IGNITE YOUR SPARKS: FUELED BY HOPE…

Here we are, almost halfway through January, and I am feeling a special need to ignite the sparks of our New Year.  We have certainly had some unfortunate events this month already…but after yesterday’s events with a second Impeachment of Trump, I am beginning to feel hopeful.

And HOPE is my word for the year. 

Also…I had my first COVID vaccine yesterday, and the second will follow soon.  So far, no untoward side effects.  In fact, my body felt almost pain free when I awoke this morning.  Perhaps I was just feeling relieved.

I slept in today, too!  Until 7:15 a.m., which is very unusual.  I often awaken every hour after 4:00 a.m., finally rising at 5:30.  But since I usually don’t go to breakfast in the dining room these days, I was happy to get up with the sun today.

I went on the computer to check out some news items…and then to post about my Backlog Book.

Then I created a page for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge I just entered.

Even after completing last year’s challenge, with seven books, I have quite a few remaining on my shelves.  Check out the top shelf, below the Quirky doll and designer books.

Now I am ready to turn my thoughts to a challenge,  hoping the distraction will be just what I need.  What do you do in the New Year to challenge yourself?

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TUESDAY EXCERPTS: “PRETTY LITTLE WIFE”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events: First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book Reviews; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is another new book:  Pretty Little Wife, by Darby Kane.

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Intro:  A Monster.

She missed the signs before.  Maybe ignored them without fully realizing it.   Now she couldn’t unsee them.

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Teaser:  She possessed the perfect mix of pretty with a whiff of mystery.  Ginny could imagine men at the yacht club falling over themselves to flirt with her, and her not reacting at all.  (p. 63).

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Synopsis:  Lila Ridgefield lives in an idyllic college town, but not everything is what it seems. Lila isn’t what she seems.

A student vanished months ago. Now, Lila’s husband, Aaron, is also missing. At first these cases are treated as horrible coincidences until it’s discovered the student is really the third of three unexplained disappearances over the last few years. The police are desperate to find the connection, if there even is one. Little do they know they might be stumbling over only part of the truth….

With the small town in an uproar, everyone is worried about the whereabouts of their beloved high school teacher. Everyone except Lila, his wife. She’s definitely confused about her missing husband but only because she was the last person to see his body, and now it’s gone.

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What do you think?  I am intrigued.

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TUESDAY EXCERPTS: “SHELTER IN PLACE”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events: First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book Reviews; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a recent acquisition:  Shelter in Place, by David Leavitt.

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Intro:  “Would you be willing to ask Siri how to assassinate Trump?”  Eva Lindquist asked.

It was four o’clock on a November afternoon, the first Saturday after the 2016 presidential election, and Eva was sitting on the covered porch of her weekend house in Connecticut with her husband, Bruce; their houseguests, Min Marable, Jake Lovett, and a couple named Aaron and Rachel Weisenstein, both book editors; Grady Keohane, a bachelor choreographer who had a place down the road; and Grady’s houseguest, his cousin Sandra Bleek, who had recently left her husband and was staying with him while she got herself sorted out.

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Teaser:  For Min, the disparity between Matt’s looks—he was six foot three and bore a distinct resemblance to the young Glenn Ford—and his fastidious manner, which expressed itself most obviously in his cooking, was troublesome. (p. 62).

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Synopsis:  It is the Saturday after the 2016 presidential election, and in a plush weekend house in Connecticut, an intimate group of friends, New Yorkers all, has gathered to recover from what they consider the greatest political catastrophe of their lives. They have just sat down to tea when their hostess, Eva Lindquist, proposes a dare. Who among them would be willing to ask Siri how to assassinate Donald Trump? Liberal and like-minded-editors, writers, a decorator, a theater producer, and one financial guy, Eva’s husband, Bruce-the friends have come to the countryside in the hope of restoring the bubble in which they have grown used to living. Yet with the exception of one brash and obnoxious book editor, none is willing to accept Eva’s challenge.

Shelter in Place is a novel about house and home, furniture and rooms, safety and freedom and the invidious ways in which political upheaval can undermine even the most seemingly impregnable foundations. Eva is the novel’s polestar, a woman who moves through her days accompanied by a roving, carefully curated salon. She’s a generous hostess and more than a bit of a control freak, whose obsession with decorating allows Leavitt to treat us to a slyly comic look at the habitués and fetishes of the so-called shelter industry. Yet when, in her avidity to secure shelter for herself, she persuades Bruce to buy a grand if dilapidated apartment in Venice, she unwittingly sets off the chain of events that will propel him, for the first time, to venture outside the bubble and embark on a wholly unexpected love affair.

A comic portrait of the months immediately following the 2016 election, Shelter in Place is also a meditation on the unreliable appetites-for love, for power, for freedom-by which both our public and private lives are shaped.

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What do you think?  Does the blurb grab you?  Do you like the snippets?

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TUESDAY EXCERPTS: “THE ARRANGEMENT”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events: First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book Reviews; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a recent acquisition from an author I enjoy:  The Arrangement, by Robyn Harding.

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Intro:  (Prologue)

“Daddy?”

Nat’s voice on the phone was small and tremulous.  She hadn’t called her father daddy since she was a little girl.  Hadn’t called him at all since she’d graduated from high school, since she’d moved to New York, since she’d started her new life.

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Teaser:  (The Drink)

Natalie’s gloved hand gripped the railing as she descended the front steps to her Uber.  To calm her nerves, she’d had a coffee mug full of vodka and Sprite while she’d straightened her hair. (p. 60).

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Synopsis:  Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

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Would you keep reading?  I am already hooked.

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REVIEW: THE LAST WIFE, BY KAREN HAMILTON

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends—until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Marie’s vow to step in and take care of her best friend Nina’s family after her death sounds like a loving thing to do. But is Marie truly who Nina would have chosen if she had known Marie’s secrets?

Will Marie’s plan include taking over Nina’s life, including her friendships and even her husband? The friendships included Camilla, who has secrets she has been keeping, too. Her connection to Marie runs deeper than previously known.

There were times that I found Marie very annoying, but then again, none of the other people in Nina’s life were who they seemed to be, either.

What will Marie finally do to step up, and will she be the right choice for the task? Will she keep her own darkness hidden as she tries to protect those she loves?

The Last Wife had many twists, and it was hard to give any of the characters a pass. They all had darkness that could come back to haunt them. 3.5 stars.

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FRIDAY SPARKS: A DOLL STORY…

These “hippie” dolls named Dylan and Harmony have been my little friends for many years.  They have “lived” in my A-frame house in the foothills; my condo in the city; and now, finally, in my studio apartment where they stand on my filing cabinet.  There they are, guarding the cabinets and the folding chair, lol.

Small spaces demand different roles for these dolls.  They began their life with me on shelves of various kinds, including this special bookshelf at my last residence.  They mixed it up with my Red Hat trinkets and some Boyd’s bears.  They also shared the attention of photos of Ireland snapped by my eldest son, who lived there for more than a year:

Finally they are gracing the blog header here. My last dolls to decorate this site were my Madeline dolls, and I am still very fond of them, but giving them a respite from the spotlight.

They still share space in my current apartment on the entry way cabinet:

Before the entry way, they posed atop my desk.

Did you enjoy the little history lesson?  Maybe not, but I know that everyone has a story, including the dolls who live with me.

Enjoy the Christmas holidays, and have a wonderful and happy New Year.

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TUESDAY EXCERPTS: “BEHIND THE RED DOOR”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events: First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book Reviews; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a new book:  Behind the Red Door, by Megan Collins

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Intro:  Now that it’s summer, it’s not my job to protect the children.  I have finished the follow-ups on the girl who submitted a suicide note for her English essay.  I have closed the file on the boy who came to school with rope burns on his neck.

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Teaser:  My heart thumped when I read that.  My stomach roiled.  I had to set the book aside, curl into myself, wrap my arms around my knees. (p.59).

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Synopsis:  When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.

Back at her childhood home to help her father pack for a move, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir—which may have provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again—and as she reads through its chapters and visits the people and places within it, she discovers more evidence that she has an unsettling connection to the missing woman. With the help of her psychologist father, Fern digs deeper, hoping to find evidence that her connection to Astrid can help the police locate her. But when Fern discovers more about her own past than she ever bargained for, the disturbing truth will change both of their lives forever.

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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TUESDAY EXCERPTS: “THE PUSH”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events: First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book Reviews; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a new book:  The Push, by Claire McGowan

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Intro:  (Prologue)

The babies all look the same.  They lie in a circle on a patterned rug, heads in, legs fanning out like a star.  They will grow up to be so different; some rich, some poor, some happy some sad, some hearty some sickly.

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Teaser Tuesday:  I sat up in bed in the dark, pulling the dream’s remnants from me like cobwebs.  Beside me, Aaron breathed peacefully. (p. 57).

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Synopsis:  The party should have been perfect: six couples from the same baby group, six newborns, a luxurious house. But not everything has gone to plan, and while some are here to celebrate, others have sorrows to drown. When someone falls from the balcony of the house, the secrets and conflicts within the group begin to spill out …

DS Alison Hegarty, herself struggling with infertility, is called in to investigate. She’s convinced the fall was not an accident, and finds the new parents have a lot to hide. Wealthy Ed and Monica show off their newborn while their teenage daughter is kept under virtual house arrest. Hazel and Cathy conceived their longed-for baby via an anonymous sperm donor—or so Hazel thinks. Anita and Jeremy planned to adopt from America, but there’s no sign of the child. Kelly, whose violent boyfriend disrupted previous group sessions, came to the party even though she lost her baby. And then there’s Jax, who’s been experiencing strange incidents for months—almost like someone’s out to get her. Is it just a difficult pregnancy? Or could it be payback for something she did in the past?

It’s a nightmare of a case, and as events get even darker it begins to look impossible. Only one thing is clear: they all have something to hide. And for one of them, it’s murder.

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR, BY ROSE CARLYLE

Twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam.

Called to Thailand to help her sister sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes. When she makes it to land, Iris allows herself to be swept up by Adam, who assumes that she is Summer.

Iris recklessly goes along with his mistake. Not only does she finally have the golden life she’s always envied, with her sister gone, she’s one step closer to the hundred-million-dollar inheritance left by her manipulative father. All Iris has to do is be the first of his seven children to produce an heir.

Iris’s “new” life lurches between glamorous dream and paranoid nightmare. On the edge of being exposed, how far will she go to ensure no one discovers the truth?

And just what did happen to Summer on the yacht?

Only Iris knows . . .

As The Girl in the Mirror unfolds, I was caught up in the twin schemes and the switch that could have interesting consequences.

But what we discover as the story takes one turn after another is that there is more to the tale than we thought, and we begin to suspect that nothing is quite what it seems.

Who is really Summer and who is Iris? Which of them has tricked the other?

I thought I had it all figured out, but then I was stunned. 5 stars.

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TUESDAY EXCERPTS: “GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events: First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book Reviews; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a new book:  Goodnight Beautiful, by Aimee Molloy

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Intro:  (Prologue, October 20)

I look up as a man with ruddy cheeks and a crew cut walks into the restaurant, shaking rain from his baseball cap.  “Hey, sweetheart,” he calls to the pink-haired girl mixing drinks behind the bar.  “Any chance you can hang this in the window?”

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Teaser Tuesdays:  They share a hearty chuckle, and I notice how relaxed he sounds.  In fact, I’d say he’s more relaxed than he’s been in days. (p. 62).

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Synopsis:  A handsome psychotherapist. His lonely wife. And in his home office ceiling, a vent …

You’d listen too, wouldn’t you? (You know you would.)

Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York City and start a life together in Sam’s sleepy hometown upstate. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele. Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist’s wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie’s happily ever after. 

Showcasing Molloy’s deft ability to subvert norms and culminating in the kind of stunning twist that is becoming her trademark, Goodnight Beautiful is a thrilling tale of domestic suspense that not only questions assumptions but defies expectations.

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Would you keep reading?

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