Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman - Book Review



Trigger warning - Women experiencing post-partum OCD should not read this book until they have received treatment.

The Other Mother is the latest novel from Carol Goodman. In this psychological thriller, we meet Daphne Marist a few months after she gives birth to her first child, Chloe. Daphne struggles with post-partum OCD and intrusive thoughts. To help her cope, she joins a post-partum support group where she meets and befriends Laurel Hobbes. Laurel is everything Daphne wishes she could be: outgoing, relaxed, wealthy, etc. As their friendship progresses, Daphne becomes less and less certain about who she really is and what will keep her baby safe. Daphne even assumes Laurel's identity to take a live-in job with her baby as she tries to escape her husband.

The Other Mother is a meticulously-plotted, twisty tale that will keep you fascinated from page one right to the very end. There are two narrators, both of whom are unreliable, creating a thrilling read. The reader will want to believe Daphne, but it is not easy. You're never quite sure what is true and what is not until the revelations at the end.

While I do not have experience with post-partum OCD, I did work through post-partum depression after my son was born, and I can relate to so many of the descriptions of new motherhood in this novel. I still remember the fatigue, guilt, and overwhelming unsureness that came with being a new mother who was struggling.

"I do resent Chloe - her constant crying, her tantrums, her demands. But that doesn't mean I don't lover her. Does it?"
The Other Mother, Carol Goodman

The Other Mother is available for purchase at HarperCollins, Amazon, or wherever books are sold near you.

You can connect with Carol Goodman on her website or on Facebook.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of The Other Mother courtesy of HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer - Book Review


Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Shaefer is a non-fiction book that explores the evolution, triumph, and power of female friendships. Beginning with the history of the traditionally male-dominated word "friend", progressing through the portrayal of female friendships in television, movies, and literature, and complete with interesting interviews and stories from real life friends, Text Me When You Get Home will validate the importance of having strong women by your side, no matter what.

What I found particularly interesting was the discussion of how friendships are unique relationships in our lives because there is nothing legally tying us together. This is not true of parents, sisters, husbands, wives, children, and even work colleagues. (Not that work colleagues can't be friends. Some of my closest ones are.) But friendships are different. We could walk away at anytime, and we don't. Further, it's not uncommon for friendships endure even longer than some of these other relationships in our lives. That is something to think about.

Christina from Grey's Anatomy says it best when she tells Meredith, "You're my person."

I saw myself so often in the anecdotes and research shared that Text Me When You Get Home made me both laugh and cry. I thought of many wonderful memories I've had with my girlfriends (our road trip to the Inn Boonsboro came to mind), and I was reminded of how important these friendships have been to me over the years. My friends were life-giving when I was struggling with pregnancy loss and the early days of motherhood.

This is one of those books in which I have underlined many quotations and starred full paragraphs because the ideas resonated deeply with me. Right from the beginning there were passages I had to stop and reread, just to savour them again.

"The words, and corresponding texts we send when we do get home, are a web connecting us, winding though the many moments we spend together and apart, helping us understand that whenever we're unmoored or terrified or irate or heartbroken or just bored, we're not by ourselves."
Text Me When You Get Home, Kayleen Schaefer

Text Me When You Get Home is a quick and delightful read. It will make you fall in love your friends all over again and strengthen your own commitment to your female friendships in the very best way. I hope you pick it up to enjoy.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of Text Me When You Get Home courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Reading Confessions

I thought I'd share a few of my reading confessions to give you a glimpse into my bookish life. It's basically a post of unpopular opinions, so here we go!




1. I'm pretty meh about bookmarks
I have a couple that I love, but it's not something I'll go out of my way to collect or spend money on. I feel like they get damaged so easily!! I really like the #currentlyreading wooden one from Nook and Burrow because it's super sturdy, but I'm just as happy to use a meaningful card or picture my five-year-old has coloured.

2. I'm also pretty meh about the "classics"
I can appreciate that Pride and Prejudice is pretty much the first romantic comedy ever, and I do love Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo, but the classics in general are not reading material to which I turn often. Which is ironic if you take a look at #3....

3. I used to be a huge book snob
Huge! Like so so super judgey. Fantasy, romance, horror, basically anything that wasn't historical fiction I would silently (and sometimes not-so-silently) declare trashy and beneath me. I feel particularly proud of myself for overcoming this flaw. Now I read Harlequin romance and young adult fantasy on the regular. I still read historical fiction, and I love a good memoir, but those other previously shunned genres are also very present in my reading life. My friend Dan calls them "dessert" :)

Also, check out this essay by Neil Gaiman. It will get you rethinking your perception of what literature we "should" be reading.

4. My TBR pile of books I already own is out of control
Like 200+ out of control. I'm actually surprised Rob doesn't give me more of a hard time about it. The thing is, the more I read and the more I write about books, the more book piles seem to grow in our house!

I have been trying to tackle this situation more thoughtfully with #theunreadshelfproject2018. You can read about it here. I also post about it pretty often on Instagram @jennbairos.

5.  I don't really understand audiobooks
I've listened to a few audiobooks on long road trips, but overall, this is not a book format that I can get to work for me. I always catch myself drifting off or checking my phone and missing parts of the story. I can't multitask when listening to an audiobook, so I figure, why not just hold the real thing?

6. I don't enjoy novellas or short stories
Novellas are a pet peeve of mine. Just put it in the freaking book! Don't make me hunt down the other "bonus" storylines. I mean, if I loved your book, I'll do it, but I'll be annoyed about it.

Short stories I'm unlikely to read all together. I love being fully invested in my characters and storylines. Trilogies are my jam. A short story always feels too quickly wrapped up for me. I need more.

7. I don't always keep autographed books
Five-years-ago me would have never let go of a personally autographed book. Ten-years-ago me would have never thought I'd be lucky enough to own an autographed book at all.

We live in a small house, and I can't keep every book I receive, and even if it's autographed, if I didn't love it with all my heart, I'll pass it along to the free little library on our street. I know this probably sounds like I'm complaining about all of my good fortune, but I do hope that someone else will enjoy the nice surprise that comes there way when they see that special signature.

8. Sometimes, Possibly too often, I let Sebastian play on the iPad so I can read
I justify this because I feel like it's great that he knows reading is an important value in our home, and it's soooo easy to hibernate at home in the winter, but I hope to do this a bit less now that spring is on the horizon.


What about you? Do you have any unpopular opinions when it comes to books? Or do you share any of mine?

xo
Jenn

Monday, 19 February 2018

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross - Book Review



The Queen's Rising is the debut YA fantasy novel from Rebecca Ross. In this book we meet Brienna. She is studying to become a passion of knowledge. After she completes her study, she is pulled into a plot to overthrow a king of Maevana, a nearby kingdom, to raise the rightful queen to the throne. Although Brienna does not know the identity of her father, she knows he is from Maevana and she feels loyal to restoring peace in that land.

At its heart, The Queen's Rising is a book about fierce females and found families. The first half of the book is strong and Brienna is a likeable character. However, Cartier was my favourite. Cartier is one of her mentors at school and wondering if they would ever see each other again after her studies are over is a big part of what kept me interested in this story. There is a touch of romance, but it's very PG and appropriate for middle grade or teen readers.

“But I will say this: no matter which path you choose, I will follow you, even unto darkness.”
The Queen's Rising, Rebecca Ross

I loved the girl-power premise of a queen's realm that passed on to the crown women in each following generation. I would have enjoyed a bit more tension to pull the reader in as the conflict progressed; however, overall this is a good debut, and the author shows her potential in this novel. Also, that cover is ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!

Caution - Brienna's parentage and family history are a key part of the story, so my advice is to not look at the family trees in the first few pages of the book. Otherwise, it will spoil some of the plot twists for you.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a copy of this novel courtesy of HarperCollins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Sweet Reads Box - February 2018



For Canadians, a quality book subscription box is not easy to find. I was delighted to come across Sweet Reads Box and was eager to see if they were able to fill this niche market.

The tagline for Sweet Reads Box is "me time. delivered." and their boxes are curated each month to include:

  • a bestselling novel
  • a delicious drink
  • a sweet treat
  • an item (or items!) connected to your novel 
  • a card explaining each item and why it was selected

Sweet Reads Box aims to provide you with everything you need to for some quality alone time with an excellent book.

The cost per box is $49.99 CAD + shipping, and there are discounts if you purchase 3 or 6 month subscriptions. At this point, they only ship within Canada.

Let's check out what was in the February box!



The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill - Two orphans are abandoned in Montreal. As they grow, one becomes a piano prodigy, the other is gifted in dance and comedy. They perform together and dream of creating the most extraordinary circus imaginable. The pair is separated as teenagers and must use their unique gifts to survive on their own within the underground of Montreal in the 1930s. When they unite again, will their dreams eventually all come true?

Salted Caramel Popcorn from the Toronto Popcorn Company

Love You More Than Chocolate Mug and Baby It's Cold Outside Hot Chocolate Package from Gourmet du Village

Starry Glow Stars String Lights from Indigo

I Read Past My Bedtime magnetic bookmark from Crafted Van

Gold Dust Face Mask from Oh K!



The first thing that stands out to me is that value of this box is really good. When I did a quick price check online, I came up with a value of $67 which is well above the cost of the box. I also believe the thoughtfulness of selecting items that are connected to the book adds even more value.

The other piece that stands out for me with this Sweet Reads Box is that all but one of the vendors are Canadian. There are so many excellent large and small businesses in Canada, and I loved seeing a good range of them represented here.

You can subscribe for their next box on the Sweet Reads Box website. They've been growing quite a bit recently and selling out a month or so in advance, so be sure to claim your spot asap!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary box for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are true and entirely my own.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Winter Reads for When You're Snowbound

I love chatting about books, especially over on Instagram, and someone there recently asked me for recommendations for non-Christmasy winter reads. Challenge accepted! Here are six that I've either read and loved or have on my TBR pile at home.



Beartown by Fredrik Backman - This novel about a small town hockey team was one of the most powerful novels I have read in a long time. If you have already read Beartown, preorder the sequel, Us Against You. It's out in June!

Hunted by Meagan Spooner - Hunted is a dark and twisty Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I really enjoyed it. You can read my review here.

Make Me Stay by Rebecca Brooks - This romance between city girl, Samantha Kane, and injured Olympic skier, Austin Reede, is scorching hot!



Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones - A fantasy world to get lost in where love and evil battle to co-exist. This one is still on my TBR pile, but I've heard the writing is beautiful!

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms - What if you thought you received an annulment, but learned ten years later, that it wasn't finalized? If you're looking for a cozy women's fiction novel, try this one.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis - Confession - I haven't read this yet. Even Sebastian has already read it in school! I really look forward to reading this whole series soon.

xo
Jenn

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn - Book Review

The Woman in the Window is the debut novel from A.J. Finn. A Hitchockian-inspired psychological thriller, The Woman in the Window introduces us to Anna Fox. Anna is agoraphobic and is unable to leave her home. Heavily medicated, both through prescription meds and her own drinking, she believes she sees a crime through her window inside the home of one of her neighbours.

But did she really?



Anna is an unreliable narrator, and it's easy to question what she has to say. I found The Woman in the Window to be a quick read, and I was dying to find out if Anna was telling the truth or not. It certainly kept me turning the pages!

One of the twists near the end was something I actually had a wonderment about early on in the book, so it was a fun surprise to see it come to fruition.

Importantly, The Woman in the Window brings forward the theme of mental health in an accessible way. Whether we've suffered trauma or not, we each have our own hidden story, the story no one can see. There's the version of our story we show people, and then there is the version that is real. And how do we judge each each other based solely on what we think we know?

The movie rights to this book were actually sold before The Woman in the Window was even officially published, and I can absolutely see why. This should also make for a very gripping film!

Once you've finished The Woman in the Window, I recommend reading Connected Underneath by Linda Legters. You'll enjoy some similar themes with a protagonist housebound in a wheelchair, but read an entirely new story.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a copy of The Woman in the Window courtesy of HarperCollins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

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