BOOKISH THURSDAY #35: 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 a couple of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

 

 

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Today, I’m featuring a book I’m currently reading:  The Life She Wants, by Robyn Carr.

 

 

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In the aftermath of her financier husband’s suicide, Emma Shay Compton’s dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients’ life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband’s crimes. She is left with nothing.

Only one friend stands by her, a friend she’s known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn’t easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she’d rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan.

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In our excerpt, Emma has just arrived in Sebastopol, where her friend Lyle has arranged for her to stay in the guest house belonging to his elderly friend, Penelope Pennington.  Lyle and Penny have put together a small repast in Penny’s house next door:

 

Lyle went off to a nearby market to get dinner, bringing Penny and Emma a huge Greek salad, some hummus, flatbread and a bottle of wine. They had their dinner at Penny’s, sitting around her little dining table, and Emma loved her at once.

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Simple, but perfect.  I would love starting over like this!

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  • The week has sped by, and here we are again, our lovely Thursday, a time to share.
  • Do you ever have weeks in which you can’t point to much of anything you’ve done, but you know you’ve been busy?  Well, that was this week.  I can point to three books read and reviewed, however:

Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, by Diane Keaton (click for review)

 

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Spelling It Like It Is, by Tori Spelling (click!)

 

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The Kept Woman, by Karin Slaughter

 

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  • Here’s a photo of me having lunch at home, with my second read.  A change of pace:  eating and reading at home on my comfy couch (and I just wanted to show off my new purple eyeglasses…lol).

 

 

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  • So…I was up late last night, finishing the review on the third book, and trying to decide what to read next; I picked up the book you see featured at the top of the post.  I’m loving it, a nice change of pace from the other three books.
  • Yesterday was a relaxing day at my daughter’s salon…after she had postponed my appointment TWICE (yes, remember the last two weeks I had appointments the “next day”?).  Well, we finally had our “styling and chatting time.”
  • We had a nice talk, I saw photos of her wedding dress.  On the weekend, she and her fiance drove over to the coast and set up the venue for their wedding on April 1.  Yes, no fooling….
  • It will be a small and simple event at the hotel on the beach, with the reception the next day, back at the home of her fiance’s brother.
  • Their honeymoon to Europe will be in a few months, but they are planning to utilize my eldest son as their tour guide.  (He lives in Prague, for those who haven’t been following my blogs).  Here are Heather and David.  This shot (below) was taken when they were on their Mexican cruise earlier in the year.

 

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  • So…that’s about all I have today.

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Enjoy your week, with reading or whatever.  Come on by…and let’s chat.

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REVIEW: BURIED IN A BOG, BY SHEILA CONNOLLY

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When Maura Donovan leaves her Boston home following her Grandmother Nora’s death, she is on a mission to connect with family in Ireland. It was her grandmother’s last request, and after her death, Maura found an envelope with just enough money set aside for the trip, along with her passport.

Nora Donovan’s family home was in Leap, by way of Dublin and then Cork, where Maura would meet up with her grandmother’s oldest friend, Bridget Nolan.

But what Maura finds there is not just her grandmother’s old friend, but a whole community of people who already know a lot about her, and who are ready to welcome her. Tea with Bridget led to stories, photos, and learning about Nora’s life before she left Ireland, widowed and with a young son (Maura’s father) in tow.

Everyone seemed ready to step up, offering a place for Maura to stay across from Sullivan’s Pub…and even the use of a car. Soon she is also helping out at the pub. It’s as if the villagers have taken her under their wing in honor of her grandmother.

But past events begin to surface, and Maura is suddenly swept up into a mystery involving a long-buried family secret. A mysterious man seems to be stalking Maura, making her question why someone is trying to scare her away.

Buried in a Bog was a story of community, secrets, and the strength of family bonds. I enjoyed it, although it seemed as though many things came together rather serendipitously for Maura. What I loved most, however, was how I felt as though I was visiting the Irish countryside along with Maura, having tea in an Irish cottage, and hanging out in the Irish pub. 4 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS WEDNESDAY: “THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE”

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

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author I enjoy:  Joshilyn Jackson, whose newest book, The Opposite of Everyone, is an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives.  Release Date:  February 16, 2016.

 

 

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Synopsis:  A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from the nationally bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama….

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to re-invent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birth name Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. Separated, each holding secrets of her own, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that Karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mysterious note: “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.

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I’m eager to dive into this one.  What are you excited about today?  Don’t forget to leave a link to your post.

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REVIEW: AFTER I DO, BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

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After eleven years together, Ryan and Lauren have reached the breaking point. The slightest little habit or action of the other person is so irritating that they each say that they are no longer in love. And in frustration, they make a startling decision. They will take a year apart, with no contact: no phone calls, no texts, and no e-mails. Then they will get together and reassess.

After I Do is a heart-rending story of what happens after the love and romance have died. Is there a way to ignite the passion? Can they discover what to do in the absence of these feelings? How will they find the special ingredient that has been missing?

In a somewhat underhanded attempt to rediscover who her husband is, Lauren takes drastic action. But she does find answers…and she arrives at some realizations.

It helps that she has close friends and a great family. I loved how each family member felt real, and the ways in which they communicated and supported each other were so loving: from Grandma Lois, who pointed Lauren in an interesting direction, to younger brother Charlie, who inspires Lauren with the surprising choices he makes. Sister Rachel, who offers support, but who also calls Lauren on her mistakes, feels just like the kind of sibling one needs.

A book I recommend for all who enjoy stories about relationships and family. 5 stars.

REVIEW: ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY, BY SARAH RAYNER

22213603The Moreland Clinic in the countryside around Lewes (in England) is at the center of this novel about characters on the verge of various emotional turning points.

Karen, whose father is dying, and whose husband Simon died two years before, is struggling. Her two children need her, so she keeps putting one foot in front of the other.

Then there is Abby, whose autistic son Callum seems to be draining her of all that she has to give…and almost as an afterthought is her husband Glenn, who is no help at all. He wants to sell the house and file for divorce. Meanwhile, he is a constant reminder of how her life has taken a nosedive.

Michael is losing his business, and as the creditors converge, his world is crashing around him. They all end up at the clinic, and while none of them want to be there, they begin to connect with one another. But then Michael is discharged and sent to a National Health Clinic that leaves much to be desired.

Another Night, Another Day is an intriguing novel with interesting characters. I enjoyed watching them struggle to find themselves, and loved how they connected with one another.

Then a major crisis seems to derail them…and we see what moving on and growing from loss looks like.

I enjoyed this book and the characters. However, I was puzzled by the fact that all of these characters, while struggling with emotional issues, ended up in a locked facility, although some of them were day patients. This choice moved the plot along, allowing the characters to connect, but seemed unrealistic, in light of their issues. Nevertheless, the characters were engaging and I definitely felt that I could root for them. 4.0 stars.

A SERENDIPITOUS EVENING: CELEBRATING THE MOMENTS

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Monday night was a series of serendipitous moments, brought about by an invitation to dinner at the home of Heather and Steven, my daughter and her fiance.

Friends and family gathered together to celebrate food and connections.  And the delightful eggplant lasagna (above) was the centerpiece.

We always have such wonderful conversations, too, about what’s happening in our lives; and about the assorted topics of books, movies, and TV shows.

Noah, who will be twelve in a few months, is an animated conversationalist as well, joining in like the adults.  He has always been that way, probably because he is my daughter’s only child and has been surrounded by adults all of his life.  He has charted his own course, too, enjoying life’s discoveries.

In this photo (below), he is toddling along near the house in the foothills where he lived for the first three years of his life.

 

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The guesthouse just down the sloping lawn from the main house was his first home.

 

 

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Here is where the family gathered back then, going back and forth between the two houses; and (below), he is pictured (left) with his Uncle Chris and cousin Aiden (on the right)

 

 

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I miss those curls…but his more grown-up look is also awesome.  Here he is with his mom:  Heather.

 

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Serendipitous family moments;  the stuff of contentment.

What has your week been like?  Any accidental/serendipitous moments?

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I also had to change the header here…just for fun!

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HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: WAITING FOR “LITTLE MERCIES”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday, our weekly event that celebrates upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.  Click on over to Breaking the Spine, to see what everyone else is awaiting.

One of my favorite authors in recent years has been Heather Gudenhauf, so it is no surprise that I’m eager for her new release:  Little Mercies.  

In this story, our author shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences To be released on July 1, 2014.

 

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Blurb:  Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

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First of all, I am always hooked by stories that feature social workers (because of my thirty-year career as one), and I am easily engaged by how the seamy side of life can reach out and grab us when we least expect it.

Secondly, stories about families and unexpected connections are themes that keep me turning those pages.

What are you eager to read?  Come on by and let’s chat about books.

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REVIEW: THEN AGAIN, BY DIANE KEATON

11557134A loving portrait of her mother forms the core of Diane Keaton’s memoir, Then Again. In writing about her own life, she believed it only fitting to share her mother’s journey, showing how their bond came to define both of their lives.

Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall was an artist in her own way, creating collages, writing in numerous journals, and revealing herself in some depth. She was also the mother of four, a wife, and a homemaker.

Alternating between Diane’s thoughts and feelings and those of her mother’s, we come to learn bits and pieces of their lives. Interconnected as they were, a memoir would not be complete without both of their stories.

As a big fan of Diane Keaton, I enjoyed learning more about the early years and her movies. But her connections to her family of origin, as well as to the family she created with her adopted children, made for an intriguing journey of its own. She poses questions about loss and why Alzheimer’s disease chooses to victimize some and not others, asking what, if anything, one can do to avoid the onslaught of the disease. Pointing out how the sadness of this loss for a woman who loved words, like her mother, seemed especially cruel.

The little goodbyes in life lead us inevitably toward our final goodbyes, and thus to the final answers: What happens then? The transient nature of life, with all its passages, is a major theme in this memoir, as well as how life’s dreams, even when achieved, can be fleeting.

The story wended its way through time, back and forth, reminding us of the author’s somewhat fragmented style of speech, a quirkiness that reveals itself as her true voice. It was hard for me to separate my admiration for the actress and the woman from the book that left me wanting to know more. There was much more she could have told us, but perhaps that will come to us in another story. 3.5 stars.

STRUGGLING FOR HOPE & REDEMPTION — A REVIEW

17331318Annie and Orion Oh had been married for twenty-seven years, with three grown children, when Annie abruptly left him for Viveca, her Manhattan art dealer.

Stunned and unable to process these events, Orion’s life unravels in unexpected ways.

And despite what was seemingly a happy home life for the children, Andrew and Ariane—twins—and the youngest, Marissa, they, too, have issues that cloud their lives. Andrew struggles with anger outbursts; Ariane has food issues; and Marissa is drinking heavily much of the time.

In a story that wends its way back and forth between the past and the present, we slowly learn some of Annie’s history, beginning with a tragic flood in 1963, in Three Rivers, Connecticut, that took the life of her mother and baby sister, and led to the destruction of the remaining family. Annie’s story includes the total loss of her remaining family when she was placed in foster care due to her father’s alcoholism.

Annie and Orion met by accident in a way that seemed totally coincidental, but which illustrated how often such moments play a role in such things. And after their marriage, when they had ended up back in Three Rivers, in a lovely home that once belonged to a family named Skloot, these events depict once again the role of serendipity in our lives.

What secrets contributed to Annie’s unhappy childhood and the demons that still lie just beneath the surface? What role did those events play in the volatile and unhappy adulthood that now plagues her? And how does the art created by a Josephus Jones, a black man who worked for the Skloot family and who died mysteriously, figure into the art scene in the present?

We Are Water: A Novel is narrated by different characters, and some are more compelling than others. I particularly enjoyed Orion’s story, with its openness and vulnerability. Annie’s secrets were revealed in bits and pieces, and some of them came from another narrator, cousin Kent.

Viveca did not have her own narrative voice, and I wondered about this. However, she seemed like the most peripheral character, a user and a manipulator, who was superficial and unlikeable. Later, she revealed a compassionate side.

While I enjoyed much of this tale, it was lengthy and bogged down with narrative that seemed extraneous. For example, Kent’s perspective did not really contribute much to the overall story; much of what we learn about him from his viewpoint was revealed in Annie’s narrative. However, his rationalizations and distortions of events did add something to the overall picture.

The prologue did not seem to advance the tale, either, although it did pinpoint some additional players that lent layers to the artistic aspects.

Themes of family legacies, secrets, abuse, violence, and tragic losses threaded through the narratives, reminding us of how we connect to others in our lives, and how these connections define us—and overall, how our common quests for hope and redemption capture the essence of the human experience. Four stars.