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review 2019-11-04 14:03
Great Look at What Makes a Family
The Family Gift - Cathy Kelly

So the newest by Cathy Kelly really hit home. I thought she did a great job with Freya and Freya's inner voice, Mildred. I also thought at times Freya was acting so unreasonable and I am glad that the book didn't hide away from how she was behaving at times. I also am glad that not everything ends up happily ever after with several real life events in Freya's life. I think with contemporary romances authors often want to make everyone be happy and in love and nothing really terrible happens. Kelly did a great job of showing how Freya and her family were broken by her father's stroke. And also did another great job of showing how Freya's sister was dealing with infertility. Though I gave this 5 stars I do wish that Kelly had showcased the lone brother in Freya's book. It was really just focused on her, her two sisters, and her mother. And of course Freya's obsession with her husband's ex-wife and her coming back to "claim" their daughter. 

 

"The Family Gift" follows chef turned famous tv personality and cookbook author Freya Abalone. Freya though has a big secret, she's unable to think about cooking food right now and is totally blank on recipes to put together for her newest book. We quickly find out that Freya and her large loving family have recently moved, her father had a stroke several months earlier, her sister is dealing with infertility, and Freya is scared that at any moment her daughter's birth mother is going to push her way back in the scene. Freya we also find had something happen to her a few months earlier that has also affected her. Dealing with all of this would be a breeze except Freya has a critical inner voice which is constantly telling her she's not good enough. Things finally come to a head when her husband's first wife returns and seems as if she's focused on developing a relationship with their daughter.

First off, I really got Freya and liked her. She knows how lucky she is with her family, but she tends to want to smother everyone of them and not allow them any say in things. Her behavior with her eldest daughter Lexi is definitely one of those things she needs to lessen her grip on. Her wanting to be Lexi's only mother and being jealous at her birth mother is understandable, but the way she behaved about it for 2/3 of the book got to be a bit much after a while. Also I didn't really like how she kept interrogating her husband about why he got with his first wife and why did he marry her. It felt like at times I was watching a person pick at a scab in real time. Freya eventually realizes she needs to open herself and her family up in a different way and actually know that sometimes terrible things are going to happen, you just need to go on with it.


I thought Kelly did a great job with describing the two kids personality's (Lexi and her youngest daughter Teddy) but though her son got kind of ignored for the most part. And though we have Freya in love with her husband and talking about him a lot, I wish they actually had more one on one conversations in this book. I just felt at times the men got pushed aside. 


The writing was really good and I thought Kelly did a great job with capturing that inner voice that tells you that you are not good enough. I think every person in the world has that voice, the trick is ignoring it. The flow was really great too. It takes a bit before we find out what caused Freya to lose her ability to cook something new and think of different recipes. And I liked her relationship with her food assistant and loved how Kelly went back and forth to show how Freya got discovered and how her "style" was figured out for her. 


The ending I thought was really good. It shows a new phase in Freya's family, an honest one that is needed. I would love to read more stories told by others in this family's POV. I do wish that Kelly would take a page out of Maeve Binchy's books and revisit characters in other books and kind of tie them all together. 

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review 2019-03-25 18:13
Following Three Women on Their 30th, 40th, and 50th Birthdays
The Year that Changed Everything - Cathy Kelly

Well this was ultimately a delightful read. I really got a kick out of following Ginger, Sam, and Callie. I thought it was an odd writing choice that had Kelly go back one month before their birthdays and then jump forward again. Other than that, I enjoyed this book and found Ginger to be the character that I felt for and wanted to read more about. That said, I still enjoyed the characters of Sam and Callie.


"The Year Everything Changed" follows  Ginger, Sam, and Callie, on their 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays and the year that follows.

 

Ginger is 30 years old and has never been kissed. She's a larger woman who no matter what she tried has never been able to find a man to be with. Now she's a bridesmaid in her best friend's wedding and hoping that she may meet a man that can be the one. 

 

Sam is expecting her first baby after years of thinking she would never be a mother. Turning 40 has her feeling older and even though it's her first child, not ready for her new baby at all.

 

Callie is dreading her 50th birthday party that her husband Jason is insisting that they throw. She's constantly fighting with her 14 year old daughter Poppy and has started taking a Xanax to deal. 

 

So Ginger's story is wonderful. Working for a newspaper where she rocks her job, she wishes she can be just as strong as confident outside of work. She also has a secret at said job which I got a total kick out of too. When she overhears her so called friend talking about her weight and her clothing she decides to she is going to make some changes to her life. There is some romance that Kelly interjects that I thought worked quite well in the story. I also loved Ginger's family, especially her great aunt. 

 

Sam....hmmm. Honestly it took me me a while to warm up to her. I initially liked the character, but it took a little too long to get to where I already knew Kelly was going with her character. And her suddenly blaming everything on her mother just made me tired after a while.

 

Callie also took me some time to warm up to. We definitely see she has her head in the sand about her marriage and her family's wealth. And when we get to why she's estranged from her family I was looking at her sides-way. But then Kelly smartly develops this character and her bratty daughter and I found myself rooting for them. Callie had the most transformation I think from the beginning of this book until we get to the ending. 


I think the main reason why this book works is that Kelly smartly doesn't have the three women meet up right away. We follow them on their separate paths and a few times one of them will reference the other character (without knowing them) and we eventually get to the meeting point for these women further along in the story (around the 80 percent mark or so). The flow was great and Kelly balances out each story. I am almost always disappointed when an author tries to focus on multiple characters because usually what happens is that one person takes up the bulk of the book with the two other ones not really being in it. Or all three stories lose something by the author trying to balance everything.

 

The ending was very good and I loved how Kelly tied up all of the loose ends. I wouldn't mind another book following these three women. 

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review 2018-11-26 20:28
Some Stories Are So-So, but Ultimately 4 Star Short Story Review
Christmas Magic - Cathy Kelly

I am switching this one out for International Day of Tolerance. Sorry, there's not a lot of books I don't read so couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. 

 

So as I always say, writing short stories is an art. I thought this ultimately this collection was very good, though there were some weak stories here and there. I ultimately think that sometimes there wasn't even development of characters, or the endings were a bit weak. 

 

Christmas Magic (4 stars)-I loved the idea behind this one. An elderly woman (Genevieve) receives a book about magic and then goes a head to decide to use it in order to start taking some risks. There is a side plot with her next door neighbor dealing with the realization that his wife is not who he thought she was. It didn't really work I thought and think the story lost something when it shifted away from Genevieve. 


Anniversary Waltz (3 stars)-Nope. Nope. Reading about a woman (Felicity) having to deal with her selfish 22 year old daughter who is angry that her mother is trying to move on with her life after separating from her cheating louse of a husband. Most of this story is Felicity trying to think of ways for her daughter and mother to stop piling on her about her terrible ex. The anniversary waltz comes into the play at the end. This story ultimately felt a little rushed with romance and the ending was just eh after all that build-up. 

 

Madame Lucia (4 stars)-Women at a traveling agency end up seeing the psychic upstairs. It's left unsaid why the woman (the psychic) appeared and what she was after though which kind of left a hole in the story. 

 

Love in the Aisles (3 stars)-A young woman, Sarah is pretty much fed up with ever meeting someone. Due to her being tall she feels like most men prefer her more tiny and perfect sister. This story didn't hit the mark with me at all. Sarah eventually comes to find out what fool she's being acting like she's not attractive, so there's that. 

 

May You Live in Interesting Times (5 stars)-I liked this one. Thirty-nine year old Ruby Anderson knows she should be content. But after her neighbors drop bombs about moving to Australia and having affairs, she starts to wonder if she shake up her life. Ahem, why would you listen to anyone telling you having affairs is a good thing in a marriage? Still pretty funny though. 

 

A Villa by the Sea (5 stars)-Marcella ends up being the shining star in her family and is there to encourage on her sisters. It kind of made me laugh that her parents were totally oblivious to how she kept her younger sisters up and motivated. I did like how Marcella had a great career and realized that she was going to need to step back and think about herself after making sure her sisters were steered to more greener pastures. 

 

The Gap Year (3.5 stars)-Frankie feels lost after her only son leaves the nest. Though she usually doesn't get along with her mother, she's there to help her through it. 


Cassandra (5 stars)-I could have seen this one being a novel. The title character is Cassandra, best friend to Molly. Molly is constantly there to get Cassandra out of jams, do her homework, and "let's" her steal her boyfriends. One wonders what is Molly thinking. Things come to a head after they both start working a magazine together. I still found the ending a bit too unsatisfying, cause Cassandra needed a kick in the ass for the stuff she got up to. 

 

Letter from Chicago (5 stars)-A family has very little time to prepare for relatives coming from America. After finding out that her mother has told lies to her aunt about the state of her home, job, and children, Kim has to pull it together with her family and sister in tow to make the house presentable. 

 

Bride and Doom (4 stars)-Lily rightfully has a thing about weddings after getting left at the altar. There a comedy of errors, she ends up meeting a guy who may change her mind about them. 

 

You've Got Mail (4 stars)-Through email we found out that a woman (Millie) is dating a terrible person. At least things end up in a happily ever after. 

 

Christmas Post (4 stars)-A woman (Alice) and her family who had to deal with the death of her husband through the years. Alice and her family sound great. Her sister in law is a pain, though we get to see a more human side to her in the end. There is a weird plot with the next door neighbor's child that made zero sense. 


The Trouble with Mother (3 stars)-Not really trouble with the mother. Trouble with two stuck up daughters angry that their mother can ruin all of their plans by being boisterous and showing that they are from humble beginnings. I liked the other two siblings. The ending was weird though. It needed another paragraph to just say how things ended up. 

 

The Paradise Road Book Club (3.5 stars)-Okay I guess. Some of the local women who formed a book club are up in arms when they think that one of its members is dealing with her husband leaving her. That's not what is going on though. 

 

The Angel Gabrielle (5 stars)-Two women become fed up by their family (Claire) and married lover (Shelley). They end up meeting each other and another woman Gabrielle (really named Peggy) who encourages them to come to her annual holiday party.  

 

Lizzie's Fling (5 stars)-A woman gets her groove back when she starts a harmless flirtation with a coworker in another office location. 


Thelma, Louise, and the Lurve Gods (3 stars)-My least favorite of the short story collection. It went on forever and I didn't like the main character, Suzanne. She and her girlfriend seemed to not really care about the love interests in this book besides how hot they were. I didn't get any chemistry from what I was reading between Suzanne and Liam. 

 

The Office Christmas Party (5 stars)-Cracked up at a story taking a look at an office Christmas party. Though I liked this one, I was more interested in the side stories we heard about (a woman throwing up in someone's purse). When the office is able to have a bigger to do than what last year's was, Larissa, is a bit hesitant. However, she meets someone and then does her best to dress up in disguise so he doesn't recognize her later. There's a whole thing about why she does this, and it made no sense to me really, but was funny to read about. 

 

A Family Christmas (5 stars)-I thought this was a realistic look of a woman dealing with depression and finally finding her way out of the other side. Things may take a possible turn though, when she finds out that she and her husband have to host his family for Christmas. I thought it was great though how she find out some things she didn't realize about her sister-in law though. Which goes to show you never know what another person is dealing with. 

 

 

 

Book: Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone. (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

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text 2018-11-25 00:22
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Christmas Magic - Cathy Kelly

Enjoyed all of these short stories, though some I thought were just okay. I did love some stories like Cassandra, Letter from Chicago, The Angel Gabrielle, The Office Christmas Party, and A Family Christmas. Overall rating 4 stars.

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review 2018-09-24 19:06
Secrets of a Dysfunctional Family
Secrets of a Happy Marriage - Cathy Kelly

I honestly like most of Cathy Kelly books, but this is my least favorite book that she has published. The main problem is that no one feels very developed. Usually Kelly does a great job juggling multiple characters in a book, but too much was going on with anyone for you to even get settled with anyone. Also, two of the three "leads" sucked. I didn't like the characters of Bess or Jojo. Also Kelly's ultimate message that a widowed man needs to remarry (quite quickly) when he loses his wife since apparently they need a woman to take care of them just made me want to tear my hair out. Apparently women are fine after their husbands die (HUGE FREAKING EYEROLL). Also one wonders if this applies to gay men or just a man and woman? This whole book was problematic as hell.

 

"Secrets of a Happy Marriage" divulged very little secrets. Instead if just acted like it had these huge eye opening moments about marriages such as men need to be married after losing a wife cause they can't get by without some woman taking care of them. I don't know. I was pretty rageful while reading this book.

 

This book revolves around three characters. Bess, newly married to widowed Edward. Bess is so happy with Edward and doesn't get why her new stepdaughter (JoJo) hates her. It's not her fault her mother died and her father remarried less than two years after she passed. Bess proceeds to act entitled and whiny through this whole freaking book, so enjoy that. I think my last little bit of patience with her was when she literally cursed out Jojo and acted as if she was a monster that should not darken their doors again. Edward rightfully found his spine. However, these two never discuss anything and it was just frustrating to read. 

 

Jojo is reeling from her mother's death, her father's fast second marriage, and also her suffering multiple miscarriages. She is pulling away from family and friends and can't seem to get a handle on her grief. I at times thought that Jojo was acting impossible with regards to Bess, but I get why she was so angry. I can't imagine my mom or dad getting married a year plus after the other one died and being okay with it. I was also sick of people acting like Jojo just didn't get that men need to move on after losing a spouse. It just made it seem as if her father was heartless and clueless.


Cari had the best storyline. She was jilted at the altar and since has thrown herself into work and avoiding men. After getting shafted at her job (she's an editor) she meets a new guy who seems to be everything she has wanted and avoided. Cari and her mom and dad were the best. Plus I loved her whole work storyline and how that was resolved. Kelly paints Cari as competent at her job and happy with her house though at times wanting more. If we had just stayed with her, things would have been better.


The book also includes perspectives from Edward, Edward's son (and Jojo's brother) and Bess's daughter. They honestly were not needed and took me out of the book a bit. There was no need to cram so many characters in.

 

The writing was not very tight in this one. I found some typos in my Kindle copy of this book and also a few times wondered if I had misread something. Seems to be an issue based on comments in other reviews I have seen.

The flow was awful too. The book drags until the end and then we spring forward to an ending. 

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