When Valentina Baker was only eleven years old, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, fresh out of a failed marriage and still at odds with her mother’s abandonment, Val feels disenchanted with her life.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, she receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the Book Garden, the storied bookshop she opened almost two decades prior. Though the news is devastating, Val jumps at the chance for a new beginning and jets across the Atlantic, hoping to learn who her mother truly was while mourning the relationship they never had.

As Val begins to piece together Eloise’s life in the U.K., she finds herself falling in love with the pastel-colored third-floor flat and the cozy, treasure-filled bookshop, soon realizing that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever imagined. When Val stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, she sets out to locate the book’s mysterious former owner, though her efforts are challenged from the start, as is the Book Garden’s future. In order to save the store from financial ruin and preserve her mother’s legacy, she must rally its eccentric staff and journey deep into her mother’s secrets. With Love from London is a story about healing and loss, revealing the emotional, relatable truths about love, family, and forgiveness.



From the very beginning, With Love from London captured my obsession for books and romantic settings. Our narrators are Valentina and Eloise, and they alternate between the past and the present. As we turn the pages, we gradually learn about the characters and how their lives have been torn and twisted by events out of their control.

I couldn’t help but feel the pang of lost love and a broken relationship between mother and daughter that was abruptly torn apart by serendipitous events. We gradually learn more about those choices, and Valentina finally has her answers by the end, aided by a Scavenger Hunt designed by her mother. A beautiful story that was heartbreaking and satisfying at the same time. 5 stars.



This week I spent time playing around with images until I finally created the one above for my new blog header.

The doll on the left has figured into my headers here for quite a while; she seems to remind me of serendipitous moments, since I accidentally discovered her one day in Barnes & Noble.  After I brought her home, I always seemed to place her next to books on my shelves.  She fit there.

When I moved almost two years ago, I was not in charge of what came with me…thanks to being ill at the time, and I hadn’t placed her on the list “to bring.”  Something I later regretted, but I was glad to have many photos of her, so she could still reign in my blog life.

I needed another doll to balance her out, I decided, so finally I found the one on the right.  It was time to create a blog banner featuring them both.

I have a lot of images of the new doll in various poses.  The one below is next to a Mary Engelbreit banner that always makes me smile:


Then there is this one, on the entry way table under which I stack my TBR print volumes, and next to my little Jelly Cupboard (and the little Mary Engelbreit cottage on the right).  The banner is topped by a little sign that reads “When all else fails, ask Nana.”

And now for another one, which offers a full length glimpse of the cupboard and its treasures:


So…those are some serendipitous moments I am enjoying on this Friday. What brings delight to your days?




Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?

It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?



My Thoughts: From the very first lines of I Owe You One, I was captivated by Fixie and her foibles. Always wanting to fix things, happily giving in to others and their needs, and putting her own wishes and dreams on hold in favor of the shop and the family made her lovable. But how would she get what she wanted?

A bystander, like this reader, might think of giving her a little push now and then; after all, what good is all the sweetness if her voice is unheard?

I loved Fixie’s serendipitous meeting with Seb Marlowe, and their cute “coffee sleeve” notes back and forth.

I couldn’t stand her siblings Jake and Nicole, who were arrogant and had no problem shoving her out of the way and taking over the shop, even when she knew their ways would not work.

Finally, however, there were some defining moments that brought a halt to Fixie’s martyrdom…and a way for her to start getting what she needed.

The ending felt a little rushed, in that a big misunderstanding was quickly resolved by others on Fixie’s behalf, and I was disappointed not to be part of that conversation. But everything worked out, so I’m giving this delightful story 4.5 stars.



Can I tell you how much I am loving my new blog header here?  Yes, I go a little obsessive with redesigning them.  On the left is the loft in my 1980s townhouse (1988-1994), and the middle image…well, peace and happiness.  And most people know how much I rocked the VW bugs and vans in the 1970s.

These days, I have to dig into the past for images and moments…to help me cope with the events in our world.  Need I say more?

I had such a great Skype chat with my eldest son on Wednesday.  He and his wife live in Prague, but before that, they spent five years in Berlin.  He went to Prague the first time in 1997, and he met Gabi shortly afterwards.  He had been in London, Ireland, back to Sacramento…and then his European expat. days began. 

We chat for more than an hour each time…the difference in time keeps us from impulsively chatting, so we have to schedule these events.  He is the only one of my adult children with whom I can say anything at all.  We agree about almost everything!

Not that I don’t enjoy my other kids, but sometimes I have to scrounge around for common ground.  LOL

My daughter is the only one who lives in this area…a village on the outskirts of our city.  She has been providing weekly hairstyling to me, so we do have that in common.  And, of course, she is a bubbly person loved by everyone, with lots of friends.

Whereas I am a bit of a bookish introvert.  But when I connect with my eldest, I am a real chatter freak.  It’s funny how that happens.


This blog was created after I published my first novel, An Accidental Life.  Even the cover reflects the life I was living back then…in the foothills in an A-frame house.

On my website, Laurel-Rain Snow Creations, you can find links to my other creations.


How has your week unfolded?  Adventures, books, food?



This morning, I was clicking through my six blogs, pondering whether or not to change any headers or themes…and when I came to this one, I had one of those nostalgic moments.  Note the header, with the “lofty” photos.  The loft on the left was from a townhouse where I lived for almost six years, from 1988 to 1994. (The one on the right is from a cottage in Berlin where my eldest son and his wife lived for a while).

There is a bit of serendipity about that loft where I lived for a while.  I first saw the space in 1978!  Yes, ten years before I moved into it.  Then it was brand new…but the loft, with spaces between the rails, gave me pause.  At the time, the girl you see in the above photo (my daughter) was a toddler.  I cringed at the thought that she might crawl through a slat and fall.  So we moved on.

But in 1988, there was no such fear, and the serendipitous moment had arrived.  I just knew I had to live there. 

Here are some scenes from those days:

Looking down from the loft to a Christmas living room scenario. 

Curled up by the fire:  my eldest and my youngest, enjoying the coziness.

My Three Sons…

Another view of the loft, from above; I turned it into my bedroom:


And here’s another look; I loved the brass headboard, which I moved with me to the foothills after I left this place…but then gave it away before coming to my current residence.  Sigh.

My No. 2 son, visiting from college…

My youngest, being her preteen self….

A Halloween in the townhouse…and my daughter is strutting in the dining room…

So…now that I’ve savored those memorable moments, I will move on to other things, but memories and moments do lift my spirits during the dark days we are now living.

Sharing on A Web of Stories.





Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My Thoughts: From the very first pages of Almost Missed You, I felt a connection to the character of Violet, and her serendipitous first meeting with Finn. I was reminded of occasions in my own life when events happened in such a way that they seemed “meant to be,” so I could totally relate to Violet’s feelings about her missed connections with Finn, and how happy she was that they finally connected. It did seem fated.But as we soon find out in this back and forth storyline, the fault might have been “in their stars.” Or in their overly persistent push to make these connections happen. Finn’s secrets were the huge stumbling block for them, once they did connect. And when events began to unravel, with secrets revealed in a most hurtful way, I was sure that his past would be too much for them to overcome. But could they find a new starting point?

Of course, Violet’s share of the responsibility lay in her failure to probe more into Finn’s past. Did she really ever know him?

Then there were the two “best friends,” Caitlin and George, and how their own actions and lack of transparency had contributed to it all.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, hoping for some kind of resolution, eagerly waiting to see if Violet would reunite with her child. The fate of the other characters seemed less important to me, as I definitely rooted mostly for her. A book worthy of 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher, via NetGalley.







Dr. Georgia Young is bored with her life. Some might say it’s a good life, since she lives in a lovely home in the SF Bay Area. She is an optometrist with a good practice. And her two daughters are grown. Sort of.

But Georgia is getting older, and she is pondering her lack of a love life, while at the same time, reflecting on the choices she has made. Why did she pick her two husbands, whom she later divorced? What made her fall in love with the men she did pick, and what, if anything, did she learn from them?

I Almost Forgot About You is narrated in Georgia’s first person voice, and she is hilarious. Her self-deprecating humor kept me smiling, and I also loved the dialogue between her and her two best friends, Wanda and Violet. Her mother, Early, an octogenarian living in Bakersfield, where Georgia grew up, is feisty and outspoken.

Her two daughters, Frankie and Estelle, were annoying brats, and just because they were old enough to be grown didn’t mean they had managed to accomplish that feat. Later in the story, they grew on me, and I came to understand their behavior.

The author’s characters reminded me of people I’ve known, and their personality flaws and foibles are definitely familiar to any woman who has reached a midpoint in her life.

When Georgia plans to sell her house and take a train ride around Canada, while searching for old lovers, will her plan go off without a hitch? Or will life get in the way? What astonishing surprises will change her direction to something unexpected?

A lively and colorful story that kept me reading, and which will appeal to women of any age who are pondering their life choices. 4.5 stars.



Welcome to my Serendipitous Musing Mondays, and join Jenn, over at Books and a Beat, to ponder these topics:


  • 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: Name any 5 books from your “to be read” pile (even if it’s a “virtual” pile).


Hmm…lots to think about.  Okay, here’s a book I am eagerly awaiting…and haven’t found a review copy anywhere.  Siracusa, by Delia Ephron.  I am a big fan of the Ephron sisters, so this one I’m drooling over.





Synopsis:  An electrifying novel about marriage and deceit from bestselling author Delia Ephron that follows two couples on vacation in Siracusa, a town on the coast of Sicily, where the secrets they have hidden from each other are exposed and relationships are unraveled. 

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn, his wife Taylor, and their daughter Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present.  Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. With her inimitable psychological astuteness, and uncanny understanding of the human heart, Ephron delivers a powerful meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none can see coming.


What do you think?  My spine is tingling already!  Now…share your own and leave me a link, please!






From the very beginning of North of Here, I was totally engaged with the story of Miranda, whose brother and father had both died, within a few short years of one another, and her elusive, emotionally unavailable mother is soon gone as well.

What is Miranda to do? Her life has not been one that taught her self-reliance, or even the practical day-to-day ways to navigate its obstacles. The handyman, Dix, is someone she feels she can count on, and when he offers her a cottage on his property, she accepts. Soon they are very close, and life looks good. Until…

Someone from the past with his own agenda appears, and starts a commune of young hopefuls who are searching for answers and a better life. But should they put their faith in Darius? Because her own life is still a void, Miranda is drawn to Darius and his teachings, leaving Dix behind.

In the midst of this commune, however, is a thirty-something social worker named Sally, who is a bystander of sorts. She holds the mortgage on the property, so she is standing by to protect what she owns…and to see what Darius is all about.

Set in the Adirondacks, we soon come to know this world through the vivid depiction of the author, and as the characters’ lives unfold for us, we can see their flaws, their strengths, and even their destinies.

Alternating narrators reveal much about the characters and how they came to the point in their lives where they intersected with one another. We learn more about Dix, who is not just a handyman, but someone wise and educated, with his own holdings in the forested area. We see how the supposedly philosophical Darius is nothing more than a con man and an entitled trust-fund brat. Miranda, who seems sympathetic in the beginning, is really hopelessly naïve and seriously flawed. Sally was the most intriguing character to me, as she appears brash and blustery on the surface, but underneath, she is kind and more aware than the others, despite being temporarily blinded by Darius’s charm. Then, an unexpected gift changes the lives of them all. A somewhat sad but enjoyable read, this one earned 4 stars.





In her latest memoir, Gloria Steinem shares her experiences as a writer, journalist, and organizer, which also include some of her stories from political campaigns. But years before she took to the road, she had learned to love the life from her father, a man who wanted nothing more than the adventures of the road, perhaps to escape his overly orderly childhood.

My own experiences following Steinem’s adventures began back in the 1970s, when she co-founded Ms. Magazine…and when her feminist philosophies led me and many of my friends into consciousness-raising groups, where we found our voice. In many ways, I can point to my own growth as an independent woman because of leaders like Steinem, who showed us the way, speaking calmly and insightfully despite the hatred of extremists. I clearly recall how I felt as I listened to her speak in the early 1970s, when she toured university campuses and arrived at the one I was attending. She became the iconic voice of my generation, the ideal and rational tribute to what could be if we were brave enough to try.

My Life on the Road reveals much about how Steinem’s sphere of influence grew, as she shared how she feared public speaking, but eventually discovered her fears could be lessened when she began telling her stories and also listening to those of others. She found her energy in listening and in figuring out shared solutions.

Anecdotes about her experiences fill the pages of this captivating book, and kept me reading, hoping to learn more. Each section includes parts that go back and forth through time, in a non-linear fashion, illustrating the points of each one. In some ways, it felt as though there was so much information that it will take another reading to fully grasp what she had to say. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this tome for followers of Steinem’s work, as well as for those who are curious. 5 stars.