REVIEW: GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, BY SUSAN ISAACS

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Gloria Goldberg Garrison was not your typical grandmother. None of her grandchildren would describe her as indulgent…or even present, for that matter.

So when she summons them to her home in Santa Fe, just before her 80th birthday, they have to wonder what is going on.

They arrive in a car she sent to the airport: Matthew and Daisy, children of Gloria’s son Bradley; and Raquel, the daughter of Gloria’s deceased son (and favorite), Travis.

She leads them to the conservatory, and its coldness, a perfect setting for awkward conversation. They wait. There is lots of posturing. And then she lays it on them. They will stay for a few days, and at the end of their time together, she will offer her multimillion dollar company, Glory, to one of them. And the other two will get nothing.

As you can imagine, we get to see behind the scenes, as each character reveals more in his or her first-person narrative. And Gloria’s narrative is a little surprising, considering who she has become. But growing up in Cincinnati in the 1950s has left its scars. Could her childhood and adolescence have informed this cold person she now seems to be?

Matthew and Daisy appear to be pretty “together,” despite their negligent grandmother. But Raquel seems a bit defensive and a little bit scarred as well, even though her social worker mother has done a good job of establishing a moral compass for her. Even though Raquel’s father was Gloria’s favorite, none of that benevolence descended to his child. Raquel recalls a time when her mother asked for financial assistance from Gloria, but was met with a cold shoulder.

What will happen to them all by the end of their visit? Can the grandchildren forget the neglect? Will any of them be willing or able to do as she asks? And how will Gloria feel afterwards?

I am a fan of this author, so, while I did find Goldberg Variations: A Story of Three Cousins and a Fortune entertaining, and even though I was definitely intrigued by the proposition the grandmother made, in the end, I was pretty certain of how everything would unfold. There was an interesting twist that I enjoyed and which was unexpected…and elevated this one to 4 stars for me.

REVIEW: LACY EYE, BY JESSICA TREADWAY

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One frightening night around the Thanksgiving holiday, someone entered the home of Joe and Hanna Schutt in Everton, New York, and clobbered them both with a croquet mallet, leaving Joe dead and Hanna near death.Now, three years later, Hanna, our first person narrator, still struggles to put together the pieces of that night and fill in the missing blanks, as the man convicted of the crime, Rud Petty, who had been their daughter Dawn’s boyfriend, has won an appeal.

There will be a new trial, and the pressure has escalated, as the DA hopes that Hanna will remember the moments she lost and help them with the case.

How can Hanna do that, as all she can recall are bits and pieces?

But then her daughter Dawn, who hasn’t returned to the house since the crime three years before, calls to ask if she can come home from New Mexico, where she has been living. The older daughter, Iris, who believes that somehow Dawn was involved in what happened, is irate that she has returned. But Iris is married, with a young child, so she doesn’t appear in the home very often.

Even though there is a mystery hovering overhead, the story, Lacy Eye, is a character-driven tale of a woman trying to discover who her younger daughter really is, by truly seeing her behavior and recalling the patterns that revealed themselves over the years. She struggles with the conflicts she feels whenever she realizes something truly disheartening about her daughter, like her inability to think of anyone but herself, with a special disregard for the feelings and possessions of others; her tendency to expect the care and attention of others, while giving nothing of herself. As a young adult, she seems unable to get up off the couch and do anything to help her mother, who works hard all day, and continually displays an attitude of entitlement. Her constantly addressing her mother as “Mommy” feels like a cloying attempt to garner favor.

I really could not stand Dawn, but Iris’s attitudes were equally off-putting. Her condescending attitude toward her mother, as well as to Dawn, had a hint of arrogance about it. However, by the end of the book, she had redeemed herself in my view.

I felt sorry for Hanna, who was left with a disfigurement on the right side of her face, but I felt impatient with her tendency to give Dawn a free pass, who, as a child, struggled with amblyopia, from which the name “Lacy Eye” came–Dawn refused to call the condition “lazy eye.” She was bullied by other kids, but there was always a sense that even before the “lazy eye” made its appearance, she was missing some major ingredient of likability.

The family dynamics of Joe, Hanna, and the girls had an undercurrent of denial threading through almost everything that happened. Joe was strict, but Hanna ignored most of what she didn’t want to see and allowed things to happen, setting them all up for disaster, in my opinion. When Hanna appeared heavily steeped in denial, Joe often called her out on her “lacy eye,” a term he used to describe her inability to see what was right in front of her.

It is easy to blame the victim, however, and throughout, I kept coming back to a sense of heavy uneasiness whenever Dawn showed up in a scene. What was going on beneath the surface with her? Would Hanna finally remember the significant details of that night? Would clarity allow her to truly see her daughter?

As events moved toward a conclusion, I could not help but grow intensely anxious, wondering how it would all play out. I was thoroughly immersed and connected with the story and the characters. The writing kept me engaged, and the characterizations were so fully developed that I left the story behind with a great sense of satisfaction. Definitely a 5 star read.


CURL UP WITH INTROS/TEASERS – “LACY EYE”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s feature is an ARC from Amazon Vine:  Lacy Eye, by Jessica Treadway, a haunting, evocative novel about a woman who might have to face the disturbing truth about her own daughter.

 

 

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Intro:  (Are You Looking at Me or Not?)

The detective was waiting for me when I arrived home from work.  He sat in his own Civic, rather than an official police car, on the side of the driveway where Joe used to park.  He might have been doing a crossword; I saw him lay down a folded section of the newspaper when I pulled in beside him.

I swore, not at the sight of Thornburgh, but because reporters from TV news vans were also waiting for me, on the street in front of the house.  They ran up the driveway with cameras as I parked in the garage and stepped out of my car, but when I held my hand over my face and said that I was sorry but I couldn’t talk to them, the detective moved forward and told them in his reasonable but no-nonsense voice that they needed to get off my property.

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Teaser:  Thornburgh was one of the few people who could look at my face without wincing.  The surgeons had done their best, but the scars were obvious, and my features looked as if they’d been pulled apart and rearranged, like a Picasso painting.  (p. 3).

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Blurb:  Hanna and Joe send their awkward daughter Dawn off to college hoping that she will finally “come into her own.” When she brings her new boyfriend, Rud, to her sister’s wedding, her parents try to suppress their troubling impressions of him for Dawn’s sake. Not long after, Hanna and Joe suffer a savage attack at home, resulting in Joe’s death and Hanna’s severe injury and memory loss.

Rud is convicted of the crime, and the community speculates that Dawn may also have been involved. When Rud wins an appeal and Dawn returns to live in the family home, Hanna resolves to recall that traumatic night so she can testify in the retrial, exonerate her daughter, and keep her husband’s murderer in jail.

But as those memories resurface, Hanna faces the question of whether she knows her own daughter-and whether she ever did.

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What do you think?  Would you read more?  Does it pique your interest?

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GOODBYE TO MARCH: CURL UP WITH MY BOOKS

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Wow!  Another great reading month has ended.  Check out my books and click the titles to see my reviews.

Are you ready for April?  I’m not sure I am, but I love all the books waiting on my TBR Shelves…

 

 

MARCH 2015:

1.     Amherst, by William Nicholson – 283 pages – (historical fiction) – 3/3/15

2.     Baltimore Blues (e-book), by Laura Lippman – 369 pages – (mystery) – 3/3/15

3.    Crazy Love You (e-book), by Lisa Unger – 336 pages – (contemporary thriller) – 3/1/15

4.     Fear Nothing (e-book), by Lisa Gardner – 407 pages – (psychological suspense thriller) – 3/6/15

5.     First Wife, The (e-book), by Erica Spindler – 341 pages – (suspense thriller) – 3/18/15

6.     Hush Hush (e-book), by Laura Lippman – 293 pages – (suspense/mystery) – 3/14/15

7.     In the Blood (e-book), by Lisa Unger – 340 pages – (suspense thriller) – 3/20/15

8.     My Dearest Friend (e-book), by Nancy Thayer – 352 pages – (women’s fiction) – 3/7/15

9.     One That Got Away, The, by Bethany Chase – 312 pages – (romance) – 3/31/15

10.   Someone Is Watching, by Joy Fielding – 364 pages – (suspense thriller) – 3/25/15

11.   Summer Secrets, by Jane Green – 308 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 3/27/15

12.    Ugly Love (e-book), by Colleen Hoover – 322 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 3/29/15

13.   Under a Silent Moon (e-book), by Elizabeth Haynes – 352 pages – (mystery/suspense) – 3/12/15

14.    What I Remember Most, by Cathy Lamb – 486 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 3/24/15

15.   What You Left Behind, by Samantha Hayes – 309 pages- (psychological thriller) – 3/10/15

16.    Where They Found Her, by Kimberly McCreight – 324 pages – (mystery) – 3/15/15

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BOOKS READ IN MARCH 2015 –   16

PAGES READ IN MARCH 2015 –   5,498

BOOKS READ YTD:                            47

FAVORITE FICTION READ:   Hush Hush, by Laura Lippman

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What did your month look like?

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REVIEW: THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, BY BETHANY CHASE

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For the past seven years, Sarina Mahler has quietly obsessed over the one passionate night she spent with handsome Olympic swimmer, Eamon Roy, wondering why, after that fabulous night they had together, he left town without a word. And why she hasn’t heard from him since.

Yes, she has had other relationships since. In fact, she is currently involved with Noah Harlow, an attorney, who wants to marry her. But for the time being, he is working on a long term project in Argentina. It will be months before he returns.

And now Eamon is coming back to Austin, and will be at a party tonight thrown by their mutual friends, one of whom is Sarina’s roommate, Danny.

A successful architect, Sarina loves everything about her life…except for that obsessive niggling inside about what might have been.

The One That Got Away: A Novel is a fun and enjoyable story of what happens after. What Sarina discovers, and the push and pull of her life as she begins to realize that there was a lot more to the story of what happened, kept me turning pages. But can she trust this second chance? And what about Noah?

What I loved most about the story: how the author gave us an insider’s peek into some of the design projects Sarina was involved in. And I also loved seeing what her home town in Virginia looked like when she went there for a sad event. I could almost hear the bluegrass music. Poignant moments.

Eamon was a dreamy character, and I loved the dialogue between him and Sarina, as they became good friends and as she started renovating a house for him.

Noah, on the other hand, was boring and overly conservative, with very definite ideas about what his life with Sarina would look like. He seemed like a good person, but not right for someone creative like Sarina.

As the story unfolded, I knew how I wanted things to go…but I kept wondering about what might happen until the very end. I liked this one a lot, but I didn’t love it. 4 stars.

MY BEST BLOGGING ADVICE: LET’S HEAR IT FOR BLOGGIESTA!

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Another Bloggiesta is here, and I am addicted to this opportunity to make changes and visit other bloggers.

In April, I will have been blogging for seven years, but my first blog was pretty much dormant for the first year.  Then I met some other bloggers, and realized that a community enfolded us.  And with each new “meet,” I learned that we could help one another.

My first site was on Blogger, but in 2009, I started adding blogs here on Word Press.  Sheila, of Book Journey, had a WP site and was helpful in telling me how to do various things on my blog.  I got so excited by this new adventure, that I added way too many blogs…mostly on WP.  And then combined a few of them.  I now have eleven, and ten of them are on WP.

What advice could I give the new bloggers?

 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

When I reached out to Sheila, with a question about how to do something on WP, I realized that there is no shame in asking.  And in later years, I have been able to pay it forward with other newbies.  There is a forever link when we connect and help each other.

 

FIND CONNECTIONS IN THE COMMUNITY

It begins, perhaps, when you decide to join one of the memes that proliferate on the blogosphere.  For me, it was It’s Monday, What Are You Reading, followed by Mailbox Monday.  Other memes would join the fold.

By visiting other blogs and commenting, I soon realized that people who comment back might continue to visit, and soon a conversation would flourish.  Conversations and communication are the key.

 

 

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DISCOVER YOUR OWN VOICE

As I read the blogs I visit, I realized that each blogger had a unique style, and imitating others would not work for me.  Although I did tend to develop my own style based on what resonated with me in the blogs of others.

My style is conversational, I guess.  And I love finding images to illustrate what I am saying.

I like to think I occasionally poke fun at myself, identifying myself as OCD or a little bit quirky.  That represents me, personally, and others might recognize that in themselves…or maybe find it amusing.  My Potpourri site is primarily my place for quirkiness.

 

 

 

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DETACH FROM THE DRAMA

Every now and then I read and see a link to something dramatic that is taking place somewhere on the blogosphere.  And it’s not that I am oblivious, but I don’t like to grab onto stories that may or may not be founded in fact.  Or situations that may have no relevance to me.  So…I detach.  It works for me.

 

 

 

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DON’T WORRY ABOUT NUMBERS, OR OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPERTISE

Yes, it is good to learn from others, and to discover how to enhance your presence.  So that you can maximize your own experience.  But not to compete…and let’s face it, when you blog for fun, as I do, it doesn’t do much good to compete with the experts.  LOL

 

 

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AND THAT’S ALL, FOLKS! 

Keep it real, keep it true to your own voice, and connect!

 

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What advice do you have?  What makes blogging fun for you?

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BLOGGIESTA: MARCH 23-29 – FROM START TO FINISH!

 

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And it’s a wrap, folks!  After a week of productivity and fun, we are done for now.  Bloggiesta, goodbye!

Here’s what I managed to accomplish.  I have crossed out the completed tasks…and as you can see, it was a great week.  And here is my Best Blogging Advice.

 

My List:

 

❏  write two reviews: First Review:  1) What I Remember Most, by Cathy Lamb;   Second Review: 2) Someone Is Watching, by Joy Fielding.  Done!
❏  clean up sidebars in one or two of my other blogs; cleaned up sidebar in Creative Journey; cleaned up sidebar on An Interior Journey.
❏  add a page (about me, contact, policy, etc)Page added under My Books, with Online LinksAdded an About Me page.   Done!
❏  clean up labels/tags  done!
❏  do two mini challenges; participated in Simplify Blogging Mini-Challenge; Pin Author Interviews Challenge.
 change or fix one thing on my sidebar done!
❏  deleted some of my older pages, and combined them into one – combined older bookshelves into one:   2010-2013; TWEAKED the Chat Room pages; edited the main page for Bookshelves 2010-2013

❏  change one thing on my layout and/or look – Header, Background  done!
❏  comment on other Bloggiesta partipants’ blogs-have commented on 20 blogs so far

Revised the Chat Page on my blog Creative Journey;

Created new header at Creative Journey

 

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Revised the Author Pages at An Interior Journey

Changed header on An Interior Journey; Changed header and background on Potpourri

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Make a new Blog Button  Done!

Clean up media library – Oops!  I didn’t realize that by deleting the images from the library, they would disappear from the posts!  My bad.  So some of my posts are missing their images…and because I went a little crazy, it will take too much time to put them all back.  Why did I think this was a good idea?  Epic fail!

Spent several hours fixing the blog posts, inserting some images, and deleting the “numbers” that appeared in place of the images.

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Here is a screen shot of the pre-bloggiesta layout

 

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