HOPE: MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER….

This morning, as I visited blogs and responded to those who visited my Bookish Friday, I noticed my One Word logo in the sidebar at Serendipity….and realized it has been a while.

Has HOPE carried me along on my journey this year?  Am I finding new optimism in my daily life?

Well, some of the time, but then there are times that I flounder and even throw up my hands in dismay.  Like when my skylight cover repeatedly fell during the big winds of this year; or when the wind destroyed my patio umbrella, requiring a new one…and then I had to find someone to set up the new one.

Yes, these are ordinary setbacks.  But in the past month, I have been fighting a skin irritation (allergic reaction to hair dye?), and right now I’m going through it again.  My daughter does my hair and didn’t test the dye this last time, since it’s the same brand she has always used.  But now she is doing some research…and I’m using the hydrocortisone recommended by the doctor…and my skin is on fire, still, but slowly cooling down.

I may have to let my hair go to its natural color, whatever that might be (gray?) until we find a solution.

Meanwhile, I am still reading and somehow, it does distract me enough…but I have to keep cold compresses close by, too, and wash and change the lotion every few hours.

This happened last month, too, and it took a full week to clear up.  I am HOPING that it will clear up sooner this time, but then, that’s just optimism.

My current read is He Said/She Said, by Erin Kelly, a NetGalley review book that has kept me twisted up as the story weaves the past and the present together, giving us bits of information as we move along.

 

Blurb: In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?

15 years later, Kit and Laura married are living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.

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Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author threw some more twists our way.

How scary is it to try to escape the world of “digital footprints”?  I tried to imagine living off the grid, and realized, along with these characters, that it is nearly impossible.

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I have two more NetGalley review books to be released soon:

Beach House for Rent, by Mary Alice Monroe, and The Breakdown, by B. A. Paris. (6/20/17)

 

Then Every Last Lie, by Mary Kubica, is on my shelf and will be released on 6/27/17.

 

 

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I am hoping to love each of these…and then it’s on to July, where I have three more books from NetGalley.  A busy summer ahead!

Now…if I can only stay free of skin allergies/infections…and broken things in the house…sigh.

Check out my new patio umbrella through the window.

 

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What is your One Word?  Are you keeping it in your sights on this journey through 2017?

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REVIEW: A WINDOW OPENS, BY ELISABETH EGAN

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Alice Pearse and Nicholas Bauer have been married for thirteen years. With three kids—Margo, Oliver, and Georgie—their plates are full. Alice works part-time for a magazine, and Nicholas works for a law firm.They are managing fairly well until Nicholas is told he will not be promoted, so he loses his temper….then quits. Now he will be starting his own practice. But with the loss of his income, Alice must find full-time work.

Her quest leads her to a start-up company that will change the face of the bookish world. Those in charge of the company describe what they hope to accomplish as creating “retail lounges” for readers. And the concept sounds exciting.

Susanna owns a “board and brick” bookstore that will be impacted by this kind of venture. As Alice’s best friend, she feels betrayed and is less than supportive.

Meanwhile, Alice’s dad, who suffered the loss of his larynx due to cancer, has just had some devastating news. How will the family manage to deal with what lies ahead?

How will Alice find her way through the maelstrom of this new normal? Can her demanding new job provide enough extra money to make up for her hours away from the family? Will some new disappointing discoveries about the start-up change Alice’s life, going forward?

As the characters struggled, I found some of them more relatable than others. Yes, Alice had made the choice that would now lead to more new tasks in her life, but I couldn’t help but root for her anyway, while disliking how Nicholas chose to handle his challenges. There were some disturbing signs of trouble that kept me turning pages in eager anticipation of solutions, even as I hoped that the characters would find a way to rise above their difficulties.

As usual, the kids were self-absorbed, acting out over the slightest obstacle in their lives. Margo, especially, on the cusp of adolescence, was annoying and unlikeable at times. I felt impatient with each outburst she displayed. Then there were moments when the kids expressed some understanding and growth. Like a real family struggling with real issues, in the end, I could not help but root for all of them…and I loved how the author brought A Window Opens to conclusion. 5 stars.

***This e-ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: WHEN WE FALL, BY EMILY LIEBERT

20821323When Allison Parker and her ten-year-old son Logan leave Manhattan eleven years after her husband’s tragic death, she is hoping to start fresh. Find a new perspective.

The house she finds seems perfect, and it is close to the one owned by her parents, who provide a great support network.

At one of the first school events, however, Allison runs into an old friend: her husband’s best friend Charlie Crane. And with Charlie comes his wife Charlotte, who is a little less than friendly. Charlotte has her own issues of insecurity and her marriage has hit a bumpy path. Plus, her daughter Gia, also ten, is difficult. And probably spoiled.

What will happen when these old and new friends begin to mix? How will Charlotte’s posh friends, Sabrina and Missy, fit into this new arrangement? And then, what will alter everything for Charlotte when her challenging sister Elizabeth instantly connects with Allison?

I found myself rooting for both Allison and Charlotte, but at times, I threw up my hands at Charlotte’s inability to see through her “mean girl” mommy friends. Elizabeth grew on me, especially after seeing her through Allison’s eyes.

A wonderful story of friendship, marriage, and the strains that tug at the newly forming bonds and threaten to sever old bonds, When We Fall was an unputdownable read for me. The ending came a little too swiftly for me; I would have enjoying seeing the unfolding conflicts play out instead of being “told” what happened after the inevitable explosion. However, the story was delightful and fans of family and friendship dramas will enjoy it. 4.0 stars.

MY NEWLY CONFIGURED INTERIOR WORLD

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Welcome to my interior world.  As you enter my living and dining room, you are likely to see an assortment of collections, like the ones on my assorted shelves (above).

I am the first to admit that I have gone a little crazy with the collecting over the years, but this past week has been one of really taking another look at everything.  I have been clearing out drawers, closets, trunks, etc., and that quest has extended into my garage, where I have tackled those see-through bins that contain various collections.  But it was the paperwork I was after this week.  Sorting, shredding, etc.  Read about it at Curl up and Read, My Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts.

The next logical step was to do something about my books.  Yes, those.  At my Weekend Potpourri:  Abandoning the Old Rules, I made a big decision.  I decided to stop participating in my Mt. TBR Challenge, even though I was only four books short of completing it.

Why?  Because none of the remaining books (purchased before 2014) engaged me at all!  There were only nine more of those books, and rather than spend one more day trying to struggle through any of them, I am stacking them in the box for the collection drive.

Turning my attention to my newer books, I am pleased to report that my print volumes are few in number, and half of them were contest wins, so I didn’t purchase that many of these (see below, on the middle stacks, for purchased books); the stack on the far right includes books I purchased to reread:

 

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It is a different story on Sparky (my Kindle).  I have gone a little nuts downloading those books this year.  I did finish all the ones from prior years.

 

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Although I have read a few of the e-books I purchased this year, when I counted up the ones remaining, I was stunned!  Sixty-seven e-books remain!

So it’s a good thing I am going to turn my attention to these books, and have decided to give up challenges.  Now I can do something radical:  something I have been longing to do.  Read whatever my heart desires!

Have you ever done anything like this?  I know that I’ve read that some of you have given up purchasing books at all, using only the library.  I’m not ready for that yet.  But who knows what could happen?

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REVIEW: CIRCLING MY MOTHER, BY MARY GORDON

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As a way of knowing and understanding her mother, the author of Circling My Mother takes us on a journey through the various phases of her mother’s life. Her life in relation to her daughter, but also to various other people, including her parents, her siblings, her husband, her boss of many years, and even the priests she admired along the way.

As a young woman, a young mother, a child among many siblings, and in relation to the other people in her life, her world.

Also as a woman disabled by polio she contracted at age three. How her disabilities affected her life, her perception of herself, and her daughter’s perception of her.

How do the various experiences of the woman, Anna, child of an Irish mother and Italian father, come together to create who she was in her life? Did the pain and anguish of her life turn her into a bitter drunk? Was the senility of her last eleven years a way of coping, of distancing herself from the pain?

As suggested by the title, the journey is a circular one, beginning as the author visits an exhibition of Bonnard’s paintings in a museum. His painting called The Bathroom, was created in 1908, the same year that Anna was born. And on the day of this museum visit, the author is also planning her mother’s ninetieth birthday celebration. A celebration Anna will unlikely experience in any real way, because of her dementia.

In the end, and after her mother’s death, the author revisits Bonnard, and tries to make sense of the parallels she observes between the paintings and her mother’s life.

It is always difficult to truly understand one’s parents, and especially when there were challenges in the relationships.

Sometimes the ambivalence we feel for them distorts what we see. The author here has done a great job of trying to clearly deconstruct her mother’s life and world, including the contradictions in her world view. Her Catholic experiences juxtaposed against her love of pleasurable things. Her work ethic. Her sense of responsibility and independence. The fears brought on by her body’s betrayal, because of the polio, and then later, as she lost most of her abilities, and her awareness. When being independent is a strong value, the loss of it is especially painful.

Sections of the book were tedious, in my opinion, but to give dimension to her portrait of her mother, each part had its place. But nevertheless, because of the tedium, I am granting three stars.

MONDAY FROM THE INTERIOR: A NEW YEAR & NEW CHALLENGES — MAILBOX MONDAY & WHAT ARE YOU READING? — JAN. 7

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Welcome to another week of bookish fun.  Join in with those who celebrate Mailbox Monday, hosted in January by Lori’s Reading Corner; and What Are You Reading?, hosted by Book Journey.

MAILBOX MONDAY:

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This week, I received a book I preordered from Amazon and a free e-book from an author I know.

1.  After the Rain, by Karen White

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From “one of the best new writers on the scene today” (The Huffington Post) comes the sequel to Falling Home, a novel set in the picaresque town of Walton, Georgia, where one woman is about to discover that the best journey is the one that brings you home.…

Freelance photographer Suzanne Paris has been on her own since she was fourteen—and she has no intention of settling down, especially not in a tiny town like Walton, Georgia. She’s here to hide out for a little while, not to form connections. Her survival depends on her ability to slip in and out of people’s lives, on never staying in one place for too long.

But no one in Walton plans on making things easy for Suzanne. For one thing, it’s a town where everyone knows everyone else—and they all seem intent on making Suzanne feel right at home. For another, Suzanne can’t help but feel drawn to this tight-knit community—or to the town’s mayor, Joe Warner, and his six kids. But Suzanne can’t afford to stick around, even if she’s finally found a place where she belongs. Because someone is looking for her—someone who won’t stop until her life is destroyed…

2.  The Devil’s Foothold, by Marilyn Meredith

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Resident Deputy Jessica McGuire’s day starts much the same as usual, but when she jogs by the old family cemetery she discovers the grave of a baby had been dug up and the skeleton missing. It wasn’t much later when Pastor David Tanner reports the theft of a hand-carved redwood cross from his church. Next a baby goat is reported stolen and one of the pastor’s cows discovered mutilated in the field. Jessica and Pastor David team up to investigate these strange occurrences. He is convinced Satan worshiping is going on in their town. Jessica isn’t sure until she discovers a hooded and robed group meeting in the woods who flee upon her arrival. She knows she needs to get to the bottom of things before what’s going on escalates into something worse. Or has it already?

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WHAT ARE YOU READING?

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Welcome to another bookish week:  a time to share our reading, blogging, and life adventures, and a time to enjoy our community of book bloggers.  Since this is our first Monday reading post for the New Year, I’m sure many of you are full of enthusiasm for what you’re planning.  So I hope you’ll come on by and chat!

By now, most of you have already joined some reading challenges and written posts to wrap up 2012.  You may have also made some resolutions for the New Year.  Most of my blogging activity this week has been about those very topics.

On the Blogs:

Monday Potpourri:  The New Year’s Eve Edition

Happy New Year!  Ignite Your Connections

Welcome to 2013:  A New Look & New Adventures

The Month & Year in Review:  Wrapping Up

Come Visit My Reading Room:  December Bookshelf Clearing

Serendipitous Resolutions:  Booking Through Thursday

I Have a Story to Tell (An excerpt)

Sunday Potpourri:  Lost in Books

Reading/Reviews – Click Titles for Reviews:

Potboiler, by Jesse Kellerman

Ragdoll Redeemed, by Dawn Novotny

Deep Connections, by Rebecca Graf (Review will be posted during blog tour on 2/6/13 @ Rainy Days & Mondays)

There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron

What’s Up Next? (Click Titles/Covers for More Info)

1.  A Thousand Pardons, by Jonathan Dee (Amazon Vine review)

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2.  Elly in Bloom (e-book), by Colleen Oakes (review book)

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3.  Don’t Let Me Die in a Motel 6 (e-bo0k), by Amy Wolf (review book)

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And that’s my week….unless I finish all of these, in which case, I have stacks and stacks of waiting books.  What about the rest of you?

WRAP-UP POST: BLOGGIESTA — JAN. 23

I’ve finished my tasks!  I’m all set to go to the Finish Line…and here’s what I’ve accomplished.

Note the list below.  My most time-consuming, yet satisfying tasks involved reinventing my site, with a new name, a new look, and some additional pages.

I created an About page to reflect the mission and purpose of my blog.  I added a “My Review Ratings” page to delineate how I rate books (and the occasional movies) that I review.

When doing these things, the domino effect on my other blogs included changes in link names (to this site from all of my other blogs); plus, I added the ratings page to each of the others.

I participated in four mini-challenges, which were fun.

My total time spent over the three days:  Nine-and-a-half hours.

My List of Goals:

1.  Reexamine the idea behind this blog, and consider renaming it.

2.  Update About Page to reflect these changes.

3.  Experiment with new Word Press themes.

4.  Define review rating system and set up a page for this.

5.  Check all links and update sidebar images/links.

6.  Arrange for guest posts. (request sent; author responded)

8.  Create Image for New Page (Review Ratings)

9.  Participate in some mini-challenges.

10.  Change Title and Look of Blog on Facebook

11.  Update blog links on all sites and website.

12.  Create new blog button.