Tag Archives: Family

Otherhood by William Sutcliffe

Overview
Otherhood: William Sutcliffe: Bloomsbury Publishing

Title: Otherhood
Author: William Sutcliffe
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Book to Film, Contemporary, Family
Dates read: 5th – 22nd January 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2008
5th sentence, 74th page: He didn’t like the way she’d been able to say these things without allowing him any response.

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Synopsis

First published as Whatever Makes You Happy, the hilarious and touching novel about mothers and their adult sons that’s now a Netflix original movie starring Felicity Huffman, Angela Bassett and Patricia Arquette.

Three sons. Three mums. One week.

Matt, Daniel and Paul were childhood friends. Now in their thirties, they’ve lost touch and have only one thing in common: their mothers. Little do they know that, having spent a cardless Mother’s Day discussing how their emotionally dysfunctional offspring should be settling down, Carol, Gillian and Helen have decided to pay their wayward sons a visit. On the same day, they turn up on their sons’ doorsteps, uninvited and unannounced. Their plan is to re-establish the mother-son bond by moving in for one week. Just a week. Surely that’s not a lot to ask…

Thoughts

I love the movie on Netflix that is based on this book. It’s a great look at women’s relationships, motherhood and the relationships that you grow up with. I still enjoyed this book. But it wasn’t quite as wonderfully thought out and created as the movie. I just felt like Sutcliffe tried really hard to write wonderful mother characters, but mostly it came off as someone who doesn’t necessarily want his mother around either.

Overall, I did enjoy this story. But, honestly, I think that the movie is what helped bump up my star rating for this. Although I thought this novel was about the experiences of motherhood (or otherhood as it gets known), it felt more like grown men not loving the interactions and nagging of their mothers. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes find my own mother a chore (who doesn’t), but I also examine why and don’t think that it’s a huge imposition to have her around. This whole novel kind of read as though that’s what mothers are when you are older – a bit of a pain and a bit of an imposition.

This was a fun novel. But I really don’t know what to write about it. I think that the point of view of the mother would have been better written by someone who has experienced motherhood. I found it kind of hard to connect with the sons because of their extreme dismissiveness and the callous way in which they seemed to treat their mothers. Whilst I enjoyed the storylines while reading the tale, I found it incredibly difficult to feel that connection that I was expecting. Particularly when I loved the movie so much…

<- More William SutcliffeMore Family ->

Image source: Bloomsbury

The Southern Education of a Jersey Girl by Jaime Primak Sullivan

Overview
The Southern Education of a Jersey Girl | Book by Jaime Primak Sullivan,  Eve Adamson | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Title: The Southern Education of a Jersey Girl: Adventures in Life and Love in the Heart of Dixie
Author: Jaime Primak Sullivan
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: FamilyHumour, Memoirs
Dates read: 19th – 20th December 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Touchstone
Year: 2016
5th sentence, 74th page: I didn’t have the life energy to waste on games.

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Synopsis

Jersey-bred, tough-as-nails Hollywood publicist Jaime Primak Sullivan has been crossing the line all her life. She isn’t afraid to say what everyone is thinking when it comes to love, sex, friendship, and many other topics that are all too often sugarcoated in well-mannered company. But when a meet-cute scene right out of a Nora Ephron movie upends her life, Jaime soon finds herself an unlikely transplant in an upscale suburb of Birmingham, Alabama – a reluctant “knish out of water” smack-dab in the Deep South, starting a life with her new husband, the perfect southern gentleman.

Jaime enters the heart of Dixie with her fists up, but eventually learns she must let her guard down. As she struggles to adapt to her new world, she befriends a group of southern belles, and the very women she thought her Jersey personality was most likely to shock and repel become her most surprising allies. Jaime soon discovers that while southern belles may have a secret code of behaviour northern girls don’t always understand, when it comes down to helping a fellow woman, no one is more thoughtful, more generous, and kinder than a belle.

In The Southern Education of a Jersey Girl, Jaime shares her hard-won lessons on southern etiquette, deep-fried foods, college football, the peculiar methods of southern dating – and all the unexpected homework a girl receives when she crosses the line… and decides to stay.

Thoughts

This was one of those memoirs that is completely, totally and utterly considered to be “laugh out loud”. I giggled and chortled my way through this book in total and utter joy. This is one of those stories that I will pick up again and again. There is something light and joyous about the whole storyline that really got to me and made me imagine every single moment Sullivan describes with perfect vividity.

The Southern Education of a Jersey Girl is a fairly typical fish-out-of-water story. The fact that it’s all true just makes it all that much more intriguing. I mean, many fish-out-of-water stories are based in fact, but this story has that extra ring of truth to it. Plus, you can just picture this big-haired, lough-mouthed jersey girl just blundering her way through the south. There is just a great sense of reality to this story.

I felt like this story was really written in two parts. And was pretty much two love stories. The first was Sullivan’s love story to her husband. I found the story of his courting and their relationship to be fascinating. I loved the slow-going, beautiful relationship that they shared. And the way that they are both able to negotiate their past hurts to finally come up with a new reality that leaves them both happy and feeling… well, complete, to as much of a degree as that ever happens.

The second love story though, is my favourite. It is about Sullivan’s belles. Her gorgeous girlfriends who have helped her negotiate the morals, intricacies and social norms of the belles. Although Michael was a great story, I loved the girlfriends even more. It’s an acknowledgement of the power of women and the ways in which we need them in our lives. It’s a bit of a love ballad to the south as well, but mostly it’s to the importance and power of having good women on your side.

<- WildThe Salt Path ->

Image source: Simon & Schuster

The Bad Mothers’ Book Club by Keris Stainton

Overview
The Bad Mothers' Book Club by Keris Stainton - Books - Hachette Australia

Title: The Bad Mothers’ Book Club
Author: Keris Stainton
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Chic lit, Contemporary, FamilyHumour
Dates read: 15th – 16th December 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Trapeze
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: ‘Good job I had my head torch.’

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Synopsis

Since moving to the seaside after her husband’s career change, Emma Chance’s life consists of the following: long walks on the beach (with the dog), early nights (with the kids) and Netflix (no chill).

Bored and lonely, when Emma is cordially invited to the exclusive school-mums’ book club, hosted by Head of PTA and footballer’s wife, Jools Jackson, she thinks her luck may finally be about to change. She soon realises she may have made a grave mistake when she realises it’s all about books, and less about wine and gossip – but it’s always better to stick things out, isn’t it?

Or not.

After a few months and a few awkward moments involving a red wine on white carpet accident and a swear-word incident involving Jools’s daughter, Emma is ungraciously kicked out of the book club. Exhausted, she decides it’s about time she fights back against the shame and humiliation. Enlisting the help of some similar-thinking mums, Emma sets up her own book club – no cleaners, polite conversation or reading required: this is the Bad Mothers’ Book Club.

A frank, irreverent and laugh-out-loud read for grown-ups.

Thoughts

I absolutely adored this novel. Far more than I had anticipated to be honest. After all, I thought it was just an average chic lit novel. Instead, it was incredibly hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable. And, as someone who has a few friends with babies on the way… I can imagine this form of motherhood all too well.

I love that this novel deals with motherhood in a very humorous and light manner. It didn’t try and pass motherhood off as something that suddenly turns people into saints. In fact, most of the anecdotes featured women who were in way over their heads and just trying to make sure the kid survives. I can guarantee that if I ever become a mother… this is what I’m going to be like. No angelic, in control adventures for me.

Emma is exactly the kind of heroine that I needed. I was in a bit of a reading slump when I picked up The Bad Mothers’ Book Club and really just needed something that was cheerful and a little chaotic. Which is exactly what Emma is. She’s constantly positive and completely chaotic throughout this entire story. I love how she seems to bumble from one social faux pas to another. Completely derailing herself along the way.

This is a great story about family and motherhood. About being a fish out of water and finding a place to belong. It’s humorous and light, with enough sass throughout to keep me grinning like an idiot. I will definitely be adding some more Stainton books to my wish list after this seriously enjoyable read…

<- Baby One More TimeCounting Stars ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Home from America by Sharan Newman

Overview
Image result for death's excellent vacation book cover

Title: Home from America
Author: Sharan Newman
In: Death’s Excellent Vacation (Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: FamilyParanormal fantasy, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 24th November 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Gollancz
Year: 2010
5th sentence, 74th page: In the gray light of morning the plane slid down through the cloud cover and the O’Reillys got their first glimpse of what for them was the Promised Land.

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Synopsis

Patrick has always dreamed about he home land. And been incredibly self-conscious about his height. Now he finally gets to go “home”. What he finds is nothing like what he expected.

Thoughts

I have always wanted to find out more about my ancestors. But I can’t say that I’ve ever had wonderful, powerful imaginations about them. After all, I’m probably from farm folk or some such. Even though I would love to go and see England and Scotland, I don’t think it would be like coming home. Which made it interesting to read a short story that featured a young man who was so desperate to live in and move to a country that he had never laid eyes on because he thought he was from hero stock.

Pride is never really a good thing. If we’re being honest here. And Patricks’ pride in this short story leaves his vacation at a pretty grisly ending. He is too proud to love his family for who they are. And he is certainly too proud to stay and listen and learn. Rather, he wants to be a hero and from more “impressive” ancestors. I really don’t understand that, and I’m kind of glad that he got his comeuppance. He was a bit of a weeny in this tale.

I love that this story dealt with family and pride. Leprechauns and the Luck of the Irish. The whole story was fun and had me smiling as I turned the pages. It wasn’t quite what I expected from the title. But it was most definitely a tale that I thoroughly enjoyed.

<- The Demon in the DunesPirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park ->

Image source: Amazon

Collect Call by Sarah Pinborough

Overview
Image result for the mammoth book of ghost stories by women book cover

Title: Collect Call
Author: Sarah Pinborough
In: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women (Marie O’Regan)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: FamilyGhosts
Dates read: 29th September 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: “I’ll be there before it gets dark.”

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Synopsis

When you die, who will pick up your collect call? This short story is a great reminder to be kind and remember those that you love.

Thoughts

I actually seriously enjoyed this ghost story. And I loved the premise that it created for the afterlife. It’s such a great feeling – that those who are loved and cherished in life will have someone “pick up”. But if you’ve kinda been an arse… well, good luck!

Not only was this a great reminder of loving and karma, but it was also a cute story that was all about being reunited with family. We’ve all said goodbye to loved ones. So it was really nice to have a story that kind of focused on the fact that we’ll eventually see each other again. Whether it’s your father, your wife, your sister… whoever… they’ll pick up and be there when that final curtain call occurs.

Most ghost stories tend to leave you with goose bumps (which, I feel, is kind of the point). But this one didn’t. It left me feeling comfortable, safe and not scared of the future. That lasted all of about thirty seconds before reality crashed back in. But it was a nice feeling all the same.

<- Field of the DeadDead Flowers by a Roadside ->

Image source: Goodreads

Laura Nyro at the Wedding by Christos Tsiolkas

Overview
Image result for kindred 12 queer book cover

Title: Laura Nyro at the Wedding
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
In: Kindred (Michael Earp)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance, FamilyLGBTQI
Dates read: 3rd June 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Walker Books
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: We’re thinking somehwere in Mordialloc, maybe summer so we can get married on the beach.

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Synopsis

Pat and Jack want to get married. But it’s brining up all sorts of history for Jack… history concerning his Dad and the horrible things he did…

Thoughts

I found this short story really sweet. It starts with two men. Happy, in love and comfortable in each other’s presence. And then it begins to make you think. Think about things such as “what constitutes a marriage?” “what shows true love?” “when is forgiveness necessary, or even okay?”. All questions that I frequently ask myself, and were very well answered in this small literary journey.

Although this is a nice little romance, it is also very much about family and forgiveness. The horrors of the past can linger in our present, and this story focuses on the ways in which you can move on from that. The ways in which you can find a way to forgive the past, and move on towards a better future.

The ending really wasn’t what I expected. It was one in which the outcome was not anticipated, but definitely very much appreciated. I actually really enjoyed the way in which this ended – it was unexpected, but somehow made much more sense than the ending I was expecting.

<- WaitingEach City ->

Image source: Bookdepository

The Monster Makers by Steve Rasnic Tem

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Monster Makers
Author: Steve Rasnic Tem
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Family, Horror
Dates read: 25th May 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: They kick and wave, thrilled.

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Synopsis

Have you ever wondered where little monsters come from? Are they born or are they made? And just who makes them?

Thoughts

I both thought that this story was kind of nice and really not pleasant. I mean, the grandfather obviously dotes upon his grandchildren. And his wife. And he spends the entirety of the story loving them all for exactly who they are. But then there’s the dark side…

And what a dark side it is… there is a weirdness in this constant idea of changing bodies and creatures. There is the loss of sanity and ambulatory skills in the grandparents. But most of all, there is the relationship between narrator (Grandfather) and son. It’s a little bit uncomfortable and upsetting.

Yet, it continues to get darker and darker. Once the bad thing to the son happens, then there is yet another not so good moment in which the grandchildren… well, I’m not really sure what they do. But I know that it’s creepy. You’ll just have to pick up this short story to find out what I’m talking about for yourself.

<- Chasing SunsetPiano Man ->

Image source: Amazon

Miss Ill-Kept Runt by Glen Hirshberg

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Miss Ill-Kept Runt
Author: Glen Hirshberg
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Family, Horror
Dates read: 19th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Toward the red and beating thing.

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Synopsis

Chloe doesn’t understand why all of her family has changed. Maybe it IS just the move… or is it something far, far darker?

Thoughts

This was seriously dark and twisty. At first, I kind of thought that Chloe was being stolen by body snatchers. And, since the whole story is written in her very innocent voice, that was even more tragic than it would normally be. Mostly though, it is the idea of a young girl who is supposed to be surrounded by a loving family… not being surrounded by love. And then you find the twist.

You get this idea throughout that the older brother was somehow close to dying when they were young or a baby. That his very nickname of Miracle has a whole slew of meanings. Not necessarily happy, positive meanings either. The idea of any child being referred to as a miracle kind of makes me a little squirly inside.

This is one of those stories that once you turn that final page you just want to grab your loved ones close. There is such an open ended, chilling ending to this that is just downright uncomfortable. Which of course is why it takes centre stage in this collection.

<- Jenny Come to PlayChasing Sunset ->

Image source: Amazon

Godson by Roger Zelazny

Overview
Image result for black thorn white rose book cover

Title: Godson
Author: Roger Zelazny
In: Black Thorn, White Rose (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Death, FamilyFantasy
Dates read: 17th May 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Prime Books
Year: 1994
5th sentence, 74th page: I keep it in my pocket.

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Synopsis

Morrie is not your average godfather. And he’s not one that you should cross… until David finds a way.

Thoughts

This story seriously made me think about a Discworld novel. I THINK it was Mort. The personification of death, his presence in a young man’s life and just the general humour which comes with such a story. Alright, it also painted death as somewhat cruel and petty. But mostly, I really enjoyed the light humour which wove it’s way through this short story.

I vaguely remember the original fairy tale upon which this short story was based. And I’m fairly positive it didn’t have the same happy ending that this one had. Instead of being a horrible, cruel ending… there was a nice sense of life coming full circle and the happiness of family being completed. I actually really liked that this had a happier ending… it was a nice change to some of the other fairy tales in the Black Thorn, White Rose collection.

This short story is about death, life and, sometimes risking it all because you love someone. It’s a good short story that left me feeling happy and complete at the end of the story. I actually kind of loved this tale, and the more I think about it, the more I love it.

<- The Sawing BoysAshputtle ->

Image source: Goodreads

Reaching One Thousand by Rachel Robertson

Overview
Reaching One Thousand by Rachel Robertson | Black Inc.

Title: Reaching One Thousand
Author: Rachel Robertson
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Family, Mental health
Dates read: 15th – 16th May 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Black Inc.
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: We didn’t know why or what he felt, just that he seemed to need constant distractions, constant holding.

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Synopsis

When Ben is a baby, Rachel puts his quirks down to eccentricity. He likes to count letterboxes; he hates to get his hands dirty; loud noises make him anxious. But as Ben grows and his behaviour becomes more pronounced, it becomes clear there is something else going on. When he is diagnosed with autism, Rachel must reconsider everything she thought she knew about parenting, about Ben, and about how best to mother him.

Reaching One Thousand charts her quest to understand autism and to build a new kind of relationship with her son. Along the way she explores her own childhood, discovering unexpected links between Ben’s experiences and her own. before she can presume to tell Ben’s story, she realises, she must face difficult questions – questions about intimacy, trust, and what it means for a mother to write about her child.

Exquisitely written, this is a thought-provoking story about family and understanding, and a tender love letter from a mother to her son.

Thoughts

This is one of those books I bought as an impulse because it was on sale. It looked interesting, but I didn’t really think that much more about it. Until I picked it up. It has now moved up to my favourites list. This is a book that I’ll read again and again. A book that had me laughing at points, feeling uncomfortable, sympathetic, enlightened… so many emotions. There is just something amazing not only about Robertson’s writing, but also the story she tells and the way she tells it.

The writing style of this novel is quite unique. There is no real linear narrative, and even the chapters, whilst they have an overarching theme, tend to have multiple little anecdotes throughout. Which all lead to the same conclusion. I loved this different style of writing. It wasn’t something that I come across everyday, and the different way of telling the story highlighted the fact that this is real life. There isn’t a sense of disconnect, and yet connection between the different aspects of life with an autistic son.

What I seriously loved most about this novel is that although Robertson has had issues in the past of facing up to the fact that her son is not neurotypical, she is also so open minded. She finds all of the positives and moments that are uniquely special to her child. She points out that he really doesn’t need to be changed or made into a more neurotypical form… that his very uniqueness is what makes him so precious. And special. And unique. And just plain wonderful.

There aren’t many books that are truly life changing. That make you seriously look at the world and reconfigure what you think about it. This is one of those stories. It makes you stop and look at those who aren’t quite “normal” in a totally different light. Makes you realise that our systems and the way we think about learning and people really isn’t necessarily correct. And that there is beauty in difference. Beauty in what we don’t understand. The fact that I related a little too much to some of Ben’s difficulties just made me love this book all that much more…

<- Purple ProseThe Sky Falls Down ->

Image source: Black Inc.