REVIEW: CROOKED RIVER, BY VALERIE GEARY

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Sam and Ollie McAlister look forward every year to their time in the meadow near Terrebonne, a rural village in Oregon, the home they have with their father, Frank (Bear). A beekeeper and an eccentric loner, he is an important part of their world.

And then their mother dies unexpectedly, and they are now living fulltime with their father.

Exploring the river one day shortly after their arrival, they discover a woman’s body in the river, but it floats away before they can reach it. And then, for unknown reasons, they decide to keep their find a secret.

Their father’s mysterious face scratches, some missing hours that he was not at home, and his unwillingness to share what is going on with him are the unfortunate secrets that add to the “circumstantial evidence” leading to Bear’s arrest.

But Sam and Ollie feel sure that he is innocent. However, Ollie, damaged by events, has stopped speaking, ever since their mother’s death, and she “sees” visions. She is guided by Shimmering…from the spirit world. Through body language and gestures, she tries to communicate to Sam, without much luck. So Sam is on her own, playing detective, and bumbling along in her efforts to prove someone else killed their father.

Narrated in fifteen-year-old Sam’s voice, with ten-year-old Ollie’s thoughts shared in alternating chapters, Crooked River: A Novel is a suspenseful coming-of-age tale that reveals much about the bonds of family, the secrets that can tear those bonds apart, and how determination can lead to redemption. But first, Sam and Ollie have to survive those who are trying to undermine them and even harm them.

I could not put this book down, and even though the outcome was fairly predictable, and I had figured out who the killer was early on, I rooted for Sam and Ollie, and it was fun watching them sort it all out. 4.5 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: MY SEVEN DEADLY SINS!

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Today I have been pondering, reflecting, etc., in response to a TAG from My Home of Books, all about Seven Deadly Sins.

The prompt:  answer the seven questions below…

 

Seven Deadly Sins
1. Greed:
What is your most expensive book?
I purchased Barbra Streisand’s My Passion for Design a  couple of years ago…it sells for almost $40.00, but it is thick and filled with glorious photos, as well as text.
2. Wrath:
What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
Off the top of my head, I would say that Danielle Steel’s books are no longer on my to-read stacks.  They are too predictable and formulaic for my tastes these days.   Hate is too strong a word, however.
3. Gluttony:
What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?
First of all, I would never be ashamed to reread or devour a book over and over…LOL.  But lately, I have not done so.  In my younger years, that book was Gone with the Wind.  A few years ago, I reread a couple of Beth Gutcheon’s books:  Domestic Pleasures and Still Missing.

4. Sloth:
Which book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
Okay…probably a Stephen King book that has been on my stacks for several years…I’m not kidding here!  I bought it before starting Curl up and Read, the blog designed to help me whittle down the stacks.  Lisey’s Story is that book.  Hefty.  But I’ve read much heftier books lately…so I’m not sure why.  But I’ll get to it…I promise!
5. Pride:
What book do you most talk about in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
Anything by Dosteovsky or Tolstoy…LOL.

6. Lust:
What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?
Generalized attributes–
men: Chiseled jaw; strong body; and sensitivity, too.
women: Strength; ability to stand on her own two feet; her looks don’t matter much.
7. Envy:
What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
Anything having to do with interior design, with lots of photos.

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And that’s it, folks!  My soul is bared….

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If you ponder these questions, what would your answers be?  I’d love to read your thoughts!

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RESHUFFLING THE INTERIORS: A TOUCH OF OCDD!

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Enter my changed interiors.  Yes, the changes are minor tweaks here and there.  On the hall tree, we have the same dolls, but in the center are my Shaker boxes with the Shaker doll.   I still love those hats and handbags…which I never use.

Here’s the vignette “before.”  Actually, the lunchbox and firefighter doll were removed a while ago.

 

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And over on the sofa table, here are a few tweaks:

 

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And from another view:

 

 

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From this perspective (above), you can see the dining area, and the two cupboards that were switched (on the left) a couple of months ago. 

I love to redecorate, and when my budget will not permit new things, I just rearrange stuff.  Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it just like I want it.

And sometimes, I am changing things up again within a few days.

In one of Mary Engelbreit’s books (and I’m not comparing myself to her!), she referred to her OCDD:  Obsessive Compulsive Decorating Disorder, the constant reshuffling of the interiors.

I’ve definitely got that…and I also call it my Restless Syndrome.

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Meanwhile, I keep adding books to my interiors, but mostly the print books I receive are review books, and my new purchases are downloaded onto Sparky, so space isn’t an issue.

Some of the review books remain on my shelves, while I collect older books for the box in the garage:  the library collection drive box.

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In the garage are bins, numerous and stacked on metal shelving.  I plan to go through those someday soon…when it cools off, I tell myself.

Paperwork shredding and disposal of other stuff.  Donations.   Trash.  Whatever.

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This week I’ve downloaded three e-books: (so far!)

 

Leaves, by Michael Baron, has such a lovely setting and cover.  Here are the opening lines of the blurb:

Welcome to Oldham, CT, a small town rich in Colonial heritage while being utterly contemporary. Situated along the Connecticut River Valley, Oldham bursts with color every fall, as the leaves on its trees evolve into an unmatched palette of scarlet, orange, purple, yellow, and bronze. For more than three decades, the Gold family has been a central part of Oldham in the fall, its Sugar Maple Inn a destination for “leaf-peepers” from all over the country, and its annual Halloween party a stirring way to punctuate the town’s most active month…

 

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And then I bought Owen’s Daughter, by Jo-Ann Mapson, since I have loved some of her other books.

The blurb begins like this:  It’s been years since Skye Elliot has seen her biological father. He left when she was twelve, breaking her heart, and her life hasn’t exactly been going uphill since. A drug user and alcoholic, Skye is given a choice after a car accident: jail or rehab. It takes eight months to get clean, but the day Skye is released, she has one plan: to be a good mother to her four-year-old daughter, Gracie. But first she has to find her.

 

 

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And finally, an old favorite author, Jayne Ann Krentz, has a new book coming soon, but first I wanted to read River Road.

 

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Blurb:  It’s been thirteen years since Lucy Sheridan was in Summer River. The last time she visited her aunt Sara there, as a teenager, she’d been sent home suddenly after being dragged out of a wild party—by the guy she had a crush on, just to make it more embarrassing. Obviously Mason Fletcher—only a few years older but somehow a lot more of a grown-up—was the overprotective type who thought he had to come to her rescue.

Now, returning after her aunt’s fatal car accident, Lucy is learning there was more to the story than she realized at the time. Mason had saved her from a very nasty crime that night—and soon afterward, Tristan, the cold-blooded rich kid who’d targeted her, disappeared mysteriously, his body never found.

A lot has changed in thirteen years. Lucy now works for a private investigation firm as a forensic genealogist, while Mason has quit the police force to run a successful security firm with his brother—though he still knows his way around a wrench when he fills in at his uncle’s local hardware store. Even Summer River has changed, from a sleepy farm town into a trendy upscale spot in California’s wine country. But Mason is still a protector at heart, a serious (and seriously attractive) man. And when he and Lucy make a shocking discovery inside Sara’s house, and some of Tristan’s old friends start acting suspicious, Mason’s quietly fierce instincts kick into gear. He saved Lucy once, and he’ll save her again. But this time, she insists on playing a role in her own rescue. . . .

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Do you get that restless feeling in the fall?  In any other seasons?  What do you do?

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REVIEW: QUIET, BY SUSAN CAIN

41XPcJbM7sLFinding one’s special niche in life can be hindered by temperament and/or personality. Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, digs right into the premise that we live in an Extroverted Culture, and how the socially adept seemingly take on the power positions in life.

However, she then lists introverts who, with their quiet strength, have made huge differences, like Rosa Parks, who quietly had the courage to refuse to get off the bus.

Most of the book shows the studies, beginning with the Myers-Briggs measurement of Extroverts/Introverts, and subsequent work that reveals a possible physiological basis for differences in the style/personality/behavior of individuals.

What I enjoyed most in the book were the anecdotes about people in history and how their accomplishments came about in spite of or because of their personality.

I would recommend the book for those interested in digging into the theories, studies, and findings. It reminded me a lot of psychology texts I read and studied in college, so I found these sections (most of the book) tedious. Others might really enjoy and relish these aspects, however, so my rating of 3.5 stars does not reflect the book itself but my own reaction to it.

REVIEW: THEN & ALWAYS, BY DANI ATKINS

 

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Rachel Wiltshire’s life was upended one night when a tragic event changed everything.

Now, five years later, while attending her best friend Sarah’s wedding in their hometown, an unexpected fall and a head injury change everything again.

But what Rachel remembers about her life in the past five years is not at all what everyone says it was…how could she have misremembered the past five years? And were her memories wrong, or are those around her telling an untrue version?

Then and Always: A Novel was definitely a story that made me ponder all the “what-ifs” in life. What if I had taken that road…or perhaps that one?

As Rachel begins to unravel the mysteries of her own life, a surprising number of twists and turns take her into some untraveled places.

An unforgettable story that kept me turning the pages. And then, in the final pages, a totally surprising twist makes me question everything I thought I knew about this story. Awesome read! 5.0 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: THE KALEIDOSCOPE TURNS AGAIN – GONE GIRL

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With the upcoming movie release of Gone Girl, it is impossible for me not to think about the book.

I read and reviewed the book two years ago, and in honor of that, I am reprising my review here.  Back then, on July 30, 2012, I reviewed the book on my Rainy Days and Monday blog, and entitled the review:  The Kaleidoscope Turns.

Are you nostalgic about the book as the movie release approaches?  Have your opinions or feelings changed, now that we will all be seeing the characters from the book on the Big Screen?

Here is my review:

 

Imagine, if you will, a happily-ever-after kind of marriage that slowly turns into a worst-case-scenario: a minefield of hidden explosives. You would then understand a little bit about the lives of Nick and Amy Dunne.

She was the main character in her parents’ Amazing Amy series that made them rich. She was the only child, spoiled, receiving all the attention, yet craving something more.

And there is Nick, born in the Midwest and dreaming of a special kind of life. A writer, someone who could also claim the spotlight. But then the economy collapsed. He and Amy both lost their New York jobs and that life. It’s back to Missouri to Nick’s hometown for the two of them, and the slow dismantling of the perfect life begins.

Suddenly a dramatic shift: it’s their fifth anniversary and Amy is gone. The search, the spotlight on Nick as a killer, and the now flat and devastated turf of their lives is shown to the clamoring public.

Told through alternating points of view, we see Nick’s story and what he shows us in bits and pieces; then we see Amy’s tale told through diary entries.

But in several surprising twists and turns, we begin to form a new picture of each of them. Gone Girl: A Novel reminds me a bit of the kaleidoscope toy I enjoyed in childhood: you turn it one way, and the pieces assemble. Then, with another shift, you have something entirely different.

Gillian Flynn kept me captivated all through this story, and I kept guessing about how things would unfold, but she surprised me still again. Could I even imagine how it would all turn out? No…but then again, grab your kaleidoscope and watch it all reassemble in still another way. Five stars!

 

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REVIEW: TEARS & TEQUILA, BY LINDA SCHREYER & JO-ANN LAUTMAN

519eAHHAVVLWhen Joey Lerner lands in LA, she is on one more stop in a gypsy-like journey, a series of flights from the pain and loss in her life.

She has a temporary place to stay with an old friend, Kat Jenkins, and a job interview at a place called Oasis. Her resume looks like a reflection of her flights along the way, but it is varied enough to land her a job as a handyperson….and then, unexpectedly, Joey is assigned a task of substituting as the grief counselor for a grief group. A gig that turns into something more or less regular. She has become a person who can fix broken things, even as she helps fix broken people.

The owner of the place, Daniel Wyndham, is a gorgeous hunk from Australia, and soon Joey finds herself more and more drawn to him.

But behind the scenes, someone is plotting her own brand of revenge, centering it on Oasis, Daniel, and Joey.

Will Joey realize that her new gig and the new people in her life are just what she needs to help with her own grief? Will she finally find a home, or will someone set on revenge destroy it all before she can settle into this new life?

The characters felt like real people that became a kind of family to Joey, and their stories made Tears and Tequila: A Novel a wonderfully rich tale of how people can work through their grief and find a support system along the way. I loved learning more about them all: Tamara and her daughter Maya; Maggie; Alli; Sam and his newborn Andrew; Dave, who is carrying a huge secret; and even Del, the doctor with a deep problem he is hiding. Best of all was lovely Berta, a mentor to Joey, and a guide in her own grief work. In the end, there were some triumphant moments that made me want to celebrate. A lovely 5 star read.