REVIEW: BEACH BREEZE, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

After a heartbreaking summer on the Connecticut shore, a group of beach friends is as adrift as an unmoored rowboat. When a dismayed Jason Barlow drives as far away from the sea as he can, leaving behind his wife, Maris, as well as their stately cottage on the bluff, that news hits like a sudden wave. Gathering over an intimate meal in a coastal diner, the friends make a solemn pact to lean on each other and not make any more rash decisions.

Which is all well and good, until each friend wavers–testing relationships, commitments, and especially love in the little beach community of Stony Point. But can the magic of the weathered boardwalk, whispering lagoon grasses, and sweet salt air cure what ails them?

My Thoughts: Reconnecting with the residents of Stony Point brought this reader back into all of their lives during a huge loss that seemingly took them each off course.

Jason Barlow was especially impacted by the sudden death of his new friend Sal DeLuca, who had become like a stand-in for Jason’s lost brother Neil. Struggling with his walled-off feelings, he takes to the road without a backward glance. But then he is brought up hard by the swell of his feelings, and calls his wife. Maris and her sister Eva join him, and for a bit, it seems as though Jason might have reached a defining moment.

But more will happen in the days and weeks ahead that will remind them all that sadness and sorrow are not easily forgotten.

Each member of the community is affected by Sal’s loss, and his mother Elsa shows just how much she is changed by it when she suddenly decides not to continue the beach inn renovation. A decision that will hit Jason hard, especially, as he was counting on the work, as were his employees. From one rash decision to another, the friendships are slowly unraveling, and their desperate effort to make changes leads to a pact. One that might curtail future wrong moves.

But will their pact help them move on, or will they have to take drastic steps to right the wrong choices they are making?

A beautifully written story that showed the strength of their bonds in the wake of tragedy, Beach Breeze carried me through to the final moments of an unforgettable summer…and earned 5 stars.

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REVIEW: I’VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES, BY LISA SC0TTOLINE, ET. AL.

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Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella are adept at humor, as exemplified in I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places, the latest in a series of such collections that offer up short and witty vignettes on a variety of topics.

They bring us right into the thick of it all, as they alternately share anecdotal incidents from their lives, mostly about all the daily things everyone experiences, but also spiced with their take on clothes; their unique book signings; gardening, especially fantasies about the perfect garden; food and metabolism; life with dogs; friendships; and romantic relationships, to name a few.

Lisa is famous for her labeling of her two ex-husbands as Thing One and Thing Two. Thing One has redeeming social value: he is Francesca’s father, whereas Thing Two barely gets a mention.

Francesca shares a frightening assault she experienced, and walked us through how she healed from it, while still acknowledging that she relives it at times. Her writing about her relationships, her dogs, and her single life in Manhattan help us see her perspective on a variety of issues, including her connection to her mother, and the importance of that connection in getting through life’s challenges.

Another topic many of us “people pleasers” can relate to is how to say no and how to do it without guilt. Lisa shares how she came to a realization that trying to make everybody happy was not a good thing for her own life.

“It took me fifty years to figure out what I was doing wrong, and how to fix it. I started saying no, and the world did not end. Then I kept saying no, and it got easier and easier.

“It takes practice….and I taught myself that every time I said no to someone else, I was saying yes to myself….I started living—my own life.”

I loved the section on The Empty Nest, and how Lisa dealt with it as a celebration, which does not in any way negate how much she loves and enjoys her daughter. But being able to own your day, without having responsibility for another human being under your roof, is a freedom unmatched by any other kind. She describes how her world is rocked a little when her daughter comes to visit, though, and that they get into little conversations about “why is the TV on CNN” all the time, or why are there closed captions? I got a giggle out of this one, as I love having the captions on, too, not because I can’t hear, but so I can mute the TV and still glance up to see what is going on. When I am reading or working, the TV, with captions, is muted and is like a backdrop to my other activities.

I thoroughly enjoy these chats with the authors, which make me feel as though I know them and that I’m joining them for coffee…or a drink. So I can’t wait for the next installment.

Rating:  cropped again 5

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REVIEW: THE GIRLS OF AUGUST, BY ANNE RIVERS SIDDONS

 

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The women had all met years before, in Nashville, and they had all married doctors: Teddy, Hugh, Mac, and Oliver. Their first August getaway had cemented their bonds, despite the fact that the first divorce among them took Teddy’s wife Cornelia shortly thereafter. They didn’t miss her, but they did love her summer house.

Teddy’s next wife, Melinda, was a favorite friend who was lost too soon in a terrible accident. After her death, and despite fifteen years of getaways, the August escapes ended. For a while.

Now, after three years, they are trying again. They escape to Tiger Island, Teddy’s summer house on the South Carolina coast, which he shares with his new “child bride,” LucyAnne, whom everyone calls Baby, and they try to form a new bond.

But Baby is hard to love, with her childish prattle and her propensity for stripping down and wandering in the ocean, stark naked. Could she be stupid, or is there more to her than her surface would suggest?

The Girls of August was an enjoyable read, mostly because of the three older women, Rachel, Barbara, and our first person narrator, Madison (Maddy). Rachel’s biting wit, mostly directed toward Baby and her antics, and Barbara’s mysterious silences and excessive drinking…made me want to get to know them a bit more. I wanted to understand what was going on with them. And our narrator, Maddy, was someone who seemed compassionate, and like a friend anyone would want. And then there was Baby, who surprised me in the end, even though I still didn’t like her.

Some of their adventures made me long for a retreat like that one, but unexpected events bring the two-week getaway to a crashing end, jolting me a little.   My Rating:  ratings worms 4-cropped

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE GIRLS OF AUGUST”

Married to Books-BOOKISH LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s 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!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is one I had hoped to read by summer’s end…and maybe I can still make it.  The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons, is about four friends carrying out a ritual getaway…until something happens to halt the friendship connection.

 

 

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Beginning:  Of all the fifteen summerhouses, the first one was the best.  That’s what we all agreed on, for a while, anyway…until we grew wiser, more measured in our joy, more careful with the doling out of praise.  Funny, we rarely agreed unanimously on anything, but for years there had been no doubt about the Colleton house.  At first glance it had seemed designed—brick, board, and shingle—for the girls of August.

***

56:  Rachel shook her head as if freeing it of stupid thoughts.  She pulled out a tube of gloss and painted her bottom lip.  She paused and, holding the gloss aloft, said, “Obviously Oliver is wrong.  Just look at you!  And look at Teddy!”

***

Synopsis:  Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.

***

I love friends getting together at the beach, especially when they do so after a rift.  When they are trying to repair the damage.  What do you think?  Should I read this one next?

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REVIEW: MYSTIC SUMMER, BY HANNAH MCKINNON

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Maggie Griffin and Erika Crane have been best friends for many years, and now, while sharing an apartment in Boston’s Back Bay, their friendship is about to take another turn.

Erika and her fiancé Trent Mitchell are planning a summer wedding.

Meanwhile, Maggie is ending the school year, teaching at Darby, a private school, and her future as a teacher is up in the air due to budget cuts.

Will going home to Mystic, Connecticut, for Erika’s wedding help Maggie figure things out, even as she plays a supporting role for Erika through her wedding celebration?

Mystic Summer was a light and comfy tale about events that unexpectedly change the course we are on, and remind us of the people and places that make us feel at home.

I liked feeling as though I were right there in the lovely village, eating at Mystic Pizza, and remembering the movie that was set there…and walking along with the characters on the cobbled streets as they reminisced, and as they made decisions about who feels like home among their various acquaintances and friends.

I was definitely not a fan of Evan, Maggie’s boyfriend, an actor who had little time for her, but wanted everything to march to his tune. He liked everything neat and settled, so when anything was the least bit untidy, he liked cleaning it up. On his own, without consulting Maggie.

On the other hand, Maggie’s ex-boyfriend Cameron is back in town, with a baby girl in tow. The baby’s mother has left them, and he is handling it all on his own, with some help from his parents. And now Maggie feels a unique pull toward the baby girl, while remembering how Cam makes her feel. His life is definitely a little messy, a little chaotic…but it all clicks for Maggie.

Wonderful read that earned 4.5 stars from me.

ratings worms 4-cropped

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “IN TWENTY YEARS”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s 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!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is the newest release from one of the authors I enjoy.  Allison Winn Scotch’s In Twenty Years tells a story of splintered friendships and a reunion that could heal the wounds.

 

 

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Beginning:  (Prologue – 1998 – Late May- Bea)

Admittedly, it was an overly nostalgic idea.  But, so what?  If there were ever a time for nostalgia, it was tonight, our last night together at Penn, our last night under the same roof, our last night as a six-point star.  Besides, if I didn’t insist on it, none of them would have been willing.  Frankly, and this is the part that somersaulted my stomach, none of them would have even considered it, thought of it in the first place….

***

56:  (Annie)

Breathe.  This is what that therapist used to tell her, the one her OB-GYN insisted she see when she broke down on the exam table at her six-month postnatal appointment, her legs still aloft in the stirrups, the rest of her quaking so much the thin paper sheet beneath her shredded in two.  Breathe.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.

***

Synopsis:  Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.

Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past.

***

Reunions can be traumatic, with the past rearing its ugly head, forcing it to be confronted and reexamined.  Would you keep reading this one?

***

BOOKISH FRIDAYS: “DREAM OF THE BLUE ROOM”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s 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!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is one I purchased a while ago, in September 2014; the author, however, is one I’ve enjoyed with several more recent books.  Dream of the Blue Room, by Michelle Richmond, depicts the powerful intimacies of marriage, friendship, and family that shape our paths and the bonds of home that buoy us—wherever home may be.

 

 

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Beginning:  In the dream Amanda Ruth is not dead, she is only sleeping.  We are lying under a sycamore tree beside a rugged mountain path.  The grass around us is littered with the pits of fruits we have eaten:  peaches and figs, plums and nectarines.  Her fingers are still wet from our feast.

***

56:  As I lay on top of Amanda Ruth, I felt a nervousness rattling in my stomach, and along with it a feeling of being in exactly the right place and with the right person, a wholeness I had not felt since we’d last been together.  Her body felt as familiar as my own, although she had changed since that day in the boathouse, gained a softness and a stillness that wasn’t there before.

***

Blurb:  Jenny and Amanda Ruth were best friends in a small Alabama town until eighteen-years-old Amanda Ruth was murdered. Now, fourteen years later, Jenny has traveled with her husband to China to scatter Amanda Ruth’s ashes and finally fulfill her friend’s dream of visiting her Chinese father’s homeland. It’s also, Jenny hopes, an opportunity to repair her own troubled marriage. But as she journeys through a foreign landscape, the guilty secrets of Jenny’s past rise up and her life will be inexorably altered.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Fog (“Highly recommended [for fans of] authors like Jodi Picoult and Jacquelyn Mitchard” —Library Journal, starred review) and No One You Know (“Luminous . . . will keep you thinking long after the last page has been turned”—Family Circle),

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It has been a while since I last read a novel by Richmond, but I was drawn to this one because of how much I’ve enjoyed her other books.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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