REVIEW: THE IDEA OF LOVE, BY PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY

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When Ella Flynn and Blake Hunter met in Watersend, South Carolina, they each had their own agenda, and they were each telling little white lies.

Ella, who was a resident of the town, had shared with Blake, who was calling himself Hunter Adderman and posing as a writer of history: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” She had no idea that “Hunter” had already begun following that particular piece of advice.

Maybe the little white lies were harmless. But before we can answer the question of what would happen to the two story tellers, we are shown how each of them manages to keep the truth out of things…until it was no longer possible.

Why would Blake Hunter, a screen writer from LA, tell such a fabrication? And why would Ella, whose husband left her for her best friend’s sister, want to make up her own version of events?

Would the perfect love story Blake believes he has discovered put him back on the top, after two movie flops? Could Ella find love again, or must she settle for just the idea of it?

The Idea of Love: A Novel was a charming but somewhat superficial tale about all the things that can go wrong with love, and how trying and persevering can make all the difference. Along the way, we get to watch Ella redefine what she wants in life, including a life in which she is a wedding dress designer. She gets to reassess everything she thought she knew and believed about love…and friendship. The story was a fun and quick read. 4.0 stars.

MY INTERIOR WORLD: ECHOES OF THE PAST

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Here I am, enjoying a cup of coffee and pondering what to write about on my trusty laptop, Louisa May.   I do name all of my devices, of course.

But that is a topic for another day.  Today I am pondering how one action can start a chain of events and lead to something totally unexpected…serendipitous, even.

Above my office desk was a basket on the wall that was stuffed with greeting cards and various mementos.  See below, I drew a square around the basket.

 

 

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I had decided that it needed a purge—you know how much I have been purging lately—and this was an untapped spot in need of some work.

When I took it down and started sorting, I was surprised to find some photos, too, so I had to scan one of them.  This one was taken in the winter of 1979, in the apartment I had rented after my divorce.  It was a place for starting over.

 

 

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And seeing the photo reminded me of the apartment, and the few things that I enjoyed about it.  So I grabbed a photo album from that time period, and scanned a few more.

BelowI remember enjoying the arched doorways and the slightly Mediterranean architecture…and in the background, to your left, you can see the wicker fan on the wall.  For those who were around during those times, back then, you could go into a Pier I or a Cost Plus store (now World Market) and see them everywhere.  I lived in this apartment from 1979-1980.

 

 

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The rust colored chairs…and the similarly colored sofa (below) were also remnants from those times.

 

 

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I had this furniture for several years afterwards, until I was living in my townhouse a few years later (1988-94), when it became too worn and scruffy to be seen.

I love seeing it again, all bright and new, in these photos.

Note the table between the wing back chairs, in the second photo above:  that is the ice cream table that I still have. (See below)

 

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And here is the ice cream table (below) behind the rust-colored couch, circa 1980.  I lived in the apartment pictured below from 1980-1983.

 

 

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I do love hanging onto things, and sometimes I forget the various incarnations  of each piece.  All of my interiors have showcased the old favorites, as well as a few new things along the way.

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What is the point of showcasing these moments from the past?  Well, in a sense, I am traveling backward in time and reminding myself of where I’ve been.

And this all happened today because I decided to clear out the basket of mementos in my office.

Do you ever find yourself traipsing through your past, studying and sometimes scanning the evidence of the many homes and belongings you have enjoyed?  Do you get there unexpectedly, just because you were clearing out a room, or a drawer, or a basket?

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REVIEW: LAST ONE HOME, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

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Cassie Carter has been struggling to work her way out of the dark hole her life has become. Escaping her abusive marriage would lead her toward a new life at last. She and her twelve-year-old daughter Amiee long for a home of their own, the kind of place that Cassie thinks about when she remembers happier times. Memories of the childhood games of hide-and-seek and calling out “last one home is it” shine through, reminding her that she can move forward and create her own family.

It has been thirteen years since Cassie has seen her sisters, Karen and Nichole, and sometimes the pain is almost unbearable. Her parents died a few years before, and their loss is a constant reminder of broken ties.

Because she ran away with Duke, leaving behind her family and her scholarship, her sisters have been unable to forgive her.

But nowadays, Cassie has hope. She has her cosmetologist’s license, a growing clientele, and there is a promise of a new home ahead, as she has been approved for a Habitat for Humanity house.

Can Cassie’s dream of a home really happen? Will she and her daughter finally heal from the past? Will Cassie be able to reconnect with her sisters, rebuilding the broken relationships? And finally, can there be love again?

Last One Home: A Novel is an inspirational story that reminds us of hope, dreams, and starting over. Another enjoyable read from this author. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: HOW TO START A FIRE, BY LISA LUTZ

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They met at university in Santa Cruz, CA, in the 1990s. Following the adventures and misadventures of Anna Fury, Kate Smirnoff, and George Leoni through the more than twenty years following their beginnings was a little bit like a rollercoaster ride, and the author’s narrative style adds to this sensation. The journey jogs from Santa Cruz, to St. Louis, to Boston…and to many points in between.

How to Start a Fire veers back and forth in time and place, almost raucously, resembling the lives they led. Sometimes it was challenging to remember what had happened in previous visits to each time period, as the story would pick up again a decade or two later, and not in any sequential way.

But then I lost myself in trying to learn all I could about each of these fascinating characters, watching with horror sometimes, as each seemed to be her own worst enemy.

Anna’s brilliance in her premed years and in her brief time as a doctor was overshadowed by her addictions. In some ways, her blackouts seemed to be a way to distance herself from her own behavior. What was she trying to escape?

Kate’s inertia, compounded by the way she ran away from her problems emotionally, was a precursor for a different kind of running away. What hid beneath Kate’s unique quest through the heartlands?

George was fascinating in her physical impressiveness and her outdoorsy way…and unfortunate in her choices of men. How did the events in her life lead to these choices?

An array of assorted secondary characters fill in as backdrop to the primary ones…and add depth to them. Due to the jumping around between time periods, we very slowly grow to see the whole picture. Throughout, we witness how friendships are tested, and we also see that what remains is often enough to sustain them. Themes of fire, how it is created, the damage it can do, and the metaphorical essence of it remind us of how nothing is ever just one thing or with just one meaning, and in its various forms, it can still provide warmth and hope. A sometimes frustrating tale, due to the leaps and jumps, I still could not stop reading it. 4 stars.

MY INTERIOR WORLD: UNDER SCRUTINY

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Good morning!  It is Friday already, but I feel as though I have missed the week.

Probably because, for the most part, I have.  Felled by some kind of food poisoning, or at the least, a severe food reaction, I have been sicker this week than I have been for a very long time.

My daughter had the exact same symptoms, so we’re thinking it was that cheesecake we had on Sunday.  This very unique “purge” began on Monday.  LOL

This was definitely not the kind of purge I like to celebrate!  But as I was sidelined on the couch, not blogging and only occasionally reading, I had a chance to study my interiors…the ones that surround me, not my “gut.”

And I saw that the way I display some of my collections was tiring me out, just looking at them, with the dust seemingly accumulating around them.  And their presence made it harder to dust, too, since there were so many little items.

Cute items, admittedly, but on the first day that I felt somewhat better (yesterday), I packed up some of those little angels that formerly lived on the table you see above….and off they went to a see-through bin in the garage.

I am now reveling in how good the top of that table looks with fewer items on it…and Heather, this does not mean you were right, and I was wrong!  (A little mother-daughter disagreement).  But I have CHOSEN to declutter just a little bit more.

Some of you probably know where this will lead….there will be more scrutiny from me, as I study every room in my house, wondering what to attack next.  Could it be this sofa table?  I have to admit to feeling a little angst as I study this one…I am so fond of the geese…and the little tidbits here and there….but let’s be reasonable.

 

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So let’s take a look at the same sofa table (below), with fewer things on it…..Wow, it didn’t even hurt to remove those odds and ends. 

 

 

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Now I know that I’m done for today, and as for more of this kind of purging… Like Scarlett, I’ll think about it tomorrow….

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Do you ever take another look at your interiors when you are flat on your back, sick, and not able to move around much?  Do you see things differently?

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I am going to share this post for Saturday Snapshot, too, hosted by Metro Mommy Reads.  Check in to see what others are sharing.

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REVIEW: DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY, BY BILL CLEGG

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In a small Connecticut town, several individuals are caught up in a tragedy that ultimately links them, and through the pages, the author takes us into the lives of some of these individuals, revealing past and present choices, and leading us to a place of understanding just what happened that day.

It happens the night before the wedding between June’s daughter Lolly and her fiancé Will. At a time when everyone has gathered to celebrate, the explosion kills everyone but June.

The multiple narrators are somehow connected to those who were killed, and separate chapters are devoted to each of them, sometimes in first person and other times, third person. Each narrator has been somehow scarred by events, both before and after the tragedy. Some have been living outside societal norms, clinging to what sets them apart, as if the familiar roles they have fallen into are too comfortable to change. What truths have kept each of them outsiders? Who are they? There is Lydia, whose son Luke was also killed, but is somehow blamed for the tragedy. And then there is June, who was Luke’s older lover, dubbed a cougar by the townsfolk. And then there are Rebecca and Kelly, who live in Moclips, Washington, as far from events as could be, but somehow they are connected to what happened by virtue of offering refuge to one of them.

How did June escape the tragedy, walking away without an identification, to find that refuge? Why did the small town folk believe only the worst about Luke and Lydia? And even though she was from a more polished life, why did they also seem to shun June?

Did You Ever Have A Family could be a poignant view of small town life, with all of its flaws and foibles, reminding us that sometimes the people we choose to dismiss are more like us than not, and that understanding goes a long way toward forgiveness.

The characters’ stories were intimate and insightful. Even though I struggled at times to make the connections between the numerous characters, by the end I could see a clear picture forming. 4 stars.

REVIEW: UGLY LOVE, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

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Tate Collins is busy with her career as a nurse, as well as her graduate school classes. Moving in with her brother Corbin, a pilot, will be a way of saving money for a while.

On her first night there, she literally stumbles over Miles Archer, drunk, on Corbin’s doorstep. Miles lives across the hall, and is also a pilot.

From that moment on, the mutual attraction between Tate and Miles seems electric. As they begin a steamy, sexual relationship, there are some hard and fast rules. Rules that Miles has created. No talk about the past. And no hope for the future. Sex will be all that exists between them.

Almost immediately, we see that Tate is struggling with these rules, wanting more. And sometimes we sense that Miles is, too.

What is the story of Miles’s relationship with Rachel, the woman he was with six years before? What happened between them to cause him to put up barriers? Ugly Love: A Novel alternates between Tate’s story in the present and Miles’s story in the past, and we slowly come to learn why he fears love.

The setting for the the novel is San Francisco, so I was immediately drawn to it, if for no other reason. And then I found myself caught up in the push and pull between Tate and Miles, knowing that somehow they would overcome whatever made love “ugly” for Miles.

A riveting tale that will lead to adding more books from this author to my stacks. I enjoyed the writing style and the characters. The dialogue felt real and true, and I was soon rooting for Tate and Miles. Definitely 5 stars for me.