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Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts (2011)

While Keats Sedlak may have a weird name, she's actually very sane. The most sane person in her family, actually. Her parents are eccentric to say the least and her siblings don't seem to exist on planet Earth. So, needless to say, Keats tries to keep herself grounded and as normal as possible. However, when her mother makes an announcement that shocks everyone to the core, she is forced to look at her family in a different light. Are they all really as bad as she thought? It seems as though they were always trying to tell her she could be better, but Keats saw it as not being good enough. So, when she meets a man who inspires her to be her best, she has to re-evaluate her relationship with the only boyfriend she's had since she was 15 and her ever-present family. Does she really love him? Or is she too scared of change to leave him? This is a poignant story of love, loss, passion and finding out the true meaning of family when times are toughest. It's definitely one you won't want to put down until the very last page! (AS)

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now (2010)

Rickie became a single mum at 19 and even now that her son Noah is six, she still doesn't feel like she's moved on with her life. She's dropped out of college, is back living with her parents and Noah even goes to the same private LA school she attended. And she certainly doesn't fit in with the other mums - it's not just her age, her tattoos, punky hairstyle and tattered clothing set her apart. Noah is a sweet but complicated child who doesn't make friends easily and shies away from sports. But then school coach Andrew takes him under his wing. And just maybe he has some lessons for Rickie too. This is a beautifully crafted, feel-good story about the bond between mother and child - and why it's never too late to grow up.

The Smart One and the Pretty One (2008)

This is a provocative but sometimes predictable tale of sibling rivalry. As its title suggests, older sister, Ava, has always been considered the "smart one", always accountable and responsible. She is now a high-powered, workaholic attorney in Los Angeles. Lauren has lived up to her role as the "pretty one", living much more frivolously and irresponsibly, maxing out her credit cards to ensure that she maintains her image by donning all the latest in designer couture and suitably working as a buyer for a fashion boutique in New York. Living separate lives on opposite coasts, the sisters are brought together once again after they receive an email from their father with bad news about their mother's health. Although devastating, Lauren finds this an opportune time more than anything else to move back home to LA to take care of her mother and escort her on hospital visits. Although her motives may seem purely benevolent at first, Ava quickly learns the real motivator behind Lauren's sudden dedication to family - she's just been evicted from her New York apartment and fired from her job. Determined to teach Lauren a lesson about life and responsibility, Ava draws up a contract for Lauren, forcing her to sign on the dotted line and thus sign away her credit card and spending habits for the rest of the year! When Lauren uncovers another contract - one that their mother and neighbour had drawn up back when Ava was eight years old, promising her hand in marriage to the boy-next door, Russell Markowitz, Lauren decides to surprise Ava with a night out to meet her own signed, sealed and delivered fate and introduces her to the groom-to-be. Learning to live within the confines of each of their contracts, these two sisters begin to break out of their accustomed roles and find out that there just may be a little smart and pretty in each of them. This novel didn't rise above the rest for me but it was a quick, entertaining read that brought a little joy to my day. (CH)

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