Friday, 30 August 2013

TGIF: My Silly Mommy Moment of the Week

You know your brain is fried when...

Hello out there!

Today's post will be a quick one because I JUST HAD to share it with all of you.

This week was particularly hectic at work. Yesterday was the craziest day of all. Exhaustion, late work day, transit commute home (my car was in for repairs). I was TOAST by the time I got home at nearly 7pm.

Hubby had to run out to do a quick errand, so this mama was alone for end of supper, bath and bedtime.

I have to say that considering just how out of it I was feeling, everything was going pretty smoothly. Bath and playtime lead to story time without a fuss. Babygirl went "night night" with a big hug and kiss.

Hubby came home disappointed that he missed saying goodnight. I told him munchkin had just gone down, so he could still pop in to give munchkin a kiss.

It turns out...

I forgot to switch off her lamp.


Just thought I'd share the laughs (even at my own expense).

I would love to hear all of your Silly Mommy (or Daddy) Moments- share a comment about "that one time" below!

Happy Labour Day Weekend Everyone!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Book Review: The Returned

The Returned
Author: Jason Mott
Published: August 27, 2013 by Harlequin MIRA


"Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were."  

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time.... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep-flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old. 
All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human. 
With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction. 


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Before I say anything, SPOILER ALERT! BIG BIG BIG SPOILERS AHEAD! Now-- that said-- I WANT you to go out and get your hands on this book! Read it! Read it now! Read it now and then come back and read the rest of my review, and please please please start a conversation about it with me!

So- again- if you have not yet read this novel, STOP READING THIS REVIEW NOW!


I have been sitting with this review for a few days now. I have not been able to stop thinking about this book. I have so many questions. Mr. Mott- if you are out there somewhere reading this review, please, please, please- I would LOVE the opportunity to pick your brain. :)

When I received my email notification that I had been approved for The Returned, I did a little dance. Okay, a BIG dance. I first heard about this book a few months ago from my husband. He was busy reading articles on (or some similar website), as he is apt to do, and he came across something about an-as-yet-unpublished novel that had ALREADY been optioned as a new network television show. It was about- he said- the dead returning to the world. Coming back to life. Imagine the possibilities... the interruptions to families and loved ones who had built lives since their losses... The implications... We were tossing ideas back and forth. Genius, we said. 

I knew that I HAD to get my hands on this novel. 

Then I got my approval! Thank you, thank you, thank you Harlequin team

It turns out, the book was not exactly what I was expecting nor what I had in mind. But that's okay. As I said, I have not been able to stop thinking about this book. Asking questions. In my opinion, that's what makes a GREAT novel. 

However, it just isn't sitting right. Not the way that I think the author intended. I feel like my experience with the book is incomplete. 

More than insight and reaction,  I want to share my questions. Too many questions that I can't seem to answer, and not the ones you might expect...

What is the purpose of Lucille's death? What did it accomplish? Jacob gets to say goodbye, but then Harold is ultimately left alone. Completely. No house, no wife, no one. Ill. 

What is the significance of Harold's apparent and unexplained illness? (This is one I just can't think about anymore. I've hit a wall in my own brain.)

When do the Returned disappear? Does this matter? If not, why not?

Why did some return and not others? (Other than for plot purposes...)

What makes something "the way it was supposed to be"? In the end, this concept works for the preacher and for Bellamy in their experiences, but I can't understand it for the Hargraves or someone like Fred.

What about the rest of the world? Arcadia "blew up" and all seems calm, but what about the camps everywhere else? What about the space and Malthusian-type problems? What about the bureau? Will no one be accountable?

Mr. Mott- why did you decide to take the story in the direction that you did (the social reaction, militaristic plot) rather than taking the opportunity to dive deeper into investigating the human impact? Just thinking about the storyline about the old Jewish couple hiding 7 returned Nazi soldiers in their home- I am at a loss! That was a moment in my reading that made me stop and say - hmm, he's really got something here! Why not use that real humanity toward your purpose? It's so rich in potential in millions of possible stories. In your author's note, you say you wanted to give your readers an opportunity to read and think and relate, but I worry that readers will lose some of that opportunity because of the path the story takes. Just as the Hargraves never really have the opportunity or the time to become a family again and truly experience what they are living through, I think that readers will lose the chance to reflect on the "what ifs".

What about the welcome home? No one at all seemed beyond themselves with the thrill and the joy of seeing their loved ones returned. As a mother, a romantic, an optimist, I HAVE to believe that there would be at least one story on the face of the planet where someone's heart would be absolutely BURSTING at the prospect. Lucille seems joyful, but reacts as if it is all just expected- "just as it should be". Others are rejecting their returned- some even treating them as something horrifying, inhuman, unwanted. What about the swelling hearts, the holding of children until bodies give out, the raw emotion? Maybe this is exactly what Mr. Mott wanted out of me....

I will say that I recently discovered that Mott has written and released 3 short-story prequels which are available to download for free here. I look forward to reading these and seeing how he develops the concept and fleshes it out. I didn't want to read them before writing this review, though. I wanted to keep my reactions and reflections separate, just in case.

I am also very excited for the potential of the Resurrection TV series (despite its gimmicky name).

So you see how I can feel like something is just MISSING? But I suppose it's the same way with the rules of life and death. Nothing is ever settled. You don't get the answers you need. You can only grow and learn and live.

You can also look to others to share in the experience- learn from one another. So I look to all of you out there to share with me!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Book Review: Making the "Terrible" Twos Terrific!

Making the "Terrible" Twos Terrific!
Author: John Rosemond
Published: Paperback August 13, 2013 (originally published 1993) Andrews McMeel Publishing


In a completely revised and updated edition of his classic parenting guide, nationally recognized expert John Rosemond offers practical, tantrum-free methods for raising toddlers and getting them through the "terrible" times from age eighteen to thirty-six months. Focusing on the developmental period spanning age eighteen to thirty-six-months, which renowned parenting expert John Rosemond dubs, "the twos" Making the & "Terrible" Twos Terrific! offers practical parenting advice to ensure that every child's "twos" are terrific.

By offering comprehensive tips on everything from toilet training to developing good habits for bedtime, as well as disciplinary techniques to control aggressive behaviors, Making the "Terrible" Twos Terrific! approaches parenting in a straightforward, accessible manner that is easy for parents to implement and achieve success with their toddlers.

No bribing, meltdowns, nudging, or cajoling are necessary. All parents need is consistent, firm, and loving interactions with their toddler to guide him or her during the developmental years. The methods described by Rosemond also translate to success throughout other life endeavors such as school, relationship building, and even productivity in the distant tween and teen years. To ensure that earthquaking foot stomps, decibel-shattering screaming, and consistently stubborn behavior are not the norm for your toddler, consult Rosemond's Making the "Terrible" Twos Terrific!.


Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

No! No. No, no, no, no, no... A thousand times NO! Just no.

In light of the fact that we have entered "the twos" in my household, I thought this Galley came my way with providential timing. Not that my "terrible" twos have been so unbearable thus far that I needed guidance (thank the powers that be for my generally cooperative munchkin), but any parent that tells you they've got it, thanks-but-no-thanks for your advice, is LYING! We can all use a little insight from someone else every now and then. This book is just NOT the place to look- for me anyway.

In general, the author spends his time criticizing modern mothers (in particular) and parents (in general). Now, most of what he says about the helicopter-parenting and then psychological development stages of the toddler is legit. Don't get me wrong on that. However, it's his editorializing on the terrible, horrible parents who tend to their child's every whim that is just NOT helpful. 

Okay- I get it, some moms (and dads) out there need to stop the constant attention and child-serving. You've made your point, now move on to the substance... Oh- you just want to keep lambasting? Oh- well, then I'll just keep skimming and find the part where it stops. Oh- there isn't one? Well then...

In between the constant pontificating, Rosemond does attempt to provide advice. However, it may just be me, but most of what he offers seems like common sense and second nature-type stuff. I guess for parents who didn't grow up around siblings or other kids, some of what he has to offer might be helpful, but most of the time I just found myself saying, "Yeah, and?" 

Not sure how or why this book has such high reviews elsewhere. In fact, a lot of the reviews that give even 3-star ratings are actually quite negative. I suppose this is one of those times that the star-rating vs. review substance will be deceiving for some readers.  

In my humble parenting/mommy blogger opinion, if you're curious what Rosemond has to say about the "terrible twos", you're better off just asking your own parents or grandparents. Yes, you'll be subject to some lecturing, but chances are what you'll take away will be more useful (and you'll waste less of your precious non-toddler time). 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Book Review: The Sweetest Hallelujah

The Sweetest Hallelujah
Author: Elaine Hussey (aka Peggy Webb)
Published: July 30, 2013 by Harlequin MIRA


Betty Jewel Hughes was once the hottest black jazz singer in Memphis. But when she finds herself pregnant and alone, she gives up her dream of being a star to raise her beautiful daughter, Billie, in Shakerag, Mississippi. Now, ten years later, in 1955, Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and looking for someone to care for Billie when she's gone. With no one she can count on, Betty Jewel does the unthinkable: she takes out a want ad seeking a loving mother for her daughter. 
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, recently widowed Cassie Malone is an outspoken housewife insulated by her wealth and privileged white society. Working part-time at a newspaper, she is drawn to Betty Jewel through her mysterious ad. With racial tension in the South brewing, the women forge a bond as deep as it is forbidden. But neither woman could have imagined the gifts they would find in each other, and in the sweet young girl they both love with all their hearts. Deeply moving and richly evocative, The Sweetest Hallelujah is a remarkable tale about finding hope in a time of turmoil, and about the transcendent and transformative power of friendship.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Desperate. Nowhere to turn. Dying woman seeks mother for her child. Loving heart required. Call Vinewood 2-8640.

This short advertisement taken out by a mother as a spur-of-the-moment, maybe even foolish (as Betty Jewel acknowledges) act of desperation sets off a series of events that will forever change the lives of Betty Jewel Hughes, Cassie Malone, and everyone they love. 

This book was such a warm, lovely joy to read. While at times, I started to wonder whether the plot was starting to drag a little, the author still managed to make me wish I could stay on a little longer in the world of Shakerag when it finally came to an end. 

As with any great Southern Fiction novel, there are elements of magical realism and some larger-than-life characters. There are tons of laughs and snickers, but also tears. Spirituality, music, soul food, civil rights and women's rights, baseball, adventure, and even a ghost. 

I am a sucker for good Southern Fiction. I am not ashamed to admit it. I have been ever since stumbling upon The Secret Life of Bees for the first time. I am happy to say that this novel is worthy of sitting up on a shelf right beside that favourite, along with The Help and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt [read my review].

This was a story about women and their love of a child. (It takes a village, after all...) Hussey captured the essence of true friendship and the love that can bind people despite even seemingly impossible odds. It is an ode to humanity in the face of ugliness, and it is a tale of hope and grace. 

I've been putting off writing this review because I was afraid it would feel like saying goodbye to a good friend. As I sit here writing, I'm not sad- I just wish I had the words to describe how warm and fuzzy I am feeling just thinking about the joy I had reading this book. All I can do is tell you to go out and read it for yourself... It's like being wrapped up in a warm blanket while relaxing on a porch swing on a breezy summer evening. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Adventures in Moving: Renos Part 1- The Floors

Hello friends! As promised, I am bringing you updates on our BIG move. Here is the first instalment of a series of posts showing off our progress.

How in the world will I ever get you caught up on our last 2 months? It will be a process, but we've got to start somewhere... Floors!

The white ceramic tiles in the hallway HAD to go! Forget the aesthetics- I have a toddler running around! We get enough bumps and bruises as it is. Rock hard floors are not an option!

A different version of the accident-waiting-to-happen, cold, white floors were lurking in the living room- dining room.
Demolition time!

Bye bye tiles!

So it turns out that we are very lucky. After ripping up the tiles, removing the glue and cement that was holding them in place, and a layer of plywood, the original hardwood floors from 1956 were still mostly intact below!

Next step: sanding...
...and staining...
... and sealing...

Stay tuned for more updates and a look at the finished product!

Until next time... stay cool, dudes!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Book Review: Between You and Me

Between You and Me
Author: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Published: Simon and Schuster, Inc., Atria Books (First Published 2012)


In Between You and Me, twenty-seven-year-old Logan Wade has built a life for herself in New York City, far from her unhappy childhood in Oklahoma. But when she gets the call that her famous cousin needs a new assistant, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. Logan hasn’t seen Kelsey since they were separated as kids; in the meantime, Kelsey Wade has become one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful celebrities and carrion for the paparazzi. But the joy at their reunion is overshadowed by the toxic dynamic between Kelsey and her controlling parents. As Kelsey grasps desperately at a “real” life, Logan risks everything to try and give her cousin the one thing she has never known—happiness. As Kelsey unravels in the most horribly public way Logan finds that she will ultimately have to choose between saving her cousin and saving herself.


Note:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I really did not enjoy this book. I read while I was on vacation recently, hoping for a light, happy easy read based on the synopsis and cover artwork. It was easy to read, but it was not easy to keep reading. I just didn't care or want to. I read almost 85-90% and decided it just wasn't worth it. I didn't care how it ended, and I knew it wouldn't make a difference to how I felt about the story or the writing or for the purpose of writing a review.

This is a thinly (spiderweb-thin) veiled fictionalized version of the life of Britney Spears circa 2007. The breakup with Justin, the partying, the rushed nuptials, the baby-itch, the pregnancy, the messy divorce, the crash and burn. Now, I'm one of those who has always been rooting Britney on- hoping she would find her way eventually. I don't however, care to read someone else's storybook version of her public meltdown. We know the story. We know how bad it was. We can see how young Hollywood struggles. If you're going to write a book about this kind of material, at least make it original (no, pairing the Britney character with a Matthew McConaughey type doesn't count as original) and use it to say SOMETHING insightful. OR at the very least make it more emotional and less obvious.

So there you have it- my first really negative book review on my blog (I've avoided writing about the ones I just couldn't finish until now.) I would love to hear from someone who read this and disagrees with me. Was there something I missed? It does have a 2.85 rating on Goodreads, so someone out there must have enjoyed it... Feel free to leave your comments down below!

Happy weekend, dear readers!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Adventures in Moving: Updates

You all may have noticed that I've been either MIA or hiding behind my book review posts for the last few weeks. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem- right? I confess. I have been hiding. No question. Procrastinating as much as possible so as not to have to do a move update. Guilty.

It's coming. I swear it is. 

Here's my defense: 

1. Our move did not go as smoothly (not even close) as planned, as evidenced by previous posts.

2. The amount of work we ended up doing in the house ran over time due to unforeseen issues, so while we moved our things in on the scheduled moving date, we did not actually sleep in the house until about 5 or 6 days later.

3. Once we finally got in to our new house, this mama also started a brand-spanking new job, so the moving-in process has greatly slooooooooowed.

4. Softball. MamaKujo and hubby, The Funny Accountant (shameless plug- but notice how little time he's had to keep up with his blog posts, too!) both play softball. Our evenings do not exist most weeks.

5. The Kujos went on our first family vacation to Cape Cod for a week. That also means we spent the week before prepping and packing, and the week after cleaning and doing laundry.

6. In between all of this craziness, we have had numerous out-of-town guests come in to town to visit plus other family obligations. 

Mea culpa. 

I promise that I will get myself together, collect my thoughts and pictures (and get over my frustration at the lack of progress I've made despite wanting to share with you all a perfectly organized and decorated home by now) and provide a beautiful, complete update as soon as humanly possible. 

Thank you all for your support and patience! 

Big hugs and kisses!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Book Review: The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife
Author: A.S.A. Harrison
Published: June 25, 2013 by Penguin Canada


A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage, a way of life, and how far one woman will go to keep what is rightfully hers

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl and These Things Hidden, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

ALSO- SPOILERS BELOW!!!!! Continue at your own risk!

First thing first- can everyone in the publishing/book reviewing world all agree to stop it- JUST STOP IT- with the Gone Girl comparisons?! Please?! Husband, wife, unlikeable characters, a little bit of sociopathology, marriage falling apart, infidelity, murder as a tool, chapters written from his and her perspectives. Fine, this book has those things in common with Gone Girl, but that is exactly where the similarities end. Period. 

Now that I've let that off my chest...

This book was voyeuristically addictive. I couldn't stop reading. I couldn't get enough. I felt a little dirty reading it- like I was given a private open window peek into this marriage and I couldn't look away. I was the nosy neighbour. [Shudder!]

Our introduction into the mind of Jodi:
"Daily routine is the great balm that keeps her spirits up and holds her life together, warding off the existential fright that can take you by ambush any time you're dithering or at a loss, remind you of the magnitude of the voice you are sitting on... She likes things orderly and predictable and feels secure when her time is mapped out well in advance..."
As opposed to Todd:
"His mind is on everything at once, encircling the whole of his world at a sweep... It's come to a point where he savours the constant apprehension, the risk he takes with each small decision, the strain of being overextended, the pressure of betting everything on the current venture. The anxiety he feels is stabilizing in a way, letting him know that he's alive and on track. It's anxiety cut with anticipation, an  interest in what comes next, a stake in things unfolding. this is what propel him through his day."
You can see how this was a marriage made in heaven, no? Jodi's educational background and need to control everyone and everything in her life really seem to work for her. But she's crazy. Like no-give-on-the-reigns, silk-thread-holding-it-together crazy. Todd and his midlife crisis are causing problems for him, his marriage, and his life. He's crazy too. My-wife-understands-I-have-manly-needs, I-can-have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too crazy. 

As a reader, I knew I was hooked from the opening:
"She assumes, without having thought about it, that things will go on indefinitely in their imperfect yet entirely acceptable way. In other words, she is deeply unaware that her life is now peaking, that her youthful resilience... is approaching a final stage of disintegration, that her notions of who she is and how she ought to conduct herself are far less stable than she supposes..."
It is really well-written. The fact that it is written in 3rd person but still manages to capture 2 completely different voices (Jodi: logical, theoretical, academic reasoning; and Todd: male libido, Freudian ego, impulsive, materialism) is a feat!

There were some loose threads that I would have liked cleared up or left out of the story altogether (regarding Jodi's past), but they weren't distracting enough to change my reading experience, so I will leave it as a throw-away comment and move on...

As I mentioned, all of the characters in this novel are deplorable. It is actually hard to find a single redeeming quality in ANY of them. (I would love to hear if any of you disagree on that.) Somehow, though, I still cared enough about what was happening to and among all of them to keep reading. I think that speaks more to the quality of writing than anything I could possibly try to explain in a review.

Go pick up a copy and enjoy. Sadly, there will be no future books from this author as she died while this novel was being published.