Book Review: The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

The Story HourThe Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: August 19, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.

Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn’t need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.

But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.

The Story Hour is about the relationship of Maggie and Lakshmi and their journey from patient/therapist to friends. It’s also about their individual personal lives, especially their marriages. Both women have secrets which were shocking to me as a reader and to each other when they are revealed. At no time was this story predictable, which I loved.

I liked that Maggie and Lakshmi were both flawed. There was no good guy/bad guy juxtaposition. They were both so well-drawn. Everything they did was organic and authentic. I sympathized with them at times and at other times I wanted to reach through the pages and shake them.

Because I loved The World We Found, I had high hopes for The Story Hour. I was not disappointed – it’s an amazing book.

(I received this book courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.)

Book Review: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modren Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern ParenthoodAll Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Publisher: HarperCollins and Blackstone Audio
Release Date: January 28, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. Award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior now asks: What are the effects of children on their parents? — In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior isolates and analyzes the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources, she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today — and tomorrow.

All Joy and No Fun isn’t a traditional parenting book. It’s not going to give you a new system to disciple your child. Part of it is a fascinating look at how parenting has changed through the years. Up until child labor laws were enacted, children were expected to work or to be seen and not heard. Senior takes the reader up through present day. She explains the evolution of parenting that has led to the present day where children can be overscheduled and more and more parents are “helicopter parents”. She’s not critical, just informative. Interspersed throughout are personal examples of parents that she interviewed. She spoke to a wide variety, including a grandmother who parented her own children in the 1970s and is now parenting her grandchildren, a mother living in an affluent suburb, and a single working mother.

I found this book to be incredibly interesting and insightful as well as meticulously researched. I listened to the audio book which is narrated by the author. I’m usually wary when an authors narrates their own book since they are not usually experienced narrators. Senior did a great job and the book was pleasant to listen to.

I highly recommend this book to parents of kids of all ages.

Book Review: People I Want To Punch In the Throat by Jenn Mann

I know today is Thursday and that is usually Throwback Thursday. However, I’ve decided to change Throwback Thursday to monthly feature that will be on the first Thursday of the month. I look forward to reading your Throwback reviews on October 2!

People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann
People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Publisher’s Description:

Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms, and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage, and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. So the next time you find yourself wearing fuzzy bunny pajamas in the school carpool line or accidentally stuck at a co-worker’s swingers party, just think, What would Jen Mann do?

Jen Mann has a popular blog which is also named People I Want to Punch in the Throat. She rails against stuck up suburban super moms on her blog and this book is more of the same. Each chapter is an anecdote about something crazy that has happened to Jen, from how she met her husband online to wearing pajamas to drop her kid off ant school and then unexpectedly having to get out of her car and walk into school. She is very snarky as you might expect from the title of the book. Sometimes I felt she was over the top. I don’t have a problem with swear words but I don’t like it when comedians use them excessively. They don’t always make a joke funnier and can be used as a way of getting cheap laughs. I think she used them to liven up a story but now and then she ended up coming across shrill.

Most of her stories were amusing but not laugh out loud funny. However, I think most moms will find at least one chapter that they can relate to. I chose this book for review because Jen and I live in the same metro area. I hope she doesn’t read this review and then hunt me down to punch ME in the throat!

(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)

Book Review and Giveaway! Landline by Rainbow Rowell

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 8, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

When Georgie McCool tells her husband she can’t spare the time away from work to visit his family at Christmas, she never expects him to pack up the kids and go without her. Maybe she should have expected that. Maybe Neal, who’s always a little bit mad at Georgie, has finally had enough. Alone with her memories and unsure of their future, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but it might be her opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…But what if Georgie and Neal would be better off if they never got married at all?

Oh, how I love Rainbow Rowell. I’m sure if I knew her personally, we would totally be BFFs. Landline is funny and heartwarming at the same time. I could relate to both Georgie and Neal. Georgie is an over-worked, stressed out television writer and Neal is a stay-at-home dad. The story was primarily set in the present day, showing Georgie and Neal’s strained relationship but also flashed back to the back to when they first met so the reader gets a clear idea of how they ended up in the state they’re in today. Even the secondary characters, like Seth and Georgie’s mom and sister are well drawn. And they have the most hilarious lines. I was laughing out loud several times. I love Rainbow’s sense of humor.

Georgie and Neal could have easily been caricatures. I’ve seen the working spouse vs. the stay at home spouse many times in other books and in TV and movies. But this book is a fresh and original take on that storyline. There is not much more I can say about the plot that I can say without spoiling it. There is one device that requires a heavy suspension of belief but it’s worth it and I didn’t have a problem doing that at all.

Call me Rainbow. Anytime. We can hang out.

I’m pleased to be able to givaway one copy of Landline to a lucky reader with a US mailing address. Just fill out the form below. I will take entries until 11:59pm CST on Sept 22, 2014. Good luck!

Other books I’ve reviewed by Rainbow Rowell:
Eleanor and Park

(I received my review copy of Landline courtesy of Amazon Vine and my giveaway copy from the publisher.)

Kids Say (And Do) the Darndest Things

Cash: Mommy, next year I want you to be an active member of the PTA instead of checking your email and chatting on Facebook.

*****

West: When I’m 18, I’m going to live with you and say cuss words.

*****

Neve: I know that dog’s a boy because it doesn’t have a shirt on.

*****

Cash: In the olden days, did you have to type in the https when you were typing in a web address?

*****

West: Daddy is not the boss
Me: Daddy and I are co-bosses
West: I know who the real boss is – SANTA!…and God
Cash: No, the president is

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 1, 2012
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

***This review will have spoilers for the first book, Divergent, but not for this book.***

This book finds Tris dealing with the emotional aftermath of mortally shooting her good friend. It weighs on her conscience so heavily that she can’t even pick up a gun. She’s also processing the grief of losing her parents. The plot picks up right where Divergent left off. Tris, Tobias and what’s left of Dauntless that is still good seek refuge among the different factions while they formulate a plan to find and kill Jeanine Matthews, leader of the traitor Dauntless.

This book was definitely not as good as the first. The story was confusing at times. Tris and her group moved around so much, I kept having to refer back to see where they were. Also, she and Tobias had their mitts on each other all.the.time. Every other page they were hugging, kissing, holding hands. It was too much and too mushy. I know that they are young and in love but they are also on the run for their lives! I kept thinking about what my college psychology professor taught me. No one thinks about sex when his/her life is in danger. My final criticism is why did Tris and Tobias have to lie to each other so much? I know that the purpose was to insert some conflict into their relationship since there is no love triangle. But the reasons they were lying didn’t seem justified.

This book did have some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and kept the story exciting. In between Tris and Tobias making out it was action packed. And the secret that is revealed in the end is definitely enough to make me read the third and final book in the trilogy, Allegiant.

Classifying Insurgent as a throwback book is dubious but since I’m the last person in the world to read this book, it counts!

Every Thursday I host Throwback Thursdays. If you you’d like to share a post from the past week about a book from “back in the day”, feel free to grab the button for your post and and link up below. Be sure and link directly to your post, not your blog’s home page. Thanks!

Book Review: Stuck in the Middle With You by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three GendersStuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publisher: Broadway Books
Paperback Release Date: April 22, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stuck in the Middle With You is Jennifer Finney Boylan’s memoir on what her experience was parenting her two boys as a male, while going through transition to a female and then as a female. She has a previous memoir, She’s Not There, that is the detailed story of her life as a transgender person and her transition to female. Since she has that previous book, details on that are not discussed in this book.

Jenny really doesn’t have all that much to say about her parenting experience because it appears her two sons didn’t have much of a problem with her transition and don’t have any trouble with their peer group because of it. I’m sure that their experience is exceptional, most likely because they were quite young when she transitioned. Her younger son doesn’t even have a clear memory of when she was a man.

Also included in this book – probably to fill it out – is interviews with some of Jenny’s friends about their unique experiences either as a parent or a child. And she has some well-known friends! Richard Russo, Augusten Burroughs and Edward Albee are among the interviewees. I really enjoyed the interviews. It was interesting to read how different people’s experiences can be. For instance, two of the interviewees were adopted. One felt disconnected from his adoptive parents and called them “those people” while the other one felt just as close to his as if they were his biological parents.

What I am really interested in is Jenny’s relationship with her wife Deedie, who is heterosexual. It’s clear they have no physical relationship as Jenny writes about an occasion she wanted to kiss Deedie but Deedie said no. I’m not sure what Jenny’s sexual orientation is. She briefly considers having sex with a man who tries to pick her up in a bar. I’d love to hear Deedie’s side of the story and about what it’s like to stay in a non-physical marriage for 25 years. Perhaps that’s addressed more in Jenny’s first book.

I liked this book but since Jenny’s transition went pretty smoothly as far as her parenting goes, there wasn’t much meat to it. It was still very interesting, especially the interviews. I think it’s always good to read about people who have vastly different experiences than you. There’s always something to learn from them.

(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)

Weekend Ramblings: Back to School Edition

You may have noticed that my blog posts were pretty few and far between this summer. I blame that on my children. With them home all day, every day it’s hard to find time to read and thus hard to write reviews. My boys started school last week and my 4-year old starts preschool Wednesday and will go three full days a week. Ah, freedom! I should have more time for reading and writing and my posts should be more regular. I’m shooting for at least three times a week. Throwback Thursdays will be back consistently so be sure to visit on Thursday and link up your throwback reviews from the week. I’ll also have Fashion Friday starting sometime too. More details on that to come!

My sweeties on the boys’ first day of school.

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

Land of Love and DrowningLand of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Publisher: Riverhead
Release Date: July 10, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.

Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.

Land of Love and Drowning isn’t a plot driven novel. It’s a character study and a chronicle of the lives of two sisters. Eeona, the older sister, is prim and proper and very concerned with class and her place in society. Anette, the younger sister, is the complete opposite. This book also offers a history of the Virgin Islands from the time it was transferred from Danish to United States possession in the early 20th century up until the 1970s. It was interesting and troubling to read about how the Americans brought racism with them to the Virgin Islands where none had existed before. They also started putting up hotels and resorts and tried to make all the beaches private. The islanders were actually worse off as Americans even though we’re supposedly the greatest country in the world.

There is magical realism present in this novel. Several characters have magical physical attributes or capabilities. While it did require some suspension of disbelief, I thought it all made perfect sense in the context of the story. The islanders seemed like very superstitious people on the whole and a little bit of voodoo here and there seemed natural.

The only criticism I have of this book is that the pacing was slow. I wasn’t riveted when I was reading and therefore, it took me a long time to finish. However, the writing is beautiful and I liked how the narration alternated between several characters. Anette’s way of speaking was a little hard to understand but also charming.

I enjoyed this book and the fact that the setting was a place that I hadn’t read a book set in before. I feel liked a learned a lot. The author’s note at the end explains what is fact and what is fiction as far as the history of the Virgin Islands goes. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book and have a feeling it will win awards this year. Better read it so you can be in the know!

(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)

A Little Break

Hi all! Just wanted to let you know that the blog may be quiet for a bit. I’m having surgery today and I’m not sure when I’ll be off of the post-surgery painkillers enough to be able to read and write coherently again. Hopefully, everything turns out way better than last time! This time it’s GI surgery for complications from Crohn’s disease so respiratory failure seems unlikely. Fingers crossed that I’ll be back to reading and posting in no time!

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