COFFEE CHAT: SAVORING THE GOOD…

Come on in and follow my journey through this past week…and have some coffee.  Join the others at Bookishly Boisterous.

Just when I started to feel good about the fall weather, the horror of Northern California fires stunned me.  They seemed to come out of nowhere, since we had a nice rainy season last winter.  But, as Christine pointed out in her post, the rain stimulated more growth with an abundance of foliage to dry out in the hot summer.  Sigh.  My youngest son and DIL are north of those fires, but there seems to be no safe place these days.

  • Everywhere there is disaster…and it is challenging to try to find something good in the week…or even a day.
  • But…I read and reviewed two wonderful books so far this week:  When We Were Worthy and Cardinal Cabin.  And I’m currently reading Say You’re Sorry, Book No. 1 in the Morgan Dane series, by Melinda Leigh.
  • Every day this week has been about errands of various kinds…including a big Target run last night.  I like going there for all kinds of things, and even groceries, which are cheaper there than in my supermarket.  I was also out of all those paper products and vitamins, etc.
  • Before I went to the store, I had to treat myself to my soup and margarita combo at CPK, where I had the same one I often have, but which is a favorite:

  • Earlier in the day, I actually spent some time on this exercise bike (after moving Minnie out of the way):

  • Then when I walked all over Target, I realized that my seldom-used muscles were crying out their protest!
  • Facebook is my go-to place when I need a distraction…but for a while today, my page did not appear.  I had just the cover photo and nothing else…I came back to it later, and it was there.  Whew!  Then I found some of my granddaughter’s lovely photos from her Prague semester…I love this one!

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So…I will savor the day and be grateful for all the good things I can find in it.  Enjoy yours!

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COFFEE CHAT: DISTRACTIONS…

Good morning!  It’s time to chat about Bookish/Not So Bookish Thoughts…check in at Bookishly Boisterous to connect with other participants.

What a week!  Horrendous events seem to be coming from all sides, and our so-called leader’s response seems muted.

  • It is long past time for peace and love to show itself.  But until that happens, I guess we have to plod along and do our best as individuals to be kind and compassionate.
  • As the events clamor for our attention, it is hard to go on with business as usual.  But we have to try, so, for me, it has been a week of running around, doing errands, getting a flu shot, and trying to shop for items on my list.
  • Today (October 5) is my second son’s birthday, so sending off his gift card earlier in the week was high on my list.
  • Last Saturday, my second oldest grandson got married…weren’t those kids just babies the other day?  Here is the wedding party:  Dominic and Julia are on the far right, in case you couldn’t guess.  LOL.

  • As for reading, this week has been a slog.  I read and reviewed only ONE book, which was a great page turner:  Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng (click title for review); the book I’m reading now, The Rules of Magic, is not holding my interest that much.  Admittedly, I have been distracted and keep setting it down to watch movies, etc.  Maybe it will pick up.
  • I’ve been recording and watching older movies, and they are definitely distracting me, which might be what I need.  Or they are an escape.  One of them was Primal Fear, with Richard Gere and Edward Norton.  I haven’t watched that movie in years!
  • Last weekend, I did enjoy the Netflix movie, Our Souls at Night.  I might have to watch it again.  I loved seeing Jane Fonda and Robert Redford together again.
  • I am in the mood to sink myself into really old shows on Netflix, like Cheers and Friends.
  • Lately, when I get up in the mornings, I seem to be going through the motions, so I try to vary the routine just a bit, to make sure that I’m really awake.  Instead of turning on the coffee first, I set up my things in my office; turn on the computer; switch on Home & Family on the TV…and then go set up my breakfast tray, with my coffee.

  • I have to think before I take each step, which guarantees that I am awake.

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So…another day, another pot of coffee, and more reading, I hope.  How is your day shaping up?

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REVIEW: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, BY CELESTE NG

 

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

My Thoughts: A beautiful and layered story, Little Fires Everywhere brought out themes of family dynamics, family secrets, and small town life.

Elena Richardson, at the heart of the novel, stands in direct opposition to her tenant, Mia Warren, a single mother and artist: a woman with a nomadic lifestyle and a beautiful daughter Pearl. Their values could not be more different, and when Mia seems to tug at the center of Elena’s family, inexplicably pulling some of her children to her, Elena digs in and starts searching for the dirt she knows is hidden behind Mia’s freewheeling façade.

Izzy, the youngest and most troubled of the Richardson children, gravitates toward Mia, where she finds the acceptance she craves and which is not there for her at home.

Even Lexie, Trip, and Moody, the other Richardson children, soon find something they want in the Warren household. Now it seems as though Mia is the “Pied Piper” for the teens, showing them options they had not considered. She does it all calmly and without intent. It is the pull of the appealing life choices that are anathema in their own family.

The fires of desire and independence are burning amongst the teens, and in the broader life of the community, the town lights up with the burning furor of a custody fight between an upper middle class family and the Asian birth mother who made a mistake. Abandonment, some town members cry out, but advocates for Bebe claim she made the “safe choice” when she couldn’t care for her baby and left her at the fire station.

Before all of the secrets are exposed, another kind of fire is lit…and scorches them all down to the core. A powerful novel full of images and metaphors that ring true. 5 stars.***

 

WHEN OBJECTS FIND NEW HOMES: RE-PURPOSING FURNISHINGS…

How far I have come since I started blogging!  Over at Curl up and Read, where my About page features the TBR Stacks I had back then, take note of a redwood cart (barely visible) that then housed (almost) my more than 160 unread books.

 

Once I bought some more actual shelves, I found other uses for the cart, since I love to re-purpose my furniture.  The cart was actually intended as a barbecue cart, but I found other uses.  Like a shelf in my office, below:

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Soon I rearrranged my office and, as a result, found another purpose for the cart:

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On to other pieces.  A small shelf that found a home in various places beginning with my house in the foothills, see below, where it is topped with collectibles and holding magazines in a cubby:

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Now it resides in my office, next to my desk, holding notebooks and a basket; a little worse for wear, but finding its new purpose:

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This week I read a book that touted the wonders of re-purposing, and while the book offered much more impressive examples, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to what the authors of Open House were offering. (Click title for my review).

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Do you enjoy re-purposing furnishings?  What draws you to some pieces over others?

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REVIEW: A DANGEROUS CROSSING, BY RACHEL RHYS

 

1939: Europe is on the brink of war when young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. She is ready to start anew, leaving behind the shadows in her past. The passage proves magical, complete with live music, cocktails, and fancy dress balls. With stops at exotic locations along the way—Naples, Cairo, Ceylon—the voyage shows Lily places she’d only ever dreamed of and enables her to make friends with those above her social station, people who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings.

But Lily soon realizes that she’s not the only one hiding secrets. Her newfound friends—the toxic wealthy couple Eliza and Max; Cambridge graduate Edward; Jewish refugee Maria; fascist George—are also running away from their pasts. As the glamour of the voyage fades, the stage is set for something sinister to occur. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and Lily’s life will be changed irrevocably.

My Thoughts: For me, a crossing such as this would be the last thing I would choose. I get a bit claustrophobic when confined to any sort of space, and surrounded by water…well, I can imagine how every conflict would be exacerbated and tiny issues might become huge, and then there would be no escape.

Mix in personalities that should never be mixed…and nothing good will come of any of it.

Despite the glittering parties that could almost make someone like Lily feel carefree, there was always that sense of class distinctions beneath the surface, reminding her of her place in the world.

I disliked Max and Eliza immediately. They were fake and rude and abrasive. But for some reason, Lily was drawn to them.

I could understand her wanting to spend time with Edward, although his inconsistencies were annoying and mysterious. Maria was someone I felt sorry for…but I could also understand Lily’s reactions toward the end.

Ida, a cabin mate, was harsh and judgmental. And then there was George, seething with rage, an undercurrent of open hostility present in every word he spoke.

A pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise awaits them all in Melbourne, when Eliza introduces them to the actor Alan Morgan and his wife Cleo (Bannister). * A little tidbit about how the author chose that moniker for a character came from the blogger Cleopatra Loves Books.

Aboard the ship was a mixed pot of trouble that could not help but boil over. The mysteries that unfolded in A Dangerous Crossing seemed inevitable and I couldn’t stop reading. There were parts in the middle that dragged for me, but I pushed on, knowing I would enjoy the ending. 4.5 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SAY YOU’RE SORRY”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is Book One in the Morgan Dane series, Say You’re Sorry, by Melinda Leigh.  In a new series from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh, former prosecutor Morgan Dane faces the most personal—and deadly—case of her lifetime.

 

 

Beginning:  Darkness.

Tessa had been afraid of it most of her life.  For as long as she could remember, she’d gone to bed dreading nightfall, looking under the bed, double-checking her nightlight.

As if a lightbulb the size of a lit match could possible banish her nightmares.

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Friday 56:  Rain tapped on the kitchen window.  Morgan sipped a cup of coffee and read her emails from the DA’s office and the Human Resources department.  Filling out employment and insurance forms made her new job real, and the first glimmer of interest in something outside the walls of the house flickered inside her.

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Synopsis:  After the devastating loss of her husband in Iraq, Morgan Dane returns to Scarlet Falls, seeking the comfort of her hometown. Now, surrounded by family, she’s finally found peace and a promising career opportunity—until her babysitter is killed and her neighbor asks her to defend his son, Nick, who stands accused of the murder.

Tessa was the ultimate girl next door, and the community is outraged by her death. But Morgan has known Nick for years and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite the damning evidence stacked against him. She asks her friend Lance Kruger, an ex-cop turned private eye, for help. Taking on the town, the police, and a zealous DA, Morgan and Lance plunge into the investigation, determined to find the real killer. But as they uncover secrets that rock the community, they become targets for the madman hiding in plain sight.

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I am looking forward to this series, and now have both Book One and Two on Pippa, my Kindle.  What do you think?  Do the snippets catch your interest?

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EARLY MORNING COFFEE, BOOKS, & TV SHOWS…

Good morning!  It’s time to chat…and have some coffee.  Let’s link up with Christine at Bookishly Boisterous to find more chat-friends.

  • Last night I read into the early morning hours.  I had picked up one of my current reads, The Stolen Marriage, planning to read a chapter or two…and hours later, I was still engrossed.  It grabbed me and held on.  Set in Baltimore and North Carolina, the time period is WWII.
    “Steeped in history and filled with heart-wrenching twists, The Stolen Marriage is an emotionally captivating novel of secrets, betrayals, prejudice, and forgiveness. It showcases Diane Chamberlain at the top of her talent.
    One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

  • One thing I have known for a while:  reading and/or watching TV late at night provides fodder for some strange dreams.
  • Surprisingly, I still woke up early:  6:00 a.m., so here I am, blogging, checking e-mails, etc.  All the routines of an ordinary morning.
  • Did anyone else love the return of This Is Us?  I wish I could binge-watch the whole season!
  • Tonight...Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away with Murder!
  • Last week, my second son was in Prague, visiting my eldest son, my DIL, and getting his daughter Aubrey settled in for her semester at university there.  I love this “Prague at Night” photo.

  • This dinner at the Happy Cow restaurant looks like fun…

  • What does today hold?  Well, more reading, of course.  Plus, I’m feeling like going to Barnes & Noble for some coffee, book browsing, and more reading…

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What has your week been like?  What adventures lie ahead?

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REVIEW: THE HEIRS, BY SUSAN RIEGER

 

Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him. In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure.

Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together — Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm — and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor. The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty – a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor’s sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.

My Thoughts: In a non-linear style, the reader learns more about the Falkes family and some of their friends. Dipping into the past, moving forward, and then centering on the issues of the present, The Heirs feels like an in-depth portrait of a family and an era. The back and forth offers an opportunity to learn more about the characters and how they came to be…but at times, the writing style felt like a detached listing of events. Abrupt, dry, and matter-of-fact in its portrayals.

Set in Manhattan, primarily, at the beginning of the 21st Century, we come to learn about the lives of a family, punctuated by the dramatic events. As with most families, there are conflicts…and I thought it was interesting how we slowly learn traits of the grown Falkes sons, as they each face the current dilemma: Harry is a “blurter,” coming out with whatever he is thinking, with no filter. Will tries to be the amiable one, and Sam, the middle child, seems to be neutral about most issues…until suddenly, he seems to rebel. Jack is described as the obnoxious one…and Tom, the baby, has often required looking after by the others.

How they each react to the potential interlopers, the two other putative sons from a different mother, tells us a lot about their characters.

We also learn more about the dynamics of the family members as we see glimpses of the past. I liked learning more about Rupert, about how he met Eleanor, but we also catch a glimpse of his relationship with Vera, the woman who sues the estate. Was he the father of her two sons? Or was there more to the story? A few more surprises pop up along the way, with an ending that left some more questions in a satisfying way. 4 stars.***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE HEIRS”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is The Heirs, by Susan Rieger, a riveting portrait of a family, told with compassion, insight, and wit, The Heirs wrestles with the tangled nature of inheritance and legacy for one unforgettable, patrician New York family. Moving seamlessly through a constellation of rich, arresting voices, The Heirs is a tale out of Edith Wharton for the 21st century.

 

Beginning:  (Eleanor, He that dies pays all debts)

When he was dying, Rupert Falkes had the best care money could buy.  His wife, Eleanor, saw to that.  After the last round of chemo failed, she installed him in New York-Presbyterian in a large, comfortable, private room with a window facing the Hudson.  She could have put him in hospice but she knew that in his rare moments of lucidity, he’d want to be in a hospital.  He’d fought the prostate cancer tooth and nail, and even when it took over his bones, inflicting almost unbearable pain, he fought on.  He wasn’t ready to go.

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Friday 56:  “I don’t think mother and daughter have much to say for themselves,” Rupert said to Eleanor as they crossed the park in a cab.  He stopped, remembering his late mother-in-law.  “It’s good for your father.  Mrs. Cantwell is so very fond of him.  The way she looks at him must give him happiness.”

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Synopsis:  Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him. In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure.

Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together — Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm — and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor. The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty – a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor’s sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.

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What do you think?  Do the snippets pique your curiosity?

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COFFEE CHAT: BOOKS, MOVIES, & VICARIOUS TRAVELS

Good morning!  Let’s have another cup of coffee and chat.  Connect with other friends over at Bookishly Boisterous.

The sofa (above) is the one in my office, where I have been hanging out lately.  There is a nice TV in the room now…and my laptop, too, of course (below).

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  • While I have been nesting in my cozy spots, my second son Brett has been in Spain, Ibiza, and now Prague…where his daughter Aubrey will be attending a semester of college.  Here are some of my family members in Prague:

  • My vicarious travels are working for me…so far.  But even though I’m not headed to far off places any time soon, my third son has tempted me with these beach photos near where they live, in the northern part of the state.

  • What else is happening here?  I finished binge-watching Nurse Jackie, and wrote some thoughts about it over at Hump Day Serendipity:  Creating My “Happy Moments.”
  • Bloggiesta has begun….and I had already started ahead of time, as usual.  Check out what I’ve done here…
  • I also watched Season 7 of Offspring....
  • Now I’m ready for the Netflix movie based on Our Souls at Night, with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford….coming September 29!

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Now I’m ready to cozy up with books and movies…but first, I’m going to visit some blogs and chat.

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