BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: LIFELINES, BY HEIDI DIEHL

 

It’s 1971 when Louise leaves Oregon for Düsseldorf, a city grappling with its nation’s horrific recent history, to study art. Soon she’s embroiled in a scene dramatically different from the one at home, thanks in large part to Dieter, a mercurial musician. Their romance ignites quickly, but life gets in the way: an unplanned pregnancy, hasty marriage, the tense balance of their creative ambitions, and—finally, fatally—a family secret that shatters Dieter, and drives Louise home.

But in 2008 she’s headed to Dieter’s mother’s funeral. She never returned to Germany, and has since remarried, had another daughter, and built a life in Oregon. As she flies into the heart of her past, she reckons with the choices she made, and the ones she didn’t, just as her family—current and former—must consider how Louise’s life has shaped their own, for better and for worse.

 

 

My Thoughts: Lifelines opens with Louise ready to board a plane for Germany to attend her former mother-in-law’s funeral. Her daughter Elke has begged for her to attend.

In a sweeping style that takes us back and forth in time, we come to know these characters, with all their flaws and foibles. I enjoyed the peek back into the 1970s, with the cultural issues present in Germany heightened by the world known by Louise and Dieter…and then we see what happens when Louise returns to Oregon and meets Richard, who becomes her second husband. There is a push and pull between Louise, Dieter, and Richard as they struggle to set aside their past lives and move on.

In the present, Elke and Margot, children of the primary characters, show us how they try to find their way while attempting to understand what happened between their parents in the past. A saga that spotlights a time and its issues. 4.5 stars.

***

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excerpts

SNIPPETS FROM THE PAST…

 

Today has been filled with nostalgic moments.  On my Curl up and Read blog, I posted something from the distant past—from October 2009.  And that experience led me to searching the archives here.  Back when I featured excerpts from some of my own creations.

Here’s a snippet from An Accidental Life, a book I published in 2006.

 

As she considers going on the run, a pregnant teen ponders her options in this excerpt from An Accidental Life.

While the social workers had been planning her future, Savannah trudged along Clovis Avenue, staring vacantly into shop windows and wondering how she was going to get through the next five hours.  She had to wait until Blake finished up his classes for the day, and then they were going to meet at his apartment.

Last night as she’d left the mall, she was certain that she had only one option:  to run.  But when she reached the foster home, she had decided to put that particular plan on hold until the weekend.  With Blake’s help, she might be able to come up with a better solution.  But every time she thought she’d found a plan she could live with, she kept bumping up against the one major obstacle:  school.  How was she going to find a way to live on her own, or with Blake, while still continuing in school?  And without a guardian she couldn’t even enroll in independent studies.  Her age was turning out to be a major hassle. She and Blake couldn’t even get married, since she wouldn’t be sixteen for another five months.  Not that he’d even suggested that!

As the afternoon wore on, she found herself spacing out and realized that she’d forgotten to eat lunch.  She had totally blown off school today, even though it was such an important part of her life, because she couldn’t think.  Her mind wandered off, even in her favorite classes.  Now she searched through her pockets, finally glomming onto the handful of bills she had hidden there.  Blake had a habit of leaving money around and lately she’d been slipping the occasional stray bill into her pockets.  She knew he’d never miss it and rationalized that if she’d asked, he would have given her the money anyway.  Guilt plagued her sometimes, but she pushed the unwanted feelings away.

She slipped into a little café on one of the side streets, finding a booth in the rear.  She hid her face behind the menu and when the server arrived, her pencil poised above her little order book, Savannah asked for a bowl of soup and a large piece of pie.  While she waited, she nibbled on the crackers and sipped the glass of water.  She had started feeling a little better by the time her food arrived.

Glancing at her wristwatch…the very large masculine one that Blake had loaned her…she saw that it was already three o’clock.  No wonder she’d been so famished!  Two more hours until she could meet up with Blake.  She would hang out here for awhile and try to read the book she had stashed in her backpack.  They’d refill her coffee cup for awhile and when they started hinting around for her to leave, she could head off toward the campus.  Blake’s apartment, which he shared with Scooter, was across the street from the college.  If she timed it right, she’d arrive there about the same time that he did.

***

Perhaps I will now return to the present, but I enjoyed my moments back in the past.  Do you ever revisit old blog posts?

***

Bookish Friday

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE TESTAMENTS”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood.

 

***

 

Book Beginnings:  (The Ardua Hall Holograph)

Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive.  Already I am petrified.

This statue was a small token of appreciation for my many contributions, said the citation, which was read out by Aunt Vidala.  She’d been assigned the task by our superiors, and was far from appreciative.

***

Friday 56:  I went into the kitchen and sat down at the island.  Melanie’s back was to me; she was looking out the window.  From the window you could see our yard—round cement planters with rosemary bushes in them, a patio with an outdoor table and chairs, and a corner of the street at the front. (p. 56).

***

Synopsis: More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
 
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.
 
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

***

I can’t wait to read this one.  What do you think?

***

BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: NANAVILLE, BY ANNA QUINDLEN

 

“I am changing his diaper, he is kicking and complaining, his exhausted father has gone to the kitchen for a glass of water, his exhausted mother is prone on the couch. He weighs little more than a large sack of flour and yet he has laid waste to the living room: swaddles on the chair, a nursing pillow on the sofa, a car seat, a stroller. No one cares about order, he is our order, we revolve around him. And as I try to get in the creases of his thighs with a wipe, I look at his, let’s be honest, largely formless face and unfocused eyes and fall in love with him. Look at him and think, well, that’s taken care of, I will do anything for you as long as we both shall live, world without end, amen.”

Before blogs even existed, Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of family, motherhood, and modern life, in her nationally syndicated column. Now she’s taking the next step and going full nana in the pages of this lively, beautiful, and moving book about being a grandmother. Quindlen offers thoughtful and telling observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandson. She writes, “Where I once led, I have to learn to follow.” Eventually a close friend provides words to live by: “Did they ask you?”

Candid, funny, frank, and illuminating, Quindlen’s singular voice has never been sharper or warmer. With the same insights she brought to motherhood in Living Out Loud and to growing older in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, this new nana uses her own experiences to illuminate those of many others.

 

My Thoughts: I am a big fan of Quindlen’s novels and memoirs. She has a unique way of voicing our own concerns and helping us find those life moments that reveal so much.

Just as parenting has its own special moments that resonate with all of us who have lived through the challenges, grandparenting brings another dimension to our lives. So in Nanaville, we are offered a time in which we can step back, observe, and decide how to cautiously move forward into the sometime worrisome waters. We learn that our adult children and their chosen partners must set the guidelines, and if we want to benefit from a good relationship with the grandchildren, we must follow their lead.

Anecdotes and chapters designated “small moments” offer us that very insightful guide to a wonderful journey in the Land of Nanaville. 5 stars.

***

Bookish Friday

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a book that has been hanging out on my Kindle for a while:  Secrets of the Tulip Sisters, by Susan Mallery.

***

Beginning:  Kelly Murphy was willing to accept certain injustices in the world.  That brownies had more calories than celery.  That wearing white pants meant getting her period—regardless of where she was in her cycle.  That her car would be low on gas only on days when she was running late.  What she did not appreciate or accept was the total unfairness of Griffith Burnett not only returning to Tulpen Crossing, Washington, nearly a year ago, but apparently waking up last month and deciding that stalking her was how he was going to spend his days.

***

Friday 56:  He reached for his coffee.  Now that he’d defined the problem, he had to figure out how to solve it.  He knew he was in way over his head, but hey, he knew all the stages of female arousal, so that was something. (56%).

***

Synopsis:  Kelly Murphy’s life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing’s prodigal son, who’s set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia’s return isn’t as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She’s determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: CALIFORNIA GIRLS, BY SUSAN MALLERY

 

Finola, a popular LA morning-show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by the news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

 

My Thoughts: California Girls swept me up into the sisterly world of three women, and it didn’t take long to feel like I was connected to each of them.

Finola ‘s life in the spotlight as a TV host intrigued me…and then I felt sorry for her as she became part of the tabloid stories. Her husband was easy to hate because of the timing and the way that he informed her of his actions. But I did like that she was able to use their time apart to do some soul searching.

Zennie’s world turns upside down when she makes a choice to help her friend, and in the end, she learns a lot about herself.

Ali was my favorite character. Who doesn’t love the girl who goes through a horrific break-up only to find a great new friend to help her along? You know right away that the friendship will turn into something else at some point.

A predictable story that delighted me along the way and earned 4 stars.

***

Bookish Friday

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature:  My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding, by Wendy Wax.

***

Beginning:  (Prologue)

Kendra:  What can I say about the wedding dress?  I can tell you it’s been in my family for generations.  That after all these years it’s still beautiful.  And what happened the day I wore it wasn’t the dress’s fault.

***

Friday 56:  With a groan I reach for what I’m pretty sure is my fourth cup of coffee, though I know from years of experience that while caffeine can help you stay awake it doesn’t make you more talented or creative any more than alcohol makes you wittier and more entertaining.

***

Synopsis:  Prized and stored away for safekeeping, the timeless ivory wedding dress, with its scooped neck and cleverly fitted bodice, sits gently folded in its box, whispering of Happily Ever Afters. To Kendra, Brianna, and Lauren it’s a reminder of what could have been, the promise of a fairy tale, and a friendship torn apart. But as Kendra knows firsthand: it wasn’t the dress’s fault.

Once closer than sisters, Lauren and Bree have grown up and grown apart, allowing broken promises and unfulfilled dreams to destroy their friendship. A successful author, Lauren returns home to the Outer Banks, fiancé in tow, to claim the dress she never thought she’d wear. While Bree, a bookstore owner, grapples with the realities of life after you marry the handsome prince. As the former best friends wrestle with their uncertain futures, they are both certain of one thing: some betrayals can never be forgiven.

Now on the eve of her daughter Lauren’s wedding, Kendra struggles with a secret she’s kept for far too long. And vows to make sure the dress will finally bring Lauren and Bree back together—knowing they’ll need each other to survive the coming storm.

***

I do love books by this author, so I’m eager to immerse myself in this story.

***

 

BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: BEST BEACH EVER, BY WENDY WAX

 

Forced to rent out or lose their beloved Bella Flora after the loss of their renovation-turned-reality-TV show Do Over, Maddie, Nikki, Avery, Kyra, and Bitsy move into cottages at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club believing the worst is over. Only to discover just how uncertain their futures really are.

Maddie struggles with the challenges of dating a rock star whose career has come roaring back to life while Nikki faces the daunting realities of mothering twins at forty-seven. Avery buries herself in a tiny home build in an attempt to dodge commitment issues, and Kyra battles to protect her son from the Hollywood world she once dreamed of joining. And Bitsy is about to find out whether the rewards of seeking revenge will outweigh the risks.

Luckily, when the going gets tough, the ladies of Ten Beach Road know that their friendship–tried and tested–can chase away the darkest clouds and let the sun shine in…

 

 

My Thoughts: I loved joining the gang on the beach and at Bella Flora for Best Beach Ever. I thought back at how it all began, the struggles along the way, and the wonderful friendships that developed.

By now, the characters feel like old friends, the kind who have suffered through hard times and come out the other side. The kind of friends you love to toast with at sunset when you share your thoughts about your “one good thing” of the day.

The story opens with Nikki, trying hard to lose the weight after giving birth to her twins. Her struggles feel so real, like the kind any new mother might experience, only double because they are twins.

Then there is Kyra, who is accompanying four-year-old Dustin to the movie set where she reluctantly will be allowing him to star with his actor father, directing his first movie. We know that there will be issues galore along the way. I applauded how Kyra finally could see beyond the surface that is Daniel Deranian.

So many other great moments kept me racing along, excited about each discovery on the way to the final page of this 5 star read.

***

Bookish Friday

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE LAST WIDOW”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a new book from Karin Slaughter:  The Last Widow.

***

Book Beginning: (Prologue)

Michelle Spivey jogged through the back of the store, frantically scanning each aisle for her daughter, panicked thoughts circling her brain:  How did I lose sight of her I am a horrible mother my baby was kidnapped by a pedophile or a human trafficker should I flag store security or call the police to—

Ashley.

Michelle stopped so abruptly that her shoe snicked against the floor.  She took a sharp breath, trying to force her heart back into a normal rhythm.  Her daughter was not being sold into slavery.  She was at the make-up counter trying on samples.

***

Friday 56:  Faith didn’t bother asking what the hell was wrong with people.  “The shooter’s motivation is fame?”

***

Synopsis:  A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. The authorities are desperate to save the doctor who’s been vanished into thin air.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhoods has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.

***

What do you think?  I cannot resist a Karin Slaughter book.

***

Bookish Friday

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “GOOD LUCK WITH THAT”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a book I have had for a while:  Good Luck with That, by Kristan Higgins.

***

Beginning:  (Prologue)

Sixteen Years Ago

For once, no one was thinking of food.

From above, they were just three teenage girls, bobbing in the middle of the clear blue lake, a rowboat drifting lazily nearby as they splashed and laughed.  A blonde and two brunettes, one with black hair, one with brown.  Their voices rose and fell.  Occasionally, one of them would slip underwater, then pop up a few yards away.

***

Friday 56:  He swore it was an accident, said he’d just had a very bad headache and wanted to get some sleep.  Accident or not, Hunter had been scared enough to keep him home and even got him a counselor, though Hunter had resisted that at first.

***

Synopsis:  Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.

For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it’s coming to terms with the survivor’s guilt she’s carried around since her twin sister’s death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it’s about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother’s and brother’s ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.

But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson’s dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves.

***

I’ve had this book for a while, so I’m eager to immerse myself in it.  What do you think?

***