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 XX 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: 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: Golden Prey (Lucas Davenport #27) by John Sandford

If this had been the first time I had ever picked up a John Sandford book I would have run out like I did over 25 years ago and rushed to read more by him.

I can’t think of any author alive or dead that has managed to keep a series so entertaining for 28 years. The fact that Davenport has aged from a very young detective to a middle-aged marshal and remained interesting is even more of a feat.

When I finished the last book (Extreme Prey) I was excited about where the series might lead. After 26 books I saw where it might be heading into an exciting new direction.

After reading this one, I admit, I totally underestimated Sandford. When we first met Lucas we were faced with a young guy that did whatever it took to get some pretty violent criminals off the street. We’ve always seen that, I suppose, but as Lucas grew older, he seemed to settle down a bit. Maybe not lose his spark, but it certainly didn’t seem to burn as bright. He seemed at times to hesitate and take less chances. The bad guys he went after didn’t seem quite as bad as the ones he chased in his younger days. He seemed tied down by all the political restraints placed upon him. He seemed just a few steps away from becoming a pencil pusher himself. Often seemed to spend as much time supervising others as he did chasing down the bad guys…

However, with this book all that changed. Some of these guys (and girls) were some of the most violent individuals he’s encountered. Lucas was also at the top of his game in this one. He was right in the midst of the action. We’ve also been introduced to a few new characters and I honestly can not fucking wait to see more of them in the years to come.

I also have to say, Sandford is at the top of his game as well. I will say it a thousand more time before I’m through, NO. ONE. CAN. DO. DIALOGUE. LIKE. SANDFORD. PERIOD. This book is a prime example of it. The banter between the main players of this novel is what Sandford is all about. It’s why I’ve been a massive fan for decades. It’s why I’ve not been bothered with a few less than 5 star books. I think this might be my favourite one to date. No doubt. We saw the young and fearless Lucas. We had the interesting partners. We had the teamwork. We had the dialogue. We had some serious bad guys. We had some bureaucrats put in their places. Plus we had less Weather….hahahaha…sorry, I couldn’t resist…now to just get some Letty set in motion with her mad computer skills and we’ll be set for life…

Amazing read…seriously…this one blew it out of the water!

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now Golden Prey by John Sandford

Review: Phoebe’s Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I’m not usually a historical fiction fan, but this book was terrific, with its focus on Nantucket and the Quaker religious sect. I grew up in Massachusetts, so reading this book put me back in grade school, on fun-filled field trips to Plymouth Rock, the whaling museum in New Bedford, and Sturbridge Village.

Phoebe isn’t your average young lady. She has a plan. The plan involves not hanging out with her poverty stricken dad who can’t finish a plan or a project. The plan involves not playing games with her childhood crush. The plan involves marrying a handsome, rich, prestigious Captain of a whaling boat.

Phoebe makes some headway on her plan, but the childhood crush crashes her party a couple times, and the Captain is much more (or way less) than he appears to be. Lucky for Phoebe, she has her great grandmother’s journal as her personal treasure map, leading Phoebe toward the light, the righteous, and the Divine. Phoebe takes her successes and multiplies them, much to the blessing of the rest of Nantucket.

-calliope

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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: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Louisa makes a go at being on her own in New York City! Moyes shows us that Lou is still a teensy bit not quite over the whole Will thing — and thankfully her city crush gets checked by reality before she gets too smitten. Caring for Agnes proves to be a struggle, kind of like it was with Will, but Moyes uses it as Louisa’s segue to better things.

By the end, Lou balances her natural talent for taking care of people with taking care of herself. Lou takes the opportunity to explore her passions, make new friends – shout out to Mrs DeWitt, the coolest building-mate ever – and grow up a little.

I don’t know what could be in store for a book four – maybe a year in the life of Lou and Sam – but I’m up for it!

-calliope

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Review: Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

Stacey and Harper are two very different sisters who each struggle to make their way in the world. Harper has a hard time navigating the financial and teen-parenting lands of the newly divorced, while Stacey makes bank but can’t respond to social cues to save her life.

Lucky for them, Susan Mallery has just the challenges they need to figure out that they can shift focus, ask for help, and come out the other side nearly unscathed. Nearly.

Harper’s story was a little better fleshed out than Stacey’s, but I enjoyed them both. Harper’s nutty mom, ex-husband, teenager, clients and new employees were rich fodder for big laughs and tender moments. Stacey’s story was going to break my heart until her husband’s nephew saved the day with his gentleness, gratitude, and earnestness. Just like in real life, sometimes all it takes is that one person to give a couple of meaningful minutes for you to realize you’re not alone, and you can do that thing you thought you couldn’t.

Really heartwarming, Susan Mallery. Those are some pretty awesome sisters, and they’ve got a pretty terrific circle around them.

-calliope

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Review: A Courtship on Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

Through loving grandmother Anna Helmuth, author Jennifer Beckstrand successfully uses her matchmaking skills yet again – but this time it’s a little more difficult than usual.

Elsie comes to stay with her grandparents after taking a local teaching job. I loved seeing Elsie in action -she’s a firm, authoritative, fun, and loving teacher who wants the best for her students. I have to say, Elsie’s unconventional ways of dealing with troublemakers had me chuckling. When Wally — the boy with a missing leg — misdirects his anger and bullies his classmates, Elsie knows just what to do. And there starts a love/hate relationship between Elsie and Wally’s older brother Sam.

Sam and Elsie are one of my favorite Beckstrand duos. They’re spitfire. They’re full of love. They’re loyal. They’re stubborn. And I appreciate Beckstrand’s ability to make them so likeable despite their flaws.

I had fun watching Elsie’s class’ escapades, and Sam’s family dinners. And even though I’ll read the next Huckleberry Hill book no matter what, I’d totally love to see a cameo appearance by these two characters!

-calliope

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Review: The Cotswolds Cookery Club by Alice Ross

This book is actually a compilation of three serial novellas… just so you know… because I was thrown for a loop when I finished the first novella at 34%, previously having thought it was a novel, and wondering what the heck the other 66% could be! Now that that’s sorted…

I really enjoyed these entertaining novellas, each focusing on one member of the casual, put-together-on-a-whim, friendly club of women who like to cook. Alice Ross did a wonderful job making the friendships come to life and drawing the reader into each woman’s joys and pains. These are lighthearted stories, though there are a few heavy-hearted conversations among the friends about love, marriage, and children.

As an aside, I found it pretty awesome that one of the recipes a character makes is Patatas Bravas – the same dish my teenager had to make as part of a group project for her high school Spanish class.

So… each story has some seriousness, some playfulness, and a couple of out-loud laughs, but my most favorite happily ever after was in book 3 when karma makes an appearance, and the comeuppance is delish.

-calliope

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