REVIEW: THE LIFE SHE WANTS, BY ROBYN CARR

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Emma Shay Compton was blindsided by her husband’s fraudulent Ponzi scheme, his crooked ways that had upended their wealthy, upscale Manhattan lives.

Emma cooperated with the authorities, maintaining her ignorance of her husband’s actions, but the agents did not quite believe her. In the end, she refused any kind of settlement from the government once they had concluded their investigation. Then when Richard killed himself in their apartment, just before he was due for imprisonment, Emma knew that it would never be over.

Left with nothing but the few thousand dollars she brought into the marriage, Emma headed back to Sonoma County, where she grew up, and where her best friend Lyle and his partner Ethan ran a floral shop.

But going home also will resurrect old pain. The losses of her teenage years, like her father’s death; the loss of her best friend Riley, who hooked up with her boyfriend Jock, while she was away at college; and the final piece of sadness: Riley had gotten pregnant with Jock, too. Now, years later, she has a teenage daughter, Maddie.

The Life She Wants pulled me in from the very beginning, and I loved the characters, several of whom alternately narrated the story. Will Riley and Emma patch up their friendship? What will happen with Adam, Riley’s brother, who has carried the torch for Emma all these years? And will Emma find a home at last?

I loved watching the characters and rooted for them to find their way to healing. A feel-good story that brought tears of joy in the end.

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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: BETTER OFF WITHOUT HIM, BY DEE ERNST

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It was just a normal April when Mona’s husband of twenty years, Brian, announced rather casually that he was moving out and wanted a divorce. He has fallen in love with a younger woman.

Their three teenaged daughters, Miranda, 16, and 14-year-old twins Lauren and Jessica, had just left for school, and Mona had settled in to think about writing her next novel. A best-selling romance novelist with the pen name Maura Van Whalen, she had decided to switch from historical romance to something contemporary.

Brian’s announcement and actions swept her off course a bit, but even after considering what a divorce would mean in her life, and not liking the upheaval, she had to admit that she wasn’t actually broken-hearted. In fact, wouldn’t it be a perfect novel to write about a woman in her forties who is dumped by her husband, and finds her happily-ever-after without a man?

Better Off Without Him was a delightful book about starting over, making better choices, and learning how to be who you want to be. Some of those choices included dating again, but with men who were already friends. Practice dating, as her daughters called it. A summer at the Long Island Shore house, which Mona had bought years before with her own money, would offer some opportunities to find men to date. And back at home in New Jersey, there was Ben the plumber, who was handsome, a good friend, and surprisingly available. So even though Mona plans to design her life to suit herself, does that mean she can’t fall in love again…someday?

I enjoyed the story, the dialogue, which was full of funny tidbits and movie references, and Mona’s humorous first person narrative. Brian was a despicable character who, predictably, thought he could still come and go in the house whenever he wanted. I liked how Mona was able to put him in his place. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

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Leanne and her daughter-in-law Nichole are both starting over, after their respective divorces. Both husbands had been cheaters, and they each finally decided that they deserved better.

The relationship between the women is more like that of a mother and daughter. They move into apartments across the hall from each other, and become a support system to one another. They also make some rules for their new lives. Rules that will help them put the past behind them and move on.

A Girl’s Guide to Moving On was narrated in first person alternating perspectives, so the reader could feel connected to each of the women. Leanne was the most damaged by her experiences, in my opinion, because for most of her thirty-five year marriage to Sean, she knew that her husband was cheating. When she finally gathered up the courage to leave, she was emotionally battered.

Nichole left after first discovering Jake’s infidelities, but even though she hadn’t lived with the knowledge very long, it definitely hit her hard.

How will each of the two women learn to stand on her own two feet? What will their first dating experiences be like for them? Can they stand up to the two men who treated them badly when those very men now show signs of jealousy over their new lives?

I liked how we got to see the women struggling and achieving their goals. Their new friendships with two unique men, Nikolai and Rocco, were interesting, as the men were definitely nothing like their ex-husbands. What conflicts arise that almost derail the lives the women have created?

Characters from another novel, Last One Home, also made an appearance in this book: Nichole’s sisters Karen and Cassie. I enjoyed getting to peek into their lives, too. The connections between them had grown stronger since we last saw them.

A deeply satisfying story of starting over, finding oneself again, and developing confidence kept me rapidly turning pages. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: LOST LAKE, BY SARAH ADDISON ALLEN

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After sleepwalking through the year following her husband Matt’s death, Kate Pheris is ready to escape her Atlanta home, which she has just sold. Devin, her eight-year-old daughter needs a change, too, so instead of moving in with her mother-in-law Cricket, as planned, Kate impulsively jumps in the car and heads to Lost Lake.

While clearing out for the move, she had found an old postcard from her great-aunt Eby (one her mother apparently kept from her), and suddenly wants to reconnect. Her last time at the summer camp, when she was twelve, was when she last felt free and happy.

Meanwhile, at the retreat, Eby is pondering her own changes. A developer has repeatedly approached her about selling, and since she would need a lot of money to fix things up, just to continue, she has verbally agreed to do so. Plus, they haven’t had a lot of guests lately.

Lost Lake is a lovely, magical tale about nostalgic moments, the past connections that remind us of love lost, and hope for a different kind of future.

Devin is a delightful character who sees the magic in her surroundings, and her quest for an “alligator box” keeps things interesting. Eby thinks of her past and her great love, George, who has passed on. Selma and Bulahdeen, two elderly women who come every year, have their own unique stories to share. Then there is Lisette, whom Eby saved years before when she jumped from a bridge in a suicide attempt. Lisette doesn’t talk…her notes are her means of communication. She has “ghost-like” conversations with someone sitting in a special kitchen chair.

What memorable moments from Kate’s past remind her that she is finally where she needs to be? What role did a local man, Wes, have in Kate’s past, and will he help her find a future?

Recommended for those who enjoy magical tales with just enough reality to make the story believable, I give this book 4.5 stars.