THE A-FRAME HOUSE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY….

It has been a while since I’ve written about my A-frame house in the foothills, the setting for the creation of my first novel…the one with themes from my life and my career, which you can find in detail in  A House That Inspired a Story.

An Accidental Life portrays characters whose lives just seem to happen to them…almost accidentally.  I acquired the house almost accidentally, too, when funds appeared unexpectedly.  The A-frame is depicted on the cover of the book with the face it wore back then, a redwood brown.  I later painted the house this sage green color (above).

 

 

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To revive the images, I created a blog button today that mimics the shape of the A-frame house, wearing an approximation of its final color….

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Do you sometimes choose your path accidentally, or does life seem to happen while you’re making other plans?  Perhaps you can relate to some of these characters.

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HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: PRESENT, PAST, & UPCOMING READS

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Today I’m participating in Sam’s WWW Wednesdays Here’s how it works:

 

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

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Currently Reading:

I  am halfway finished with a very engaging e-ARC from NetGalley:  Cruel Beautiful World, by Caroline Leavitt, a haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.   Release Date:  October 4, 2016.

 

 

 

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Blurb:  It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and explores what happens when you’re responsible for things you cannot make right.

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I am loving how the story alternates between the various characters, moving from the girls, Lucy and Charlotte, in 1969, and then veering into the backstory of Iris, the girls’ caretaker.  Her story takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century.

The part of the story set in the late sixties and early seventies brings up some reminders of how that so-called peaceful time and existence can turn into mass murder (Charlie Manson’s family).

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JUST FINISHED:

I loved Book Four in this Ten Beach Road series:  Sunshine Beach, by Wendy Wax. (Click for my review).

 

 

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Another totally engaging story about friendships, conflicts, challenges, and starting over…again.

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EAGERLY ANTICIPATING:

I just discovered the existence of this new book, the sixth in a series I have loved, a series that features Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist who sometimes works with the police.  Set in London and thereabouts, we often follow some twists and turns to reach a resolution of each case.

Saturday Requeim, by Nicci French, is not available in the U.S. yet, so I ordered it from a third-party seller in the UK.  That’s how much I love this series.

 

 

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Blurb:  It was an open and shut case when eighteen-year-old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family; she’s been incarcerated ever since. When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to assess Hannah, she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her…Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family. Frieda soon begins to realise that she’s up against someone who’ll go to any lengths to protect themselves…

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What are you reading and/or anticipating today?

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REVIEW: FLIGHT PATTERNS, BY KAREN WHITE

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A story with themes about journeys beginning and ending, the patterns of flight innumerable, the destination always being home, Flight Patterns takes us along for the ride. We find out more than we ever hoped to know about bees, we learn about loss and those who choose to stay apart rather than to forgive. And finally, we learn about how healing can begin.

Georgia Chambers, living her life in New Orleans, has stayed away from the family home in Apalachicola, Florida, ever since something happened between her and her sister Maisy Sawyers ten years before. Between the two of them, they are keeping the secrets and hanging onto the pain.

Meanwhile, their mother Birdie has not spoken a word for all that time, and the past is suddenly churning up, threatening to explode, right when Georgia returns to Apalachicola with a client in tow. James Graf is hoping to find out about a unique china pattern that belonged to his mother, a Limoges pattern with a unique design of bees circling it. And Georgia happens to be an expert in antiques. She also recalls seeing a soup cup in her own family home, one that might be part of the set.

What will Georgia discover in her quest for the china’s history? How will it take her to a family secret in France, one that might just have something to do with Birdie’s silence? How will a stolen truck only recently recovered help them all sort out the puzzle? And what will finally bring Georgia together with her sister Maisy, her niece Becky, and start the forgiveness process?

What a great story! I must admit that Georgia was my favorite character, with Becky my second favorite. I never warmed up to Maisy, really disliking her tendency to blame everyone else and not acknowledge her own faults. But in the end, she started to grow on me. James was delightful, and I kept rooting for him and his own healing. 5 stars.

HUMP DAY READING: CURRENT, PAST, & FUTURE PICKS

June 3 office changes 3-WWW LOGO

Today I’m participating in Sam’s WWW Wednesdays.  Here’s how it works:

 

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

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Current Read:

I am reading a delightful review book:  Paris Runaway, by Paulita Kincer, from The Accidental Blog.

 

 

 

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When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

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I started the book last night, and then kept reading until quite late.  I am loving the writing style; I feel as if I am there, following the characters in their suspenseful journey, enjoying the sights along the way, as well as the worst case scenarios the MC envisions.  I will definitely finish it today, as it is a hard book to put down.

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Just Finished:

Yesterday, I finished reading Dear Carolina, by Kristy Woodson Harvey (click for my review).  A delightful read with all the scents and tastes of Southern cooking, as well as the cozy comforts of the cast of characters.

 

 

 

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Eagerly Anticipating:

A book I have bookmarked on Amazon, which is coming out on July 26, is Valley of the Moon, by Melanie Gideon. 

 

 

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The author of the critically acclaimed Wife 22 has written a captivating novel about a love that transcends time—perfect for readers of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Time and Again, and the novels of Alice Hoffman.

San Francisco, 1975. A single mother, Lux Lysander is overwhelmed, underpaid, and living on the edge of an emotional precipice. When her adored five-year-old son goes away to visit his grandparents, Lux takes a solo trip to Sonoma Valley—a chance to both lose herself and find herself again.

Awakened at midnight, Lux steps outside to see a fog settled over the Sonoma landscape. Wandering toward a point of light in the distance, she emerges into a meadow on a sunny day. There she meets a group of people whose sweetly simple clothing, speech, and manners almost make them seem as if they are from another time.

And then she realizes they are.

Lux has stumbled upon an idyllic community cut off not only from the rest of the world but from time itself. The residents of Greengage tell a stunned and disoriented Lux that they’ve somehow been marooned in the early twentieth century. Now that she has inexplicably stepped into the past, it is not long before Lux is drawn in by its peace and beauty.

Unlike the people of Greengage, Lux discovers that she is able to come and go. And over the years, Lux finds herself increasingly torn between her two lives. Her beloved son is very much a child of the modern world, but she feels continually pulled back to the only place she has ever truly felt at home.

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I fell in love with the cover, and then the blurb drew me in.  I have another book by the author that I have not yet read….but soon!

What does your Hump Day look like?

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HUMP DAY READING: CURRENT, PAST, & ANTICIPATING

June 3 office changes 3-WWW LOGO

Today I’m participating in Sam’s WWW Wednesdays.  Here’s how it works:

 

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

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Currently Reading:

I just started reading Clouds in My Coffee, by Julie Mulhern, the third in a trilogy called The Country Club Murders.  I have read and loved the first two books, so I am anticipating delight on every page.

 

 

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When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again?

Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee.

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Just Finished Reading:

Late last night, after many distractions already this week, I happily finished reading Friction, by Sandra Brown, a page-turner I gave 4.5 stars. (Click for my review).

 

 

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Eagerly Anticipating:

I am eagerly awaiting several books, but Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty, is one coming on July 26…and I’ve pre-ordered it.  So you know that I seriously want this one.  Love the author!

 

 

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Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty turns her unique, razor-sharp eye towards three seemingly happy families.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

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So…there you have it!  July is going to bring some good things for me, from the book I’m reading to this one that I’m anticipating.

What are you reading and/or waiting for?

 

 

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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.

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

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REVIEW: IF YOU LIVED HERE, YOU’D BE HOME NOW, BY CLAIRE LAZEBNIK

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Rickie Allen, twenty-five year old single mother to Noah, age six, seems like someone you could root for. At first glance, you can feel sympathy for her situation, living at home with her parents and locking horns constantly with what appears to be an over-controlling mother, Laurel.

Her half-sister Melanie, newly separated from husband Gabriel, has two children, and occasionally stays at the family home, too. But she gets along great with her stepmother, Laurel.

Rickie’s first person narrative is definitely showing us her view of things only, and it’s when we see her interact with others that we begin to suspect that Rickie’s issues with her mother are only the tip of the iceberg.

Why is Rickie unable to commit to anyone or anything? Why does she oppose everything her mother suggests? What happened to derail her life when she was a teenage college student? And why is she constantly pulled into an unfulfilling relationship in a friends-with-benefits pairing with Ryan, her former brother-in-law’s brother?

Noah has many problems, too. He is small, with celiac disease and food issues. He isn’t very athletic, and as a student in a private school with lots of athletic kids around him, he bears the brunt of some bullying. Do some of his behaviors (whining, inability to try anything that is challenging) have anything to do with his mother’s behavior?

By the time I neared the end of If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now,  I was pretty frustrated with Rickie. But there was also something appealing about her, so I wanted her to find her way. I wanted her to finally discover a path and stick to it. I hoped that she would care enough about herself to make some changes.

There were some predictable elements, in that Ricki has a conflict with the school coach at first, and then begins to like him. As a friend. And perhaps more.

The relationship between the mother and daughter suddenly started to smooth out, with understanding all around. A nice, soothing touch, but again…predictable.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novel and was happy at how the author tied things up in the end. 4 stars.

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “ONE TRUE LOVES”

Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

In the past year, I have read three books by an author who was new to me, and she is now one of my new favorites.  On June 7, 2016, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest book, One True Loves will be released.

 

 

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Synopsis:  From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a “Best Book of the Summer” by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

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.

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What do you think?  Does this story tug at your heartstrings?  Does it make you want to read?

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REVIEW: WHAT WAS MINE, BY HELEN KLEIN ROSS

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Simply told but deeply affecting, in the bestselling tradition of Alice McDermott and Tom Perrotta, this urgent novel unravels the heartrending yet unsentimental tale of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore—and gets away with it for twenty-one years.

While the idea of feeling anything but horror for such a woman would normally be a predominant one, I found myself empathizing with Lucy, the “kidnapper,” whose almost obsessive desire for a baby leads to such a horrific act.  The author skillfully takes us through her thought processes, breaking them down into manageable moments that slowly turn into something almost palatable…and then, just when we think we can live with what she did, the repercussions start happening.  Life comes undone.

With part of the story in Lucy’s voice, we come to understand her.  But what about all those whose lives were damaged?  We view the perspectives of Marilyn, the mother of the kidnapped child; other people in Lucy’s life; Mia herself; and more characters as the pages lead us to what happens after.

From Manhattan to California, and finally to China, the story unfolds into some surprising developments. The emotions that Mia feels upon learning of Lucy’s actions soon change as she realizes, finally, that she was who she was because of Lucy. And despite the biological connection with Marilyn, parts of her would always belong to the woman who raised her.

In some ways, the conclusion to What Was Mine felt unfinished, as we are left not quite knowing what the outcome will be. But as we watch the pieces begin to coalesce, we are struck by how nothing is quite black and white, but in muted shades of gray. 4.5 stars.

HOW A NOVEL CAME TO BE: “AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE”

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Tonight when I found myself distracted from the book I was reading, I decided to peruse the archives in this blog, and found this post from 2010.  The photo (above) is one of me back in my early social work days:

In my novel “An Accidental Life,” I focused on a local phenomenon in the Central Valley of California – methamphetamine abuse. In the early nineties, I was working in child welfare services for the County of Fresno, and a proliferation of substance abuse cases (related to methamphetamine or “crank” abuse) became a regular aspect in the life of the social worker.

Years later, when I decided to pen a novel that featured these issues, I chose to zero in on characters that were composites of those I met during this time in my professional career. I also added my own personal take to the story by creating characters from my own history.

As a result, we have a bird’s eye view, as it were, into the lives of social workers and their clients.

To spice things up a bit, I added a subplot that featured a stalker/murderer, a nod to another aspect of Central Valley life – homicides. We have had our share of unsolved mysteries in this Valley city, but in my novel, I chose to reach a solution to the stalker/homicide that focuses on one of my characters.

Finally, because I do not believe in “happily ever after,” I did make one concession to this familiar theme: I chose what I call a “hopeful ending.” The characters are left with the faith that the “journey” in life is really what it’s all about. Finding themselves on the path of self-discovery, with its complexities and obstacles, allows the characters to persist – to believe.

In the end, that’s really all we have.