REVIEW: THE POCKET WIFE, BY SUSAN CRAWFORD

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For many years, ever since her college days, Dana Catrell has had ups and downs. Her manic episodes and her depressions, all part of the diagnosed bipolar disorder, take over her life, especially when she is off her medications.

There are times when she can maintain, can control the ups and downs.

But the day that her neighbor Celia Steinhauser was bludgeoned to death in her home was not one of those days. That day, she felt very much out-of-control. And she was drunk. Her memory has blank spots, and for a while, she has an eerie feeling that she might have killed her friend. After all, she was presumably the last one to see her alive.

Her husband Peter, a lawyer, is not helping. Everything he does seems to increase her manic episodes, her feelings that she is going crazy, and his dismissive attitude makes her feel insignificant. As if she is something one could stuff in a pocket and forget about.

The Pocket Wife: A Novel takes the reader on the scary ride that is Dana’s life, with her mind teetering on the edge, as someone, including her husband, seems bent on making her feel crazier. And perhaps guilty.

But Detective Jack Moss, assigned to the case, is not so sure Dana is guilty. As he investigates, interviews persons of interest, and gathers evidence, the signs seem to point to more going on than what might seem obvious.

Who else had the most to gain by Celia’s death? Who is the woman in the photo with Peter, the one Celia showed Dana that day? What, if anything, does she have to do with what is happening now? And is Jack’s son, damaged by his parents’ divorce years before, somehow connected to the events of that day?

I did not figure out who had actually killed Celia until the story was nearing its conclusion. I had my suspicions about the person who was charged with the murder, but the denouement was definitely stunning. And worth the wait.

Peter was a slimy character, and so was Celia’s husband Ronald. There were a number of people who were unlikeable, but despite her flaws and her mental instability, and despite her unreliability as a narrator, Dana was someone I was rooting for throughout the story. I had high hopes that one of the sleazy characters would be guilty. Recommended for those who enjoy psychological thrillers. 5 stars.

REVIEW: FLORENCE GORDON, BY BRIAN MORTON

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Florence is a seventy-five year old woman, a writer, an intellectual, and a feminist. And a fiercely independent New Yorker.She is about to take on her biggest project yet, a memoir, but when her editor calls to set up a meeting and introduces her to a young man who will now take over the editing, she fears that nothing good can come from this relationship.

Instead, she learns that she is now a “national treasure,” that a great review of her work has appeared in the New York Times Reviews, and that she is touted as a legend.

What follows is a series of peeks into the world of those who surround her, a cast of characters that include her son Daniel, her daughter-in-law Janine, and her nineteen-year-old granddaughter Emily.

And then there are her friends, also feminists from back in the day, and they are all eager to celebrate her successes.

How will Florence begin to develop a unique relationship with her granddaughter as Emily takes on the role of her assistant, researching articles and the past that will help fill in the picture her granddaughter has of her as Florence prepares for a big event? What will then happen to the two of them just as Emily is beginning to emulate her grandmother’s courage and forthrightness? How will Florence put up walls that will prevent any of her secrets from coming out?

Florence Gordon is a fabulous character study that reveals much about how each character thinks and feels, even as the author shows us how they also prevent closeness by the walls they erect. The dismissive style of Florence’s communication with her loved ones continues with her son and granddaughter. Emily comes the closest to being able to penetrate Florence’s walls, but fails to completely succeed.

I enjoyed seeing the contrasts between Florence and Emily that are mostly generational, while also seeing the similarities. Here is an example of how Florence sees Emily, after watching her granddaughter caught up in looking at her phone:

“She’d been hoping that seeing her granddaughter would cheer her, but as she watched her climb the steps outside the café, the hope disappeared. There had been times when she’d felt close to the girl, but not now. The little scene on the street, the phone pantomime, had reminded her of how far apart they were, in terms of how they lived and what they valued.”

I loved everything about this book, but I was definitely frustrated by each of the characters at one point or another because they could not seem to reach out and communicate. That left me sad.

But I will not forget this story, and recommend it for all those who enjoy character-driven books. 5.0 stars.

INTERIORS: AN ONGOING PROCESS

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It has been an interesting month so far, clearing out the interiors and organizing my stuff.

I just finished reading a novel about an elderly woman (age 94!) who hires a young man to help her clear out her spaces…to hide her secrets from her children and grandchildren.  (The Twilight Hour, by Nicci Gerrard; click for my review).

 

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Over the past couple of years, I have gravitated to books about hoarding, and while I don’t think I had ever reached that state, I did worry about the steady accumulation of STUFF.  My purging started with the clearing out of my files, trunks, drawers, books, and then the garage.

In this photo (below), you can see the right side of my garage, which still needs work.  But that stuff in the boxes belongs to my daughter, who is settling into her new home and readying a space there for her things…I’m hoping!

 

 

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Yesterday was a great one for clearing out, as someone came from a recycling center and hauled away the old TV that was sitting on that barbecue cart in the forefront.

See the black trash bag next to it?  I have it ready for tossing out stuff as I go, just so things won’t accumulate.  And underneath it is the box of books for the library, soon to be delivered there.

Most of my bins are on the shelves, but the one in the far corner, near the door, is Christmas stuff.  Those bins are heavy, so I have been keeping them down low.  I have a few of those on the bottom shelves of my other shelving unit (at the top of this post).

Do you think I’m almost done?  Probably not.  My goal is to slowly weed things out as I go, avoiding the need for the humongous purges.

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How do you deal with your STUFF?  Do you have goals, or do you go with the flow? 

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REVIEW: INTO THE DARKEST CORNER, BY ELIZABETH HAYNES

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Their relationship looked like a perfect match. All of her friends were envious, and even when things started to go bad, Catherine Bailey was unsure about her own feelings, her own perceptions.When the nightmare that had become her life began to happen, however, what others thought didn’t matter anymore. She was the one battered and broken.Years later, as Catherine starts over as Cathy, in another city, she has the remnants of that time with her every day. She constantly checks the locks and windows of her new flat. The compulsion exacts much of her time and controls her to the point that she is still a prisoner.

But meeting her upstairs neighbor, Stuart, who happens to be a psychologist, will be a turning point. As she learns more about her OCD disorder and begins treatment, hope seems to be on the horizon. Will something more come for Cathy and Stuart?

Then everything changes with one phone call. Her attacker, Lee Brightman, is being released from prison.

Into the Darkest Corner: A Novel , set in Lancaster and London, England, reveals Catherine’s story in alternating perspectives, from flashbacks of her time with Lee, to the present, as she struggles to move on. And then, when it all seems behind her, the nightmare begins again.

I was amazed at how Catherine’s friends chose to believe Lee’s stories and would not even hear her side of things. How could true friends be so oblivious? These reactions of friends spoke to how completely charming and believable Lee could be, making him even more dangerous. It would take something very compelling for one friend to finally change her tune.

Learning more about Lee and his past fills in the story to make a frightening picture of the dangers of love. As the ending finally came, I sighed with relief. But then there was one more gruesome surprise. My only complaint with the story was the sheer relentlessness and hopeless terror that filled the pages. The repetitive nature of the OCD descriptions were also a bit much. But I definitely could not stop reading this one.

This was definitely a story for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and tales with domestic violence, and a cautionary tale for those who believe that jealous and obsessive love is somehow normal. 4.5 stars.


FROM THE INTERIOR: A CONSTANT STRUGGLE – TO PURGE OR NOT TO PURGE

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It has been a productive month.  From the purging I was doing in the garage and on my bookshelves, to the changes to my interiors.

The little table/chest you see above, with the large and colorful bowl, is an entry way of sorts.  Yes, I have an official entry way, with the hall tree, etc., at the front door. (Below).

 

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But this is my entry way, since I enter my home through the kitchen door, from the garage.  Here I deposit my keys…and as you can tell, perhaps, there are other assorted things, like a watch and some rings, etc.  Just in case I want to pick up any of them when I leave the house.

 

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The little table is next to my Baker’s Rack, where I have numerous collections, including the books I have written (top shelf).

There is also a box behind the candle on the table, with a memo pad…where I can create a to-do list.  All of this is geared toward organizing my life.  After the purge, and before further purging.  Yes, there will be more.

One of my changes recently is tossing the ARCs almost as soon as I finish them.  Unless, for some reason, I hang onto them, just in case I want a reread.  Some of them have been that good.

But silly me…I know that rereading is not likely.  Why?  Too many books still unread, that’s why.

My daughter is reorganizing her space, too, having moved into the home previously occupied by my youngest son.  She is hauling stuff away from the garage.  I might take advantage of her trailer and haul some things away too.

We have to be ruthless, sometimes, and definitely not sentimental, when purging.  Can I do it?  Or will I procrastinate, telling myself that it is not time to toss out this or that?

Meanwhile, I keep adding review books to my stacks, knowing that they will complicate my efforts.  But as long as I stick to my plan to toss out whatever I can, perhaps we will be okay.

 

New books coming into my house this week:  The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah.

 

 

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Another Night, Another Day, by Sarah Rayner

 

 

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Even as I plan for eliminating some of my books from my interiors, I luxuriate in the comfort of having them close by.  And being surrounded by books will always be something I enjoy….until some of them must go away.

Do you have plans for your books when you add them to your home?  Do they stay on your shelves a while?  Or are they gone almost as quickly as they come?

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REVIEW: FIVE DAYS LEFT, BY JULIE LAWSON TIMMER

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Mara and Scott are two individuals living miles apart, connecting only on an online forum. For each of them, their lives have veered desperately off course, and they are facing life-changing decisions. Scott lives near Detroit, and Mara and her family live in Dallas.

For Mara, once a high-powered attorney and adoptive mother of Laks, a degenerative and incurable disease will soon render her unable to care for herself, much less her kindergartner daughter. Four years ago, she made a decision: she would leave everyone and everything behind on her birthday. She is now five days from that moment when her life will be over.

Scott’s situation seems less dire, but no less emotionally devastating. After a year of caring for young Curtis, it is time for the eight-year-old to return to his mother. He is so sad, yet his wife, pregnant with their first child, is detached and looking forward to being alone with her own family. Scott has five days left with Curtis.

Almost immediately, I connected with each of these characters, learning their life stories and feeling what they felt. With much vividness, the author brings us right into the gritty and physically challenging moments of each day for Mara and we can experience the humiliation she feels as the tries to maintain a “normal” life. But her physical limitations and embarrassing accidents embarrass her child until one day, she realizes that, if she doesn’t leave the family now, her daughter and husband will pay a heavy price.

But what will be left for them afterwards? Struggling with these issues, it seems like Mara has not yet made her final decision.

And for Scott, an unexpected event will change the course of young Curtis’s life, and will require that he make a different decision. But will his wife support him?

Five Days Left took my breath away. Even as I hoped for a different ending, I was surprised and pleased that some of what I had hoped for came to pass. The sadness was mitigated by some hopefulness. The only thing I might have wished to be different: I would have loved seeing other perspectives in this story. Instead, we only see the points of view of Mara and Scott, and have to imagine what the other characters are feeling. 4.0 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: READING HABITS

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Welcome to the Interior!  Today I am musing, along with Should Be Reading…and some of the possible topics are:

 

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

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First, I’m refilling my cup of coffee.  I am having it in the mug shown in my logo above.  One of my cheeriest mugs….

I’ll start off by talking about one of my newest reading habits.  Typically, I track all books purchased, review books received, and books read…all with links to my reviews, and this documentation is on my Curl up and Read blog.

This has been working for me…but after abandoning my Mt. TBR Challenge (in which I was supposed to read books purchased before 2014), I counted up the books I purchased this year…also documented on Curl up and Read.

And what did I find?

At that time, there were sixty-seven unread books on Sparky that were purchased this year!  Yikes!

So I decided to add a list in a notebook, too; just so I could have something handy to peruse when choosing my reading for each week.  Since adding the notebook list, I have crossed three books off as read and reviewed.

And added a few, too, but no worries.  Now I feel as though I have a teensy-tiny measure of control.  LOL

Here is a visual image of my print book stacks (below).  It is not as bad as it looks…only fourteen of them were purchased by me this year. (The right two rows in front).  The others are contest wins, and not just this year.  I am bad about reading those!  The review books and books I bought seem to come first.

 

 

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Another part of my new reading habit is purging books I’ve read and will never read again…(That could include most of them, but I’m not there yet!).

I was ruthless…yet the hardest ones to purge were the ARCS, which technically, we can’t give away…so the recommended practice is tossing them.  But what if someone dumpster dives?  And then it is almost like I gave them away….see, I’m going to the worst case scenario here.

I have problems with that rule…why not give them to other readers?  But I guess I will try to forget about that niggling feeling in my head…and purge!

Meanwhile, I have a box for the library collection drive in my garage for other books. 

My garage is fairly cleared out, since the purge.  I also purged paperwork from my bins so I could add collectibles from the house into them…and try not to be a hoarder.

The trouble with all of these practices, from the list on my blog to the notebook list:  I then feel free to add more books!  LOL

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After the purge, my office looked much better!  I am just now noticing the little basket on the wall crammed with cards received over the years…could that use a clear out too?  LOL

 

 

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What are your tried-and-true or new habits?  What works for you?

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