FROM MY INTERIORS TO YOURS…

Welcome to another greeting from My Interiors to Yours.

As some of you know, I like going back a year (or more) to see what my archives can reveal about my thoughts in another time…or place.

Today, I’m revisiting a post from last Christmas: December 25, 2018, when I was living in my previous residence, savoring the moments.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

As I sip my morning coffee and plan for the day ahead, I send happy thoughts out to all of you.  Hoping for a wonderful day.

Yesterday I finished reading The Adults, by Caroline Hulse, and it was a story that kept me turning the pages, even as I kept shaking my head at the so-called “adults,” who were behaving badly. (Click title for my review).

I didn’t find any New Book Releases for today.  That’s probably a good thing, as I still have older books tucked away on Paige, just waiting patiently.  Last night I started reading The Affliction, by Beth Gutcheon, a favorite author.  This book is the second in her clever romp of a mystery series combining social comedy and dark-hearted murder—a novel set at a girls’ boarding school in a picturesque Hudson River town with more than its share of secrets.  I enjoyed the first book, Death at Breakfast.(Click title for my review). 

I didn’t love the first outing as much as her other books, and as I read my review again, I noticed that my only complaints were the numerous characters that added a bit of confusion.  The boarding school aspect was another negative for me.  I’m not a fan of those.  But because Beth Gutcheon wrote the book, I decided to give it a try.  Which is why I am now reading the second book in the new series.

What I love best from the author are some of the older books, one of which was made into a movie:  Still Missing became the movie Without a Trace.  I watched it again this week.

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I love watching old favorite movies during the holidays.  This movie came out in 1983, so not “old” in the sense of Katherine Hepburn and her crowd, but old to millennials.

The newest version of the book Still Missing was published in 2005, but it first came out in 1981.

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Just rereading this post reminds me of favorite books, movies, and authors, and now I’m eager to relive some of the moments.

Do you revisit your older posts?  Your past?  Do those meanderings help you plan the New Year?

What are you anticipating for this coming Christmas Day?  Movies, books, games, and food?  Enjoy!

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REVIEW: MY EX-LIFE, BY STEPHEN MCCAULEY

 

David Hedges’s life is coming apart at the seams. His job helping San Francisco rich kids get into the colleges of their (parents’) choice is exasperating; his younger boyfriend has left him; and the beloved carriage house he rents is being sold. His solace is a Thai takeout joint that delivers 24/7.

The last person he expects to hear from is Julie Fiske. It’s been decades since they’ve spoken, and he’s relieved to hear she’s recovered from her brief, misguided first marriage. To him.

Julie definitely doesn’t have a problem with marijuana (she’s given it up completely, so it doesn’t matter if she gets stoned almost daily) and the Airbnb she’s running out of her seaside house north of Boston is neither shabby nor illegal. And she has two whole months to come up with the money to buy said house from her second husband before their divorce is finalized. She’d just like David’s help organizing college plans for her seventeen-year-old daughter.

That would be Mandy. To quote Barry Manilow, Oh Mandy. While she knows she’s smarter than most of the kids in her school, she can’t figure out why she’s making so many incredibly dumb and increasingly dangerous choices?

When David flies east, they find themselves living under the same roof (one David needs to re-pair). David and Julie pick up exactly where they left off thirty years ago—they’re still best friends who can finish each other’s sentences. But there’s one broken bit between them that no amount of home renovations will fix.

 

My Thoughts: My Ex-Life brings together the past and the present as its characters try to sort through the pieces of their lives out of the detritus of their mistakes.

On the West Coast, David had been loving his little rented carriage house, but there was definitely something missing from his life. When his ex-wife Julie calls, needing help preparing her daughter Mandy for the right college, he sees an opportunity to use his career to help her, and perhaps a chance to heal some of the broken pieces of their past together.

Alternating storylines reveal what life looks like in the present for Julie, living near Boston and trying to get past her divorce to her second husband Henry, who seems to be in a punishing frame of mind. With a plan in place, David hopes to finally overcome the loose ends of his first marriage to Julie by helping her with the present issues in her life.

I enjoyed the writing style that added humor and insight to the characters’ discoveries as they spend time sorting through their past choices.

I had high hopes that the previous partners, David and Julie, would rediscover their former friendship and could help each other during a difficult time. Until the very end, I wasn’t sure they could overcome the past, but I was happily rooting for them. I loved how the story ended. 5 stars.

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MY FIRST HUMP DAY IN JUNE…

Today I’m participating in WWW Wednesdays, at Taking on a World of Words Here’s how it works:

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

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CURRENTLY READING:  Emily, Gone, by Bette Lee Crosby:

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BOOKS FINISHED SINCE MY LAST POST:

I’ve been unplugged for most of May due to illness.  Now I am eager to share the few books I read during the month:

Dreams of Falling, by Karen White

I Know Who You Are, by Alice Feeney

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth

Those People, by Louise Candlisch

Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner

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EAGERLY ANTICIPATING:

The Friends We Keep, by Jane Green:  I just downloaded this book, and I’m eager to dive into it.

Synopsis:  Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known one another since college. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and they never found the lives they wanted—the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible. 

Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man. 

Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with in college, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause. 

Topher became a successful actor, but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy. 

By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with one another and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness…until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything. 

The Friends We Keep is about how despite disappointments we’ve had or mistakes we’ve made, it’s never too late to find a place to call home.

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As I settle into my “new normal,” a senior living apartment, I am realizing that moving into a new way of being and finding new connections can enhance our experiences.  This is my “spin” on the big changes in my life…and how I hope to carve out something positive.

Enjoy the week!

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REVIEW: BRING ME BACK, BY B. A. PARIS

 

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

My Thoughts: A story told by alternating narrators that swings between “then” and “now,” Bring Me Back was a fascinating look at love, loss, and starting over. Except that when Finn starts over after Layla’s disappearance years before, he picks someone a little too close to home: Ellen, Layla’s sister, whom he had never met when he was with Layla. A part of him always wondered about what had happened to Layla, but Ellen has a way of showing a different kind of love. A nurturing kind that offers him care and comfort when Layla had been the needy one.

Just before Ellen and Finn start planning their wedding, a series of strange events begin happening: objects from the past that were significant to Layla and also to Ellen start showing up. Finn tries to protect Ellen and keeps some of these things secret and hidden. But the e-mails make him suspect everyone from his past, especially some who are part of his present life. When Ellen claims to have seen Layla in a nearby village, Finn goes on high alert. A neighbor’s claim to have also seen Layla adds some credence to the possibility that Layla is out there and coming back.

Why are the strange e-mails and sentimental objects appearing now? Who is behind these mysterious messages and sightings, and why does Finn feel a great sense of dread and imminent danger?

Intensity ratchets up as Finn becomes desperate for answers, and Ellen becomes more aloof…until she also disappears.

I had several theories about what was going on, from some kind of psychological disorder to an actual reappearance of Layla. But what actually happened stunned me and kept me off guard as I read. I couldn’t stop turning pages to see what would eventually unfold. A 5 star read.


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

REVIEW: THE NEW NEIGHBOR, BY LEAH STEWART

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Margaret Riley has enjoyed a long life, and at ninety is sometimes annoyed with the people around her, eschewing contact with most people while lost in her own memories.

So when she notices a new neighbor across the pond, she is caught off guard. The home had been empty for a while, and Margaret had come to count on that.

But she is curious about the younger woman, who has a small child, and finds out who she is in a rather surreptitious way. And arranges for them to meet when the librarian in the village points out the younger woman’s “work wanted” ad.

Jennifer Young and four-year-old Milo have left a past behind them, and hiding the secrets of that past now informs Jennifer’s life. Another mother, Megan, whose son Ben is in Milo’s preschool class, is reaching out to Jennifer. Worried about how much she can share, Jennifer is sometimes tense and often short in her responses.

Set in mountainous Sewanee, in Tennessee, the isolation could be just what each of these characters needs. But will their slowly building connection force their secrets into the open? Will each of them lose the protection of those secrets? Or will something unexpected come to them?

The New Neighbor is told alternately with multiple narrators, primarily from the first person voice of Margaret, and Jennifer’s third person perspective. Slowly we learn about each character, the lives they have lived, and what led them to keeping the secrets they now hope to keep hidden. As the secrets slowly come out, layer by layer, they seem less devastating, in some ways. Less startling.

But then, when Margaret starts to stir the pot, stepping into what is not her business, she unleashes a whole new drama that will impact all the characters.

I enjoyed Margaret and felt for her loneliness, but soon I was disgusted with her meddling. Jennifer was trying to move past the pain of her life with an addict and the betrayal of her daughter Zoe. And Zoe was probably just a typical teen, reacting without thinking.

They all had to accept the consequences of their actions.

A story that I could not put down, this one earned 5 stars from me. Recommended for all who enjoy family drama and secrets.

I received this e-ARC from NetGalley.

REVIEW: AMHERST, BY WILLIAM NICHOLSON

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When Alice Dickinson takes time off from her job in advertising to write a screenplay about the late Emily Dickinson (no relative), she is excited. Her research takes her to Amherst, Massachusetts, and she almost immediately meets Nick Crocker, a fifty-something academic who has a bit of a reputation.

Somehow she finds herself staying in his huge house, and despite all of her best laid plans, she is soon involved in a love affair with him. But where is his wife, and why is she absent?

Amherst: A Novel is an engaging story that sweeps back and forth through time, showing the reader the little circle of friends (and some enemies) that surround Emily and her sister Vinnie, as well as her brother Austin.

Austin is married to Sue, but unhappily…and with Emily and Vinnie’s encouragement, he is soon involved with Mabel Todd, who seems to be in an open relationship with her husband David.

From journals she discovered in her research, Alice feels almost as if she is right there with the primary players in the scandalous and sexy liaisons of the past. Could the people from that time have been as free and easy as they seemed? Would her own values change as she learned more about them? And could her peek into the past have released her from her own inhibitions?

I did enjoy how Mabel seemed to be a champion for Emily’s poems, discovered after her death in a stuffed drawer. When some publishers turned her away, she kept searching until she finally found one. I liked this part of the story as much (or more) than the love affair, which may have been a bit scandalous for the times, but was nothing I hadn’t read about before, with other players. In some ways, that part of the story lagged for me, and even the alternating time periods didn’t really engage me.

Then, near the end, as Alice and Nick meet again after their love story ends, as Alice seeks closure, Nick’s thoughts to her on love seemed interesting to me:

“…We think there’s someone out there who can make us happy, someone who’ll make us complete, but that’s not how it works. We think not getting what we want is the problem, but it’s the wanting that’s the problem. We want the whole world to feed us…There’s no end to its hunger. We end up as slaves, chained to our hunger, doomed to service its bottomless need forever. There’s only one way out of that. You have to break the chain…”

I liked that twist on love, and in the end, Alice discovered a way of framing the events of her story about Mabel and Austin to give them an intriguing slant. These last moments elevated my take on the story to 4 stars.