REVIEW: THE GRAMMARIANS, BY CATHLEEN SCHINE

 

The Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition.

My Thoughts: The story of Laurel and Daphne, identical twins, shows their lives and its ups and downs, from the extreme closeness of their childhood to the rifts that came in adulthood. The Grammarians was a story about family, about words, about the stories told by the people in a family when they’re trying to make sense of their relationships.

I loved how the big Webster dictionary given to the girls at an early age held pride of place on its own stand and came to represent the important themes of their lives. Almost like another member of their family. In the end, we come to imagine how their lives will unfold and how the rifts will heal, and what will finally bring them together again. 4.5 stars.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: ANOTHER ENGAGING 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.

Here we are, halfway through August, and my reading and blogging are almost up to normal.  I read and reviewed three books, and I’m halfway through a fourth one. I wrote four posts.  I had no doctor appointments, but did need to go downtown for a business matter.  On Friday, my #2 son came for dinner on his way to Sacramento…and will come back through on Sunday.  I’m eating some yogurt as I type this, since my granddaughter just took me to the grocery store.  I didn’t feel like going to the dining room, so for those times, I needed to stock up on the items that I can enjoy here.

It’s too late in the day for coffee, but in anticipation of my first cup tomorrow morning, let’s take a peek at some…and at my blog details.  The photo below is a nice reminder of my previous residence…I do miss it.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Tuesday Excerpts:  “The Long Call”

Tuesday Potpourri:  New & Eagerly Anticipated Books

Coffee Chat:  Reorganizing My Topsy-Turvy Life…

Bookish Friday:  “Good Luck with That”

Review:  The Comforts of Home, by Susan HillReview:  My Ex-Life, by Stephen McCauleyReview:  Telephone Line, by Julie Mulhern (Country Club Murders #9)

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INCOMING BOOKS:

One book came in my mailbox…and I received one NetGalley ARC.  I also downloaded three e-books.

At Home in the World, by Joyce Maynard, a book that somehow slipped away from me during the move…so I had to replace it.  It is definitely a  reread kind of memoir.

Synopsis:  In the spring of 1972, Joyce Maynard, a freshman at Yale, published a cover story in The New York Times Magazine about life in the sixties. Among the many letters of praise, offers for writing assignments, and request for interviews was a one-page letter from the famously reclusive author, J.D. Salinger.

Don’t Go Away Sad is the story of a girl who loved and lived with J.D. Salinger, and the woman she became. A crucial turning point in Joyce Maynard’s life occurred when her own daughter turned eighteen–the age Maynard was when Salinger first approached her. Breaking a twenty-five year silence, Joyce Maynard addresses her relationship with Salinger for the first time, as well as the complicated , troubled and yet creative nature of her youth and family. She vividly describes the details of the times and her life with the finesse of a natural storyteller.

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Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain – NG – 1/14/20

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Downloads:

The Perfect Son, by Lauren North

Telephone Line, by Julie Mulhern (#9 – Country Club Murders)

The Object of My Affection, by Stephen McCauley

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I’m halfway through The Object of My Affection...and then will tackle some September NetGalley ARCs.

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That was my week.  What did yours look like?  Last night, I enjoyed a delicious meal of salmon with family.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: WE GATHERED TOGETHER…

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.

 

Thanksgiving week flew by, with family and friends joining me for good eats.  First my #2 son, his three adult children, and three other grandchildren gathered at Yard House for a pre-holiday lunch.  We had lots of good conversation, laughter, and have this photo to remind us of our time together.

On the following day, I joined some friends for a traditional turkey dinner.  As we ate and shared our stories, we reminded ourselves of how many years ago we began these gatherings:  they started way back in the early 1970s.  Some years we missed along the way, but it was great to revisit old times together.

While my week was full of such events, I did finish reading and reviewing three books.  I also enjoyed some Amazon Prime shows, like Season 8 of Doc Martin, and I also began another season of Vera.

I wrote six blog posts…and my three reviews.

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LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

A Look Back:  Reshaping the Events of Loss

Rainy Day Excerpts:  “Gone So Long”

Tuesday Potpourri:  Gathering Together Books, Family, & Friends

WWW:  A Week of Engaging Books…

Coffee Chat:  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Bookish Friday:  “Night of Miracles”

Review:  The Three Beths (e-book), by Jeff AbbottReview:  The Other Wife (e-book), by Michael RobothamReview:  Night of Miracles (e-book), by Elizabeth Berg

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty physical mailbox!  I did receive one review ARC from NetGalley, and I downloaded four purchased e-books:

Things You Save in a Fire (e-book), by Katherine Center – (NG – 8/13/19)

Purchased e-books:

Emily, Alone (e-book), by Stewart O’Nan

After Nightfall (e-book), by A. J. Banner

The Comforts of Home (e-book), by Susan Hill

The Liar’s Wife (e-book), by Samantha Hayes

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Currently Reading:  Under My Skin (e-book), by Lisa Unger

Then I plan to grab books that call to me…

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That was my week.  What did yours look like?  I enjoyed this Pomegranate Press Martini while waiting for my family to arrive at Yard House.  It was delicious!

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WEEKLY UPDATES: HOLDING ON TO HOPE…

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.

 

Cooler days make for cozy nights curled up under favorite throws.  But outside, and lurking not that far away, are the wildfires.  And the smoky air that is part of our lives these days keeps us on alert.  Even though the wildfires are in other parts of the state (for now), we are hypervigilant..constantly aware of what could come.  Every part of our country has had disasters of one kind or another this year, and it is hard to fend off the sense of foreboding.

Reading, binge-watching shows and movies, and trying to connect with family and friends…these activities are signs of our hope and optimism.  I had an excellent reading week:  three books read and reviewed, and each one was a page turner.  I finished watching House of Cards Season 6 ( which I found disappointing, sigh), and yesterday, I started watching The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, and Nancy Travis…among others.  I enjoyed it so much that I’ve watched all episodes but one.  I saved that one for today.

Today is my eldest son’s birthday!  I won’t tell you how old he is, since that would age me as well.  LOL.  He is across the world in Prague…and I miss him and his wife Gabi.  Here they were three years ago when they visited.  So long ago!

I want to see Widows at the neighborhood theater…today, perhaps.  A great cast that includes Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, among others, “Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities.

I need to distract myself…and inside the theater, I’ll feel connected to something other than the frightening events in our lives.

Now…let’s grab another cup of coffee…and take a peek at the details of my week.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  Treats, Reading, & Shoes…

Rainy Day Excerpts:  “The Family at No. 13”

WWW Wednesdays:  A Great Week So Far…

Coffee Chat:  Anticipating Pumpkin Day!

Bookish Friday:  “The Three Beths”

Review:  Her Pretty Face (e-book), by Robyn HardingReview:  Three Days Missing (e-book), by Kimberly BelleReview:  Winter in Paradise (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

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INCOMING BOOKS-(Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon):

One book that I purchased came in my physical mailbox!  Then I received a NetGalley ARC.  I bought two downloaded books to round out my week.

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

NetGalley ARC: Release Date – 2/5/19

The Winter Sister (e-book), by Megan Collins

Downloaded Books (Purchased):

Night of Miracles (e-book), by Elizabeth Berg

The Family at No. 13 (e-book), by S.D. Monaghan

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I flipped through my ever-present notebook today, hoping to find just the right “up-next books”…and it was hard to select them!  I have quite a few that I want to read, and soon.  But here’s a start:

Under My Skin (e-book), by Lisa Unger

From New York Times bestselling author and master of suspense Lisa Unger comes an addictive psychological thriller about a woman on the hunt for her husband’s killer.

Then…how about this one?

The Three Beths (e-book), by Jeff Abbott

A psychologically intense and emotionally gripping new suspense novel about a daughter’s desperate search for her missing mother-one that may lead her closer to home than she ever anticipated.

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So…that’s my week:  intense, cozy, and anxious…let’s focus on the cozy.  What did yours look like?  I usually share lunch or dinner foods, but today I’m feeling like breakfast.  I enjoyed French Toast one morning while I was running errands.

 

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FRIDAY CHAT: HOLIDAYS, FRIENDS, FAMILY….

Good morning!  It’s Friday, and we’re less than two weeks away from my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  The above collage is on my Facebook page, and it shows some of my favorite things about that holiday:  Turkey, stuffing, wine, and pumpkin pie.

I will be celebrating with family and/or friends.  I have invitations to two events, and this year, I’m going with the friends’ invite.  Not that I’m dissing family, but I like to change things up, and some of my favorite holidays have been celebrated with a group of assorted cohorts in this friend’s home.  We met in 1972, and over the years we have celebrated many holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve!

 

I will also join with family on the following weekend, as my #2 son will be driving through our city, as usual, to gather around a table in a neighborhood restaurant.  Here we were last year.

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Today I found a photo I like of my daughter…and a special friend.

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What are your holiday plans?  Family, friends, or both?

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REVIEW: AFTER ANNA, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE


 

Dr. Noah Alderman, a widower and single father, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie Ippolitti, and for the first time in a long time, he and his young son are happy. Despite her longing for the daughter she hasn’t seen since she was a baby, Maggie is happy too, and she’s even more overjoyed when she unexpectedly gets another chance to be a mother to the child she thought she’d lost forever, her only daughter Anna. 

Maggie and Noah know that having Anna around will change their lives, but they would never have guessed that everything would go wrong, and so quickly. Anna turns out to be a gorgeous 17-year-old who balks at living under their rules, though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble brewing in a once-perfect marriage and home. 

Events take a heartbreaking turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused and tried for the heinous crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her daughter, but the realization that Anna’s murder may have been at the hands of a husband she loves. In the wake of this tragedy, new information drives Maggie to search for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined. 


My Thoughts: Alternating narratives take the reader back and forth in time through the riveting pages of After Anna.

How could their lives have turned upside down so quickly? And how could they have seen any of it coming? Is Maggie in denial about her husband…or about her daughter? Has Noah made some foolish choices that have come back to haunt him?

As I rapidly turned the pages, I came to my own interpretation of events, some of which I took away from years of working with dysfunctional families and with people who have completely opposing versions of the truth. In this case, there are at least two sides to the truth…but then there can also be an unexpected player in this family tragedy.

From the beginning, I did not like Anna, but understood how Maggie could be fooled by her. After all, she was suffering from the guilt of having lost her child in infancy. Now she has to make up for their losses, which means that she has blinders on and misses all the red flags.

Noah did not do himself any favors when he failed to share his own qualms…but then again, a man in this scenario is often unaware of the manipulations going on around him.

Just when we thought all was settled, albeit not very happily, we are thrown off course by some startling revelations that changed everything we thought we knew. As a result, we enjoyed a very satisfactory conclusion. 5 stars.


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

COFFEE CHAT: BOOKS, MOVIES, ETC.

Welcome to another Coffee Chat, featuring our bookish and not so bookish thoughts, hosted by Bookishly Boisterous.

The weather has turned mild again, with 70-something temperatures.  No rain for several days, but while we had the rain, I found my reading mojo again…and so far this week, I’ve read and reviewed three books and I’m well into my fourth.  Two were NetGalley ARCs:  The Good Liar, by Catherine McKenzie and Other People’s Houses, by Abbi Waxman; (click for my reviews).  The third was a library book:  Map of the Heart, by Susan Wiggs (click for my review).

  • Now I’m reading and loving another library book:  Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson.
  • I’m slowly learning the ins and outs of navigating Libby @Overdrive.  Figuring out how long I have to wait for each book.  So far, I’ve already downloaded three books as “loans.”
  • Son #2 took a road trip this week with his three kids, Alec, Aubrey, & Aaron; here’s a shot of them at the Grand Canyon…beautiful setting!

  • Here are Brett and two of the kids taking selfies:

 

  • I thought my youngest grandson (age 15) would be spending the weekend, but he’s going to his dad’s instead.  That works, as now I won’t have to scramble to arrange activities during the Easter weekend.
  • Speaking of Easter, I loved finding adorable photos of my great-grandniece, Margaret, who looks ready for spring in this one:

  • And doesn’t she look grown up in this shot?  Is that hot chocolate?

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How is your week shaping up?  Do you have plans for the weekend?

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REVIEW: LOOK FOR ME, BY LISA GARDNER

 

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.

My Thoughts: A multi-layered story, Look for Me takes the reader along on a journey to find a killer and a missing girl.

Our narrators are D. D. Warren, a detective with the Boston P.D., and Flora Dane, the famously abducted woman held captive for 472 days…and who now has taken on a vigilante role. But she also helps other young women to protect themselves and move on.

The three children in the Baez family spent time in foster care, during which they were abused by other teens in the home. By the time their mother got them back again, they were broken and damaged, but hoping for a better life. Nothing worked out the way they had planned, for they were thrust, once again, into the school where their enemies from care could keep torturing them.

Who had killed the four members of a family? Why did the oldest girl, Roxanna, run? Did she have anything to do with the killings? Or had she somehow escaped, but would become the next target? Did the time in foster care have something to do with the killings? Was someone worried about possible charges being brought against the abusers in the home?

I enjoyed trying to figure out who could have killed the family, and I liked how D. D.’s mind worked in trying to eliminate suspects and zero in on the perpetrator(s).

Flora, whose first person narrative brought the reader into her mind and her thoughts, was interesting and likable, except to D. D., who mostly wished she didn’t have to keep her in line while she “helped.”

Alternating with the other POVs was a journal kept by Roxanna, which helped the reader piece together her experiences while in foster care. And at the very heart of the story, was the unexpected perpetrator who seemed the least likely one. A riveting story that earned 5 stars for me.***

REVIEW: THE ALMOST SISTERS, BY JOSHILYN JACKSON

 

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

 

My Thoughts: The first person voice of Leia Birch Briggs brings the reader into The Almost Sisters, the story of a young woman with a unique perspective on life; a woman who, as a girl, was often overshadowed by her stepsister Rachel, the blond pretty one. Rachel, who has a picture perfect life, but who is so determined to hold onto what is hers that she bit Leia when they were toddlers for calling Keith, Rachel’s father, “daddy.”

A girl like Leia has to carve out her own unique world and stand proud when others do not understand her. Even with Leia’s success, Rachel condescends and refers to her work as “your drawings.”

So when Rachel starts having marital problems, I wanted to smirk a little.

Meanwhile, in Birchville, Leia’s grandmother Birchie is going through some medical issues, so Leia, newly pregnant, and not having told anyone about her situation, drives to the rescue.

A lovely story that captivated me from the very beginning, I wanted to root for them all, even Rachel, eventually. The flavor of the South drew me in, as each character revealed his or her unique Southern charm…and sometimes meanness.

I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to them all. Would Leia and her baby daddy reconnect? Would Rachel soften up her hard, mean shell? And how would Birchie’s secret change their lives? 5 stars.***

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.

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