REVIEW: THE LOVE STORY OF MISSY CARMICHAEL, BY BETH MORREY

The world has changed around seventy-nine-year-old librarian Millicent Carmichael, aka Missy. Though quick to admit that she often found her roles as a housewife and mother less than satisfying, Missy once led a bustling life driven by two children, an accomplished and celebrated husband, and a Classics degree from Cambridge. Now her husband is gone, her daughter is estranged after a shattering argument, and her son has moved to his wife’s native Australia, taking Missy’s beloved only grandchild half-a-world away. She spends her days sipping sherry, avoiding people, and rattling around in her oversized, under-decorated house waiting for…what exactly?

The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog named Bob to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. In short order, Missy finds herself in the jarring embrace of an eclectic community that simply won’t take no for an answer–including a rambunctious mutt-on-loan whose unconditional love gives Missy a reason to re-enter the world one muddy paw print at a time.

Filled with wry laughter and deep insights, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is a coming-of-old story that shows us it’s never too late to forgive yourself and, just as important, it’s never too late to love.

It was easy to like Missy, and I could relate to her feelings and her issues.

Loneliness that can disappear when new people and a needy dog fill her life with comfort and peace made The Love Story of Missy Carmichael a delightful journey.

But as time passed, we learned more and more about what happened between Missy and her children, and also about her marriage to Leo. A surprising conclusion to the Missy and Leo love story changed everything. But the friendships Missy had developed brought a satisfying turn of events. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS, BY MEGAN MIRANDA

 

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.


When we first meet Arden Maynor in her current iteration as Olivia Meyer, she is an adult trying to move beyond the events of her childhood. As The Girl from Widow Hills, she is the story in the news, the little girl who was rescued after three days. One from whom journalists constantly seek more information.

Did nobody really believe the story they were told back then? Does Olivia not remember what happened, or is she part of a cover-up?

When a man is found dead outside her home miles away from where she grew up, in the place she has found to start over, is there more to the original story that will be revealed?

I loved how twisty and unexpected the journey takes us until finally we are offered bits and pieces of the truth. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: PRETTY THINGS, BY JANELLE BROWN

 

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

Pretty Things is a story about dreams, identity, and the fears that drive our journey. How Vanessa and Nina originally connect is at the heart of the story. Nina was a young girl exploring love and searching for her place in the world and struggling to separate from her con artist mom. That girl is tossed aside by the Leibling family, which fuels her rage and her resentments.

Vanessa, feeling unloved unless she is the star of her own dream world, creates fantasies and then believes they are her reality. But disappointments, loss, and rage lead her to seek revenge against Nina.

Nina and Vanessa’s stories are told in alternate sections, and as we begin to really know them, we think we have a handle on what they will do next. But there are just enough twists that we are not sure if we are being conned, or if we might trust the picture they are painting for us.

Throughout the journey, I felt empathy for each of them at different times, but never lost track of the damages at the heart of them. A core of vulnerability, mixed with the hardness created by time and numerous life injuries, made them intriguing…and potentially dangerous. Could either woman redeem herself? I kept reading, hoping to find out. 4.5 stars.

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MY PERSONAL “YELLOW BRICK ROAD”

Lately, I’ve been thinking of different kinds of journeys, including the Yellow Brick Road shown above.  I enjoyed spotlighting these trinkets on my Baker’s Rack at my previous residence. 

Then I added some plush images to the grouping.  I have taken lots of photos of them in various positions and featured them on my website, my blogs, etc.

The close-up below shows the versions of the Oz characters in plush and resin.

Sadly, I no longer have these “dolls,” now that I have moved to a smaller space.  But I am very happy to have the photos in my files to spotlight the metaphorical journey in my blogging/website world.

Below, my header at my website, with my creations (books) and the Oz characters in the center, remind us again of journeys.

 

Yesterday, I changed my blog header here, with my little creatures taking their position on the right side of the banner.

 

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The Wizard of Oz theme popped up again last week as I watched the movie Judy, on Amazon Prime, starring Renee Zellwegger as Judy Garland, remembered especially for her role in the original Wizard of Oz film.

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Do you have favorite images/themes/trinkets that symbolize your personal journey in life and in blogging?  How do you showcase them on your blogs/websites?

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REVIEW: THE CONFESSION CLUB, BY ELIZABETH BERG

 

When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.

 

My Thoughts: The Confession Club, the third in the Mason series, is full of characters that feel so real that I can’t wait to see what each one will do. I liked that characters from previous books show up in this newest outing. Maddy has been featured in each book, and I’ve loved seeing how she has grown with time and her challenges. Iris is another favorite, brought forward from a previous book.

John is a new character, and I was eager to see what would develop with him.

In the supper club meetings, we learn more about each character, their personalities distinctive and on display.

The author grabbed me from the very beginning, so reading along and seeing what would happen next felt a lot like spending time with friends. Another delightful journey with the residents of Mason. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: WOMAN LAST SEEN IN HER THIRTIES, BY CAMILLE PAGAN

 

At fifty-three, Maggie Harris has a good marriage and two mostly happy children. Perpetually anxious, she’s also accumulated a list of semi-reasonable fears: falling air conditioners, the IRS, identity theft, skydiving, and airbag recalls. But never once did Maggie worry that her husband of nearly thirty years would leave her.

On the day Adam walks out the door, everything that makes Maggie secure goes with him. Only then does she realize that while she’s been busy caring for everyone else, she’s become invisible to the world—and to herself.

Maggie cautiously begins to rebuild her life with a trip to Rome, a new career, and even a rebound romance. But when a fresh crisis strikes and an uncertain future looms, she must decide: How much will she risk to remain the woman she’s just become?

My Thoughts: From the beginning of Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties, I felt connected to Maggie. Not because the events in her life were similar to mine. Her life was quite different from mine, but there was one common theme: that feeling of invisibility that somehow descends on a woman after a certain age. Especially if she has devoted her life to taking care of others. That feeling can be a common thread in the lives of wives and mothers.

To me, however, it seemed surprising that Maggie had not even thought of the possibility that her husband might leave her. The clues were there: his unavailability, the way he didn’t really listen, and how there was something missing. But with the passage of time, connections change, and it would be easy to chalk it all up to getting older.

What happens to a woman after an unexpected separation? Does she sink into a depression? Does she start drinking too much? Does she begin to probe into all of her life choices and connections? Maggie did all of those things…and then more. Slowly she begins to feel like herself again. Like the woman she hadn’t seen since her thirties.

But when something unexpected happens…will she continue on this course, or will she flail about, trying to decide if she needs to rethink her chosen path?

When I started this novel, I expected something light and predictable, but happily, there were many emotional issues to explore. By the end, I was deeply invested in what might happen for Maggie next. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: WHISTLE IN THE DARK, BY EMMA HEALEY

 

Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.

Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.

Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”

For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.

 

My Thoughts: I loved Elizabeth Is Missing, so I was eager to plunge into this newest book. The situations are very different, however, and it took me a while to warm up to the characters, all of whom I found unlikable at first. I am intrigued by dysfunctional mother/daughter stories, however, and Whistle in the Dark reeled me into those aspects of the book.

Lana was one of those teens that is annoying, yet troubled. You feel yourself wanting to roll your eyes and leave her alone, but her obvious distress keeps you engaged. But Jen, the mother, is a bit too pushy, and I can see how her way of trying to help Lana would make the girl close down even more, hiding in plain sight.

I liked the addition of Meg, the pregnant older daughter, who lightened the mood a little, but her issues also make a play for attention. When both girls seemingly grab for attention constantly, you have to wonder where the mother’s focus has been. On the sidelines is Lily, the grandmother, the only sensible presence.

As she struggles, Jen asks herself these questions: “Why did she have to drag this love around everywhere when, sometimes, she’d like to leave it behind for a few hours? Without that love, she could float away, let her daughter’s mood improve, let her put her frown and her sharp tongue back in their still-shiny packaging.”

Exhausted emotionally and physically, and at the end of her rope, Jen takes her own surprisingly cyclical journey that leads her toward all the answers she needs. 4.5 stars.

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NEXT WEEKEND: A CHANGE IN VENUE FOR WEEKLY UPDATES…

Good morning!  Now that I’ve posted my Weekly Updates on my Serendipity blog, I have decided that it is time for a change.  I do love to change things up, and move my updates posts to my other blogs from time to time.

Yes, you’ve guessed it.  I’ll be hosting the event here, on An Interior Journey, starting next weekend.

The logo you see above will be featured each week here…although sometimes I change the logos after a while, too.  Let’s wait and see.

The format of these posts will remain the same…I’ll be linking to Sunday Salon, Sunday Post, Stacking the Shelves, Mailbox Monday, and Book Date.

I hope you will join me on this journey!

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HOW MY BLOGGING JOURNEY BEGAN….

On April 21, 2008, I created my very first blog.  It was on Blogger, and I called it Laurel-Rain Snow’s Creations.  I later changed its title to Story Corner.

When I started moving over to Word Press, creating blogs here, I still hung onto that first blog.  But eventually, I deleted it, having moved some of the content over to this blog and others.  This blog was my first on Word Press, launched on June 22, 2009.  Several name changes followed over the years (Explorations, Reflections, & Meditations), as I merged a few of my Blogger sites (after I had gone a little crazy creating so many).

Check out the story of my blogging journey here.

Rainy Days & Mondays was my last blog to come to Word Press, and while I didn’t move all the content when I recreated it here on December 3, 2014, I did bring over most of my reviews.

Because I have had so many blogs (now I have six), and because they have gone through so many incarnations, I seldom celebrate the blogoversaries.

But occasionally I do like to mention how my journey began.

Here are the blogoversaries of my current sites:

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An Interior Journey –  June 22, 2009

Potpourri – July 11, 2009

Curl up and Read – October 22, 2009

Snow Sparks – May 10, 2010

Serendipity – August 4, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays  – August 16, 2009 on Blogger

                                              December 3, 2014 on Word Press

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What do you remember (and celebrate) about your blogging journey? 

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FROM THE INTERIOR: BITTERSWEET MOMENTS – THE BERLINERS MOVE ON

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Today is a bittersweet day….my adventures with the Berliners are on hiatus, as they head up north.  We had a great month together, with lots of laughs.

To help me adjust to the silence in my home, I have moved back into my reconfigured office space, above—minus the large bookcase that jutted out before—and I have much more room for my current projects.

Here is another view of the changes:

 

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As I sort through some photos from the Berliners’ LA experiences, I grab some of my favorites, taken at my second son’s apartment in Hollywood.  Here is Gabi against an LA backdrop:

 

 

Gabi in LA - July - 1-resized

Gabi expressing “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”:

 

 

Gabi in LA - 2 July -ferocious

 

Craig, the photographer, taking a break:

 

Craig in LA - July-resized

 

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What’s next for me?  Well, I must catch up on my reading and blogging, watch some Netflix, and think about how much fun we will have when they return in September.

Meanwhile, they are headed to Sacramento…and then the Northern Coast, where my youngest son and his wife live.  Fiona will be attending college there, so while she waits to begin, she is exploring the cooler weather and the beach life.

 

fiona - college girl by the sea - 815

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Today I plan to start reading Some Luck, by Jane Smiley.

 

 

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I am also excited that I downloaded a NetGalley review book I’ve been anticipating:  X (Kinsey Millhone Book 24), by Sue Grafton.

 

 

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What does your world look like this week?

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