Tuesday, June 30, 2020

When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People by Jeannie Gaffigan

Title:  When Life Gives You Pears:  The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People
Author: Jeannie Gaffigan
Read by:  Jeannie Gaffigan, Liz Noth, and a forward by Jim Gaffigan
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Length: Approximately 8 hours and 1 minute
Source: Overdrive through the Kewaunee Public Library 

I somehow missed that this book came out, but luckily my friend Pam recommended it on Facebook.  I really enjoy Jim Gaffigan’s humor.  My husband and I have been to two of his stand up shows in Green Bay, I’ve read all of his books, and have listened to his albums.  Indeed, I started listening to them again at the start of this troubling COVID time as laughter is the best medicine.

Laughter is the best medicine is the theme of When Life Gives You Pears. Jeannie is one half of the comedy duo, helping her husband write and put on shows and taking care of their five children.  She is so busy taking care of them that it’s a shock one day when at a routine doctor appointment for her kids, she admits that she hasn’t been able to hear out of her ear for a while, which leads to her own doctor appointment, and a fast track to a brain tumor diagnosis.  The tumor is the size of a pear.  It’s a shocking diagnosis that she lives through with humor, faith, and love. 

I loved this memoir.  Jeannie had a great mix of humor with faith in her dire circumstances.  It really makes you reevaluate what is important in life and it made me think about my life, children, and what is important as well.  I loved how having read Jim’s novels, this is a look from the other side.  I really loved learning how they met, started a relationship, and got married.  I also really loved the perspective that as a strong artistic woman, Jeannie realized she would have to give up her dreams of fame on her own to be with Jim and that it would be a different life as his fame was already higher than hers at that point.  I love that they were able to work together as a team on everything career, kids, and her health.  As a Catholic, I also loved how she explored her faith in her journey as well.

The audiobook was very enjoyable.  Jim Gaffigan wrote an introduction and narrated it himself.  Liz Noth narrated the book until the point in the story after Jeannie’s surgery when her vocal cords were affected, and she didn’t speak the same anymore.  Jeannie narrated the story from then on out.  I really liked the effect that this had on the listening experience.

Overall, When Life Gives You Pears is a memoir that is a great mix of humor, faith, and family as the title lets you know.  I really enjoyed it and would love to read more of Jeannie’s work in the future.  I related to her as a woman and a mother.  Her story was sad, but ultimately triumphant on how she was able to pull through with her family and community supporting her along the way.

Winner of The Summer Deal by Jill Shalvis

The winner of The Summer Deal by Jill Shalvis is Suko from one of my favorite blogs, Suko's Notebook who left a comment on the blog post on June 11th.  Suko was chosen using random.org and has been notified via email.  She has one week to respond with her mailing address or another winner will be chosen.  Congratulations to Suko!  I hope she enjoys this fun summer novel of sisterhood as much as I did.

Please make sure to check your email and back to this blog when you enter a giveaway.  The initial winner that was drawn did not respond to several emails that I sent so I had to draw a new winner.

Thank-you to William Morrow / Harper Collins Publishers for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour and giveaway. Thank-you to Jill Shalvis for writing such a good summer novel.  Thank-you to all who entered.  If you'd like to learn more about this novel, please check out my review at this link.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel to the wildly popular Hunger Games series.  I LOVED the Hunger Games series and read through it quickly.  The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place well before the Hunger Games and focuses on President Snow as a youth and the beginnings of the Hunger Games.

Coriolanus Snow is eighteen and trying to keep up appearances that the once mighty Snow family is still powerful.  The true story is that after his parents’ death, and the terrors that the war brought on the capital, the Snow family is barely hanging on.  Coriolanus lives with his only remaining family members, his Grandmother and Cousin Tigris.  When he is chosen as a mentor for the 10th annual Hunger Games, he is hopeful that he will find a way to win a scholarship to college to maintain his family’s hope and power. 

He is not happy to be assigned the female tribute from the 12th District, Lucy Snow.  Lucy though has a mind of her own and sings beautifully.  Coriolanus tries to determine how to work the system to allow his tribute to win and finds himself with feelings about the system and his tribute that he should not have.  Will Lucy Snow win the Hunger Games?  How will Coriolanus bring the Snow family back to power?

I thought the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was an interesting novel and gave us a brief glimpse of the history of the war and how the Hunger Games were put together.  The Hunger Games at this point were very primitive held in a falling apart coliseum within the Capital.  This was the first year with mentors and they used high school seniors from connected families.  They are just starting to figure out how to get the audience vested in the characters and spice things up.

It was a slow read for me.  I was intrigued by the story, but I feel that it may have been more interesting through Lucy Snow’s eyes or even Tigris’s eyes.  I felt that both of those characters had a deep emotional story that was not able to be seen in this novel.

I enjoyed Coriolanus’s friendship with Sejanus. He looks down upon Sejanus as being originally from District 2, but he also has a lot of money so he cannot be ignored.  Sejanus gave the book heart with his feelings about what was happening to them as mentors and to the tributes.  Coriolanus flirted with feelings for his friends, but it was interesting to see how he was able to make cold and calculated moves to further his own ambition.

Favorite Quotes:
“If the people who were supposed to protect you played so fast and loose with your life. . .. then how did you survive?”

“Well, you know what they say.  The show’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”

“Was that what Dr. Gaul had meant by ‘social contract’?  The agreement not to rob, abuse, or kill one another?  It had to be.  And the law required enforcement, and that was where control came in.  Without the control to enforce the contract, chaos reigned.  The power that controlled needed to be greater than the people – otherwise, they would challenge it.  The only entity capable of this was the Capital.”

“Unless there’s law, and someone enforcing it, I think we might as well be animals.”

Overall, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not on par with the Hunger Games trilogy, but it is an interesting look into the building of that world.

Book Source:  Purchased from Scholastic

At the Altar: Matrimonial Tales by L.M. Montgomery

Back in the 1990’s as a teen, I would save up my money and always be on the lookout at B. Dalton for any “new” books by L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables).  I had all her novels, but collections of her short stories kept appearing.  I devoured them all.  Montgomery’s short stories are like the snippets about different characters that are found in her full-length novels.

At the Altar was comfort reading perfect for a global pandemic.  It was chosen as the May pick for the Facebook L.M. Montgomery book club.  I had not read it since I was a teenager and I greatly enjoyed revisiting it.  All the stories in this collection end with a happy marriage, but the path to the marriage differs.  Some of the stories were whimsical, and some were quite humorous.  Many involved men and women who thought they were too old for love but are able to find the perfect person.  There are misunderstandings that are made right, like in one story where the kids wreck their Aunt’s romance, but can make amends.   I enjoyed them all.

Overall, At the Altar is a perfect comfort read with happy wedded endings for all the stories. 

Book Source:  Purchased at B. Dalton when I was a teen.