Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Author: Meg Gardiner
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Type: e-book
Series: #1 in the Unsub series
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Dutton
First Published: June 27, 2017
First Line: "The yelling woke her, the rough voice of her father, shouting into the phone."

Book Description from GoodReadsA riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: UNSUB is an eerie, gritty Criminal Minds-type book about a serial killer that puts the tension and twists front and centre. The characters are a mixed bunch and while I can't say they stood out for me, I appreciated that the focus was more on the criminal profiling, multiple twists and nail-biting scenes. Some of the killer's methods of displaying his kills were imaginative to say the least and some verged on almost too gory for little old me. Almost.

The plot was fairly complex and was sprinkled with pockets of tension. The twists and red herrings had me guessing and second guessing my theories about the identity of the elusive Prophet. I was certain that one of my suspicions would be right and held on to that idea until near the end (I'm nothing if not stubborn) but I will have to admit defeat on this one. And while some of Caitlyn's epiphanies stretched the realm of plausibility it was still an enjoyable and very engaging read.

The only issue I had was that once they figured out the killer's cryptic code things got a little murky. There were a lot of victims and I found it a hard remembering each of them and how they fit into the killer's grand scheme. This scheme was complex, dark and is based on something that some people may be well versed in but I'm not one of them. I struggled a bit remembering the various levels in his nefarious plot. 

The book ends with an intense scene while also giving readers a hint about the future of this fledgling series. I can see why this book has been optioned for a TV program. It's got all the makings for a solid criminal profiling-type show.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Dutton and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Snape: A Definitive Reading

Author: Lorrie Kim
Genre: Fantasy
Type: e-book
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Story Spring Publishing
First Published: July 4, 2016
First Line: "The Harry Potter series may be named after The Boy Who Lived, but if you want to know the story, keep your eyes fixed on Snape."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe Harry Potter series may be named after the Boy Who Lived, but if you want to know the story, keep your eyes fixed on Snape. This hook-nosed, greasy-haired, grumpy character is one of J.K. Rowling’s enduring gifts to English literature. He’s the archetypal ill-tempered teacher: acerbic, yet horribly, deliciously funny. Every time he opens his mouth, he delivers. When he’s in a scene, you can’t take your eyes off him. Snape is always the story.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: This book is a thorough dissection of the Harry Potter books with a focus on Severus Snape, one of the all-time best, most complicated and polarizing characters of modern literature.

Each chapter focuses on one of the seven books in the series. They begin with a detailed account of the book's plot and includes long quotes of the original text. As someone who has read the series four times, I felt that the rehash of each book went into too much depth and I ended up skimming much of it. As a Potterhead I knew all this! And, while some may say the plot summary is for HP newbie fans, I honestly think that this book will only be bought by the die-hard fans of Harry Potter.

While there were some good points made, many of the insights would be fairly obvious to a Potter fan. But the points that were based on pure speculation by the author, that weren't supported in Rowling's text, made me cringe a bit. She made too big of a leap in quite a few of her points. I had assumed I'd devour this book but admit to picking away at it for weeks.

Don't get me wrong, Kim makes some great points and I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book. And while I didn't agree with all of the author's points it is always nice to slip into the Potterverse again. 

Snape is a complex character who forced me to run the gamut of emotions during the seven HP books. He's complicated, heartbreaking, mysterious, devoted, hateful and obsessive. I liked how the author shows the conflicted nature of Snape and how his past formed who he became. Reading this book has reminded me that it's time to pull out my Potter set and re-read it this summer.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Every Last Lie

Author: Mary Kubica
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Harlequin
First Published: June 27, 2017
First Line: "They say that death comes in threes."

Book Description from GoodReads"The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us." 

Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 
Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 
Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.
My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Every Last Lie is accurately named because there's a whole lotta lyin' going on in Kubica's latest book. I have read two of her previous books, Pretty Baby and Don't You Cry -- with Pretty Baby being my favourite. Kubica is a good writer with some cool ideas but I will admit that with her latest book, Every Last Lie, I wasn't quite as enamoured.

This time around I found the pacing to be sluggish and repetitive and while some may call it a slow burn I'd say it was more of a low smolder. There was a slight jump in energy towards the end but I had expected more action and twists. 

Kubica uses dual narratives of Nick and Clara to tell the story which gives readers an inside look into their lives and how the lies began and continued to build. Kubica provides some possible culprits and red herrings that had me guessing but I wasn't a fan of the big twist at the end which wasn't a twist?! Huh?

Unfortunately, I had a hard time connecting to the main characters. I just didn't like them. I understand that life throws people hard balls but when smart characters repeatedly make silly decisions I have a hard time getting behind them. Both Nick and Clara keep making decisions which ultimately throw their lives, and the lives of their family, into turmoil. I had more sympathy for their young children and Harriet, the dog.

What Kubica does well is show the dark and all-consuming side of grief. Clara is drowning in her despair and I felt for her. She's overwhelmed, frenzied and out of sorts much of the time which makes sense when you think of what she's gone through. But she also lacks common sense -- like leaving her kids in a hot car while she frantically tries to piece together what happened to Nick and holding off telling her daughter what happened to Nick for an excruciatingly long time. While Clara makes for a good unreliable narrator she was just too flawed for me.

Overall, I think Kubica's die-hard fans will enjoy this book. It's got a good premise and touches on some big issues but was lighter on the suspense and character development than I had expected. I still consider myself a Kubica fan and look forward to her next literary offering. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Harlequin for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Sunshine Sisters

Author: Jane Green
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Berkley Books
First Published: June 6, 2017
First Line: "All those years when Ronni thought she was sick, all those years convinced that every mole was melanoma, every cough was lung cancer, every case of heartburn was an oncoming heart attack, after all those years, when the gods finally stopped taking care of her she wasn't scared."

Book Description from GoodReadsRonni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. 

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother's overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother's fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.

My Rating: 3 stars

My ReviewRonni Sunshine spent years as a B-list actress and enjoyed the fame that came along with it. Unfortunately, she'll never be nominated as Mother of the Year by her three daughters. Ronni was narcissistic and often cruel to her daughters which has caused a long estrangement between the four women. Now that Ronni has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, she is adamant to end this estrangement and calls her girls home to patch things up.

While this book addresses serious issues I'd still call it a light, beachy-type of book. It was enjoyable enough to keep my interest and was a quick read but I felt it was too predictable and didn't go deep enough into the issues it raises. I also wasn't a fan of the loose ends in the plot that leave readers hanging (What happened to Nell's first love?, How does the most important person in her life react to her new love?).

The book had a good premise and had the potential for an emotional family drama.  Unfortunately, I found the plot to be contrived and the characters one-dimensional with the self-absorbed, nasty Hollywood mother and her three daughters --- Nell, the people pleasing, serious older sister, Meredith, the insecure middle child and Lizzy, the baby who can get away with anything. People reacted as expected and events unfolded as anticipated - there are no surprises here, folks.

If you're looking for an escapist kind of read then you'll probably enjoy this book because it's light and has a good pace. But if you're looking for a book that surprises you with family secrets and twists, and gives you 'all the feels' with some gritty family turmoil then Sunshine Sisters may not feel substantial enough for you. 

Overall, this is a good light read if you're looking for something in the easy-breezy category that touches on some big issues but is fairly predictable and has a conclusion that is nicely wrapped up. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Berkley Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Spring is one of my stomach's favourite times of the year because it's the start of rhubarb season!! Those beautiful red stalks are packed with a lip-twisting tartness that I simply adore. I have two large plants in my garden and there's something about being able to walk into your backyard to pick something you've grown with your own two hands that's pretty awesome. The best part is baking it into something truly yummy and sharing it with family and friends.

One of my popular (and oldest) recipes on my blog (hence the sad lack of pictures) is my Sour Cream Coffeecake. It's moist and has a wonderfully buttery taste that is made even better with the brown sugar-cinnamon topping.

This past Sunday it was hotter than the hubs of H-E-double-hockey-stick but that didn't stop the culinary wheels inside my head from turning. I had an idea and my stomach was on the sidelines cheering me on. Heat or no heat I wanted cake, and cake I shall have!

So, with rhubarb in hand and some strawberries that were on their last legs, I decided to combine my favourite coffeecake with some strawberry-rhubarb goodness.  The oppressive heat was worth it because this cake was awesome! It's like my favourite coffeecake and strawberry rhubarb pie had a love child. And it was glorious.

So, if you're looking for ways to use your rhubarb bounty you've got to give this recipe a try.  It's seriously good eats.

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Yield: 1 - 9x13-inch pan

3 cups rhubarb, cut into small 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cake Batter
1 cup butter, softened (no substitutes)
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13" baking pan. Set aside.

Prepare filling: In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, water, cornstarch and sugar.  Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes, over medium-low heat, stirring often. Mixture will appear thick but fruit will still retain much of their shape. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare topping: In a medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients and mix well.  It will have a moist crumb texture. Set aside. 

Prepare batterIn a large bowl, cream together 1 cup of butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Mix in 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt, just until combined. Spread half of the mixture into the prepared pan.

Pour fruit mixture over the batter.

Spread remaining batter onto the fruit and sprinkle with the topping.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  

Cool on a wire rack.  Once cooled, store in an airtight container or cover well with plastic wrap.

Last but not least, be prepared for lots of kudos. This cake truly rocks!

Other rhubarb-inspired creations:
Moist Rhubarb Cake (one of my all-time top recipes)
Lemon Rhubarb Squares
Rhubarb Custard Crumble Pie

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Weight of Lies

Author: Emily Carpenter
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
First Published: June 6, 2017
First Line: "Kitten -- that was what everyone called her."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Review: The Weight of Lies is a complex and layered psychological thriller that is sprinkled with twists, numerous culprits, an eerie setting and a mystery that is slowly revealed to the reader. And don't forget the cool cover picture. 

Ohhhh ya, this is a great read.

The story is told via alternating chapters which is a common enough story-telling method but instead of two characters telling the story, half of the chapters are excerpts from Kitten, the cult classic novel that launched the career of Frances Ashley 40 years ago, and the other half are from the perspective of Meg, Frances' daughter. With their tempestuous relationship, there is no love lost between mother and daughter so Meg decides to dig into her mother's past to write a tell-all book and uncover the truth behind Kitten. Are the rumours that the book was based on a real-life murder true? If so, how/why was her mother involved?

In many suspense reads you'll have several culprits with two or three that have any real possibility of being the 'baddie'. But The Weight of Lies had so many twists and potential villains that I kept changing my mind about who was taunting Meg and what really happened on Bonny Island all those years ago. The characters, generally speaking, weren't an overly likable bunch (especially Meg and Frances) and had baggage (with a capital B). But my lack of warmth towards them, surprisingly, didn't bother me and only added to that eerie feel. 

The story is set on Bonny Island, a small island off the coast of Georgia, which is as beautiful as it is creepy. Sure, it's a pretty setting filled with beaches, forest and wild horses. But there's another side to Bonny Island - it's got a creepy, insular, lonely, Southern Gothic feel to it which is a great backdrop for the twist-filled ride filled with family secrets, lies, omissions, tumultuous parent-child relationships and even a wee bit of romance.

This book is an excellent summer pick and checks off a lot of the 'great read' boxes. It's an atmospheric, chilling read that will keep readers on their toes and have them changing their theories about who is lying and who is telling the truth.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Court of Lions

Author: Jane Johnson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Publisher: DoubleDay Canada
First Published:
First Line: "Kate didn't consider herself a vandal."

Book Description from GoodReadsSometimes at the lowest points in your life, fate will slip you a gift. Ken Follett meets Jodi Picoult in a stunning new novel from Jane Johnson.

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great hinge-points in human history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Last year I read Jane Johnson's book Pillars of Light and was impressed with her ability to weave an interesting story set within a historical era and incorporate vast amounts of research and still keeping her readers engaged. In her latest book, Court of Lions, she uses dual narratives to tell the story of two people living in Granada -- Kate in modern day and Blessings in the 15th century.

It is obvious that Johnson has put a lot of time and effort into her research. She brings 15th century Granada to life for her readers - its gardens, architecture, food and cultures as well as the beauty of Alhambra, the stunning palace/fortress in Granada, Andalusia in southern Spain. These historical aspects were vividly drawn as was the religious fervor and power struggles as Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand plot to eradicate the Muslim and Jewish people from Spain and gain dominion over Granada. It was a harsh, violent time full of treachery and Johnson brings her readers into the centre of the conflict.

That said, my feelings for this book are quite mixed. There were certain parts of this book that were a solid 4 stars - the vivid descriptions of Granada, the connection between Momo and Blessings and Kate's chilling and mysterious past. Unfortunately, I found the pacing in the middle quite slow, the ending predictable and I was disappointed that the mystery involving the notes that Kate finds in an old wall only had a minor role in the plot. 

Overall, I thought this was a well-written, interesting read with a unique setting. And while I cannot fully agree with the publisher's description of this book being a combination of Ken Follett and Jodi Picoult (an odd combination to say the least) it is obvious that Johnson has done extensive research on 15th century Granada. Her writing is wonderfully descriptive as she gives readers an inside view of religious persecution, cultural discrimination as well as some tense scenes and a unique love story. I encourage readers to read the author's note at the end of the book for more insight. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to DoubleDay Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

One Brother Shy

Author: Terry Fallis
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Canadian
Type: Paperback ARC
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher
Publisher: McLelland and Stewart
First Published: May 30, 2017
First Line: "She died before she could tell me."

Book Description from GoodReadsFrom the two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and author of The Best Laid Plans, comes a new story about a man tormented by an event from his youth, and the journey he finds himself on to heal and to learn who he is.

Few people know the real Alex MacAskill. Most of the world sees a painfully and chronically shy software engineer in his mid-20s, soft-spoken, a bit of a loner, and someone easy to escape notice wherever possible—and that’s just the way Alex wants it. Because no matter how many years have passed, the incident known only as “Gabriel” in the MacAskill family is something that still haunts him.

But when his mother, one of the only people in the world who Alex felt comfortable as himself around, dies after a long illness, he suddenly has no choice but to face the very thing that he’s been avoiding since that night in high school. In an instant, Alex finds himself trying to piece together the mystery of his identity, and on a search for parts of his family he never knew existed—a search that takes him from Ottawa to London to Moscow, encountering along the way the KGB, painful memories from his past, and even the 1972 Russian hockey team—a search that ultimately helps Alex discover himself.

With his trademark wit and captivating storytelling, Terry Fallis has written a novel unlike any of his others. One Brother Shy is at once poignant and humorous, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and readers will not soon forget Alex MacAskill.

My Rating:  4 stars

My Review: This book is filled with mystery, humour and heart. Canadian author, Terry Fallis, has written an enjoyable story about Alex MacAskill, a man who tries to piece together a mystery about his family and find himself in the process.

Fallis takes his readers on a journey to various cities (Ottawa, London, Moscow, New York) and touches on several deeper issues (bullying, loss, family bonds, long-lasting effects of humiliation ...). These issues are told with Fallis' signature humour, wit and his ability to write relatable, authentic characters. 

You really feel for Alex as he struggles to find out who he is without the one person who was always there for him. He's a quirky, awkward and lost soul. He's the underdog and you can't help but root for him. There is a gaggle of characters that he meets along the way but it's Alex's boss, Simone (who lives at the far end of the humanity spectrum) who you'll love to hate. She has the sensitivity of Miranda Priestly (Devil Wear's Prada) and the people skills and warmth of Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter). Ohhh, yes.  She's a special kind of gal (and I kind of wish she was in the book more).

Central to the plot is the mysterious 'Gabriel' incident which added an interesting mystery aspect. I was eager to find out what could have happened in Alex's past to have affected him so deeply decades later. The big reveal brings Alex's struggle with his personal demons into perspective for the reader. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read that had a somewhat predictable, yet satisfying conclusion. I enjoy Fallis' writing, humour and his Canadian pride which is evident as he sprinkles various Canadianisms throughout. This is a light read that touches on sensitive issues with humour and heart. Recommended, eh!

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher, McLelland and Stewart, for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

Author: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 226
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Knopf
First Published: April 24, 2017
First Line: "The last thing I ever said to him was, "I'm falling asleep."

Book Description from GoodReadsFrom Facebook's COO and Wharton's top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life's inevitable setbacks. 

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. "I was in 'the void, '" she writes, "a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe." Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build. 
Option B combines Sheryl's personal insights with Adam's eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart--and her journal--to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl's loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. "I want Dave," she cried. Her friend replied, "Option A is not available," and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.
We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

My Rating: 3 stars

My ReviewThere is no doubt that Sheryl Sandberg has suffered a great and terrible loss that has irrevocably changed her life and the lives of her two children. In this book, she shares her lowest points as she struggles to deal with the sudden death of her husband and how she gained resilience and strength.  

While I could sympathize as a wife and mother myself, I had a hard time relating to much of the book. I'm sure that this book was cathartic for Sandberg to write but it is not a self-help book with concrete advice for readers. Instead it's her personal journey through grief which is firmly influenced by her extreme privilege, seemingly limitless resources and familial support. She mentions several times that she realizes how lucky she is to have financial security but doesn't relate her suggestions for those of us who don't have seven figures in our bank account, job security or the exceptionally compassionate and understanding boss that Sandberg has in Mark Zuckerberg.

I think Sandberg had good intentions with this book and detailed her own personal struggle to successfully navigate through her own grief. I took away a few helpful tidbits (specifically the 3 P's of grief and how to approach others about their 'grief elephants') but this book is more of a personal memoir of Sandberg's loss. If you approach this book as a memoir instead of a self-help book with concrete suggestions I think you'll get more out of this book.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Knopf for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Grace Notes

Author: Katey Sagal
Genre: Biography/Autobiography
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 245
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Published: March 21, 2017
First Line: "I am getting older."

Book Description from GoodReadsGripping, singular, and gorgeously reflective, Grace Notes is a memoir told in essays by beloved actress, Hollywood veteran, and singer/songwriter Katey Sagal—perfect for fans of Mary Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You and Patti Smith’s M Train.

Popular and award-winning star Katey Sagal chronicles the rollercoaster ride of her life in this series of evocative and beautifully written vignettes, resulting in a life story recounted unlike any other Hollywood memoir you’ve read before.

Sagal takes you through the highs and lows of her life, from the tragic deaths of her parents to her long years in the Los Angeles rock scene, from being diagnosed with cancer at the age of twenty-eight to getting her big break on the fledgling FOX network as the wise-cracking Peggy Bundy on the beloved sitcom Married…with Children.

Sparse and poetic, Grace Notes is an emotionally riveting tale of struggle and success, both professional and personal: Sagal’s path to sobriety; the stillbirth of her first daughter, Ruby; motherhood; the experience of having her third daughter at age fifty-two with the help of a surrogate; and her lifelong passion for music. Intimate, candid, and offering an inside look at a remarkable life forged within the entertainment industry, Grace Notes offers unprecedented access to the previously unknown life of a woman whom audiences have loved for over thirty years.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Grace Notes is group of essays that look at Sagal's life as a musician, an actress, an addict, and most especially, a mother. She's a proud mom of three and candid about her struggle with addiction and her struggle to make it big. I was surprised at some of her celebrity connections including singing back-up for some famous women, her celebrity romances and a friendship with a certain awkward and, at one point, sensational star of children's TV and movies. 

And yet I can't say that I loved this memoir. It's much drier than I had expected and while she touches on some serious issues, it felt like she kept her readers at an arm's length even though it has an inner monologue feel to it. In these essays, she has snippets of lyrical, almost poetic, one-line prose scattered throughout but these one-liners felt a little odd - like she was adding song lyrics to her life story - and quickly became overdone. 

Grace Notes details Sagal's youth as the eldest of five kids growing up with a depressed mother and a erratic director father as well as her rise to fame as a musician and later actress. Some parts were interesting but others I struggled to get through. If you're looking for an insider's look at life on Married, With Children or Sons of Anarchy sets you'll be disappointed. She just touches on her experiences on-set with much of the book being devoted as a love note to her three kids. That is lovely and a touching way to honour her children -- but not necessarily interesting for people outside of her family.

Her life has been filled with tragedy and loss as well as fame and success. I applaud her for sharing her personal losses and struggles with her readers. That takes guts and Sagal has proven she has that in spades. She has led an interesting life and while I'm still a fan of her acting work I can't say I feel the same about this book.

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