MY INTERIOR WORLD OF BOOKISH SURPRISES

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In this delightful bookish world we all inhabit, we can count on a few things.  There will be numerous new books featured on blogs every day.  And how we get those books will vary.

For example, Amazon Vine has recently shaken up their site, to the delight of reviewers.

Yesterday a new system was in place.  Instead of the bimonthly newsletter, we are now gifted with a Queue that we can log onto and view any day of the week or month.  And select FIVE books.   Unless, of course, we have overdue books not reviewed.

Not a problem.

Then there is Vine for All…we love this, as the books from this group do not affect the five we can have from the Queue.

Yesterday, I selected two books from my Queue…trying to cut down a bit.  Let’s see how long that lasts, with a new gift available each day, possibly.

 

The Furies, by Natalie Haynes, promises to be a suspenseful journey.

 

 

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Don’t you love that cover? 

Natalie Haynes’ The Furies is a psychologically complex, dark and twisting novel about loss, obsession and the deep tragedies that can connect us to each other even as they blind us to our fate.

 

And then I picked Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer, and those who know my taste must realize this is a little bit out of my comfort zone, but it’s Meg Wolitzer!

 

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From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

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Don’t you love life’s little surprises?  And for those who regularly visit here, you may have noticed my new look.  Something that probably doesn’t surprise you, since I often change things up.

Enjoy life’s surprises!  What surprises you this week?

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REVIEW: BIG LITTLE LIES, BY LIANE MORIARTY

81+iucjYd9L._SL1500_In Pirriwee, a beautiful little Australian village on a peninsula by the sea, a lovely school seems an unlikely place for the cauldron that is brewing.

It all comes to a climax on Trivia Night, a costume-like event that is a fundraiser, but also a finale for the storms that have been brewing since the beginning of the school year.

One little boy. A charge of bullying. A petition that has been circling. Secret domestic violence. Cheating. Big secrets coming to light. These and other conflicts have divided the mothers, the children, and the community.

Three women are the centerpiece of Big Little Lies. At a crossroads, they each have secrets and the lies they tell themselves are even bigger than the ones they tell others. Jane, the new mum, with her adorable boy Ziggy, is hiding horrific secrets about his paternity. Celeste, the beautiful rich mum, whose handsome husband Perry has a hidden dark side, has twins, Josh and Max. And Madeline, the most likable of them all, is sometimes loud, often boisterous, and seems to enjoy conflict. But she is very sad that her fourteen-year-old daughter Abigail has chosen to move in with her dad and his new hippie-like wife Bonnie, completely forgetting that he abandoned them for the first half of her life.

How will the tensions building between the families play out? What will Celeste do about the dangerous secret she is hiding? And how will Madeline deal with the latest foolish prank her daughter has pulled? And will Jane keep running, or can she finally accept the truth she has just realized?

There are peripheral characters, like Harper, referred to as one of the “blond bobs,” seemingly caricatures, but their behavior and attitudes reflect the dangers of the clique-like mentality of the parents in the school. And then there is Renata, a mum whose passion takes on a form of scariness.

The climactic Trivia Night came to a smashing conclusion, and even though I already knew many of the secrets by then, more came crashing down around the characters like a stunning blow. Nothing would ever be the same again for the community. But would some good come from the events, a healing kind of balm? The story had a hopeful ending, which I loved. If I could, I would grant ten stars to this book. 5.0 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: EAGERLY ANTICIPATING “THE CHILDREN ACT”

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Welcome to another Wednesday for sharing our eager anticipation of upcoming releases.  Check in over at Breaking the Spine, to see what everyone is excited about.

Today I am celebrating the 9/9/14 release of Ian McEwan’s newest book, an emotionally wrenching novel, The Children Act.

 

 

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Amazon Description:  Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child’s welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.
But Fiona’s professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Jack doesn’t leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.

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I am a big fan of all books that spotlight families, and in this case, the balancing act of a family court judge against the intricacies of her own marriage woes is bound to draw me in.

Plus, it’s Ian McEwan, whose Atonement captured my interest throughout, with its reminders of themes of shame and forgiveness.

What are you eagerly anticipating? 

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REVIEW: MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY, BY SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL

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It is London in 1940, and while Maggie Hope has gone to London to sell her grandmother’s house, she ends up staying and working as a typist for Mr. Churchill.

She has so much more to offer, she believes, since she has degrees and a background that would be suitable for espionage work. With a war on and invasion seemingly imminent, everyone is on high alert. Maggie is poised to make herself invaluable.

She is living in her grandmother’s house with several roommates, some of whom are old friends or friends of friends.

Maggie was born in England, but grew up in the US with her Aunt Edith because of her parents’ death in an accident when she was three.

Her life sounds ordinary, doesn’t it? Well, it is soon very extraordinary when a series of events take place that pique her interest, and soon she is trying to figure out codes and confiding her findings. But nobody seems to pay attention.

And then when she takes a trip to Cambridge on a quest, her discoveries are both confusing and astounding. Was her whole past life a lie? Suddenly she finds herself on a frightening mission that could only lead to disaster.

Meanwhile, back in London, a group of IRA dissidents have unleashed a chain of events, and the participants will turn out to be closer to Maggie than she could have realized.

At this point in Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery, I could not stop turning the pages, wondering about the connections between everyone on the canvas, and trying to sort out the good guys from the bad guys. The author did a great job of revealing only bits and pieces until the very end. The story is a mix of fact and fiction that captures the spirit of the times. A five star read…and the first book in a series.

SHAKING UP MY INTERIOR WORLD: NEW BEGINNINGS

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Today I sprang out of bed with a new energy…shower, coffee, computer.  And checking out various sites, including Dropbox, where I store documents and photos.  What sparked this energy?

A few days ago, I wrote about organizing my interior world, and that story included the discovery of new storage and an old manuscript.

Years ago, I started writing about a time in my life when I belonged to a very strange book club—we called it a gourmet/book club, because we met for gourmet dinners before discussing the books.  What happened afterwards became the main story…and how foolish choices made in the past can change lives forever.  But along the way, sometimes one can take the lessons from the past and make changes in the present…for the future.

 

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The manuscript is a fictionalized version of a very real time in my life, and while the core of it is based on true events, I took the usual liberties of an author by embellishing and changing things up.

I tossed it aside back then to start working on Interior Designs, which I recently published, and which I started during NaNoWriMo in 2010.  At that time, I wrote the first 52,000+ words.

Defining Moments was another novel I had begun around this same time, and zeroes in on the aftermath of a woman’s failed marriage:

Blurb:  What moments in our lives define us? Do our choices determine our future?  When unexpected events derail her life, Jillian McAvoy realizes that she now has an opportunity to carve out a whole new beginning.  But something happens to her along the way that threatens everything she hoped and dreamed about.  How can the obsessions and compulsions that seemingly take over her life lead to her newly redesigned world?

 

 

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In my excitement over rereading and changing some things as I begin the rewriting process for this resurrected manuscript, which I’m tentatively calling Echoes of the Past.…I am once again excited and reborn.  Yes, reborn is how I feel!

The kind of excitement I recognize from the writing of all of my novels: six of them published, and now two manuscripts to play with.

Here’s an excerpt from the Prologue, which may go through some changes:

     But at moments throughout the day, her thoughts slid backwards, despite her best efforts, and she could almost see that younger, idealistic version of herself. That girl who had believed in endless possibilities, who had fought the system hell-bent on winning. That young woman who had ignored her ideals in one summer of foolish choices, transforming herself from a fresh young thing with her whole life ahead of her into this woman of today, who often longed for yesterday and a clean slate with fresh options.

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Nothing gets my juices flowing more than a new journey, which often is a new manuscript.  And blogging is another way to keep the excitement levels high…connecting with other bloggers and finding that immediate satisfaction from comments and conversations.

What’s not to love?  What rejuvenates you on a Hump Day…or any day?

 

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REVIEW: THE COLLECTOR, BY NORA ROBERTS

915Xy8yqUhL._SL1500_As I entered the world of writer/house-sitter Lila Emerson, I felt as though I were there, seeing the world through her eyes. She shares her surroundings through great visual descriptions, and her inner thoughts accompany us on our tour.

And she literally views the world around her through binoculars, by gazing at the windows in neighboring apartment buildings.

Her latest “job” is in a luxury apartment in New York, and just as I was getting cozy with Lila and her world as shown to the reader, she witnessed a murder in a very frightening way.

Drawn into the intrigue, after talking to the police, she accidentally meets Ashton Archer, an artist, and the brother of one of the victims. He is gorgeous, of course, and the chemistry between the two is immediate. Luckily, they are connected to some of the same people, so she isn’t nervous about getting to know him better. His wealth and resources help move them along toward their goals.

The Collector is a page-turning suspense story that leads the characters through the twisted world of a very dangerous group of people, and as we try to anticipate what will happen next, we are surprised again and again. Ash and Lila meet with people who help them discover who is behind the killings, and they already have met the hired assassin on a few occasions. At the heart of it all is a fabulous art find that is driving the criminals to take everything to the highest level. Who will win in this dangerous escapade, and what must Ash and Lila do to end the game? A somewhat predictable, yet enticing read. 4.0 stars.

ORGANIZING MY INTERIOR WORLD & DISCOVERING OLD TREASURES

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Let’s have another sip of coffee and contemplate the weekend behind us.  Mine was an exploration, if you will, after I received an e-mail from my Berlin Photographer son Craig about his photo/document storage, Dropbox.

I use PicMonkey for photo editing, and have used Photobucket in the past for storage, but I was never happy with its accessibility.

So I tried Dropbox.  It took me a bit to figure out how to access the photos/docs after storing them, but it turned out to be very simple:  click on the icon, which takes you to the photos/documents.

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I also uploaded some documents there, like the manuscript I’m now working on…and another one I discovered on an old flash drive that I hadn’t looked at since I moved files from the old desktop to my laptop.

 

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I uploaded it…and I am going to be reading it and seeing if there is anything worth salvaging/expanding on.  It is a story about a dysfunctional book club in a suburban neighborhood in the 70s.  The group was initially drawn together by a neighborhood protest, and grew from there.  But the strange happenings left many of the participants reeling, while lives fell apart and the group members moved on.  Now years later, one of them is jolted back to the past by a strange missive in the mail….

I mentioned the book club idea to Rita, at My Home of Books, and she encouraged me to explore it.

Strange what one finds when organizing photos and documents…right?

So today I’ll be playing around with my new organizational tool…and reading a book that is so engaging I kept reading it into the night: Keep Quiet, by Lisa Scottoline.

 

 

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What does your Monday look like?

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REVIEW: UNTIL YOU’RE MINE, BY SAMANTHA HAYES

18240246Baby love could be the defining theme of Until You’re Mine: A Novel, as we enter the world of women questing after babies, despite difficulties and challenges. And then there are those who do not really want the babies, but see them as a means to an end.

Our story is alternately narrated in the first person voices of Claudia Morgan-Brown, a social worker, a wife, a stepmother, and now a pregnant want-to-be mother, and the woman she hires as a nanny, Zoe Harper.

A third-person narration follows the investigations of DI Lorraine Fisher and DI Adam Scott, partners, as well as husband and wife. They are hoping to solve the strange murders of pregnant women whose babies are seemingly cut out of them. In the background are the intense dynamics of their family issues, with two teenaged daughters chomping at the bit.

As we sift through these stories, it is possible to think you have everything figured out, with the good and the bad sorted, but just when you think you know what is happening, you will be stunned.

Other characters added an interesting twist to the tale, like Cecelia Paige, who has some connection to Zoe Harper…who may not really be Zoe Harper.

Set in England, near Birmingham, we are caught up in the twisted lives of these characters, and not until the very end does it all come together. A unique psychological suspense tale that kept me turning those pages and staying up late to keep reading. 5.0 stars.

REVIEW: NANTUCKET SISTERS, BY NANCY THAYER

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Emily and Maggie met as children on Nantucket Island. Maggie lived there year-round, while Emily came for the summers. They were so close that they called themselves Nantucket Sisters: A Novel.

Ben, Maggie’s brother, is two years older, and Emily has had a crush on him since childhood.

Slowly, over the years, we watch as time and life changes them. Maggie goes away to college, and so does Emily, but to different universities, their paths only crossing occasionally. Emily’s relationship with Ben becomes deeper over time, but their differences seemingly pull them apart.

As they reach adulthood, forces consume them, and compromise seems impossible. What secrets and betrayals stand between them? Can anything repair the broken ties?

Maggie’s desire to be a writer keeps her connected to the island, and Emily’s passion for the environment also connects her to that world. Will they finally discover how to resurrect what they’ve lost? What tragedies happen to ultimately reunite them? And what secrets will remain between them?

As the author’s prose painted pictures of the setting and the people, it all seemed like a gift to be unwrapped slowly. I loved the author’s descriptions of the island, from the homes to the waves against the shore. The parties seemed to invite me in, welcoming me as if I were in attendance. But what truly engaged me was the strength of friendship in spite of mistakes and the knowledge that even broken trust can be repaired. The ending was triumphant and a bit predictable, but heart-warming. 4.5 stars.