REVIEW: BETTER OFF WITHOUT HIM, BY DEE ERNST

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It was just a normal April when Mona’s husband of twenty years, Brian, announced rather casually that he was moving out and wanted a divorce. He has fallen in love with a younger woman.

Their three teenaged daughters, Miranda, 16, and 14-year-old twins Lauren and Jessica, had just left for school, and Mona had settled in to think about writing her next novel. A best-selling romance novelist with the pen name Maura Van Whalen, she had decided to switch from historical romance to something contemporary.

Brian’s announcement and actions swept her off course a bit, but even after considering what a divorce would mean in her life, and not liking the upheaval, she had to admit that she wasn’t actually broken-hearted. In fact, wouldn’t it be a perfect novel to write about a woman in her forties who is dumped by her husband, and finds her happily-ever-after without a man?

Better Off Without Him was a delightful book about starting over, making better choices, and learning how to be who you want to be. Some of those choices included dating again, but with men who were already friends. Practice dating, as her daughters called it. A summer at the Long Island Shore house, which Mona had bought years before with her own money, would offer some opportunities to find men to date. And back at home in New Jersey, there was Ben the plumber, who was handsome, a good friend, and surprisingly available. So even though Mona plans to design her life to suit herself, does that mean she can’t fall in love again…someday?

I enjoyed the story, the dialogue, which was full of funny tidbits and movie references, and Mona’s humorous first person narrative. Brian was a despicable character who, predictably, thought he could still come and go in the house whenever he wanted. I liked how Mona was able to put him in his place. 4.5 stars.

BOOKISH THURSDAYS #15: SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS

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Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating some of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; Kimberlyfaye’s TBR Thursday; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

My featured book today is one I purchased on December 31, 2015, and even though it’s been hanging out on Pippa for a while, it is new enough to count for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge.  It is Better Off Without Him, by Dee Ernst.

 

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Let’s take a look at the book, in terms of foodies excerpts:

 

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Our MC, Mona Berman, has a twenty-year marriage and three teenage daughters.  Here she is enjoying a normal morning of breakfasts, etc.  Here comes one of the teens:

That particular morning, I could see a happy kitten face beneath her grey hoodie, and her hair was in a long braid.  She carefully measured oatmeal and water into a bowl and set it in the microwave, then smiled as she poured her orange juice and said, in her very sweet, little-girl voice, “I put our DNA in Johnson already.  Is that okay?”

I smiled.  Of course it was okay.  For those who need a translation, Johnson is our minivan.  I call it Johnson after the actor, Van Johnson.  I am a huge movie fan, and I watched a lot of old movies on television when I was a kid.  The DNA she was referring to was the science project she and her sister had been working on for the past six weeks.

***

Okay, I am already suspicious of this overly sweet girl.  I’ll bet she’s trouble!  lol

***

 

 

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Now we’ll examine this TBR more closely for TBR Thursday:

 

Blurb:  Mona Berman has it all—a twenty-year marriage, a successful career as a romance novelist, and three teenage daughters. But when her husband, Brian, leaves her for someone younger, thinner, blonde, and French, she has to step back and take a good, long look at her life.

First, her career. She can’t continue to write about “Happily Ever After,” so she changes the heroine of her new book from a hot young thing to a forty-something woman who manages to find happiness without a man. Her agent isn’t too happy—the heroine is how old? She doesn’t get the guy in the end? How is that even possible?

But Mona is tough, and she’s got Anthony, her personal assistant, and a few good friends to cheer her on and keep the stiff martinis flowing. And Ben. Ben is her plumber, but not your average plumber. He’s smart enough to know that Brian was never good enough for her, and sexy enough to be cast as the romantic lead in quite a few of her books. The sound of his voice alone can send her imagination into full romantic overdrive.

Then she meets Mitch, who might be just the guy for her. And there’s still Ben, who’s managed to come to her rescue more than once. But—there’s a book to publish, a soon-to-be-ex-husband to deal with, and what has Aunt Lily done this time?

Can Mona work this all out? Can life imitate art, and can Mona write her own happy ending?

***

Why have I waited so long?  This one sounds like a fun story about the other side of romance.  What do you think?

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  • Yesterday was a good day to get out of the house, so I met up with a friend at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.  I love having coffee, chatting, and then browsing books.  Here’s a view of the coffee shop;

 

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  • I found a couple of books on the bargain table….I’ll share more about those on Saturday’s Stacking the Shelves;
  • Afterwards, I hopped on over to The Elephant Bar, in the same parking lot, and had a delightful lunch that included a free appetizer (rewards card), a Pomegranate martini, and a salad;

 

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  • Back home, I read a little, watched some TV…and started a new series on Netflix Revenge.  (I finished The Killing on the weekend).  I never watched this show on TV…and the first two episodes were okay, but I still prefer the murder mysteries (lol).  But who knows?  When revenge is happening, anything is possible;

 

 

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  • I don’t have much else to chat about…I guess I got it all out of my system when I visited with my friend yesterday…but on Monday, I did take my laptop and coffee out on my newly cleaned patio…which was long overdue;

 

 

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What are you sharing today?  Come on by and leave a comment and link.  Enjoy the day!

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REVIEW: THE RAMBLERS, BY AIDAN DONNELLEY ROWLEY

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The three of them have a history, and now they represent a kind of New Yorker that is facing challenges, struggling against the past, and hoping for a future. They are college graduates pursuing their professions while also finding what they need in their personal lives.

Clio Eloise Marsh is an Ornithologist, a bird watcher, and a professor. She has a past that includes a mentally ill mother who sucked up all the air in the world around her, and then, took away any kind of hope for a future. Can Clio’s new beau Henry, a hotelier who is somewhat older than she, help her face her emotional past and give her hope for the future?

Smith Mae Anderson came from wealth and privilege, and she is Clio’s best friend from college and current roommate. But Smith’s past also tugs at her confidence, since the parental expectations are high and she is struggling to create a niche for herself, doing what she loves with her business called The Order of Things, a way of helping people to declutter their lives. She sees the process as a way of being in control of her inner and outer life.

Tate Pennington, also a student with Clio and Smith, created a software company that sold for a lot of money. Now he is pursuing his passion of photography, and may pursue an MFA to enhance his technical skills. Tate is still struggling to get past the dearth of his marriage to Olivia, while also finding himself drawn to Smith.

The Ramblers is all about what happens to these friends, and each of them alternately narrates the story. As we follow along with them individually, from their past to their present, we also get to visualize the world they see every day, from the oasis of The Ramble in Central Park to the world inside some gorgeous apartments and hotels.

I must admit that I loved when each of the characters’ narratives revealed their interior thoughts, from what they feared to what they loved and dreamed about. Watching how each of them moved slowly beyond what they most feared in their past lives to the hopeful futures kept me turning the pages. The story had a slow pace, which did not engage me quite as much as a faster paced book does…but the meandering story did offer the opportunity to feel a depth of understanding for the characters. 4 stars.

BOOKISH THURSDAY #14: SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS

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Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating some of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; Kimberlyfaye’s TBR Thursday; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

My featured book today is one I purchased in September 2015:  The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons.

 

 

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Friends who once met every year at the beach have not gotten together in a while.  Now they are coming together again, after one of them has died.

 

I stood in my kitchen, barefoot, anxious, muddling the sugar and mint that would spice the pitcher of mojitos I intended to ply the girls with.  They would be arriving momentarily, thus my nerves.  Had we changed too much?  Had three years been kind or cruel?  What if one of us had gotten wildly fat or depressed or mean-spirited?  Why, on earth, was I fretting so?

“Calm down,” I whispered.

I began juicing the limes.  The aroma of citrus and sugar curled through the air, and as I breathed in the tart sweet, I considered our different fates.

***

Sometimes delicious mojitos are just the panacea for our hurts.

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I don’t know why I haven’t yet read this one…I enjoy the author, and a good beachy read is often just what I need.  Perhaps I’m waiting for summer?  What do you think?

Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.

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Some bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts:

  • After finishing up a couple of Netflix shows, I searched for a while…and then found another one that I’ve immersed myself in:  The Killing. A character-driven murder mystery set in Seattle….I am on Season II.

 

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  • Tomorrow is my day with my stylist daughter…yay!  I always enjoy our chats and having her do her thing with my color and style.  I like this cartoon….

 

 

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  • My reading is sluggish this week, probably because of all the Netflix viewing.  I did read and review The Other Typist so far (click for my review)….and I’m enjoying The Ramblers. A story focused on three “lost souls” living in Manhattan.
  • Now I think I’ll watch some shows on my DVR….I need to clear it out.  Sometimes I just start to watch a show or a movie, and end up erasing it.  Like Castle...I stopped enjoying that show a while back.
  • So that’s it for this week…what are your thoughts?

 

 

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SERENDIPITOUS MUSINGS: WISHING FOR “ONE TRUE LOVES”

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Welcome to my Serendipitous Musings, led by Jenn, at Books and a Beat.  Check our her prompts:

 

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What do you think is the most overrated book?

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My tendency toward musing about books I want, drool over, or dream about is taking over again today, as I visit various blogs and see some of these wished for books on other stacks.

In the past year, I’ve discovered a previously unknown-to-me author, read one, then two, and finally THREE of her books…so I am eagerly awaiting Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves, coming June 7.  Yay, not long to wait!

 

 

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In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

***

I am eager to curl up with this book….what are you musing about today?

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BOOKISH THURSDAY #13: SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS

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Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating some of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; Kimberlyfaye’s TBR Thursday; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

Today’s featured TBR book has not been on my stacks that long.  Just since February 2016…but I am trying to clear things off sooner.  The Ramblers, by Aidan Donnelley Rowley, is a gorgeous and absorbing novel of a trio of confused souls struggling to find themselves and the way forward in their lives, set against the spectacular backdrop of contemporary New York City.

 

 

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In our “foodie” excerpt today, one of our trio, Clio, sits alone at the hotel bar.

She traces her fingertip around the rim of her empty champagne flute and surveys the aftermath of the party.  The lobby and bar are littered with wineglasses and crumpled cocktail napkins, evidence of exuberance and good cheer.  Wooden skewers with clinging shreds of chicken satay are tucked here and there.  A crimson scarf has been left behind on a velvet chair.  Towers of plates wait to be whisked away.

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Already I am sorry that I haven’t read this one yet.  I love a good party!

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Since my TBR book has not been languishing very long, I suspect it will make it to my list soon…what do you think?  Here is the synopsis:

 

Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan—the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village—The Ramblers explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing, Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.

Clio Marsh, whose bird-watching walks through Central Park are mentioned in New York Magazine, is taking her first tentative steps towards a relationship while also looking back to the secrets of her broken childhood. Her best friend, Smith Anderson, the seemingly-perfect daughter of one of New York’s wealthiest families, organizes the lives of others as her own has fallen apart. And Tate Pennington has returned to the city, heartbroken but determined to move ahead with his artistic dreams.

Rambling through the emotional chaos of their lives, this trio learns to let go of the past, to make room for the future and the uncertainty and promise that it holds. The Ramblers is a love letter to New York City—an accomplished, sumptuous novel about fate, loss, hope, birds, friendship, love, the wonders of the natural world and the mysteries of the human spirit. 

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Moving on….let’s chat about some Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts:

 

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  • I had a great and very restful weekend, binge-watching Amazon Videos and Netflix in my “newly created” spot in my bedroom.  Normally I watch in the living room via my Blu-Ray, but this was a nice change;

 

May 7 breakfast in bed with Netflix***

  • On Sunday, my daughter and her fiance took us up to the mountains for a brunch by the lake.  Here are Heather and her son Noah;

 

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  • I have read and LOVED three books so far this week, and I’m enjoying my fourth one.  Is the slump behind me?  Click titles for my reviews of What We Find, My Name is Lucy Barton, and The Children;
  • Today I am reading The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell, a haunting debut novel set against the background of New York City in the 1920s…
  • Speaking of Netflix earlier, I watched Season II of Grace & Frankie.  The trouble with binge-watching:  you have to wait FOREVER for the next season to be available, or so it seems.  The good news, however:  Season II of Bloodlines is coming on May 24th!
  • That’s it for my ramblings today….I hope you’ll stop by, chat, and leave your links.  Have a great weekend!

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Married to Books with Friend

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REVIEW: THE CHILDREN, BY ANN LEARY

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Lakeside Cottage in Harwich, Connecticut, had been a part of the Whitman family for generations. Whit Whitman, whom we met early on in The Children, when he was just a child, would figure largely in the story, but primarily as a legendary character. His marriage to Joan, who had two young daughters, Sally and Charlotte, would launch a whole new blended family that included Whit’s sons from his marriage to Marissa: Perry and Philip (Spin).

His death would set events in motion and unleash issues that would stay buried for years, but in one long hot summer, all would surface with a vengeance. Could the division of trusts and the cottage figure into the trouble? Whit had left Lakeside Cottage to his sons, a trust fund to Joan, as well as to his sons, with the understanding that Joan would stay in the cottage as long as she wished to do so. But maybe everything wasn’t as smoothly settled as they thought.

Our first person narrator is Charlotte, who some believe is agoraphobic, but she simply feels more comfortable in the cottage attic room writing her “fictitious” mommy blog. She makes quite a bit of money from advertisers, and all is well on that front…until it isn’t.

The first ripples of trouble appear when Spin brings his fiancée Laurel Atwood home to the cottage. She seems wonderful on the surface. Charming, in fact, and clearly she is beautiful. But Sally, who has some mental health issues, can seemingly see below the surface. Why does nobody believe her? But who would believe Sally when she “gets like that”? Frenetic and manic, she escalates quickly.

I loved this story. I wanted to stay with the characters well beyond the final pages, and I held my breath while experiencing the story as it unfolded, only releasing my breath when I finally learned the fate of the characters. A 5 star read for me.

*** My e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.