BOOK REVIEW: MERRY & BRIGHT, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

 

Merry Knight is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

 


My Thoughts: From the first page of Merry and Bright, I was swept away into this romantic tale of finding love in the 21st Century, with online dating sites proliferating all around.

I also enjoyed the play on the characters’ names: Merry Knight works for Jayson Bright…and their worlds could not be more different. At work, he seems cranky and stressed and a little bit annoying, with his stick-to-the-rules regime.

After her mother and brother create an online profile for Merry, she finds herself connecting and regularly chatting with someone named Jay…who, coincidentally, also shows his dog as his profile photo.

What will happen when the two decide to meet? Merry can’t believe what she discovers as she approaches the Starbucks meeting place. How could she have been so naïve?

In the rest of the story, we see how misunderstandings, near misses, and unexpected events bring them to a point of reexamining what they thought they knew. Delightful holiday feels in a setting I love: Seattle. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: SEVEN DAYS OF US, BY FRANCESCA HORNAK

 

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
 
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. 
 
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.   
 
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

My Thoughts: In alternating narratives, Seven Days of Us revealed the Birch family dynamics, showing us how each family member experienced the enforced togetherness.

Olivia, back home from saving lives in Liberia, was my favorite character. She was definitely not that thrilled to be in such close proximity to her family members, since she had been away and following her own path for years.

Emma, the matriarch, was definitely someone used to giving of herself, even to her own detriment. Her secret will change her life and her family going forward.

Phoebe, as the youngest and the only one of the offspring still living at home (at twenty-nine!) was an annoying, entitled brat, IMO. Everything all week long was all about her and her marriage plans. It was interesting to watch how things changed for her when her fiancé made a big and unexpected decision. She started to show a little bit of empathy for others.

Andrew, the patriarch, seemed oblivious to much that was going on, but when the surprise guest arrived, he began to look at life differently, even starting to assess some of his choices.

The setting of the dilapidated cottage surrounded by beautiful countryside brought me right into the lives of this English family, and I could imagine spending a week there in real life. The ending brought some good and some sad moments for the characters. There was something to savor in this story that felt so real, and earned 5 stars from me.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: THE COUNTDOWN….

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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.

 

This is our last week before Christmas, and I’m really feeling the holiday spirit take over. We’ve had some rainy days this past week, and it was delightful.  Yes, imagine that, since this blog is about “Rainy days and Mondays” making me blue.  LOL.  But then, remember, “books chase away the blues.”

The week of reading was kind of slow at first, then it picked up, ending with a total of 3 books and 1 novella.  My total for the Read the Books You Buy Challenge:  wait for it!  99 books!!  I currently  just finished reading my 100th book, which is the goal I had hoped for. 

So far my ratio is:  100 books read/138 books purchased, once I read the 100th book…and if I don’t buy any more.

I might read even more…since there are still two reading weeks.  Of course, the challenge is for purchased books, and I’ll also be reading some review books.

So….with rain outside, and a little more interiors work…it turned out to be a good week to stay indoors and read, watch movies, etc.  I also watched Season I of Goliath, on Amazon Prime.  Wow!  Now I want another season.

Let’s look at the week, and have a glass of something sparkling:

 

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LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Finding Balance…Through the Forest…

Commitment Post:  Read the Books You Buy – 2017

Curl up with “The Sleepwalker” – Excerpts

Goodreads Report:  2016 Books Read

Hump Day Reading:  What’s On Your List?

Hump Day Thoughts:  From the Foothills to the City…

Thursday Potpourri:  My Book Compulsion, Etc.

Bookish Friday:  “White Trash”

Curling up with TBR Books:  The Challenge

Wrapping Up the “Read the Books You Buy-2016” Challenge

Review:  The Premonition (e-book, prequel), by Chris Bohjalianratings-worms-4-croppedReview:  Sweet Lamb of Heaven (e-book), by Lydia Milletcropped-again-5Review:  The Mothers (e-book), by Brit Bennettcropped-again-5Review:  The Dollhouse (e-book), by Fiona Daviscropped-again-5

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Two books came in the mail!  One review book from Amazon Vine; one purchased book.

I downloaded three e-books (purchased)

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I See You, by Clare Mackintosh (Amazon Vine)

 

 

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Talking As Fast As I Can, by Lauren Graham (Purchased)

 

 

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Downloads:

Sweet William (e-book), by Beryl Bainbridge

 

 

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The Stepmother (e-book), by Claire Seeber

 

 

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Faultlines (e-book), by Barbara Taylor Sissel

 

 

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WHAT’S NEXT? (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Currently Reading:  Just Finished:   Scandal in Skibbereen (County Cork #2), by Sheila Connolly (Click title for my review of this 100th book).

 

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White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg, is a book I’ll be slowly reading, a bit at a time…

 

 

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At some point, I’ll be reading more review books, like The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian…and then, whatever my mood dictates.

By the end of the year, I’ll be participating in First Book of 2017, hosted by Sheila, at Book Journey.

I’ve selected my book, snapped a couple of photos of me holding it…and that’s all I’m saying until January 1, 2017!

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That’s what is going on here…what did your week look like?  The upcoming weeks?  Check out my split pea soup and strawberry margarita from last weekend!

 

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REVIEW: SNOW DEER & COCOA CHEER, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

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Jane March designs greeting cards for Cobblestone Cards, but when she is laid up with a broken arm, she returns home to Addison. Staying with her mom, Lillian, and trying to find her “jingle” again, she discovers unexpected friends and the possibility of romance.

Snow Deer and Cocoa Cheer, like all books by this author, brings the reader right into the homey world of the characters. We are revisited by characters and places from other books, when we shop at Whole Latte Life and Snowflakes & Coffee Cakes.

As Jane discovers a new plan for her next series of cards, with the help of a list her mother has offered, we are soon immersed in the New England Village settings she creates. I loved the covered bridge, the snow settling on the Victorian houses, and I especially fell in love with the carriage house next door to Jane’s mother’s farmhouse, with its loft that has views of the countryside. I know I wouldn’t be able to move away from that space. The village is a place I would love to spend Christmas.

Wes Davis is an interesting character. Jilted by his almost-bride, he is struggling. He had given up his apartment and now lives with his father, Pete, in Addison. Wes is a mailman, like his father and grandfather before him. Meanwhile, in his spare time, Pete whittles creations that become the centerpiece for his new website, and Jane assists with the marketing. And when Wes and Jane want to communicate with each other, they leave up the red flag on her mailbox.

Can love be on the horizon? Is it too soon for Wes to begin again? And what will happen next for Jane after her arm heals?

A delightful read that makes this reader want to visit this New England village, eat comfort foods, and buy greeting cards from the series Jane creates. This book definitely earned five stars from me.

WEEKLY UPDATES: WELCOME TO 2015!

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Good morning!  Today’s post will link up to Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post,  and Book Journey, for  Weekly Updates.

**Mailbox Monday is now hosted at the home site:  Mailbox Monday.

Good morning, Bloggers!  Grab some coffee (or a pot of tea!), and let’s talk about our weeks.

 

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Is everyone enjoying the aftermath of Christmas?  Looking forward to the New Year?  I am participating in The First Book of 2015 event through Book Journey, so check in at my An Interior Journey blog on the first to see what I’m featuring.

This weekend has been one of enjoying movies more than books.  Today I saw Big Eyes, with Amy Adams, and last night I watched Men, Women, and Children On Demand, with Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Judy Greer.

 

 

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I am looking forward to more reading in the coming week….but here’s what happened on that front last week:

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Blue Mondays Again? – Holidays Can Bring Them On

Tuesday Potpourri:  Intros/Teasers – “Lillian on Life”

Merry Christmas!

Let’s Chase Away the Blues:  Book Beginnings/Friday 56 – “Catch Me”

The Pleasure of it All:  Christmas!

Bookish Saturdays:  Top Ten Favorites of 2014

Review:  A Fireproof Home for the Bride, by Amy Scheibe

Review:  The Last Anniversary (e-book), by Liane Moriarty

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

I received two review books in the mail; purchased one book at Barnes & Noble; and downloaded three e-books.

One Step Too Far, by Tina Seskis (Vine)

 

 

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A mesmerizing and powerful novel that will keep you guessing to the very end.

No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can’t bury the past—or her own memories.

And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she’s done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .

 

A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison (Vine)

 

 

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A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past—the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

 

The Underside of Joy, by Sere Prince Halverson (Purchased)

 

 

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Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson’s compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule-never turn your back on the ocean-and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.

For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe’s story. “Ella’s the best thing that’s happened to this family,” say her close-knit Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella’s quest for truth.

 

Downloads:

Fear Nothing (e-book), by Lisa Gardner

 

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The last thing Boston Detective D. D. Warren remembers is walking the crime scene after dark. Then, a creaking floorboard, a low voice crooning in her ear. . . . She is later told she managed to discharge her weapon three times. All she knows is that she is seriously injured, unable to move her left arm, unable to return to work.

 

The Way Life Should Be (e-book), by Christina Baker Kline

 

 

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Angela Russo is thirty-three years old and single, stuck in a job she doesn’t love and a life that seems, somehow, to have just happened. Though she inherited a flair for Italian cooking from her grandmother, she never has the time; for the past six months, her oven has held only sweaters. Tacked to her office bulletin board is a picture torn from a magazine of a cottage on the coast of Maine, a reminder to Angela that there are other ways to live, even if she can’t seem to figure them out.

One day at work, Angela clicks on a tiny advertisement in the corner of her computer screen—“Do Soulmates Exist?”—and finds herself at a dating website, where she stumbles upon “MaineCatch,” a thirty-five-year-old sailing instructor with ice-blue eyes. To her great surprise, she strikes up a dizzying correspondence with MaineCatch—yet as her online relationship progresses, life in the real world takes a nosedive. Interpreting this confluence of events as a sign, Angela impulsively decides to risk it all and move to Maine.

 

Precious Thing (e-book), by Colette McBeth

 

 

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Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last forever.

They met in high school when Rachel was the shy, awkward new girl and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Instantly, they fell under one another’s spell and nothing would be the same again. Now in their late twenties Rachel has the television career, the apartment and the boyfriend, while Clara’s life is spiraling further out of control. Yet despite everything, they remain inextricably bound. Then Rachel’s news editor assigns her to cover a police press conference, and she is shocked when she arrives to learn that the subject is Clara, reported missing. Is it abduction, suicide or something else altogether?

Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve shared together. The truth is always there.  But only if you choose to see it.

 

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WHAT’S UP NEXT? (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Currently Reading:  The Matchmaker (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

 

 

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Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester

 

 

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Everything I Never Told You (e-book), by Celeste Ng

 

 

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And:  Drum Roll, please!  Check in at An Interior Journey on January 1st to see my First Book of 2015.

 

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What did your week look like?  What are you anticipating in the week ahead?  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you enjoy a safe and Happy New Year!

 

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WEEKLY UPDATES: COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS

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Good morning!  Today’s post will link up to Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post,  and Book Journey, for  Weekly Updates.

**Mailbox Monday is now hosted at the home site:  Mailbox Monday.

Good morning, Bloggers!  Grab some coffee (or a pot of tea!), and let’s talk about our weeks.

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas is enjoying the pre-holiday excitement.  It is hard not to, but I don’t love the crowds or how impossible it is to find parking spaces.

I spent some time in my daughter’s cozy home, enjoying her Christmas tree lights…and then I took Noah to Barnes & Noble today, after we had lunch, and it was actually less hectic than most places.

 

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I had a pretty good week, so have a sip of coffee or tea…and let’s take a look:

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Interior Thoughts:  Upcoming Book Releases & My Review Process

Chase Away the Blues with Intros/Teasers – “A Fireproof Home for the Bride”

Serendipitous Wednesday:  “Every Fifteen Minutes”

My Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts:  Not Ready for Christmas!

Sunday Morning:  An Excerpt from “Interior Designs”

A Guilty Pleasures Friday:  “The Life You’ve Imagined”

Saturday Sparks:  A Merry Christmas to All!

Review:  Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm

Review:  Winter Street, by Elin Hilderbrand

Review:   Monday, Monday (e-book), by Elizabeth Crook

Review:  The Paying Guests (e-book), by Sarah Waters

Review:  Where Are You Now? (e-book), by Mary Higgins Clark

 

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INCOMING BOOKS:  (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

 

 

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I received one book in the mail (from Amazon Vine), and downloaded three e-books.

 

Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester (Vine)

 

 

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This is the story of Lillian, a single woman reflecting on her choices and imagining her future.  Born in the Midwest in the 1930s; Lillian lives, loves, and works in Europe in the fifties and early sixties; she settles in New York and pursues the great love of her life in the sixties and seventies. Now it’s the early nineties, and she’s taking stock. Throughout her life, walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern choices for women, Lillian grapples with parental disappointment and societal expectations, wins and loses in love, and develops her own brand of wisdom. Lillian on Life lifts the skin off the beautiful, stylish product of an era to reveal the confused, hot-blooded woman underneath.

 

Downloads:

 

What the Dead Know (e-book), by Laura Lippman

 

 

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Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who—or what—could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness?

Now a clearly disoriented woman involved in a rush-hour hit-and-run claims to be the younger of the long-gone Bethany sisters. But her involuntary admission and subsequent attempt to stonewall investigators only deepens the mystery. Where has she been? Why has she waited so long to come forward? Could her abductor truly be a beloved Baltimore cop? There isn’t a shred of evidence to support her story, and every lead she gives the police seems to be another dead end—a dying, incoherent man, a razed house, a missing grave, and a family that disintegrated long ago, torn apart not only by the crime but by the fissures the tragedy revealed in what appeared to be the perfect household.

 

Eat the Document (e-book), b Dana Spiotta

 

 

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In the heyday of the 1970s underground, Bobby DeSoto and Mary Whittaker — passionate, idealistic, and in love — design a series of radical protests against the Vietnam War. When one action goes wrong, the course of their lives is forever changed. The two must erase their past, forge new identities, and never see each other again.

Now it is the 1990s. Mary lives in the suburbs with her fifteen-year-old son, who spends hours immersed in the music of his mother’s generation. She has no idea where Bobby is, whether he is alive or dead.

Shifting between the protests in the 1970s and the consequences of those choices in the 1990s, Dana Spiotta deftly explores the connection between the two eras — their language, technology, music, and activism. Character-driven and brilliant, Eat the Document is an important and revelatory novel about the culture of rebellion, with particular resonance now.

 

Eleanor & Park (e-book), by Rainbow Rowell

 

 

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Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

 

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WHAT’S UP NEXT? (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

A Fireproof Home for the Bride, by Amy Scheibe (Vine)

 

 

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The Last Anniversary (e-book), by Lianne Moriarty

 

 

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The Matchmaker (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

 

 

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Wow, what a week!  And now we are counting down the days until Christmas…and the days until the New Year!

 

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MY BOOKISH (AND NOT SO BOOKISH) THOUGHTS: NOT READY FOR CHRISTMAS!

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Welcome to another Thursday, and the ramblings that make up My Bookish (and Not So Bookish Thoughts), hosted by Bookishly Boisterous.

Christmas is almost here, and I am not ready!  Well, yes, I do have my decorations up, such as they are, and I have already started reading Christmas books…well, ONE.

But my mind is not there yet.  Maybe if I went out shopping and felt myself pushed, shoved, and jostled by other shoppers, that would do it.

 

 

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But since my gift-giving style these days is gift cards—in my defense, that’s what the kids want!—I have no real reason to subject myself to that hassle.

At this point in my life, Christmas shopping or any kind of shopping, other than online shopping, is a big nuisance.  But I do manage to do it when needed.  And then I usually pick a store where I can get everything…like Target, and try to pick hours that other people are not shopping.  LOL

How do you feel about shopping, Christmas or otherwise?  Am I the only one who prefers to shop from home?

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My bookish needs are definitely satisfied most of the time by Amazon, either by purchase or review books requested through Vine.

I buy the occasional book at Barnes & Noble, which is just around the corner, and I usually pick a time when I can have coffee and a scone before shopping.

Here is what I am getting from Vine this week, and I love it!

Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester

 

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This is the story of Lillian, a single woman reflecting on her choices and imagining her future.  Born in the Midwest in the 1930s; Lillian lives, loves, and works in Europe in the fifties and early sixties; she settles in New York and pursues the great love of her life in the sixties and seventies. Now it’s the early nineties, and she’s taking stock. Throughout her life, walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern choices for women, Lillian grapples with parental disappointment and societal expectations, wins and loses in love, and develops her own brand of wisdom. Lillian on Life lifts the skin off the beautiful, stylish product of an era to reveal the confused, hot-blooded woman underneath.

 

One Step Too Far, by Tina Seskis

 

 

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An intricately plotted, thoroughly addictive thriller that introduces a major new voice in suspense fiction—a mesmerizing and powerful novel that will keep you guessing to the very end.

No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can’t bury the past—or her own memories.

And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she’s done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .

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Currently, I am reading The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, but alternated between that one and Monday, Monday, by Elizabeth Crook, which I finished this afternoon.  (Click for review).

 

 

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Back to The Paying Guests, I am intrigued by the story….but it’s a long one (568 pages), so I may pick up another shorter book, too.

Like Where Are You Now?, by Mary Higgins Clark. (304 pages).

 

 

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It has been ten years since twenty-one-year-old Charles MacKenzie Jr. (“Mack”) went missing. A Columbia University senior, about to graduate and already accepted at Duke University Law School, he walked out of his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side without a word to his college roommates and has never been seen again. However, he does make one ritual phone call to his mother every year: on Mother’s Day. Each time, he assures her he is fine, refuses to answer her frantic questions, then hangs up. Even the death of his father, a corporate lawyer, in the tragedy of 9/11 does not bring him home or break the pattern of his calls.

Mack’s sister, Carolyn, is now twenty-six, a law school graduate, and has just finished her clerkship for a civil court judge in Manhattan. She has endured two family tragedies, yet she realizes that she will never be able to have closure and get on with her life until she finds her brother. She resolves to discover what happened to Mack and why he has found it necessary to hide from them. So this year when Mack makes his annual Mother’s Day call, Carolyn interrupts to announce her intention to track him down, no matter what it takes. The next morning after Mass, her uncle, Monsignor Devon MacKenzie, receives a scrawled message left in the collection basket: “Uncle Devon, tell Carolyn she must not look for me.”

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Now doesn’t that pique your curiosity?  If did give me a little chill, too.

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So I am eagerly reading away my days, doing some blogging, and trying not to go shopping!  LOL

What was your week like?

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