Book Review: Other People's Houses, by Abbi Waxman

This blog is turning into quite the book review blog and I'm not mad about it. It's now officially summer and the best time of the year to get your read on!




Other People's Houses is the perfect beach read. Or summer read. Or nightstand staple. Basically it's a book you should read.

I had fairly low expectations (you're starting to see a pattern here) and wasn't sure if I was going to get a reality-TV type of book. Instead I found a book that was captivating, well-written, with complexity and nuance about adulthood, relationships and marriage in general.

Other People's Houses is very realistic - so much so that my husband, with whom I had only talked about the book - had dreams that I cheated on him several times after that. This book tells what goes on behind closed doors in a quiet suburban neighborhood. And what goes on behind these doors isn't always pretty, or even exciting. It's just life. Real, messy life.

The authors manages to write about regular people and make it entertaining, capturing the complexity  of each character, without resorting to being overly scandalous or forced. Everything is perfectly measured, rings true but not intrusive, and ends up making you question many "grown-up" choices. It's also funny, thoroughly enjoyable and quite the page-turner.


* I received this book from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Book Review: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

I had read and enjoyed Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl when it first came out, so my expectations were somewhat high when I first picked up Sharp Objects. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.



Sharp Objects is the kind of book you can't put down, but if you do, you can't stop thinking about it. It is sticky, messy, uncomfortable and exquisitely well-written. 

I did not read the synopsis prior to starting the book, as I did not want to taint my reading experience with a path that would be created by someone else. I let myself discover the story word by word and found myself completely absorbed in the disturbing story and its complicated protagonists. 

I don't want to spoil anything for you either, so I will choose my words carefully. But you can expect a murder investigation, an extraordinarily deep exploration of pain and grief, and complex family dynamics. 

The story's oppressive setting is perfectly rendered by the author, from the beautiful Victorian houses to the hot, muggy, stuffy little town of Wind Gap, Missouri in the summer. 

I have no doubt that Jean-Marc Vallée's TV adaptation of Sharp Objects for HBO will be brilliant - however I highly suggest you read the book first, as the nuances and the writing are too powerful to pass up. 


* This book was kindly sent to me by Penguin Random House for review.

Book Review: A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena

Last year, I attempted to read Shari Lapena's bestselling mystery novel, The Couple Next Door. I gave up after a few chapters, not liking the style, the clichés or the enormity of the plot.

But because I enjoy suspense novels and had heard rather good things about Lapena's latest novel, A Stranger in the House, I decided to give it a go.




The premise is not particularly groundbreaking, but I was captivated from the very beginning.

Tom Krupp, a successful business man, returns home after a long day to find his wife missing from their perfect suburban house. He finally tracks her down at a hospital, where she was brought after a being involved in a strange car accident that she has no memory of... We soon find out that she is a person of interest in a murder.

I have to be honest. While the writing didn't put me off enough to put the book away like it did the previous one, I still found it lacking in every possible way. The book is a series of clichés, plots that have been used over and over again (amnesia, new identities, etc.) and unrelatable characters.

This felt like an episode of CSI: enjoyable, but unmemorable, and totally predictable.

It was, however, a real page turner (I actually read it in one day - with a toddler around, that's no small feat!).

It's probably a good read if you're travelling, or if you need an easy read on a busy beach this summer.


* I received this copy from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Future of TV: Shaw BlueSky TV



I’ll admit it: I’ve never had cable. Ever since I left home at 17 (!!!), I’ve gotten my media content online or at the movie theater. It was a deliberate choice, as I’ve always viewed TV as a very time-consuming, inefficient way to get entertainment.

You see, I’d get excited about watching TV every time I’d be in a hotel because some content just isn’t available online - only to end up scrolling endlessly through the channel guide, getting lost and confused, watching too many commercials and giving up after realizing I had wasted a whole hour trying to figure out what to watch.

That’s where BlueSkyTVcomes in. I have to say, I was a bit skeptical at first. Can TV really be made better? Isn’t TV so 2000’s?

Well, my friends. I was wrong.

The good folks at Shaw managed to create a tool that makes TV-watching fun, easy, to the point and exciting!

I have so many good things to say about it, I think I’ll go with a list of pros and cons to make things easy for you:


PROS

1- the remote!!! No more jumping between Xbox controllers, TV remote, pressing the wrong buttons. This remote is so intuitive you can TALK to it (and yes it works with our French accents). And it lights up when you pick it up which is AWESOME when you’re watching TV in the dark. The LAST button is especially useful.

2- the integration of platforms. Everything is available in one spot, even CraveTV, On Demand and Netflix. Want to binge watch Gilmore Girls and don’t feel like browsing the Netflix menu for hours? Just ask the remote! Even better - you feel like watching a Meg Ryan movie but don’t know which one? Just ask “Movies with Meg Ryan” and they’ll pop up!

3- the various apps: whether you want to know the weather or sports stats, it’s all there. Change the channel and you don’t need to reach for your phone.

4- the Kids Zone. A perfect, easily accessible world of content tailored to your little ones. No more browsing for 30 minutes before you can enjoy an episode of Daniel Tiger with your littlest. And if you happen to leave the remote with your child, you know they will be safely contained to a zone with kid-appropriate content.

5- the accessibility. You can customize it, tailor it to your needs and have great content easily available at all times. It even offers suggestions based on what you watched. So if you only have one hour of free time, you can enjoy it to the fullest. It is also an amazing option for seniors or people with impaired vision.


CONS

1- glitches. We’ve had some technical issues that were quickly resolved by Shaw’s great customer service. No wait times and agents so friendly by email I almost wanted to call them (but not really). So yes, our box did need more reboots than I had expected, but a quick reset did the trick and all my settings were saved.

2- I wish Prime video was integrated, but we still have to hop onto our TV’s smart system for that.

3- Voice searching has its limits. If I ask for “Disney movies”, I get an error message. But to be fair, it’s overall very good, you just have to be specific.


As you can see, the pros largely outweigh the cons (and I have more pros, I just don’t want to overwhelm you!).

I’ve had BlueSky TV for 3 months now and I honestly feel like I haven’t had enough time to explore it all - the possibilities are endless and it made me a believer that TV doesn’t have to be a time-wasting, outdated activity.


This post was sponsored by Shaw. As always, the thoughts and opinions in this article are honest and my own. Thank you for supporting my sponsors and me.

Take a stand against bullying with the Shaw Kindness Sticks Grant program + Tips on how to deal with bullying as a parent




As a mom of a 3-year-old little boy and stepmom of two teenagers, bullying is definitely on my mind - how to talk about it, how to deal with it, how to protect them from it, and how to make sure they’re not participating in it. 

This year, Shaw launched a campaign to help children take a stand and make a difference in their school. The Shaw Kindness Sticks Grant program is an opportunity for children to come up with an idea to make kindness stick in their school and receive up to $5,000 to make it happen when they apply before April 30th. So, start the discussion at the dinner table tonight, talk about what you can do, what they can do, and what we can do as a society to make kindness stick.



LEAD BY EXAMPLE - this is the most important rule, really. If you don’t want your children to have a negative impact on society, make sure you have the right attitude at home. Don’t gossip, don’t judge, don’t make fun of people. And if you can’t help it, make sure to do it behind closed doors when the kids are asleep.


COMMUNICATE - talk. Making sure your children can talk to you is essential, so make sure to communicate with them. When they grow up, children can be a little more closed off, so don’t be overbearing - just make sure they know they can talk to you if they need. And if/when they do, LISTEN. Actually listen when they tell you how their day went. Watch out for alarming incidents, give them coping advice, make sure they are equipped to deal with school drama. You can rationalize things and give advice, but make sure you don’t belittle them or what they tell you or they could shut themselves down. Some things may seem ridiculous to us grownups, but friendships, fallouts and school socializing in general is your kid’s whole life at the moment, so it is most definitely not ridiculous to them.

 

MAKE SURE THEY ARE NOT ALONE - while some children prefer being on their own, having a buddy at school makes them less of a target for bullies. Let them have their alone time at home, where they are safe. Make sure your child also has at least one adult they trust at school, in case they need to talk, or report an incident.

 

MONITOR - the Internet is one of the number one places where bullying happens, so being vigilant about what your child puts online is important. Set some rules (our children can’t have a Facebook account until they are 13, and they have to add us as friends so we can make sure they don’t post anything inappropriate). When/if they do post something inappropriate, have a conversation about it. Try not to make it a fight. Come prepared (you can use real life examples that are easily available in the news, etc.). It’s impossible to monitor everything - and it’s important for children to have privacy - but it’s also important for them to know that whatever’s public or semi-public has to be appropriate, whether they posted it themselves or it was posted by someone else.



BE KIND - in order to make sure your child is not the bully, encourage kindness whenever possible. One simple life lesson is to treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s never too early to start having that conversation, either. Try to give them simple mantras of good values: sharing is caring, hitting is bad, etc.

 

TAKE A STAND - encourage your children to help others. That means reporting incidents they may have witnessed, or talking to a friend in need of support. You can also encourage your child to participate in the Shaw Kindness Sticks Grant program to help fund their idea to promote inclusivity and spread kindness at their own school.


For more information on the Shaw Kindness Sticks Grant program, click here.


This post was sponsored by Shaw. Thank you for supporting my sponsors and me.
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