SUNDAY INTERIOR THOUGHTS…

April has been a difficult month over the years, and this one, with the Pandemic, has been a continuation of life’s challenges.  I have lost loved ones in April, over the years, and last year I wrote a post to commemorate some of those losses.

Here is my Coffee Chat from last April:

On Tuesday, I took a nap, and then woke up to the pounding of heavy winds that sounded like thunder.  When my phone rang, I picked up to hear my daughter crying.  Her BFF Jessica’s daughter Paige was killed in a car accident Monday night.  My mind carried me back to those teenage years with Jessica and Monica, close friends to my daughter, and how these women have maintained such a beautiful friendship over the years.  I call them my Other Daughters.  Paige was just a little younger than my 22-year-old granddaughters Fiona and Aubrey.  My mind takes me to a photo my eldest son captured of Fiona and Paige when they were toddlers, with their curly blond hair, looking like twins.   I wish I had that photo now!  To remember.  But here is Paige, on the right, with her mom and siblings:

  • I am sad and feeling the loss, and while I have not personally experienced the loss of a child, I have lost close family members, including several young people  (a niece, a nephew, and a step-granddaughter).  My eldest brother died early, too.  There is nothing that can replace what has been taken from us.
  • While I am trying to concentrate on my reading and blogging, my mind keeps leaping to moments and memories.
  • The horrendous winds of yesterday felt like the fierce storms of life that sweep in and capture our loved ones, with no rhyme or reason.
  • On Monday, I finished reading The Night Visitors, by Carol Goodman; (click title for my review).
  • Wednesday, I finished reading The Editor, by Steven Rowley.
  • Now I’m going to have dinner while watching The Act, on Hulu; Thursday will bring another episode from The Good Fight, on CBS-All Access.

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Today I had a lovely chat with my #2 son, who lives in LA.  He had anticipated a wonderful year running his new Irish pub…and then the Pandemic hit.

He is trying to be optimistic about the future, but none of us can actually predict how this whole Pandemic will play out.

We commiserated with each other and talked about how we are dealing by watching Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.  We also shared our thoughts on how Amazon has filled the gap with shopping needs.

I am loving my bookish moments.  I also had a nice glass of red wine from a bottle brought to me last Monday by my granddaughter.  I finished off the bottle today.  Sigh.

Must buy more!  But I haven’t found any I want on Amazon.

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AN UNEXPECTED LUNCH COMPANION: EXCERPTED FROM “INTERIOR DESIGNS”

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Martha’s assistant, Caroline, enjoys taking a break at a nearby mall…with a good book.  She doesn’t expect to run into the hunk she has been lusting over.  Excerpted from Interior Designs.

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Caroline had lunch in the nearby mall most days.  She would take a book and huddle in a back corner.  Today she was reading something for her book club, thoroughly engrossed in it while waiting for her salad, when the voice she heard catapulted her back from the world within the pages.

 
“Hello, there,” he said, in those deep bass tones.

 
Even before glancing up, she recognized the voice.  She’d seen him around occasionally, even in this very restaurant.  Was that why she came here every day?  Hoping to run into him?  No, surely her mind didn’t work like that.  But she smiled and said, in an innocent, yet curious tone:  “Hi, Mr. Lowenstein.  Are you meeting Ms. Cummings here today?”

 
“No, we’re meeting tomorrow, but not here,” he added.  “I do come in here a lot, though.  You do recall that, don’t you?”  He looked amused.

 
She felt her cheeks redden as she nodded.  “But I didn’t expect to see you today.  How’ve you been?”

 
“May I join you?”  He glanced at the opposite bench in the booth.

 
She didn’t really feel up to companionship, but he was so gorgeous….Was that wrong of her, in light of Martha’s relationship with him?  Of course, who knew if they actually had a relationship?

 
“Sure,” she nodded.  She closed the book and waited for him to say something else.

 
“You and I have been like ships passing in the night,” he commented.

 
“Not really.  Yeah, I’ve noticed you here once in awhile, but that’s not unusual.  Isn’t your office somewhere near here?  And you know that mine is, as well.  Nothing odd about us running into each other.”

 
He laughed, gifting her with his magnetic glance.  “Just in case you’re feeling disloyal for breaking bread with me, I’m sure your boss wouldn’t mind.”

 
Caroline’s salad appeared, along with her glass of red wine; the server pulled out her pad and took Zach’s order:  a burger and fries.  Caroline smiled at the boyish appetites of this man.

 
She wondered how old he was.  He was probably a few years younger than Martha, so maybe he was about her age.  Not that any of it mattered.  They were just having a friendly lunch.

 
They talked about casual topics, and when Zach’s burger arrived, they ate in silence for a few minutes.

 
Caroline began to feel as though she were “getting through” a chore of some kind.  When had the lightness slipped away, replaced with these heavy silences?  Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

 
But Zach put down his burger, sipped some water, and met her gaze.  “Would you like to go out to dinner or a movie sometime?”  Just like that, out of the blue.

 
Frowning, she started to shake her head.

 
But he pursued the topic:  “Come on, just two acquaintances getting to know each other better.  You don’t have a big bruiser of a boyfriend who would beat me up, do you?”  And he flashed that sexy grin.

 
“No,” she laughed.  “I guess that sounds like fun.”

 
They agreed on a time for Saturday.  Then Zach stood up, grabbed his check, and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.

 
After he had gone, she sat there for a long while, feeling discombobulated and confused.

 

***

 

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MAINTAINING THE PERFECT FACADE: EXCERPTING “INTERIOR DESIGNS”

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Martha’s mother Marie has spent most of her life perfecting her facade…it is sometimes tiring.  Especially when she bemoans her daughter’s less-than-perfect life.  But she loves flashing back on her younger days and the joys of riding around in James’s convertible.  Excerpting “Interior Designs.”

***

 

Spring was one of Marie Scott’s favorite seasons.  It reminded her of her exciting youth—trips to the lake, driving around in a convertible with the top down, and kissing James.  Theirs had been a passionate love affair from the beginning, although they hadn’t called it that back then.  As high school students, they had had to focus on studies and social activities, while sandwiching in their stolen moments on nights when her parents were out of the house.

 
Marie had been the good girl in the family.  So imagine her parents’ surprise when she turned up pregnant.

 
Now, all these years later, Marie still felt like the girl who had disappointed everyone.  But she’d spent the next several years proving everyone wrong.  She would have married James eventually anyway, so she made sure that she led an exemplary life afterwards.  Just so anyone who might still remember her shame could realize that she hadn’t made a mistake after all.

 
So in March of the year 2000, Marie sipped coffee and thought about her day.

 
Lately she’d noticed something off about her daughter.  She guessed it was perfectly natural, since Martha’s idyllic world had turned crazy.  First with the infidelities and then the divorce.

 
Of course, Martha hadn’t confided any of it to her.  Not while it was happening.  Even afterwards, she’d been tight-lipped, but that was Martha.  Always maintaining that perfect façade.  Wasn’t she somewhat responsible for how her daughter had turned out?  With her high expectations and her tendency to gloss over imperfections?

 
Shaking her head, she stood up and moved slowly toward the kitchen window.  She loved her home, maintained mostly by their housekeeper Ramona, but at her direction.  Way back in their early years, though, things hadn’t been so nice.  She still gritted her teeth remembering the years they lived in that little trailer on her parents’ property.  At least her own daughter had had a lovely guest cottage in which to begin her marriage.

 
Sometimes she thought that Martha was her own worst enemy.  Was this, too, all Marie’s fault?  She knew she wasn’t much of a confidante for her daughter.  She’d been so caught up in her own relationship with James, worried that, if she didn’t spend every moment focusing completely on him, he’d leave.  Had her children picked up on that?

 
Maybe she should do something about Martha now; perhaps she could spend more time with her, although how could they improve on that?  They lunched together at least once a week, and sometimes they even played golf together.  But that hadn’t been happening much lately.  Was there a reason for that?

 
Before her mind could segue much further, Ramona appeared with a list, to check off the day’s activities.

 
By the time they’d finished, Marie’s thoughts had turned in a completely different direction and her daughter was the last thing on her mind.  She had to make sure that her own perfect exterior stayed in place, that nothing could ripple the waters or create a tsunami in her world.

 

***

 

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MY INTERIOR WORLD: ECHOES OF THE PAST

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Here I am, enjoying a cup of coffee and pondering what to write about on my trusty laptop, Louisa May.   I do name all of my devices, of course.

But that is a topic for another day.  Today I am pondering how one action can start a chain of events and lead to something totally unexpected…serendipitous, even.

Above my office desk was a basket on the wall that was stuffed with greeting cards and various mementos.  See below, I drew a square around the basket.

 

 

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I had decided that it needed a purge—you know how much I have been purging lately—and this was an untapped spot in need of some work.

When I took it down and started sorting, I was surprised to find some photos, too, so I had to scan one of them.  This one was taken in the winter of 1979, in the apartment I had rented after my divorce.  It was a place for starting over.

 

 

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And seeing the photo reminded me of the apartment, and the few things that I enjoyed about it.  So I grabbed a photo album from that time period, and scanned a few more.

BelowI remember enjoying the arched doorways and the slightly Mediterranean architecture…and in the background, to your left, you can see the wicker fan on the wall.  For those who were around during those times, back then, you could go into a Pier I or a Cost Plus store (now World Market) and see them everywhere.  I lived in this apartment from 1979-1980.

 

 

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The rust colored chairs…and the similarly colored sofa (below) were also remnants from those times.

 

 

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I had this furniture for several years afterwards, until I was living in my townhouse a few years later (1988-94), when it became too worn and scruffy to be seen.

I love seeing it again, all bright and new, in these photos.

Note the table between the wing back chairs, in the second photo above:  that is the ice cream table that I still have. (See below)

 

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And here is the ice cream table (below) behind the rust-colored couch, circa 1980.  I lived in the apartment pictured below from 1980-1983.

 

 

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I do love hanging onto things, and sometimes I forget the various incarnations  of each piece.  All of my interiors have showcased the old favorites, as well as a few new things along the way.

***

What is the point of showcasing these moments from the past?  Well, in a sense, I am traveling backward in time and reminding myself of where I’ve been.

And this all happened today because I decided to clear out the basket of mementos in my office.

Do you ever find yourself traipsing through your past, studying and sometimes scanning the evidence of the many homes and belongings you have enjoyed?  Do you get there unexpectedly, just because you were clearing out a room, or a drawer, or a basket?

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FROM THE INTERIOR: INTROS/TEASERS – “THE WEDNESDAY GROUP”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

It is time for our happy dance!  Let’s grab our books and share those excerpts.  Mine today is an ARC from Amazon Vine:  The Wednesday Group, by Sylvia True.

 

 

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Intro:  (Lizzy)

The wind howls, then quiets to a gray whisper.  Lizzy pauses in front of the bedroom door holding a bottle of wine and two goblets.  Her casual nightshirt shows off her long legs.  If this marriage is going to survive, they need to reconnect.

She opens the door and stands at the foot of the bed.  Though fifty-two, Greg could still pass for thirty-five.  He has a full head of dirty blond hair, a boyish grin, and healthy skin, no age spots, no circles under his brown eyes.

“Thought you might want some wine,” she says.

“What kind?”  He sits up a little.

“Chardonnay.”

“I guess.”

Although she senses his hesitation, she manages to smile and begins to pour.

“That’s enough.”  He holds out his hand.

There’s still plenty of time.  He’s always been a slow starter, although she’d thought that would change after he confessed.

***

Teaser:  She curls under the eiderdown.  The room smells like stale wine.  The beginnings of a migraine nag at her temple.  (p.4).

***

Amazon Description:  Gail. Hannah. Bridget. Lizzy. Flavia. Each of them has a shameful secret, and each is about to find out that she is not alone… Gail, a prominent Boston judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband’s latest girlfriend, while her husband, a theology professor, claims he’s nine-months sober from sex with grad students. Hannah, a homemaker, catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, is sure she has a loving, doting spouse, until she learns that he is addicted to chat rooms and match-making websites. Lizzy, a high school teacher, is married to a porn addict, who is withdrawn and uninterested in sex with her. Flavia was working at the Boston Public library when someone brought her an article that stated her husband had been arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. He must face court, and Flavia must decide if she wants to stay with him. Finally, Kathryn, the young psychologist running the group, has as much at stake as all of the others.

As the women share never-before-uttered secrets and bond over painful truths, they work on coming to terms with their husbands’ addictions and developing healthy boundaries for themselves. Meanwhile, their outside lives become more and more intertwined, until, finally, a series of events forces each woman to face her own denial, betrayal and uncertain future head-on.

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What are your thoughts?  Does this one grab you?

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ENTER THE INTERIOR FOR BOOK BEGINNINGS & THE FRIDAY 56: “THE LAST WINTER OF DANI LANCING”

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

Today I’m reading an ARC from Amazon Vine entitled The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, by P. D. Viner, for fans of Tana French and The Silent Wife.

 

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Beginning:  Saturday 18 December 2010

“There’s no such thing as monsters,” he tells her.

The girl screws up her nose.  “Look anyway.  Please.”

“Okay.”

She hugs Hoppy Bunny right as her dad slides sideways off the bed and onto the floor, pulling the duvet to one side and peering into the shadows.

“Nothing there.”

***

56:  The hallway was empty.  He just stood there, staring at the front door, his brief moment of optimism deflated like a ruptured balloon.

***

Blurb:  Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found. Dani’s family never found peace.

Thrust into an intense devastation that nearly destroys their marriage, Patty and Jim Lancing struggle to deal with their harrowing loss. Patty is fanatically obsessed with the cold case; consumed by every possible clue or suspect no matter how far-fetched, she goes to horrifying lengths to help clarify the past.  Meanwhile, Jim has become a shell of his former self, broken down and haunted—sometimes literally—by his young daughter’s death. Dani’s childhood sweetheart, Tom, handles his own grief every day on the job—he’s become a detective intent on solving murders of other young women, and hopes to one day close Dani’s case himself.

Then everything changes when Tom finds a promising new lead. As lies and secrets are unearthed, the heartbreaking truth behind Dani’s murder is finally revealed.
THE LAST WINTER OF DANI LANCING is a shockingly disturbing and deeply powerful debut, and P.D. Viner immediately joins the ranks of Tana French, A. S. A. Harrison, and Gillian Flynn.

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Did that catch your interest?  Scare you a little?  Now share your links, and let’s chat.

 

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A LOVE LETTER TO BARS, PUBS, & TAVERNS — A REVIEW

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Finding a sense of community and camaraderie, a place where “everyone knows your name,” if you will, is the primary theme of Drinking with Men: A Memoir.

The author leads the reader through her own unique journey with bars, beginning with the impact that a particular railroad car had on her as a teen, and then we saunter along with her in her Deadhead years, a time of youthful excesses in a number of places almost forgettable except for the drinking.

Still very young, she first experiences a pub in Dublin that set the tone for many to follow. And the bars during her college years left their mark on her and would become part of her bar identity for all that followed, from New York to Montreal.

A sense of family and community seemed to dominate the appeal, lending itself to why she chose a particular bar. Sometimes a bar would become hers almost serendipitously…and then would belong to her for years. A sense of being a regular was a guiding force in showing up at a particular bar several nights a week. Finding old friends in new places would also lend that special connection, that celebratory reminiscence that would coalesce and anoint the place…until another would take over as The Bar of Choice at the moment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative voice of the author, as she rambled on, not necessarily in a linear fashion, sharing tidbits about her life and the people in her journey, inhabitants of the bar culture where she took up residence. A quest for family, friends, and a feeling of refuge would heighten the experiences more than the actual drinking. I am familiar with that quest and have enjoyed a few favorite “watering holes” over the years. As I read about the bars in this memoir, I could almost feel them and sense them. The author made them real for me. Five stars.

A JOURNEY THROUGH TRAGEDY…AND BEYOND — A REVIEW

DayAfterYesterday_coverAlong a stretch of Hwy. 101 in California, a straggling collection of people linger in a diner, while the rains pound ruthlessly and the few customers are reluctant to breach the torrents of the outside world. A rain-drenched and soaked man enters, looking battered and beaten by much more than the rains….

Thus begins our story, and as the prologue reveals, life has changed dramatically for this man; we soon learn that his name is Daniel Whitman, and that horrific things have happened to him.

Flash back five months, and we see his life before. And what tragedy led Daniel to this place. We know before the story begins that his family is taken away from him: a wife and a son. What we learn now, slowly, is what his journey will look like now. And how he, inexplicably, or so it seemed to those he left behind, walked out of his life.

The Day After Yesterday is the tale of that journey, but it reveals much more: after the events of Daniel’s life following his tragedy, people and events reshape his life view and even his choices. And eventually he does go home, but everything is different.

The story alternates between Daniel’s journey and what happens to those he seemingly abandoned.

Then later, the story moves ahead and shows us what this newly reshaped life looks like. We meet new characters, we see miraculous events unfold…and in the end, we are left filled with a wide range of emotions.

At least that’s what I felt for the first 300 or so pages. But then the pace quickened and moved ahead years and suddenly it wasn’t just about Daniel anymore, but a metaphorical discovery of life and how we are pummeled by it at times…and how we can choose to let it batter us. Or we can accept it and move on.

A very philosophical story that had moments of sheer joy mixed with the darkest angst. The story took a lot out of me; and in the end, I knew I would think of it for a long while. My only issue with it was the pace and the pages and pages that felt unnecessary. However, they did skewer the point about life and how it gives us a beating sometimes. For me, however, this one earned four stars.

MONDAY FROM THE INTERIOR: MERRY CHRISTMAS! — MAILBOX MONDAY & WHAT ARE YOU READING? — DEC. 24

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

MAILBOX MONDAY:

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This week, I received one review book from the publicist for a Blog Tour in February.

Deep Connections, by Rebecca Graf (My Tour Stops are 2/6 and 2/7)

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Just as love appears, so does the darkness. With her heart reaching out for one man, Brenna finds herself the target of an unknown stalker. Who is he? What does he want? How far will he go for her? Death is an option. Brenna discovers more than she bargained for and learns that the stalker will kill for her. It all comes down to decisions, and no matter what she chooses it will demand sacrifice and someone’s blood.

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WHAT ARE YOU READING?

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Welcome to another week:  a time to share our reading, blogging, and life adventures, and a time to enjoy our community of book bloggers.

I loved every book I read this week, and the nice eclectic mix made it a memorable one.

On the Blogs:

Here’s a peek at last week, though.  In my Saturday Snapshot, I shared a few glimpses of favorites….and some new changes.

Monday Potpourri:  Table Switcheroo

Dames of Dialogue Author Interview with Lilllian Brummet

Friday Potpourri:  Tidbits About Life and Books

New Year Tasks:  Planning and Creating

Saturday Tidbits:  A Potpourri of Childhood Memories

2012 Challenge Wrap-Up Post

Reading-Click Titles for Reviews:

1.  The End of the Wasp Season, by Denise Mina

2.  Windfall (e-book), by Penny Vincenzi

3.  Not Young, Still Restless, by Jeanne Cooper

4.   Whistling Woman (e-book), by C. C. Tillery

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

1.  How to Be Single, by Liz Tuccillo

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2.  Three Moons Over Sedona (e-book), by Sherry Hartzler

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3.  Murder at Blue Falls (e-book), by Maggie Bishop

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Happy holidays!  I hope everyone enjoys a wonderful week.

THE SAD JOURNEY OF AN “INCONVENIENT” WOMAN — A REVIEW

The story begins with a narrator who is talking to an unknown person, probably a psychiatrist whom he keeps addressing as “you” or “Doc,” and these events appear to be occurring at some future point in time.

We then move to the events of August 5, 1962, when Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her sparsely decorated adobe home. She was lying face down, clutching a phone.

In the following pages, we discover that there are time discrepancies; there are concerns about the position of the body and the unlikelihood that someone taking an overdose would be clutching a phone. There is an empty glass that is there…and then not there. A mysterious red diary appears…and then disappears.

Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald is the primary narrator who is frustrated by the apparent cover-up. He is determined to find the answers.

But will his life be at risk as he struggles to learn the truth? Who are the enemies? The Mafia or others unknown? What do the police and even his boss at the Coroner’s office have to hide, and why are they fighting his investigation? What lies and deceptions will trouble him in the days ahead?

From the recovered diary and mysterious tapes, our narrator eventually learns some of what transpired, but will it be too late? And how can he protect his young son?

The Empty Glass was a captivating mix of fact and fiction that left me with more questions than answers. Told in an unusual narrative style that jumped around from the present to the past and then ahead to the future, I had a hard time making sense of it at times. 3.5 stars.