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.

***

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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?

***

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: “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.

***

 

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: “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: “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?

***

REVIEW: THE COMFORTS OF HOME, BY SUSAN HILL

 

Susan Hill—the Man Booker Prize nominee and winner of the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham, and John Llewellyn Rhys awards—returns with a hair-raising new novel, the ninth book in one of the most acclaimed mystery series of our time. Featuring the enigmatic and brooding chief police inspector Simon Serrailler, this intricate and pulse-pounding series follows a collection of grisly crimes plaguing the city of Lafferton—and The Comforts of Home is the most chilling and unputdownable installment yet.In this gripping new thriller, Simon, eager to be back at work after recovering from a near-fatal injury, takes on a cold-case review for the Lafferton police about a girl who disappeared some years before. Meanwhile his family adjusts to changes of its own; namely his sister’s marriage to Chief Constable Kieron Bright. But when events take an unfavorable turn for the Chief Constable and an arsonist goes on a deadly rampage in Lafferton, Simon’s personal and professional lives intertwine in more complex and devastating ways than ever before in the tradition of the fabulous mysteries of Ruth Rendell and P.D. James.

My Thoughts: The Comforts of Home is my first read in the series, and while the relationships between recurring characters were filled in nicely by the author, I often had the feeling that I had missed out on some important details.

Simon was an interesting character, and I liked following along with his internal monologues and reminiscences of cold cases in the past. I also enjoyed feeling for him as he struggled to deal with his prosthetic device after a serious accident. The storyline alternated between several characters and how they all fit together in the various cases. The settings veered from West London to a Scottish island, and in each one I could feel myself walking along with the characters.

The story rambled a bit, but I was intrigued throughout. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: SOMEONE WE KNOW, BY SHARI LAPENA

 

“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses—and into the owners’ computers as well—learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.
Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

In this neighborhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .

You never really know what people are capable of.

My Thoughts: When a woman is murdered in a quiet neighborhood in upstate New York, a chain of events is unleashed, moving across the streets and sweeping up the neighbors surrounding the crime victim, turning their lives on end.

A teenage boy and his strange nighttime activities are revealed, another teen turns to alcohol to deal with an unknown stress, and each of the wives look with suspicion at their husbands as they are all called in for questioning and are under scrutiny for a time.

How would the detectives sort out the truth from the lies? When everyone seems to have a motive, how will they finally catch the killer? The obvious perpetrator seems to be the husband, who is behaving very strangely. But then all of the other men have things to hide, too. A stunning reveal kept me intrigued with Someone We Know until the very end. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE MISSING YEARS, BY LEXIE ELLIOTT

 

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighborhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

 

My Thoughts: The Missing Years is told from the perspective of Ailsa Calder, who has returned to the mysterious Scottish home that is part of her inheritance. Her half-sister Carrie is acting in a play in Edinburgh, and the two are reconnecting after many years. They are hoping that their mother’s death has given them the opportunity to be true sisters.

But before the two of them have the chance, a series of disturbing events terrorize them until they are ready to run.

I held onto each page with intensity as more and more disturbing happenings brought them to a tragic conclusion. What townsfolk, if any, are responsible for what is happening? I thought I had it all figured out but then I was stunned by how it all unfolded.

Could the house itself be haunted and responsible? Or are some of the neighbors playing tricks on them? I enjoyed this book and gave it 4.5 stars.***