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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COFFEE CHAT: PAST JOURNEYS…AND LOOKING AHEAD

Good morning!  Let’s grab our coffee and chat.  Join others for this Bookish/Not So Bookish event at Bookishly Boisterous.

The days are cooler, but not enough to turn on the heater.  I’m glad.  I’m also appreciating that we haven’t yet had storms, although they are predicted for the near future.

October and November are busy “birthday” months, between mine, my second son’s, my eldest son’s…and other extended family members.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so I am looking forward to it.  I’ll be joining my daughter with her husband’s family.  Here is last year’s table all ready for the food to be presented.

  • Speaking of interesting or delicious dinners, my daughter and son-in-law drove to the southwest part of the county to dine at The Harris Ranch Restaurant.  It sounds wonderful, right?  But on the way there, you might find yourself choking and coughing from the stench of the ranches/cows/ etc.  My daughter wore this ironic protective gear.

  • Just a few miles farther west of the ranch lies the small town of Coalinga, where I (sadly) lived with my husband and three oldest children from 1971 to 1972.  Fourteen long months that felt like a prison sentence.  LOL.
  • In 1983, there was a devastating earthquake in that town, and as a social worker, I and some colleagues were brought in to help the residents as they struggled through the aftermath.
  • After the earthquake, the rebuilt town was an improved version of where I had lived.  But I will never consider living there again!  Constantly fogged in and surrounded by tumbleweeds and dust, it reminded me of that movie The Last Picture Show.

  • The Harris Ranch Restaurant was built AFTER we left that town; it might have been an incentive to remain (or not).  But before that restaurant rose like a promise on the horizon, there were only two decent places to eat in town.  And two liquor stores.  LOL.
  • Here is my “sad face” while living there:

  • But…without that particular experience, I would not have found the job I had for more than thirty years…and who knows what alternate roads I would have followed?
  • As we head toward Year’s End, I tend to think about the journeys along the way.
  • As for bookish thoughts:  I loved Seven Days of Us and enjoyed The One and Only. (Click titles for reviews).
  • I am currently just finished reading Cold As Ice, Book 6…click for my review.
  • After clearing off my review book shelves a bit, I now have increased my numbers to SEVEN NetGalley books waiting.  But…there are only two for November, and the rest fall into January, April, and May release dates.
  • I do need to cut back on requests!
  • As for purchased books, I have read 101 of those I bought between July 2016 and the present.  Sadly, I keep buying!

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What lies ahead for you?  Where did this week take you?

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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.***

 

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.***

COFFEE CHAT: BOOKS, MOVIES, & OBSESSIONS….

Welcome to another Coffee Chat!  Let’s hop on over to Bookishly Boisterous, and link up.

  • Today (August 31), is my DIL’s birthday, exactly one week after her husband’s (my youngest son).
  • A year ago, my granddaughter and I traveled to the northernmost part of the state to visit them and celebrate on their birthdays.  (Below), see the beauty we enjoyed during that trip.

  • This week, I’ve been catching up on my reading.  I finished a print volume that was sitting on my nightstand, as it was too hefty to take with me when I went out.  (Home, by Harlan Coben – click for my review).  Two other books I finished were, of course, Kindle books:  (After She Fell and The Good Daughter).  When I think of how I resisted the Kindle!  Now I can’t imagine life without it.
  • However, occasionally I find hardcover books on the bargain table…and some books I want are not available in the e-book format.  I’m still waiting for my copy of Did You See Melody?, by Sophie Hannah.  I think it must be coming by pony express!  Oops, I just checked the tracking number, and it arrived today!  Yay!

  • Because Bloggiesta is coming (Sept. 21-24), I’ve been working on my Curl up and Read blog.  New theme, header, and background…so far.  I tend to get carried away.
  • My DVR is primed to record two favorite shows tonight:  Younger and The Sinner.  Plus, the movie Jackie.  America’s Queen, one of the books I’m reading (in print format) is about Jackie.
  • See (below), another bookshelf is filling up with recent hardcover purchases.  To the right, in the hallway, you can see my shelves of DVDs.

  • It may be time to do another purge!
  • It’s not that I’m resisting the purge, but the last time I did major culling, it was two years ago, and I literally took away hundreds of books.  I had empty bookshelves in the garage, some of which I’ve given away, too.
  • I do want to continue surrounding myself with shelves of books…so I just have to decide when I have too many.
  • I’ve never been good at deciding the difference between collecting my books…and hoarding them.  I tell myself that, as long as they look nice on the shelves, I’m okay.  LOL.

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So…things to think about.  What are you reading, pondering, or enjoying this week?

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COFFEE MORNING: FAMILY BONDING….& MEMORIES

Good morning, and let’s grab a cup of coffee and chat.  Above, I’ve set my cup down on my Baker’s Rack so I can check out my figurines, like the Wizard of Oz collection that remind me of the journey.  Below, another view of my Wizard of Oz characters that have become a logo for my creations.

 

Coca Cola bears join an assortment of books, mugs, and other bears, like the ones on the bottom shelf.

But…before I get off track, today I’m going back in time, to the place where I grew up.  A place now belonging to my younger brother, who recently enjoyed a visit with his grandchildren there.

Left to Right:  Luc, Gavin, and America, his grandchildren, in the almond orchard:

 

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A close-up of the almond orchard…I recall many walks among these trees….

 

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My brother, Eldon, his wife, Marie, and three grandchildren:  Gavin, America, & Luc…By the big tree that has been there since I was a kid, and before….

 

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Luc is enjoying a ride…in the background, notice the old barn that was there when I was a kid.  It looks like it hasn’t been painted since then, either, but I know it has been.  It used to be red.

 

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Gavin is taking his turn…

 

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Inside the barn, you’ll find my brother’s shop where he creates Signs by Eldon…and his crew of fans:  Luc, Gavin, America, and wife Marie.

 

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Gavin, playing the piano that was also in this home when I lived here, sometime in the mid-20th Century!

 

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A bonding moment between Marie and America, her youngest grandchild…(and only) granddaughter…

 

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Three generations of females:  Marie, Amy, and America….

 

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I think it might be time for a visit IRL….so I’m planning for a getaway to the Northern Central Valley soon.

What do you love about your family moments?  Do they tell a story?  Remind you of the past?

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REVIEW: FAULTLINES, BY BARBARA TAYLOR SISSEL

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It’s the phone call every parent dreads: in the middle of the night, Sandy Cline learns that her twenty-year-old son, Jordan, has been in a car accident. Her nephew, Travis, was also in the car, along with Travis’s girlfriend. All three are alive—but barely. The car was smashed against a tree along a remote and winding road, beautiful but deadly, in their rural Texas Hill Country town.

In the wake of the car crash, the close-knit family is tested like never before. Jenna, Travis’s mother, blames Jordan—as well as her sister, Sandy—after reports surface that Jordan had been driving. As the young adults struggle to survive, tension between their parents escalates. But when trust is broken and a shocking family secret is exposed, it creates a perfect storm of harrowing consequences. Rumors in the small town spread like wildfire. When details of the accident are questioned, Sandy and Jenna wonder if their family has been destroyed beyond repair.

 

My Thoughts: From the first moments, I immersed myself in the story of a family suffering one of the worst events that can happen to parents: a child in danger, possibly because of something reckless one of them did. Set in the Texas hill country, in a small town named Wyatt, we are offered a glimpse of the people, the setting, and how families cope in tragic moments.

Sandy, mother to Jordan, is blindsided when her sister Jenna, Travis’s mother, reveals a long-hidden secret in front of the family. And in a hurtful way.

It was easy to see that she acted out of pain, but the consequences would be long-standing, and the bitterness would last for the foreseeable future.

Emmett, Sandy’s husband, reacts to the revelation by leaving Sandy in the lurch…and ultimately, creating another chasm in the family.

Jordan makes another discovery that will lead him to an older woman named Libby Hennessey, whose husband Beck is somehow connected to him.

Meanwhile, so many events seem to collide and come together, in an almost domino effect, that had me, as a reader, wondering how everything would unfold. Why is the small town detective, Officer Huckabee, seemingly targeting Jordan? Why is he obsessed with Jenna, Travis’s mother? Who is cutting up and killing animals and displaying them on Libby’s property?

As the secrets, lies, and mistaken choices slowly come together, Faultlines reveals more of the darkness that lies within a small town and in a family, but also provides a glimpse of moments of healing. A five star read.

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HUMP DAY THOUGHTS: FROM THE FOOTHILLS TO THE CITY…

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Welcome to Hump Day Thoughts….check out the mimosa above.  That was Sunday, but I think I still have some of the ingredients (champagne, orange juice).

When I first brought out my bins with Christmas decorations, the tree above was still hiding on a shelf, so one night, I dragged it out and borrowed some ornaments from one of the other miniatures.  It is a tree that doesn’t require much, so it’s all good.

The little A-frame cabin was one my youngest son sent to me three Christmases ago, and it is reminiscent of the house I had in the foothills for thirteen years….except that A-frame house had a coat of green paint in the photo below.

 

 

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Surrounded by oak and pine trees, it created a feeling of respite from the urban world.  And it brought my four children together on several occasions.

Nowadays, they are all over the place, from Prague, to LA, and to Crescent City.  One remains here in this city, and so do two of the grandchildren.  But we all stay in touch, and sometimes, they come back.  The photo below was taken in 1994. (I think).

 

 

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While we were living there, we hosted some Thanksgiving events, and I enjoy remembering the grandchildren playing on this Tree Fort:  Left to Right, Alec, Aaron, Fiona, and Aubrey.  They are all grown up now (legally, anyway).

 

 

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This photo (below) depicts one of our last Christmases there.  I loved that view from the dining room window, and to the left of what you see here was my computer station, where I created five of my novels.

 

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Creative Corner, way too crammed with STUFF!  LOL:

 

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I like my current creative station:

 

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Reading has gotten off to a slower start this week, but I did finish a short story and one fairly short novel.  My current reads:  The Mothers, by Brit Bennett, and The Sleepwalkers, by Chris Bohjalian.

 

 

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Visiting blogs this morning, I found a book that I had to add to my list…and promptly requested it from NetGalley:

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda, author of All the Missing Girls which I loved this past summer.  The new book is coming in May 2017.

 

 

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Synopsis:  In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls—a “fiendishly plotted thriller” (Publishers Weekly)—a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

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My morning thoughts have swept me from the past, with memories in the A-frame house, to the present, in my new little office nook and all the books I love…and those I want.

What are your thoughts today?  Christmas plans?  Upcoming reads?

I’m linking up to West Metro Mommy Reads for Saturday Snapshot.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the U.S.  May we summon up our gratitude, despite recent events…and especially may we find peace and harmony.

As the turkey bakes and family and friends gather, let’s take a peek of a collage of last year’s Thanksgiving, which includes an event that some of us enjoy every year a couple of days after Turkey Day.

 

 

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Enjoy the upcoming weeks until Christmas!

 

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THANKFULLY ANTICIPATING….

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Thanksgiving is coming soon!  My favorite holiday…So here are some photos from last year, which bring the nostalgia.  They also bring the comfort of that special celebration, as it wraps itself around me.

Below, check out some of last year’s post-Thanksgiving guests, at the gathering we enjoy a couple of days after the Big Event.  So many changes…new partners, new hairstyles, etc.

 

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Check out a collage, that showcases the various 2015 celebrations…

 

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What will this year look like?  Stay tuned for those photos.

Meanwhile, as the year comes to a close, I’m taking a closer look at my TBR Stacks over at Curl up and Read.

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My current read is Two If By Sea, by Jacquelyn Mitchard…

 

 

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart.

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And…the news is now out (my daughter posted it on Facebook!):  She and her fiance got married on November 1.  Just a small ceremony at the courthouse…I think they’re still planning the big event in April.  We’ll see.

I was there for this event, and it was sweet.

 

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Reading has become a solace, a place to hide, and a reminder of how characters face their challenges.  Inspirational moments come through reading.

What does your reading look like these days?

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