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: THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST, BY ANN HOOD

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It was December when Ava Tucker decided to join the book group, at the invitation of her friend Cate.

Her husband of twenty-five years, Jim, the man she had thought would be with her forever, had left her a few months before for the crazy “yarn bomber,” Delia Lindstrom.

She wasn’t sure if the worst part was who he left her for…or the fact that he had.

In Providence, R.I., the book group has special plans for the New Year. Each month, the members will choose a book that has especially mattered in their lives. Ava has chosen a book called “From Clare to Here,” by Rosalind Arden, a book she read in the early 1970s after the tragic deaths of her sister Lily and her mother Charlotte.

Planning to enjoy the books, the first obstacle for Ava is finding even one copy of that book she loved so much. Or the publisher. Or even the author.

Meanwhile, her daughter Maggie has dropped out of the art program she was attending in Florence and followed a boy to Paris, unbeknownst to the family.

Alternate narrators take us through the year with Ava and Maggie, as each of them struggle with their choices. For Maggie, bad men and drugs are her downfall, among others, and for Ava, it is learning to let go of her marriage…and to find the book and/or author of her chosen read for the upcoming month of November.

The Book That Matters Most also dips into the past, back to 1970, when Ava’s mother Charlotte made her own unfortunate choices, and how those informed her life. A man named Hank Bingham, a police detective, also figured into her story.

What will happen to Ava and Maggie in the present? How does Hank Bingham showing up in Ava’s life alter her course? How will she find her special book? What unexpected detour will her path take that reinforces how much that special book meant to her?

I loved this book, enjoying the characters, fleshed out and real, and the unexpected moments throughout as each character shared his or her special book. The story reminded me of my own favorites over the years, and, as one member declared, realizing that more than one book can matter most to us over time, as our memorable book changes, depending on what we’re going through at the time. Those books that strike a chord at challenging junctures in our lives will be memorable to us. Rating:

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REVIEW: WHERE I LOST HER, BY T. GREENWOOD

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It was a lovely June in Vermont when Jake and Tess visited their friends, Devin and Effie. But Tess was feeling anything but peaceful or content, having just made a discovery about her husband. Flirtatious text messages on his phone from a woman.

She was also still lost and sad from her experiences in Guatemala a few years back, a time that would seriously puncture the hope she once felt: in herself and in her marriage.

That night in Vermont, she drank too much and went to the store for more wine. Which is why, perhaps, that what happened next would turn her into what some saw as an unreliable reporter. Someone who found a little girl in the road, who then ran away. A little girl the police and searchers could not find, even after a day or two. Someone the lead detective would publicly label a liar and false reporter.

Where I Lost Her was a story that gripped me from the beginning, keeping me glued to the pages, hoping against hope for some kind of satisfactory resolution.

Alternate narratives swept back and forth, revealing the events in Guatemala and lending a reality to Tess’s feelings about her experiences, both then and in the present. Would the missing girl be found? Did she even exist? And what could Tess do to regain some kind of credibility in the community, a place where she grew up?

I felt a connection to Tess right away, and disliked her husband. The two of them seemed on completely different wavelengths, which can make for feelings of loneliness and isolation. For both of them.

The setting sounded beautiful, but with darkness around every corner, and as the truth about events finally came to light, I once again felt a sense of contentment for the characters. 5 stars.

***A copy of the e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.

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.

REVIEW: THE THINGS WE KEEP, BY SALLY HEPWORTH

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Anna Forster’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at age 38 is devastating. She manages for a while in her twin brother Jack’s home, but an accident leads to the realization that she needs more care. So she ends up in a residential home, with all elderly residents…except for one man named Luke.

The connection developing between Anna and Luke is cause for concern for Jack, some of the staff, and the director. But one employee, Eve, the new cook, sees something different. She notices that Anna and Luke have a real connection, which is opposite what one might expect for patients with dementia.

Eve’s story is an interesting one. What brought her to Rosalind House was the need to earn money after her husband’s death, and the subsequent financial ruin he left behind after divesting his clients of their money in a scandalous Ponzi-like scheme. Their daughter Clementine, age seven, is also suffering the after-effects of the ruined reputation via bullying at school.

Multiple narrators tell the story of The Things We Keep, which was so engaging that I had difficulty putting the book down. I came to care deeply for Anna, Luke, and Eve…and even the gardener Angus, who offers support and comfort to Eve.

What underlying issues will come up in the facility when staff members clamp down on Anna and Luke? How will Eve deal with the repercussions of some of her actions? And how will Clementine cope with the bullies at school?

There were some actions taken by Eve that I came to question as pretty risky, or perhaps even unprofessional, but her heart was in the right place. I enjoyed her story, as well as Anna’s. I also liked the first person narrative of Clementine, shedding a great deal of light on this child’s perspective. 4.5 stars.

My e-ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: FOREVER, INTERRUPTED, BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

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They likened their love to a supernova—shining brighter than anything else in the sky and then fading out really quickly. A short burst of extraordinary energy.

Ben Ross and Elsie Porter met in early January, on an ordinary rainy evening in the neighborhood pizza place. They had both ordered pizza to take out…and were waiting.

They started a conversation. The chemistry between them was electric, and before long, they had exchanged phone numbers. He called her the next day.

Like magic, they became inseparable almost immediately, and soon fell in love. They were married in early June, but nine days later, when Ben went out on an errand, he was struck by a truck and killed.

From there, Forever, Interrupted takes a turn, revealing in back and forth thrusts, their life, before and after it was interrupted so viciously. The story is narrated in Elsie’s first person voice, and we can feel what she is feeling as she struggles with the present while remembering the short past they had.

She has to deal with a number of obstacles, like not having a marriage certificate yet and having to contend with Susan, Ben’s mother, who is the legal next of kin.

Set in LA, Elsie’s life was a good one before Ben, but once they met, she couldn’t imagine any kind of life without him. Her best friend Ana is supportive and loving, but soon, and surprisingly, Susan reaches out to Elsie, apologizing for her behavior when they first met…and the two begin to forge a family relationship.

What happened to Elsie’s marriage certificate? Why was Ben so reluctant to tell his mother about their relationship? How will Susan and Elsie finally find a way to move on?

I loved this book, as I have loved the others I’ve read by this author. I felt so enveloped in the lives of the characters who are like real people, with all the flaws and fears of ordinary life interrupted by the loss of a loved one. This one was a 5 star read for me.

REVIEW: ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS, BY MEG DONOHUE

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The three of them had met at the Philadelphia Friends School years before, and their friendship bonds had cemented during the summers spent at the Avalon Beach house. They were very different from one another, yet their connections came from a common bond developed in the school: Katherine (Kate) Harrington, whose twin brother Colin often joined them; Vanessa Dale, whose hippie parents were a constant reminder of how different her life was from her friends’ lives; and Dani Lowenstein, whose father owned the house on Avalon Beach and provided the backdrop to the fabulous summers.

Now, years later, they come together for one more summer, hoping to heal from the secrets of the past and a tragic event that left them all reeling, and the problems in their present. Kate’s fiancé Peter has just broken up with her only weeks before their wedding; Vanessa is still reeling from her husband Drew’s betrayal with another woman; and Dani is suffering from her own guilt and unable to maintain any kind of life out in San Francisco.

Will their secrets break them apart, or will they find enough strength in their friendship to help them heal? All the Summer Girls: A Novel (P.S.) is alternately narrated by the three friends, and the reader can jog along with them as they agonize over the past and try to carve out a future.

An enjoyable and somewhat predictable read, it was also very satisfying and the perfect ending to a summer. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: THE THIRD WIFE, BY LISA JEWELL

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Our story begins in Islington, England, in April 2011, when a young woman named Maya, in a state of inebriation and possible confusion, steps in front of a bus and is killed.

Adrian Wolfe was her husband, but she was his third wife. Like a serial adulterer or serial monogamist, he had the ability to move on whenever he felt as though the bloom had faded from his love life. Never mind that he had a total of five children: Luke and Cat with his first wife, Susie, and Otis, Pearl, and Beau with his second wife Caroline.

Now with Maya’s death on his conscience, we see Adrian wallowing in his grief and asking the unanswerable questions. Did Maya purposely step in front of the bus, or did some action by others drive her to it? When Adrian finds out about a series of vicious e-mails that someone had been sending to Maya, addressed to “Dear Bitch,” he wants to learn more.

When a mysterious woman who calls herself Jane appears in his life, on the pretext of adopting Maya’s cat, he wonders if there is a connection somehow.

A sweeping tale about learning to live with the consequences of one’s own actions, and also figuring out how to reinvent one’s own life in light of this learning, The Third Wife has multiple narrators and time periods that flow back and forth, from 2010 to the present. As the story unfolds, we learn more about each of the characters and begin to understand more about Maya’s actions, her thoughts, and what was going on with her at the end. We also see Adrian coming to terms with his own behavior and how he reframes his choices in order to make them fit with the fairytale narrative he has written for himself. A 5 star read for me, it will appeal to those who enjoy stories about family and relationships.

REVIEW: EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, BY CELESTE NG

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“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel is the poignant story of a family: James, a husband and father of Chinese descent, his white wife Marilyn, and their three children. Nathan, the oldest, looks like his father, but Lydia looks almost exactly like her mother. And Hannah seemingly disappears into the woodwork, as Marilyn and James both focus all of their own hopes and dreams on Lydia.

The story weaves back and forth, before and after. We see how Marilyn, a student, first meets James, a professor. How they fall in love, and then how Marilyn’s own ambitions are thwarted by the expectations of wives and mothers in that time, the fifties and sixties. Sadly, we see how Marilyn takes a “break” from this life for a few weeks, only to realize that she must return; that her own dreams cannot happen.

Did Marilyn’s disappointments lead to her living vicariously through Lydia, pushing her to achieve those thwarted dreams? With the spotlight shining harshly upon Lydia, did this force her onto a path she did not want, causing everything to turn to tragedy? How would Lydia’s death derail all of their lives?

In the home that James and Marilyn had created in Middlewood, Ohio, and walking among the familiar things that remind them of what they have lost, we also see them slowly beginning to remember what they still have. A lovely story that gripped my heart, even as it reminded me of times in the past in my own life, when reaching for what we wanted seemed just out of reach. I would have given 5.0 stars, except for a few sections that felt repetitive. A memorable read, however, earning my 4.0 stars.