BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS”

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 recent download:  The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman,  “So witty, amusing, and perceptive that I can’t decide if I liked the writing, the characters, or the story better. They’re all so well done.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Waxman’s voice is witty, emotional and often profound.”—InStyle.com (UK)

Grab life by the roots.

 

 

Beginning:  (Chapter 1)

I’m an illustrator, which sounds romantic, as if I spend my days under a spreading tree, dapple-splashed with sunshine, a watercolor tablet steady on my knee.  Actually, I spend my days slumped in an office chair, destroying my posture and working on a computer.  There is sunshine, of course, this being Southern California.

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Friday 56:  As we walked through the botanical garden, it was like an episode of Gilligan’s Island or something.  Giant leafy plants arched overhead, birds cackled at their good fortune, and the air was filled with the scent of flowers and the sound of insects freaking out with excitement.

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Synopsis:  Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
 
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
 
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: SOMETIMES I LIE, BY ALICE FEENEY

 

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

My Thoughts: Sometimes I Lie grabbed me from the beginning, as the narrator takes us from the current moments, in which she is hospitalized and in a coma, to a week before. In between these narratives, we read diary entries from the early 1990s.

I thought I knew who was writing in those diaries, but the truth was not revealed until almost the end.

Even the identity of our primary narrator was turned upside down, and as we approached the conclusion, some things started clearing up in my mind. Suddenly I felt completely gobsmacked, as I flipped from one reality to another. Throughout, I couldn’t decide just who to trust…and I wondered if I could trust any of the characters.

By the end, I kept holding my breath, waiting for the final reveal that would clarify everything. But the waters remained muddy enough, and even on the final page, I had to keep asking myself “what just happened?” A story that kept me pondering its twists and turns. 5 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS”

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 borrowed from the library:  Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan, a sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.

 

 

Beginning:  In the car on the way to the hospital, Nora remembered how, when Patrick was small, she would wake up suddenly, gripped by some terrible fear–that he had stopped breathing, or spiked a deadly fever.  That he had been taken from her.

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56:  Theresa was thrilled to be let in on her sister’s private thoughts.  She started to reply, but the door opened then, and Kitty said, “It’s only me.”

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Synopsis:  Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES, BY ABBI WAXMAN

 

At any given moment in other people’s houses, you can find…repressed hopes and dreams…moments of unexpected joy…someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband…

As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this…

After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.

My Thoughts: In this bold peek behind closed doors, Other People’s Houses reveals the flaws, the foibles, and the moral failings in an LA area neighborhood.

Frances Bloom is the main voice, although we are offered multiple narrators. She is the good mom, the patient one who carpools all the neighborhood kids. But is she truly good, or is she making up for her own failings?

Anne Porter’s faux pas turns the neighborhood from a cozy little enclave to a clash of temperaments and values within the other houses, as each of them has to figure out whose side they’re on.

I liked how the kids were not cardboard versions but were fleshed out in a way that allowed us to connect with them. Ava, the fourteen-year-old, was not just an annoying, eye-rolling caricature, but had ideas of her own that showed her developing personhood. She could also be helpful and thoughtful, just like a real girl who has grown up with structure and love, finding her own true self.

As more and more of the closely guarded secrets are revealed, I especially loved the dialogue, the banter, and even the sometimes coarse language that left me feeling as if these were people I knew. An irreverent, hilarious, and often sad tale of how life can go so wrong, this book also showed us characters who pulled themselves together despite their problems. They were an example for the others, just like real people can be leaders of the pack. In the final moments, after the crises within some of the families settled down, there was a Christmas get-together. I liked this quote: “The neighborhood would be together again, in all its imperfect, fractured, embarrassing glory.” 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

BLOGGIESTA FINISH LINE POST!

Bloggiesta has ended!  See what I accomplished…and let me know your link so I can see what you did.

My Completed Tasks:

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Here are some headers I tried:

 

 

The third one ended up leading the charge!  The background went from dark green to light.

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That’s what I did!  How did your party end?

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: LET ME LIE, BY CLARE MACKINTOSH

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 recent download:  Let Me Lie, by Clare Mackintosh, the stunning new novel from Clare Mackintosh, the international bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You.

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

 

 

Beginnings: (Chapter One)

Death does not suit me.  I wear it like a borrowed coat; it slips off my shoulders and trails in the dirt.  It is ill fitting.  Uncomfortable.

I want to shrug it off; to throw it in the cupboard and take back my well-tailored clothes.  I didn’t want to leave my old life, but I’m hopeful for my next one — hopeful I can become someone beautiful and vibrant.  For now, I am trapped.

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Friday 56:  Murray had held her, trying to empathize but finding it impossible to relate to a logic that saw self-harming as the only route into a place of safety.

“I had an interesting day,” he said now.

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Synopsis:  Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.

Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother’s absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.

Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie….

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I’ve been waiting for a long time to get my hands on this book.  Does it grab you?

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REVIEW: THE BAD DAUGHTER, BY JOY FIELDING

 

There was no shortage of words she could use to describe her father, almost none of them complimentary. Serves you damn right, she thought.

A voice mail from her estranged sister, Melanie, sends Robin’s heart racing and her mind spiraling in a full-blown panic attack. Melanie’s message is dire: Their father, his second wife, and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter have been shot—likely in a home invasion—and lie in the hospital in critical condition.

It’s been more than five years since Robin turned her back on her father when he married her best friend. Five years since she said goodbye to her hometown of Red Bluff, California, and became a therapist. More than two years since Robin and Melanie have spoken. Yet even with all that distance and time and acrimony, the past is always with Robin.

Now she must return to the family she left behind. As she attempts to mend fences while her father clings to life, Robin begins to wonder if there is more to the tragedy than a botched burglary attempt. It seems that everyone—Robin’s mercurial sister, her less-than-communicative nephew, her absent brother, and even Tara, her father’s wife—has something to hide. And someone may have put them all in grave danger.

 

My Thoughts: There is no better story than one created by Joy Fielding, in my opinion, and The Bad Daughter is no exception. From the beginning, I found myself rapidly turning pages, staying up late to read more, and then enjoying every surprise twist and turn until the very end.

The characters felt so real, and I had emotional reactions to them all. I couldn’t stand Melanie, Robin’s older sister, whose sarcasm seemed to come from a very bad place. But did she have good reasons for her behavior?

I wasn’t sure about Robin’s fiancé Blake, either, but I gradually came to see a different side to him.

Then there was Melanie’s autistic son Landon, who, at eighteen, had all the usual behaviors associated with his disorder…but there was also something about him that aroused discomfort. Was he keeping secrets?

The victims in the shooting all had plenty of bad qualities, except for the twelve year old victim Cassidy, who seemed like a sweet innocent. But was there more to her story? Robin was drawn to her, but often had a feeling of “what’s wrong with this picture?”

Until the riveting and surprising conclusion, I went back and forth about which character must be pegged as “the bad daughter,” but when the final reveal came, it all made sense. I loved everything about the story and it earned 5 stars from me.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE PERFECT NANNY”

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 recent download:  The Perfect Nanny, by Leila Slimani.  “She has the keys to their apartment. She knows everything. She has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.”

 

 

Book Beginning:  The baby is dead.  It took only a few seconds.  The doctor said he didn’t suffer.  The broken body, surrounded by toys, was put inside a gray bag, which they zipped shut.

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Friday 56:  Everyone in Paul and Myriam’s inner circle ends up knowing about Louise.  Some of them have seen her in the neighborhood or in the apartment.  Others have only heard about the feats of this legendary nanny, who seems to have sprung straight from the pages of a children’s book.

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Synopsis: When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.

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What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

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REVIEW: SUNBURN, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

 

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?
Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Sunburn, the reader is drawn into the mysterious connection that seems to develop immediately between Adam and Polly.

Circumstances brought them together, but desire and the slow burn of secrets and lies would keep them connected…for one long hot summer and beyond.

Who is Polly? We learn bits and pieces of her life and her past as the tale progresses. Their alternating narratives fill in the story over time. Is she a con artist bent on destruction? Or is she someone with a plan and unexpected goals?

Additional layers revealed complexities I didn’t see coming until the very end.

Fascinating story with interesting characters, some of whom were evil and destructive. But I liked both Adam and Polly and rooted for them. Would either of them get what they wanted from the relationship? Would they abandon their original goals? Or would life and someone’s manipulations throw too many curves for either of them to win? A stunning leap near the end of the story brought some of the answers. 5 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE FRENCH GIRL”

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 recent acquisition:  The French Girl, by Lexie Elliott:  I Know What You Did Last Summer meets the French countryside in this exhilarating psychological suspense debut about a woman trapped by the bonds of friendship–perfect for fans of The Widow and The Woman in Cabin 10.

 

 

Beginning:  Looking back, the most striking thing is that she knew I didn’t like her and that she didn’t care.  That type of self-possession at the tender age of nineteen—well, it’s unnatural.  Or French.  She was very, very French.

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Friday 56:  Finally she catches my hand in hers and smiles.  “I know.  I’ll be careful.”  She changes the subject deliberately, and as we talk, I see that half of her focus is elsewhere:  reliving aural sex in a transport hub, perhaps, or dreaming up meetings yet to come; in any case, half her mind is threaded through with Alain, Alain, Alain.                   

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Synopsis:  We all have our secrets…

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway…until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget…like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free…

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Do the excerpts grab you?  Do you want to know more?

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