REVIEW: WOMAN NO. 17, BY EDAN LEPUCKI

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.
 
But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.
MY THOUGHTS:
From the very first page of Woman No. 17, I was captivated by each narrative voice: first, we meet “Lady” Daniels, mother, writer, and “separated” wife of Karl, trying to work out her inner angst.

Then we have “S” Fowler, young artist/nanny who has moved into the guesthouse after Lady hires her. There is definitely something off about S and her mysterious artistic project. Meanwhile, she cares for toddler Devin, and seemingly does a good job.

Seth, the mute eldest son, a college student, seems to be playing some mind games, both with his mother and with S.

Seth communicates with both his mother and S via Twitter, and sometimes he plays out vengeful games with this method. His tweets do offer a peek into his perspective.

Themes of motherhood, friendship, and art fill the pages with interesting scenes, dialogue, and other characters, like Marco, Seth’s father, who left when he was a baby and with whom Lady has recently reconnected; and Kit Daniels, photographer, who imagines herself to be the “last word” in all things artistic. I could not stand her.

I loved the LA setting, with its youth-dominated culture, fascination with fantasy vs. reality, and the endless freeway systems.

My feelings for Lady and S were mixed, and by the time we finally realize what each is trying to communicate with one another and with others, the story had reached a crescendo pitch. Secrets come crashing down around us, and we are left in the rubble…watching each of them try to move on. A brilliantly written 5 star read.

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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: A WEEK AT THE LAKE, BY WENDY WAX

 

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Friendships that go on for years can sustain a person, and when there is a break in the regular get-togethers and an absence of contact, feelings are hurt. People feel abandoned.

Emma Michaels grew up among Hollywood royalty, and was a child actor. She famously divorced her parents at a young age and lived with her grandmother. The cottage at the lake was a special gathering place for Emma’s friends, the ones she bonded with in their Manhattan days: Mackenzie Hayes and Serena Stockton.

Now, after a five-year absence, Emma has invited her old friends to the lake house for a week in the summer.

But when they arrive in Manhattan, before heading up to the Adirondacks cottage, they are stunned by the news that Emma is in the hospital, after sustaining major injuries. Her daughter Zoe, almost sixteen, is waiting for them at Mt. Sinai.

While Emma is in her coma, we see flashbacks of the friends over the years, learning about what kept them together…and pondering what might have separated them.

Mackenzie is going through her own angst, as her husband Adam is in LA, meeting with production companies about his screenplay. For the past twenty years, they have been living in Indiana, running a small theater. Mackenzie writes a popular blog.

Meanwhile, Serena, an actor, portrays a cartoon character, and she has received a lot of attention and some fame. But the loss of her long-ago love, Brooks Anderson, has left her bereft and making poor choices.

Why did Emma call her friends together? What does she have in mind? Explanations, or is there a deep, dark secret that will change everything between them?

Finally they are all at the lake, and as Emma heals, with the moments and days ticking away like a time bomb, we learn bits and pieces. I guessed the secret long before it was revealed. And it was a doozy. Despite that fact, I enjoyed seeing how the ramifications would all play out.

Will the friendships survive? Will Mac’s marriage go on after the decisions Adam made in LA? And what will Serena do when an unexpected brush with the past puts her in another quandary? A Week at the Lake was another novel from a favorite author that I enjoyed all the way to the end. 5 stars.

REVIEW: THE DENIM BLUE SEA, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

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As we gather in Stony Point, Connecticut, with the characters of The Denim Blue Sea, we are reminded of their histories, along with their secrets and flaws. There will be a wedding between two beloved residents of the community: Maris Carrington, a denim designer, and Jason Barlow, an architect who renovates cottages. Friends and family from all around will come together for the event.

As we watch the friends gather, like Kyle and Lauren, and Matt and Eva, we see the connections between them and feel the camaraderie…and as we follow them through the days at the beach, we can almost literally smell the sweet salt air.

Like the waves beneath the sea, there is an undercurrent of secrets, some of which will surface. Will the friendships survive? Will each of them find a way to repair the damage of the past?

I enjoyed Maris, from a previous book, and love how she had found her sister Eva. Elsa, the aunt from Italy, brings a wonderful sense of the lost mother, just in time for the wedding.

Central to the community and the lives of the friends is Foley’s, the battered up beach shack where they all convened as teenagers; it brought some of my own memories to light. Mine were not on a beach, but another kind of place where everyone gathered…those are the moments that help us remember who we are.

At the heart of some of the angst, as well as some of the connections, is Jason’s brother, Neil, who died too soon. His legacy includes those he left behind, and an old battered journal that contains some secrets of its own. Will his friends be able to move beyond the pain? Will Jason find creative energy within the pages of the journal as he begins a very special project?

I love how the author brings us right into the setting until we can smell the sweet salt air, the scent of the hydrangeas, and see the seashells they gather. I can feel the friendship, too, and the pain of conflicts that test the strength of their bonds. Another wonderful and memorable story that earned 5 stars.