REVIEW: I OWE YOU ONE, BY SOPHIE KINSELLA

 

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.

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FRIDAY SERENDIPITY: FINDING COMMON GROUND…

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.

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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.

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

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SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS: A LOOK BACK…

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.

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REVIEW: ALMOST MISSED YOU, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 

 

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.

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REVIEW: I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT YOU, BY TERRY MCMILLAN

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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.

SERENDIPITOUS MUSINGS: I CAN’T WAIT TO GET A COPY!

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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).

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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.

 

 

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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.

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

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REVIEW: NORTH OF HERE, BY LAUREL SAVILLE

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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.

REVIEW: MY LIFE ON THE ROAD, BY GLORIA STEINEM

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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.

WEEKLY UPDATES: WELCOME TO MY SERENDIPITOUS VENUE!

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Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our new leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at The Book Date.

What a week!  It was short, with the holiday and all, but I did read and review three books, so that worked out for me.

I also enjoyed spending Wednesday at the movies.  Don’t you love going mid-week?  I saw Secret in Their Eyes, with Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, etc.

 

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Before the movies, I had a lovely cocktail and appetizers at Dai Bai Dang, near the theater.

 

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LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Thoughts: Book Reorganization

Enter My Interior World: Musings

Read the Books You Buy Challenge

Serendipitous Moments: “Snow Angel Cove”

Let’s Spark Some Intrigue: Waiting On “After She’s Gone”

Returning to My Roots

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quotes from the Interior: “The Black Widow”

Pondering the Early Days: An Excerpt from “Interior Designs”

Review:  The Admissions (e-book), by Meg Mitchell Moore

Review:  Truth Be Told (e-book), by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Review:  Snow Angel Cove (e-book), by RaeAnne Thayne

 

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AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE:

Check out Karen, at Booker Talk: Books Are Not Weeds

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

No books in my mailbox this week.  I did download one book (purchased).

Forever, Interrupted (e-book), by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

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WHAT’S UP NEXT? (Covers/Titles Linked to Amazon)

All the Houses, by Karen Olsson (Vine)

 

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All the Stars in the Heavens, by Adriana Trigiani (Vine)

 

 

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Angels Burning (e-book), by Tawni O’Dell (NetGalley – 1/5/16 Release)

 

 

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That was my week!  What did yours look like?  Tomorrow I’ll be having lunch with family at a neighborhood restaurant.  Then I hope to do a little Christmas decorating.  (Below) Here’s what I did last year…I’m thinking, less this year.  And my rooms have been rearranged.

 

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RETURNING TO MY ROOTS

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Today I’ve been thinking about those accidental moments in our lives, the happenstance…the SERENDIPITY.

All of those themes that are featured in the book I first published, An Accidental Life, and created in the A-frame house pictured above.

 

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As I recall the history of that book and this blog, I took a look at my “about” page, and decided to excerpt this portion:

 

When I decided to create this blog, I had been contemplating some issues about life and choices…and how sometimes we end up accidentally in one place or another, either because we made a choice that had these results, or perhaps because we didn’t make a choice…and life just happened to us.  Serendipitously.

In working with dysfunctional families as a social worker (for three decades!), I saw many of my clients making “choices” in this way.  Just allowing things to happen to them.

I also recalled how I sometimes made a choice and wound up facing unexpected consequences.  So I thought…what if I created characters out of these ideas, and spotlighted ways in which they found themselves inexplicably in one place or another because of choice?  An accidental choice.

So my first published novel came about.

However, this particular blog is not just about that first novel.  It encompasses the issues of choice, accidental moments, consequences, and how to live with these events.

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Going back to the beginning sometimes helps me focus.  Which brings me to my next point:  I began posting my Sunday Salon events here, back in the day, when the blog was called An Accidental Life…then, Accidental Moments.

Nowadays, I combine the Sunday Salon event with others, like The Sunday Post,Mailbox Monday, Stacking the Shelves, and It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

I took a detour for a while over to Rainy Days and Mondays, as I had just moved that site to Word Press from Blogger and wanted to give it a chance to attract visitors.

But this Sunday, I’ll be returning to my “roots” and posting all of those events here.  I hope you’ll stop by and join in the serendipitous moments.

Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of opportunities to Chase Away the Blues on my Rainy Days and Mondays site….In the meantime, Enjoy Life’s Unexpected Treasures here….

 

 

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