Category: Family

Aug 10

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

Family, Flowers 4

Greetings Bookworms!

I’ve been a busy reading bee when I’m not out watering my flowers and getting bitten by mosquitoes. Seriously, the fact that I’m so delicious to bugs and also adore gardening is like a cruel, cruel joke. But, the fact that I’m such a flower nerd was a huge part of the reason I picked up my latest read, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper. I actually heard about the book at BEA during speed dating, but there either weren’t copies there or not enough or something and I ended up procuring a digital copy through NetGalley. *Which means, of course, that I got the book at no cost from the publisher for review consideration. As per usual, I’ll give you my honest opinion because I’m really terrible at lying and even if publishers were to stop working with me tomorrow, I could still get free books from the library, so. I really have no motive to lie to y’all.*

antoinettemartinLily and Rose were as close as a pair of sisters could be growing up on a commercial flower farm in Kentucky (see? I heard the setting and I was sold. I’m so predictable.) They’ve been estranged for years, but as Rose’s health declines, she reaches out to reconnect with her sister. Rose’s 10 year old daughter Antoinette has special needs. Her diagnosis is murky, but it manifests through symptoms very similar to severe autism. She also has the ability to heal with her touch. You heard me. There’s some magical realism up in this piece. Or science fiction. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s definitely  a bit peculiar. The thing is, this gift of Antoinette’s comes at a price. The more Antoinette heals people, the more health consequences she faces herself. She’s begun to have dangerous seizures as a result of her gift, and Rose is desperate to find a way to keep her daughter safe.

The whole thing had a Sarah Addison Allen vibe, but with a little less quirk and a little more emotional gut punch.  It was a decent read, I just don’t think I was in the mood for something with quite so much emotional weight? I feel like a jerk for not being all effusive in my praise of it. Maybe I’m just a little too cynical for miracle stories, which DUH KATIE, “miracle” is in the title of the book. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up had it not been for the whole commercial flower farm thing, but I’m a sucker for flowers. So. Yeah. If you’re in the mood for a whole lot of feelings and a little big of magic, check The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin out!

Tell me something, Bookworms, do you find that your mood strongly influences your opinions on the books you happen to be reading?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 17

Feeling PUN-chy

Family, Personal 17

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

I’m quite certain I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, I became an aunt again about a month ago. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law welcomed the sweetest baby girl in the history of baby girls. (This is empirically proven, of course, I wouldn’t feed you biased data.) Since our little Emma-Saurus arrived, a punch drunk series of texts have occurred… There’s a strong possibility that these exchanges are amusing only to us, but what the heck? I’m willing to share the nonsensical love. Both my husband and my brother-in-law are named Jim. As is my father in law. Not to mention the cousins. Because of course. Hence, my BIL is referred to as “New Guy” (since he is the newest Jim in the family, and probably always will be. Unless they give us a nephew one day…) We call him “New Guy” to his face and put it on his birthday cake and stuff. I’d go into more detail on the Jim situation, but I know I’ll never top the speech I gave at Jenny and New Guy’s wedding on the subject so I’m just gonna drop the mic right here and get into the text-versation.

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*A teensy bit of context here. Emma has a stuffed sheep that doubles as a sound machine. His name is Sherman. She has a penchant for knocking him over. It’s probably accidental, as she’s like a month old and flails around on her little play mat, but it seems like she has it out for him. Without further ado…*

Jenny: Emma Update! She’s sleeping. (Shocker.)

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Me: Wait, wait, wait. Are those tiny Shermans on her PJs?

Jenny: Those are tiny Shermans. We thought it might improve their relationship. I’ve got a bad feeling about this though…

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New Guy: That’s a fist she’s making!

Me: Hit him with your best shot, Emma!

New Guy: Would we say Sherman should be wearing a WOOL-et proof vest? #punitentiary

Me: He is looking a bit sheepish. #NewGuyStartedIt

New Guy: Emma has been acting baaaah-dly around him.

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Jenny: It was only a matter of time.

New Guy: Someone sent Sherman out to pasture.

Me: Emma is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Jenny: Wool done!

Hubs: Ewe guys are cracking me up. Some of these puns are shear genius.

New Guy: Winner, winner gyro dinner.

Me: I don’t mean to LAMB-ast you, but these jokes are getting baaaaad.

Hubs: Oh man, I ain’t got mutton. (Full disclosure, I almost made a veal joke before Katie reminded me veal comes from calves.)

New Guy: He better MOO-ve it. #RandomCowJoke

Me: He gets knocked down, but he gets up again. #RandomChumbawambaJoke

_____HOURS PASS_____

Me: Seriously guys? Crickets on the Chumbawamba reference? That was comedy gold!

New Guy: Sorry I missed it. I was too busy pissing the night away.

Aaaaaaaaaand scene. You know you wish you were in on this. If for no reason other than the unbearably cute baby pictures. What about you, Bookworms? Does your family get into any texting shenanigans?

 

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Aug 31

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Contemporary Fiction, Family 14

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

For those of you back in the office today, I’m pleased to bring you a book about someone who is probably having a crappier day at the office than you are! A few weeks ago I was itching for something new to read when I saw A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan on NetGalley. The cover art was pretty and it was marketed toward fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette (review) so I decided to give it a whirl. *I received a complimentary copy of this novel for review consideration.*

awindowopensAlice Pearse is a happily married mother of three living in New Jersey. She works part time for a magazine as the books editor and keeps her household running with the help of a crackerjack babysitter. Alice’s life is chugging along at a smooth clip until a major upheaval in her lawyer husband’s career path sends her back into the workforce full-time. She thinks she’s landed the job of her dreams when she is hired by fancy pants startup Scroll, an e-book retailer promising swanky cafe style reading space as well as first edition novels. Of course, things are rarely as miraculous as they seem, especially when it comes to jobs. At the same time her new career is taking flight, Alice’s dad gets sick, her marriage hits some speed bumps, and her world devolves into general chaos. When it seems like “having it all” isn’t working out the way she planned, Alice is forced to take stock and decide what it is she really wants. 

As someone who works full time but does not (yet, hopefully) have children, sometimes this type of novel falls a little flat for me. I suppose I just get frustrated many women’s reality; the fact that a work-life balance seems nearly impossible to achieve. The majority of novels I’ve read in this vein definitely tend toward favoring women scaling back their careers and focusing on their families. While I think focusing on one’s family is awesome, it bugs me that women are always the ones who are expected to scale back, a sentiment I find perpetuated in this type of novel. That’s part of why I found A Window Opens refreshing. It was very honest in its exploration of Alice’s situation and doesn’t present a super clear cut answer. It doesn’t end exactly the way I’d have liked, but at least it doesn’t preach the value of a particular lifestyle. Alice focuses on what Alice wants and what will make Alice happiest. I can get behind a story like that.

What do you think, Bookworms? When you’re reading books about working moms, do you feel that a certain solution is presented as ideal? Do you ever wonder why there are so few books about men’s work-life balance? (Look at me getting all feminist up in here today. Whew.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 30

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Contemporary Fiction, Family 11

Greetings Bookworms!

I typically have no idea what’s going on in publishing. I don’t know who gets big advances or whose cover art is the coolest or why they change the cover art when they go from hardcover to paperback or from North America to Europe. Luckily, from time to time, someone throws me a bone. I remember hearing all about how amazing Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng was so I was really excited when the publisher contacted me about the paperback release and offered me a copy. A real live book and not a digital copy. Who’d have thunk it? *I received a complimentary paperback copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. The following review will express my honest opinion even though I got something for free. My integrity costs more than a paperback, swearsies.*

everythinginevertoldyouLydia Lee is the teenage daughter of a Chinese American History professor and a caucasian homemaker in 1970s small town Ohio. She’s also dead, which you find out in the first sentence, so that’s not a spoiler at all. Lydia was the favorite child of James and Marilyn, each attempting to live out their dreams vicariously through their daughter. When Lydia’s body is discovered at the bottom of a lake, the Lee family is shattered. Their delicate dynamics are toppled and they are left reeling.

I know, I know. When you start off with a dead teenager it sounds like the book is going to be a total downer. Go beyond the first few pages, however, and you will be drawn into a beautifully rendered complex family. Marilyn and James along with their two other children Nath and Hannah each have their own experiences with Lydia that allow the reader a multifaceted view of the enigmatic central character. I know, I know. This review starting to sound like a lame school assigned book review. The book is really fabulous, though, and I can’t find Katie-ish words to describe it. Readers who enjoyed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold will dig Everything I Never Told YouTrust me on this, okay?

Talk to me Bookworms! Lydia Lee is the type of character that everyone in her family thinks they understand, but nobody truly does. Have you ever felt that people just didn’t get you? I mean, beyond your teen angst years. Because let’s face it. You didn’t know you yet either and that’s a terribly unfair double standard.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 04

Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith

Family, Psychological 9

G’Day Bookworms!

I know there are a number of book bloggers out there who have struck up virtual friendships with authors, but I’m not really one of them. Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, isn’t there? Annabel Smith runs a super fun blogging meme called Six Degrees of Separation (with fellow author Emma Chapman) and she’s always been such a peach. A few months back, I purchased (with my very own money) a copy of her novel Whiskey and Charlie. (Technically, I bought a copy of the Australian release of her novel which was known down under as Whisky Charlie Foxtrot because it hadn’t been released in the US yet. Hence, I got to enjoy my novel with Australian spelling. Why DID we add an “e” to whiskey?) I put off reading it for way too long, as I am wont to do. Recently, my Mother in Law and I were chatting about books and she brought up Whiskey and Charlie. I was all “OMG, that’s Annabel’s book! I know her! She’s my internet friend!” And my MIL was all impressed that I knew an author and I was like, “Self, it is time. Read this book!”

whiskeyandcharlieWhiskey and Charlie are twins. They’ve had a complicated relationship to say the least, but it all comes to a head when Whiskey is in an accident and lands in a prolonged coma. Charlie is forced to address the difficulties in their relationship and his own identity. All that juicy family stuff, you know?

I was kind of nervous to read this book because I think Annabel is awesome and I wanted so badly to love it that I was worried I wouldn’t. These are the things I worry about. Luckily, this book was fabulous. I mean, whoa. The relationship between Whiskey and Charlie will ring true to anybody who has ever had a rocky moment with a sibling. It’s got complex emotional layers that tackle not only familial strife, but also the way people react when a family member is in a life or death situation. You’ve got siblings, you’ve got lovers, you’ve got parents, you’ve got doctors, and (thank heaven) you’ve got therapists. If you’re in the mood for a well developed family drama, Whiskey and Charlie can’t be beat.

There were times while reading this novel where the character I was really rooting for acted like a complete and utter douchebag, but I still liked the guy. Have y’all run into that? Characters behaving badly but you still hope they’ll get themselves sorted out?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Apr 13

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Family, Psychological, Science 18

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Read any good books about devastating neurological disorders lately? No? Well, you’re in luck! Lisa Genova is at it again and Inside the O’Briens is pretty fab. And not JUST because one of the main characters is named Katie. She’s actually named Kathryn (with a “y”) because apparently her parents and mine were both illogical enough to pair Kathryn with a “y” with Katie with an “ie.” Doesn’t it seem like Katie should go with Katherine and Katy should go with Kathryn? Am I the only person troubled by this? I should have considered this when I was getting married. I mean, if Princess Consuela Banana Hammock could happen I could have changed my Kathryn to Katherine. Sigh. Live and learn. (And no, changing to Katy with a “y” simply is not an option for me. It. Just. Isn’t.)

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Inside the O’Briens follows an Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe O’Brien is a hardworking police officer and father of four children now in their twenties. He married his high school sweetheart and they’ve lived their entire lives in an insular Boston neighborhood. When Joe begins to have odd symptoms like muscle ticks, difficulty concentrating, and flashes of temper, he attributes it to his stressful job. I mean, he’s a cop for heaven’s sake. As the symptoms become more difficult to ignore, he finally agrees to see a doctor and is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. It’s a rare degenerative neurological disorder with no treatment, no cure, and a 100% fatality rate. What’s worse is that Huntington’s Disease is genetic, and there’s a 50/50 chance that each of Joe’s four children will inherit the gene and suffer Joe’s fate. Katie O’Brien and her siblings are faced with the decision to find out whether or not they carry this genetic mutation and live with the knowledge.

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Talk about your impossible situations, right? Sure, it would be a great relief to find out you were gene negative, but if you were gene positive, how would you live your life knowing exactly how it would end? Or, even if you weren’t a genetic carrier, how would you feel knowing that your siblings might not be so lucky? Would it affect your decisions on having your own family? Would you wallow in despair? Become reckless and self destructive? Genova rose to fame with Still Alice (review) in large part because Alzheimer’s Disease is so prevalent, but Huntington’s Disease is every bit as heartbreaking. (Okay, in fairness, Still Alice is an amazing book, so the fact that Alzheimer’s is prevalent isn’t the only reason Genova is famous.) Still though, the journey of the O’Brien family packs a serious emotional punch. I’m not going to tell you that you should read this book, but… You should read this book. If you want to learn more about Huntington’s and perhaps make a donation to help fund research into treatments, visit Lisa Genova’s Readers in Action page.

It’s time for you to sound off, Bookworms. If you found out that you might be a carrier for a disease like Huntington’s, would you want to know for sure, or would you rather not find out?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Of course, I will also be making a donation to help fund Huntington’s research, because I’d feel like a total douche if I didn’t.*

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Jan 15

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Humor 23

Hi Ho, Bookworms!

Everyone’s family has a little bit of drama and/or weirdness going on. I mean, it wouldn’t be family if there weren’t some sort of dysfunction going on somewhere. I think that’s why I tend to be drawn to family dramas with a twisted sense of humor. This month, my IRL book club (affectionately dubbed “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors” because, well, they are) chose This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper to discuss. Holy bagels and lox, Batman, this book was something else!

thisiswhereileaveyouThe Foxman family put the “fun” in “dysfunctional.” After their father passes away (because cancer is a jerk) the four Foxman children convene in their childhood home to sit shiva for their father. For anybody unfamiliar with Jewish custom, sitting shiva is kind of like a week long wake. The mourning family is visited throughout the week and inundated with sympathy food and awkward conversation. (There’s some sort of universal law that says one must feed the grieving. It’s one I subscribe to myself.) Most families would be on the verge of coming to blows after an entire week in close quarters, mourning not withstanding.

Judd Foxman is our narrator, one of the Foxman siblings. In addition to having recently lost his father, he is also in the midst of a messy divorce. Divorces tend to get messy when you catch your spouse in flagrante delicto with your boss. Even more so when you find out said spouse is expecting a child.

Reading about the Foxmans made me feel so normal. I had a great time reading this book and it ran quite the gamut emotionally. One of my favorite things about the book, though, was that almost every time I got the urge to jump through the pages and punch a fictional character, another fictional character took care of that for me. This one isn’t for the faint of heart or the easily offended, but if irreverent humor and quirky familial drama are your thing, you need to give This Is Where I Leave You a read!

Alright Bookworms, let’s talk. Are there any TV shows or books you like to indulge in simply because they make you feel like less of a screw up? I can’t be the only one… Dish!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 04

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Contemporary Fiction, Family 11

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

Shortly after BEA, some of my blog pals who had been lucky enough to attend the conference o’ bookish goodness and starting chatting about what ARC’s they were excited to have picked up. One of these books was We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. Not one to be left out, I jumped over to NetGalley to see if I could snag myself a digital copy. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This in no way affects my opinion on the book, as I am a cantankerous old mule whose opinions will not be tamed.*

wearenotourselves We Are Not Ourselves begins with a young Eileen Tumulty. The daughter of Irish immigrants, Eileen’s life is marked by family strife and alcoholism. She dreams of living a more prosperous life, and eventually meets a young scientist named Ed Leary who is refreshingly different than the other men in her neighborhood. Sadly for Eileen, she soon learns that Ed isn’t motivated by the American Dream and a desire to become a social climber.

Eileen’s obsession with bigger homes, better friends, and higher paying jobs begins to drive a wedge between her and Ed. As time passes, Eileen and her son Connell begin to notice that Ed is exhibiting some disturbing behavior, behavior that can’t be easily explained away. When confronted with a devastating diagnosis, the family tries desperately to hold together.

This book is epic in scope. It’s a bit of a chunkster (600+ pages) and covers decades of the American experience. It’s got humor, it’s got heartbreak, it’s got a little bit of everything. I find myself without the appropriate words to describe how I feel about this book, so I’m resorting to comparisons. Cool? Cool. Okay. If you liked Angela’s Ashes (review), Still Alice (review), or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (review), you should check out We Are Not OurselvesJust trust me on this one, okay?

Tell me Bookworms. Do you dig sweeping family epics?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

 

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Mar 13

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Family 13

Howdy Bookworms,

How y’all doing? You remember how much I loved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt? You don’t? Well. Go HERE. I’ll wait. Back? Good! Fortune smiled on me a few weeks back and I won a $20 gift card to Book Depository from I Solemnly Swear. Amanda was kind enough to allow me to go 14 cents over my gift card allotment so I could order Beth Hoffman’s newest offering, Looking for Me. (Thanks, Amanda! You’re a peach!)

lookingformeTeddi Overman was raised on a farm in rural Kentucky with her parents, grandmother, and little brother Josh. She finds her calling early in life when she discovers a broken down chair on the side of the road. After refinishing the chair, Teddi can’t get enough of restoring old furniture and hunting for treasures at yard sales. Eventually she makes her way to Charleston, South Carolina where she starts her career in antiques.

While Teddi is painting and refurbishing, her brother Josh is traipsing around in the woods. He’s obsessed with the wilderness surrounding their Kentucky home. He is a passionate environmentalist and horrified by the misdeeds of poachers and animal abusers. One Thanksgiving, he takes off for the woods and never comes home.

Teddi is haunted by her brother’s disappearance, but mysterious signs begin to appear that suggest he may still be alive. Teddi embarks on a journey to mend family fences and accept her past… You know, your feel-good-journey-of-self-discovery kind of vibe.

It won’t surprise you to hear I enjoyed this book. Hoffman created some delightfully quirky peripheral characters I couldn’t get enough of. I mean, Teddi’s best friend is a rare books dealer with a giant collection of Pez dispensers… Can you GET more fun than that? PLUS, Teddi has a little dog that she describes as looking like Snoopy. My childhood dog was basically Snoopy personified. I can only assume Snoopy aged into a crotchety stinky old man dog, so the comparison with Sir Benjamin the Snob is spot-on.

If utterly charming Southern fiction with a side of cool old stuff is your thing, I highly recommend Looking for Me.

Tell me, Bookworms. Since a killer Pez dispenser collection was mentioned in this book, I simply must know. Do any of you have quirky collections? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Mar 12

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Book Club, Family 21

Privit Bookworms,

That’s a Ukrainian greeting right there, translated into familiar characters, because Ukrainian uses a whole different alphabet. It looks pretty cool, but I thought I’d avoid having y’all think I was hacked first thing in my post. Why all the chatter about Ukrainian? A book, obviously. Last month I joined The Book Wheel and Love at First Book in their book club. Their choice was A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.

tractors2The title is deceiving, kids! Very little of this book has anything to do with tractors. It’s actually a family drama. There’s this Ukrainian family that emigrated to England in the aftermath of WWII, see? They lived happily ever after… Or at least, more happily ever after than would have been possible if they’d stayed living under the thumb of a government employing a secret police and famine as a means of submission.

After a good long life, the mother of the family succumbs to cancer. Things start to get dicey when a few short years later, the elderly patriarch proposes marriage to a Ukrainian immigrant in her 30s who is obviously (at least to daughters Vera and Nadia) out for money and citizenship. It’s every bit as scandalous as it sounds, I promise.

I was pleased how quickly this book moved- it kept a good pace without feeling rushed. I found it to be an easy read, with an unexpected amount of humor injected into what could have been a wildly depressing story. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself nearly as much as I did. Yay for happy surprises, right?

It’s kind of ironic that I picked up this book now, you know? Ukraine isn’t ordinarily a country I’d expect to be popping up in the news, but there it is all embroiled in conflict. Sadness for all involved. However. I did learn something, thanks to Ukraine’s newfound notoriety. I have a Facebook friend who knows ALL THE THINGS about Russian culture. Anybody else out there have a knee-jerk desire to refer to Ukraine as “the” Ukraine? APPARENTLY, Soviet-era Russian newspapers popularized the phrasing “the” Ukraine in order to belittle the country. Grammar aggression? Low blow, guys.

 Tell me bookworms, have you ever been reading a book to have it suddenly become topical? 

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