you all know I’m a glutton for punishment so I will say a few words…

With all the foreshadowing in the first 100 pages of the book you can pretty much figure out how it’s to end…you might even think you know the whys. I mean it’s all there…however, as in life, this book demonstrates that it’s all in the details…and in perhaps what is never said as well…

This book made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. It’s a wonderful telling about two boys growing up. How they help one another in ways that they are unable to even ask for. I found at times I was a bit irritated with the back and forth of the memories. The 1st person narrator would have a memory and then the novel would go back in time to expand on that memory. As the novel progressed and I became used to this, it really proved interesting. Especially since many of the memories were reminisced over a few times. Experiencing something vs looking back at a memory vs looking back at a memory after a traumatic event can all be very different experiences for the same person. “After the fact” we can all imagine how things might have been different if we had picked up on the clues we were given.

I should note that this is a novel full of wonderful secondary characters. Some of them truly do help make this an extraordinary read.

I admit, Owen really annoyed me during much of the novel…however, some part of me thinks that’s part of the point.

I also leave myself wondering how different Johnny would be if Owen was still his best mate living down the street. Or if Owen hadn’t thrown that ball…

Finally, I have to say that at times I might have wished greatly that this book would just move along faster. The slow pace was just as annoying as Owen was. Reading this book really was a test of my discipline. Some novels are just like that for me…My reward wasn’t the ending….it was all the time spent with so many wonderful characters, getting to know them in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible if the novel was written any other way…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Review: A Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt

I knew I couldn’t go wrong when I saw Christmas, Vicarage, and Kate Hewitt all on the same cover. Then to find out there are four sisters in the family… I was delighted! So this first book in a series is Anna’s story. She reluctantly returns home for the holidays – home to the vicarage where her parents live.  When things at home get too overwhelming, Anna’s introverted self traipses down to the local pub to get a moment of respite. She finds some kind of respite alright – on a barstool next to a handsome, witty, sensitive, take charge kinda guy – and from there on in her life has changed. 

Obvi I love the superficial parts of this book, but I also enjoyed the sister dynamics, the push and pull of a long-standing marriage, and the self-discovery of a woman who spent quite a many years avoiding her feelings. And I’m pretty excited to read three more! I think this quadogy or whatever it’s called really works for me: enough of a series to motivate me to get invested, but not too long of a series where storylines seem to repeat after a while. So fun. 

-calliope 

Buy A VICARAGE CHRISTMAS

Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’m not sure how to review this novel. Seeing so many of my friends have given this book high ratings but no reviews makes me think that perhaps it’s not just me‽

I had a really hard time getting past the grandparents. It kinda challenged my commitment to not judge other’s personal choices. The same with the parents I guess, not to the same degree, but there was still a bit of taking myself to task for some of my thoughts.

Also, I realised at some point that I might expect too much of fictional characters. I mean, I found the grandfather really weak and unlikable at times…especially at the start. However, maybe I was expecting Lefty to be this perfect literary character and not an actual person. At some point, Lefty did become real to me…and all those things that really irritated me and made me really dislike him at the start turned things around and made him real to me.

That’s what Eugenides did for me in this novel. He made all of these characters seem like every day people. He made them into my neighbours. Liking them, even though I didn’t really know what was going on behind closed doors (of course, being the reader we actually DID know what was going on).

Since I can’t really think of how to review this novel, I’ll tell you that the blurb on the cover does a nice job explaining what the plot of the novel is about. But to understand this novel…well no review can do that…no summery can do that. You really have to meet Callie/Cal to understand why this novel is so amazing.

I’m not sure the moment when Callie realised that she was different. Or when Cal realised that he was real. But he does a wonderful job at the end summing it up. Gender does not define us. We are who we are…and Cal, along with all of his family are just wonderful…faults, and non-faults alike…simply wonderful…again, gender doesn’t define us….try to remember that next time if you’re the type to judge…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides