REVIEW: A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS, BY ASHLEY HAY

 

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

My Thoughts: Like a character in its own right, the small cottage in Brisbane was home to Elsie Gormley, her husband Clem, and her twins, Don and Elaine. After Elsie moved into a care facility, her grown children sold the house to Ben Carter, Lucy Kiss and their young son Tom.

A Hundred Small Lessons is an unfolding of their life stories, through alternating narratives. We visualize them in the past and the present, in a non-linear fashion, and occasionally, they almost seem to be in the same time/space spectrum, crossing paths in the old house as they experience significant moments.

Sometimes Lucy feels Elsie’s presence, almost as if the old woman has come to visit in the middle of the night. Mysterious things happen…like roses appearing from an unknown giver. Lucy believes that Elsie is there with her, possibly even speaking to her…but Ben dismisses these “happenings” as Lucy’s imagination.

I loved the image of characters connecting at various points in their journeys…and seemingly walking similar pathways, while experiencing their lives in different eras, from the 1940s to the present. A poignant story that also reminds us of the passage of time and the memories that sustain us. 4.5 stars.

***
Advertisements

A MORNING OF COFFEE MISHAPS…

Good morning!  It’s Friday, and I was looking forward to my usual morning routines:  coffee, blog visiting, and reading.

But the day started off terribly, with the coffee pot going into a kind of psycho mode, making loud noises…and not delivering anything.

I checked…yes, there was water.  Hmm.  So out came the Coffee Pot trouble-shooting guide.  I tried several things…and then ended up having to start over, with new water, a cool and dry pot, and a fresh filter with the grounds.  Finally!  A pot delivered.

By then, however, I was stressed…and frustrated.  And not at all happy with how my morning was unfolding.

So…these events are responsible for what happened next.  I visited blogs, read e-mails, and downloaded two new e-books I hadn’t planned on buying just yet.

I Am Watching You (e-book), by Teresa Driscoll, which was listed in an e-mail about popular 2017 books:

What would it take to make you intervene?

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared….

***

On a blog I visited this morning (Literary Feline), I found this one, and couldn’t resist:

These Violent Delights (e-book), by Victoria Namkung

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.

***

Just when I was congratulating myself on how my “purchased books” list this month was showing my ability to resist new books…well, now I have purchased EIGHT books during the month.  Of course I bought twelve in November…so I could still end the month on a good note.

***

But I can’t resist books that speak to me.  What about you?  Are you eager to grab books that resonate with you?

***

COFFEE CHAT: AT HOME & ABROAD…

Good morning!  Let’s grab some coffee and chat about our Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts.  Check in at Bookishly Boisterous to see what others are doing and saying.

What a year we have had!  I can’t believe it is almost over, but in many ways, I will be glad to leave it behind.

Watching Hallmark Christmas Movies has been helping me feel the season…and I’ve even grabbed a little joy along the way.

Netflix (and Amazon Prime) have brought some great shows…and the most recent ones I’ve enjoyed:  The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) and Season II of The Crown (Netflix).

  • This week’s reading:  two books read and reviewed so far:  Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart; and A Season to Lie, by Emily Littlejohn. (Click titles for my reviews).
  • I just started reading A Hundred Small Lessons, by Ashley Hay.  So far, I’m fascinated by the alternating narrators, from the elderly woman who has been moved into a care facility after 60 years in her home, to the young couple who has bought the house.  ” An emotionally resonant and profound new novel of two families, interconnected through the house that bears witness to their lives.”
  • Today is manicure day again…and I’m considering a new color.  I do love the glittery blue I’ve had for a while, however.
  • My granddaughter Aubrey has been capturing images in Poland recently.  Her semester in Prague has allowed her to visit some nearby places…and one of them is very sad:  Auschwitz,  a reminder of what can happen when evil is allowed to flourish.

  • On a more uplifting note, the Krakow Christmas Mart:

  • Last weekend, my youngest grandson stayed with me while his parents were away.  He set up his X-Box in the bedroom…and didn’t even leave his post for food.  He munched the pizza slices I bought while continuing to play.  Considering my obsession with my laptop…and with Netflix, I can’t really comment on it.  LOL

***

That’s my week so far…what does yours look like?

***

COFFEE CHAT: MOVIES, READING, & HAIR STYLING…

It’s time to grab some coffee and chat.  Head on over to Bookishly Boisterous to see what others are talking about.

So far the week has been busy, and not just with reading and blogging.

On Saturday, I finally saw the movie Lady Bird, set in Sacramento…where I spent some happy days in my younger years.

  • I was hoping to see Billboards...but haven’t done so yet.
  • On Tuesday, I had lunch with my daughter…she hates this photo…

  • After lunch, she stripped the color from my hair and added silver…I’m tired of watching the uneven outgrowth, and can’t use hair dye anymore.  Here’s what she did…

  • I started watching Alias Grace on Netflix…now I want to read the book.
  • I am very eager to watch Season II of The Crown…coming Friday…
  • I finally did some calendar shopping at Barnes & Noble…I had coupons, so I hurried on over there.  I used to buy so many calendars, but now I just buy three:  A Mary Engelbreit for the kitchen; an Irish Countryside for my bedroom; and something artsy for the office (this time I got Georgia O’Keeffe).
  • So far this week, I’ve read and reviewed A Bella Flora Christmas, by Wendy Wax; and The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – (NetGalley – 1/9/18)
  • Currently reading Fragments of the Lost, by Megan Miranda…which is okay, but the pace is pretty slow so far.  I will keep reading, though, as it’s interesting.
  • I hope to read Little Broken Things this week, too.
  • “If you liked Big Little Lies, you’ll want to crack open this new novel by Nicole Baart.” —Southern Living “Steeped in menace, Baart’s latest is a race-to-the-finish family drama.” —People

***

So that’s my week so far…what is happening in your corner of the world?

***

COFFEE CHAT: IN THE MOOD FOR CHRISTMAS….

Good morning, and welcome to another Coffee Chat,  during which we will share some Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts.  Link up at Bookishly Boisterous.

What a great Thanksgiving holiday we had!  I enjoyed the gathering on the actual day, and then another on the Saturday with family who couldn’t make the Thursday event.  The lunch at Mad Duck near the university was fun, and this photo right outside gives a view of the Maya Theater in the background, a new cinema in the area. 

  • By Sunday, I was ready to turn the page to thoughts of Christmas, and brought out some decorations.   Check out  one of my miniature trees, below, which has photo ornaments of my seven grandchildren from younger years.  On the cupboard in the background, I enjoy sharing my little Boyd’s Bear wearing a Candy Cane suit.

  • My bookish week has been a good one so far.  I read and reviewed Moral Defense, by Marcia Clark, and Without Merit by Colleen Hoover. (Click titles for reviews).  Now I am waffling on what to read next.  I started The Cruelest Month, by Louise Penny, but I haven’t yet connected with the story or the characters.  I did love the first two books in the series, though.
  • Hallmark Channel has been playing in the background each day,  and I’ve watched a variety of Christmas movies so far.  I might have to switch things up, as I could easily be sated by the numerous offerings.
  • I’m still hoping to see the movie Lady Bird, but didn’t make it to the theater on the weekend.  I couldn’t seem to make myself go, between reading, TV movies, Netflix, and Christmas decorating…and just sheer laziness.
  • On December 8, Season II of The Crown is coming to Netflix.  I was hooked on the first season, so I’m excited.
  • The other day, I had dinner at Marie Callender’s again…I chose Shepherd’s Pie, and I brought home a piece of pumpkin pie to eat with my Christmas friends at the pub table.

  • I watched The Talk the other day, and felt nostalgic about seeing Carol Burnett as the guest.  Her 50th anniversary celebration will be on TV this weekend.
  • Now I’m off to watch more movies…and maybe read some more.

***

Come on by with your coffee (or tea!)…and let’s chat.

***

REVIEW: PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, BY JOAN DIDION

Spare, elegant, and terrifying, Play It as It Lays is the unforgettable story of a woman and a society come undone.

Raised in the ghost town of Silver Wells, Nevada, Maria Wyeth is an ex-model and the star of two films directed by her estranged husband, Carter Lang. But in the spiritual desert of 1960s Los Angeles, Maria has lost the plot of her own life. Her daughter, Kate, was born with an “aberrant chemical in her brain.” Her long-troubled marriage has slipped beyond repair, and her disastrous love affairs and strained friendships provide little comfort. Her only escape is to get in her car and drive the freeway—in the fast lane with the radio turned up high—until it runs out “somewhere no place at all where the flawless burning concrete just stopped.” But every ride to nowhere, every sleepless night numbed by pills and booze and sex, makes it harder for Maria to find the meaning in another day.

My Thoughts: Joining the journey of Maria Wyeth in Play It as It Lays felt like a descent. A slow unraveling of a woman who has found no meaning in her life, and who will end up with nothing left.

Mariah has finally come full circle and is under the care of psychiatrists, in a place where she can turn her life over to others.

In a non-linear narrative, we watch Mariah’s life in flashbacks. Anything she sees in the world around her can send her back to moments in another time or place. Some happy moments, and as she grasps for feelings of connection, she can hang on a little longer. Images of her daughter Kate feel the most poignant, and sometimes she seems to be grasping for time with her again, but she also realizes that these hopes are impossible.

Watching a young woman destroy herself slowly, and seeing those around her enable her, felt like an insidious train wreck. Self-destruction takes time, but when it finally happens, you almost feel relieved. A beautifully written story that literally depressed me. 4.5 stars.***

COFFEE CHAT: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Good morning, and Happy Thanksgiving!  It is time to chat over coffee…and share with others linked at Bookishly Boisterous.

It has been a week of reading, errands, a little blogging…and, of course, getting a mani.   Today I’ll be joining my daughter and son-in-law at the home of his family for the traditional dinner.

This week there were movies to watch from my DVR, one of which I found myself caught up in:  A United Kingdom, based on a true story about King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams, put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil.   Starred Rosamund Pike (of Gone Girl). 

  • I’ve read and reviewed two delightful books (so far):  Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin; and Merry & Bright, by Debbie Macomber.  I am almost finished with Bonfire, by Krysten Ritter, a gripping, tightly wound suspense novel about a woman forced to confront her past in the wake of small-town corruption.  Would it be rude for me to take Pippa along to Thanksgiving dinner so I could read if I get bored?  Silly question.  Of course it would be rude.
  • You might say that I am sometimes anti-social when I am gripped by a book.  LOL
  • I do miss my globe-trotting son and daughter-in-law, who are based in Prague, but spent the last couple of weeks in London and then Portugal.  Love these shots, and Gabi adores trees, especially those with fruit:

  • Craig loves interesting buildings and sculptures:

  • Sometimes we only visit via photos, FB, and Skype…but I’ll take what I can get right now.
  • This Saturday, the remnants of our local family will join two of the LA family members at a restaurant we’ve never tried together:  Mad Duck.  I think I mentioned it last week.  There will be nine of us, as the newlywed grandson and wife, Dominic & Julia, will join us after all.

  • So…the week ahead, including today’s events, will remind me of family; my attitude of gratitude is stretching to include these blessings.

***

Enjoy the holiday, if you celebrate it…and definitely savor those books!

***

REVIEW: THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV, BY ELIZABETH BERG

 

For the past six months, Arthur Moses’s days have looked the same: He tends to his rose garden and to Gordon, his cat, then rides the bus to the cemetery to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. The last thing Arthur would imagine is for one unlikely encounter to utterly transform his life.

Eighteen-year-old Maddy Harris is an introspective girl who visits the cemetery to escape the other kids at school. One afternoon she joins Arthur—a gesture that begins a surprising friendship between two lonely souls. Moved by Arthur’s kindness and devotion, Maddy gives him the nickname “Truluv.” As Arthur’s neighbor Lucille moves into their orbit, the unlikely trio band together and, through heartache and hardships, help one another rediscover their own potential to start anew.

My Thoughts: The Story of Arthur Truluv begins with Arthur on an ordinary day, as he goes through his routines. Visiting his late wife Nola’s grave, where he has lunch. It is his way of keeping in touch. He also visits neighboring graves and imagines what the lives of those people were like. He often remembers the moments he and Nola shared as he visits her grave.

One day he meets Maddy at the cemetery, a teenage girl who is isolated and lonely. Her father is isolated, too, still grieving the death of Maddy’s mother, but unable to share his grief with his daughter. Maddy has no friends at school; in fact the other kids often make fun of her.

Lucille, Arthur’s neighbor, reconnected with an old high school friend…but then lost him. She has given up on life now. What can she look forward to now?

Alternating narratives take the reader on the individual journeys of Arthur, Maddy, and Lucille, and reveal how they are beginning together.

An unexpected change in Maddy’s circumstances leads her to accept Arthur’s invitation to move in as his housekeeper.

Nearby, Arthur’s neighbor Lucille invites herself to move in as well. She is one of those people who is bossy and controlling, but gradually she begins to learn, through the example of Maddy and Arthur, that becoming a part of a newly created family means one has to make changes.

I loved how this story showed us the value of young and old joining together to help each other, and to make choices to begin again. As they share their lives, we learn about how unique families are created. Themes of loss, loneliness, and new beginnings kept me reading until the very last page. I will think about this story often. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

***

COFFEE CHAT: TIME TO ENJOY FAMILY…

Another Thursday morning!  It’s time to grab some coffee…and chat.  Let’s link to Bookishly Boisterous to connect with others.

It is almost Turkey Day!  Next week I’ll be joining my daughter and her in-laws for the big dinner…and then on Saturday, my second son and his youngest will drive through our city and meet us local family members at Mad Duck Craft Brewing near the University.

  • I always enjoy these get-togethers, but this year’s event will be short a few family members, like my eldest son who lives in Prague; Alec, my oldest grandson, who will be back in Berkeley; Aubrey, in Prague; my second grandson and his new wife will be celebrating with in-laws; my next-to-youngest grandson lives far away, too, and hasn’t joined us for a few years.  My youngest son and DIL are way up north.  I think they would rather be anywhere but Fresno during the summer’s hot days or the foggy fall/winter ones.  Plus…they have the beach.  LOL.
  • We will have to go there to see them again…soon.
  • We will be joined by my daughter, son-in-law, my grandson Noah and granddaughter Fiona.  We will make it a party of seven.
  • Here is one of our events from years ago (2010) when all seven of my grandchildren attended.  That was an amazing time.

  • I love looking at my photos of times gone by.
  • This week has brought some amazing books to my stack:  I’ve read and reviewed two so far, one of which was a NetGalley ARC; and I’m making headway on a third ARC.  They are:  All the Best People (e-book), by Sonja Yoerg; Poison (e-book, NetGalley), by Galt Niederhoffer; and The Story of Arthur Truluv (e-book, NetGalley), by Elizabeth Berg.
  • Monday I went to lunch with my friend/former colleague of many years; afterwards we saw Murder on the Orient Express.
  • After that amazing day, I ended up staying home and indoors on Tuesday and Wednesday, catching up on DVR shows, and even watching The Talk.  Their guest today was Saoirse Ronan, starring in a new movie called Lady Bird.  I hope to see it this weekend.

  • Now there is nothing left to watch on TV…so I will return to reading.
  • I have also started binge-watching an Australian show on Netflix, Wanted.

***

What does your week look like so far?  Come on by…and let’s chat.

***

REVIEW: THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, BY LIV CONSTANTINE

 

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

My Thoughts: The first half of The Last Mrs. Parrish is told from Amber’s perspective, and while we know that she is manipulative and has a big plan, one that will take her to the life she wants, there are also hints of a life she left behind. A life full of secrets.

Just when it looks like she is right where she wants to be, the story turns around and we see life from the perspective of Daphne, who is not quite the happy woman she appears to be. Her secrets and what she has done to keep them hidden make everything about this story surreal.

Who is the unreliable narrator? What are Amber’s secrets? And how will the two so-called best friends resolve these issues? I couldn’t stop turning the pages, waiting for the final twist that would bring the future that they each deserved. Would justice finally prevail? A tale that had me smiling at the end. 4.5 stars.***