REVIEW: BEFORE & AGAIN, BY BARBARA DELINSKY

 

Mackenzie Cooper took her eyes off the road for just a moment but the resulting collision was enough to rob her not only of her beloved daughter but ultimately of her marriage, family, and friends—and thanks to the nonstop media coverage, even her privacy. Now she lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid, in a small house with her cats and dog. She’s thankful for the new friends she’s made—though she can’t risk telling them too much. And she takes satisfaction in working as a makeup artist at the luxurious local spa, helping clients hide the visible outward signs of their weariness, illnesses, and injuries. Covering up scars is a skill she has mastered.

Her only goal is to stay under the radar and make it through her remaining probation. But she isn’t the only one in this peaceful town with secrets. When a friend’s teenage son is thrust into the national spotlight, accused of hacking a powerful man’s Twitter account, Maggie is torn between pulling away and protecting herself—or stepping into the glare to be at their side. As the stunning truth behind their case is slowly revealed, Maggie’s own carefully constructed story begins to unravel as well. She knows all too well that what we need from each other in this difficult world is comfort. But to provide it, sometimes we need to travel far outside our comfort zones.

 

My Thoughts: An emotional tale of family, loss, and starting over, Before and Again captured me from the very first pages.

Maggie, our protagonist, reveals much about what her new life looks like through her first person narrative, but it also gives us glimpses of what she has lost.

How will she deal with the newest scandal in her adopted town? Can she stay under the radar, or will her own back story burst through her carefully constructed mask? As each piece of her past pushes its way through, she gradually begins to realize that sometimes one has to accept the past and all of its pain in order to truly start over.

I loved the setting of her new life, and could feel the warmth and coziness she had created. I also began to realize, along with Maggie, that parts of the past could be woven into the new canvas she has drawn. As we watch the drama unfold, we realize that the life we had before can be remembered with a sense of healing, and when we begin again, we can bring forward the lessons we have learned. A beautiful story that earned 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: A BALANCED WEEK…

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

The week was pretty good, with two books read and reviewed…and six blog posts.  I even had some balance.  I got out of the house, did some more shopping, and now I’m planning for a family lunch at a neighborhood restaurant later today.  Son #2 and his girlfriend have spent the week in Napa…and will pass through our city on the way home.  We will gather the local relatives…and enjoy some visiting.  Here’s a glimpse of an evening of fun in their past week:

After finishing Season II of Marcella on Netflix (which had a startling conclusion!), I began watching #5 of The Ranch...and finished it.  I always ask myself why I’m bothering with the show, as I don’t like the attitudes of the characters, or the way they talk.  I guess they are sort of funny…but they are also very crude and definitely not PC.  So I’m done with them…for now.  LOL.

Now…let’s grab some coffee and take a closer look at my week:

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Rainy Day Excerpts:  “Educated”

Tuesday Potpourri:  Books, Connections, Etc.

Hump Day Reading…

Thursday Potpourri:  A Journey of Ups and Downs…

Coffee Chat:  Cozy Surroundings & Erratic Reading…

Bookish Friday:  “Best Beach Ever”

Review:  Nothing Forgotten, by Jessica Levine (Author Review Request)Review:  The House Swap (e-book), by Rebecca Fleet

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

My mailbox held one author review book; my inbox contained the links to download two library books; and I gave in and purchased one e-book.

The Season of Silver Linings (A Sweet Lake Novel #3), by Christine Nolfi (For Review)

Library Books:

Surprise Me (e-book), by Sophie Kinsella

Love & Ruin (e-book), by Paula McLain

Purchased Download:

The Ever After (e-book), by Sarah Pekkanen

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Currently Reading a NetGalley ARC releasing on June 26: Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky, about a woman in hiding finding the courage to face the world again.

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I need to start reading my new stack of library books…I got a slew of them at once!  Maybe next I’ll pick up Educated, by Tara Westover…

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That was my week.  What did yours look like?  Check out this delicious cake…and enjoy your upcoming week.

 

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COFFEE CHAT: COZY SURROUNDINGS & ERRATIC READING…

Welcome to another Coffee Chat in which we share some bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts.

As I look around at my cozy nook (above), with books and my laptop nearby, I am grateful for my days that are all about reading, blogging, and movie-watching.  Exercise is good, too.  I am now regularly working out on my recumbent bike, and I am feeling stronger each day.  Since I get up early and stay up late, I also find time for a little power nap midday…without feeling the least bit guilty about it.

  • Today my reading and Netflix watching were sporadic.  I would start one book and then set it aside.  And on Netflix and Amazon Prime, I would begin a movie or show…and then hop over to something else.  However, I did watch all of the newest episode on The Handmaid’s Tale (on Hulu).  I am hoping that somehow the Handmaids will escape.

  • I got a new mani the other day, with a new color:  burgundy?

  • Bloggiesta hasn’t officially started yet, but I’m already working on my blogs.  My primary target will be Rainy Days & Mondays, and here’s my new facelift.

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What does your week look like so far?  What, if any, plans do you have for the weekend?

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WEEKLY UPDATES: AN ERRATIC WEEK…

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

My week was erratic, with errands, a meet up with a friend, a little bit of reading (only two books read & reviewed), and eight blog posts (other than the reviews).  Some TV, Hulu, and Netflix watching rounded things out nicely.  I finished Safe, watched another episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’ll be starting Season II of Marcella today.

I can report that one of my reads was fabulous, earning five stars, while the other was a bit disappointing.

Let’s grab some coffee and take a closer look.  Here I am in my office, sipping coffee with breakfast as I contemplate the week.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  Anticipation…and Disappointment…

Mini-Bloggiesta:  Let’s Party!

Rainy Day Excerpts:  “Manhattan Beach”

Hump Day Potpourri:  My Reading Week…

Review Books 2018:  Check My Progress!

Coffee Chat:  A Few Adventures, Some Binge-Watching, & a Little Reading…

Bookish Friday:  “The House Swap”

A Friday for Reading…and Pampering…

Review:  Bring Me Back (e-book), by B. A. Paris – (NG-6/19)Review:  Manhattan Beach (e-book), by Jennifer Egan (Library Book)

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

One purchased book arrived in my physical mailbox; two books came from the library; and I purchased one e-book.

My Girls:  A Lifetime with Carrie & Debbie, by Todd Fisher

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Library Books:

Educated (e-book), by Tara Westover

The Beach House (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe

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Purchased:

Dreams of Falling (e-book), by Karen White

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I have one more NetGalley Review book to read by June 26…so I may wait until next week to dive into it.  I also have another print review book to read, but I need something lighter for now…so another thriller is my current read:

The House Swap (e-book), by Rebecca Fleet

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And next:

Nothing Forgotten, by Jessica Levine (Author Review Request)

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So…that was my week.  Let’s hope for more reading in the upcoming week.  What did your week look like?  Meanwhile, check out my red velvet cake from last night.  I brought half of it home to enjoy this weekend.

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COFFEE CHAT: A FEW ADVENTURES, SOME BINGE-WATCHING, & A LITTLE READING…

Welcome to another Coffee Chat in which we share some bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts.

This morning I woke up at my usual early time (6:00 a.m.) and thought about having a lie-in.  When did I have one last?  As I lay there, trying to decide, I started thinking about the week, and pondering what to write about it in this post…and the next thing I knew, I was out of bed, going through my routines, and turning on the computer.  Since it’s Thursday, I had to think hard to recall what, if anything, I had accomplished this week.  A lot of running around on errands, plus some shopping for birthday stuff for upcoming birthdays.  Aaron, my youngest 20-something grandson, just turned 20 on the fifth. (He joins two siblings and two cousins who are also 20-something).  See, below, a photo of the young man, his dad (Brett) and his siblings.  Aaron is the tallest.  You might think the others are short, but they are also tall, ranging from 5’10” (Aubrey) to 6’6 or 7″ (Aaron).  Alec, on the far right, has a birthday next week!  He just graduated from UC Berkeley a couple of weeks ago.

 

  • Yesterday I enjoyed a respite from errands and had coffee with a friend at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.  On the top right of the photo, catch a glimpse of the wall art:   assorted “book covers” are arranged around the shop.

  • After coffee, we were drawn to the books.  I found one that I had ordered from Amazon, which will be arriving later today.  I couldn’t resist looking through it, to check out some of the photos and memorabilia (more than 32 pages).  Lovely!  That’s why I ordered  a hardcover version instead of an e-book:  My Girls:  A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie, by Todd Fisher…

  • At home, I finished Bring Me Back, by B. A. Paris, a NetGalley review book being released on 6/19. (Click title for review).
  • I am currently reading a library book, Manhattan Beach, but not moving along very quickly…only 20% in.  I need to hurry, as I got another library book notice, and downloaded the book today:  The Beach House, by Mary Alice Monroe.  I had recently seen the Hallmark Movie based on the book…and had to request it from the library.
  • These library book notices appear in my inbox at least every week, so far.  I am enjoying not having to buy everything that I want to read!  Between the library books and review books, I keep busy.  I still have a hefty TBR of purchased books, too.  I’m making a little progress.
  • On 6/22, a Mini-Bloggiesta begins…and, as usual, I’ve started working on a few things.  I picked my Rainy Days and Mondays site as my target this time. (Click the link to see what I’ve done so far).
  • At night I’ve been watching TV shows and Netflix.  The Fosters, a show I’ve followed since its beginning, had three nights of series finale episodes this week.  On Netflix, I finished Season I of Safe, but I’m not sure there will be another season.
  • So…with the TGIT shows on hiatus, maybe I’ll actually get some reading done tonight!

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I think I’m done for now…next I will visit some blogs to catch up on some of your adventures.  What did your week look like?  I know some of you went to BEA.  Share!!

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REVIEW: BRING ME BACK, BY B. A. PARIS

 

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

My Thoughts: A story told by alternating narrators that swings between “then” and “now,” Bring Me Back was a fascinating look at love, loss, and starting over. Except that when Finn starts over after Layla’s disappearance years before, he picks someone a little too close to home: Ellen, Layla’s sister, whom he had never met when he was with Layla. A part of him always wondered about what had happened to Layla, but Ellen has a way of showing a different kind of love. A nurturing kind that offers him care and comfort when Layla had been the needy one.

Just before Ellen and Finn start planning their wedding, a series of strange events begin happening: objects from the past that were significant to Layla and also to Ellen start showing up. Finn tries to protect Ellen and keeps some of these things secret and hidden. But the e-mails make him suspect everyone from his past, especially some who are part of his present life. When Ellen claims to have seen Layla in a nearby village, Finn goes on high alert. A neighbor’s claim to have also seen Layla adds some credence to the possibility that Layla is out there and coming back.

Why are the strange e-mails and sentimental objects appearing now? Who is behind these mysterious messages and sightings, and why does Finn feel a great sense of dread and imminent danger?

Intensity ratchets up as Finn becomes desperate for answers, and Ellen becomes more aloof…until she also disappears.

I had several theories about what was going on, from some kind of psychological disorder to an actual reappearance of Layla. But what actually happened stunned me and kept me off guard as I read. I couldn’t stop turning pages to see what would eventually unfold. A 5 star read.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

WEEKLY UPDATES: A SLOW READING WEEK, ETC.

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

The week started out slowly…and then ended with three books read and reviewed:  one library book, one book purchased, and another from NetGalley.  The remainder of the week was consumed by errands, an annoying smog certificate glitch, and some great Netflix viewing.   The shows I watched were unexpected:  Greenleaf and Emily Owens, M.D.  I discovered both while scrolling through my queue…and then I binge-watched them until completion.  Now I just have to wait for more seasons for some favorites…or the discovery of some other serendipitous movies or shows.

I also continued watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu…and The Good Fight on CBS-All Access.

Let’s grab some coffee (I am in danger of falling asleep!) and take a closer look at the week.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Monday Potpourri:  Objects that Trigger Memories…

Rainy Day Excerpts:  “Shadow Dancing”

Captivating Books…

Coffee Chat:  Odd Bits & Pieces…

Another Month Bites the Dust…Monthly Wrap-Up

Bookish Friday:  “Bring Me Back”

Friday Potpourri:  A Sentimental Journey…

Review:  The Gunners (e-book), by Rebecca Kauffman (Library Book)Review:  Bad Stories, by Steve AlmondReview:  Shadow Dancing (e-book, Country Club Murders), by Julie Mulhern – (NG-6/19/18)

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

I received one book in my physical mailbox; one from NetGalley; and one from the library.  I purchased two e-books.

Castaway Cottage, by Joanne DeMaio (Author Review Request)

When the Lights Go Out (e-book), by Mary Kubica (NG – 9/4)

Manhattan Beach (e-book), by Jennifer Egan (Library Book)

Purchased Downloads:

The Death of Mrs. Westaway (e-book), by Ruth Ware

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties (e-book), by Camille Pagan

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WHAT’S UP NEXT?

Currently Reading:  Bring Me Back (e-book), by B. A. Paris (NG-6/19/18)

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My moods will lead me to more review books…and a few purchases.

That was my week…what did yours look like?  Here is a delightful little dessert I enjoyed on Tuesday evening, after I had that long and tedious day trying to get my smog certificate!  Something chocolate always does the trick.

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REVIEW: SHADOW DANCING, BY JULIE MULHERN

 

Visiting a psychic is outside the norm for Ellison Russell. Finding bodies is not. Unfortunately, the psychic’s crystal ball says she’ll soon be surrounded by death. Again.

Drat.

Now there’s a corpse in the front drive, a witchy neighbor ready to turn Ellison and her (not so) little dog into toadstools, and a stripper named Starry Knight occupying the guest room.

How did 1975 go so wrong so quickly?

Ellison must handle Mother (who’s found a body of her own), make up with a certain handsome detective, and catch a killer, or the death surrounding her might be her own.

My Thoughts: Whenever I open the pages of a new Country Club Murder novel, I know I am in for a treat. Like all the previous novels, Shadow Dancing brings Ellison Russell back to us in a delightful way.

As always, Ellison is up to her eyeballs in murder…and when she visits that psychic, she opens another strange door.

Mr. Coffee feels like another character in these books, as Ellison loves her coffee…and her coffee maker. She regularly talks to hers.

Ellison’s mother Frances Walford is her usual judgmental self, but with her own anxieties in this outing. I always enjoy seeing what she will do next.

Let’s not forget Anarchy Jones, who was on the outs with Ellison at the end of the last book. He is back now, and as protective as ever.

1970s Kansas City reminds me of how I enjoyed that era, with no cell phones and the quirky décor of the homes.

How does Ellison get drawn into the lives of girls working in strip clubs? What will she learn about some of the men who frequent those places? What new danger lurks for her? After several murders and a few red herrings, Ellison figures out who is behind the mayhem. Another 5 star read.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

COFFEE CHAT: ODD BITS & PIECES…

Welcome to another Coffee Chat in which we share some bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts.

The week started off with a relaxing Monday, followed by an odd and hectic Tuesday.  I had to have the smog test done on my car.  The results were not good, with one test failing.  Apparently the engine computer needs to reset after having the battery changed (actually, that work was done a few months ago), and he recommended driving the car for 60-80 miles on the freeway, after which it should pass.  I had never heard of such a thing, but a woman in the waiting room said she had the same problem.  So I spent a couple of hours driving to a southern town (a total of 102 miles round trip), took the car back…and it passed.  Weird, right?

  • Just now I Googled it…and apparently it’s a “thing.”  So…I guess it’s not so good to simply drive around town a lot.  More freeway driving in my future!  A road trip ahead?
  • The whole day was gobbled up with this nonsense, but since the car passed, I had to reward myself and relax at Mimi’s with this mini-dinner:

  • The rest of the week was spent reading and reviewing one book:  The Gunners, by Rebecca Kauffman (click for my review). 
  • I’m ready to start another June NetGalley arc:  Shadow Dancing, by Julie Mulhern.  I love this funny cozy mystery series.
  • While scrolling through the titles on Netflix, I stumbled upon a dysfunctional family drama called Greenleaf.  Oprah plays a role in the show, which centers around a family that leads a sprawling Memphis megachurch…and there are secrets and scandals.  Those last bits grabbed me, plus the Oprah part.  I soon found myself addicted to it.
  • I’ve finished the two available seasons…and I’m curious about what happens next.
  • Do you ever do that?  Stumble upon something that doesn’t seem like your “thing,” only to surprise yourself with how it draws you in?
  • I’ve decided that the drama, scandal, and family dysfunction are actually my catnip, no matter how they are presented.
  • Today I have a hair styling appointment…my bangs are almost covering my eyes.  I sent my daughter a funny text with an emoji of hair covering my face…asking if she could help.  She did her “ha-ha” reply and scheduled an appointment for me.
  • So…that’s happening this afternoon, and now I must decide what to do with the rest of the morning.  Read, visit blogs, CLEAN MY CLOSET?  No on the last thing.  LOL

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How is your week shaping up?  Any drama…or delightful events?

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WEEKLY UPDATES: READING, BLOGGING, VIEWING…

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

I enjoyed the week, starting with last weekend when I watched my recording of the Royal Wedding.  I loved it!  Afterwards, I spent the week reading and reviewing four books; enjoyed some outside activities, including shopping; and the movie  Book Club.  My Hulu and Netflix moments have included The Handmaid’s Tale and Imposters.

I’ve also been following the show Sweetbitter, on STARZ, and hope to actually read the book on which it’s based.  That book has been resting on Pippa for a while.

My exercise regime of bicycling while movie watching has been beneficial.  I hope to do more walking outdoors, too, so maybe I’ll walk at the mall.  My neighborhood walks are boring, and there are too many dogs!  LOL.

Let’s grab some coffee and get into the nitty-gritty of my week.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Rainy Day Excerpts:  “The Gunners”

Tuesday Potpourri:  Book Releases, Etc.

Hump Day Potpourri:  Engaging Books…

Thursday Potpourri:  Spring Days, Past & Present…

Coffee Chat:  A Week to Savor…

Bookish Friday:  “Lying in Wait”

Review:  Beach Bliss (e-book), by Joanne DeMaio – (Author Review Request)Review:  The Perfect Mother (e-book), by Aimee MolloyReview:  I Am I Am I Am (e-book), by Maggie O’FarrellReview:  Lying in Wait (e-book), by Liz Nugent – (NG-6/12/18)

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INCOMING BOOKS:  (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty mailbox!  I did download two purchased e-books.

Best Beach Ever (e-book, Ten Beach Road Series), by Wendy Wax

The House Swap (e-book), by Rebecca Fleet

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WHAT’S NEXT:

Currently reading my library book, The Gunners, by Rebecca Kauffman

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Then I am ready to start reading more of my June NetGalley ARCS…and catch up on books that have been languishing on Pippa, my Kindle.

What did your week look like?  In addition to my assorted activities, I had this piece of pie the other night:  Coconut Cream.

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