CREATING SEA GLASS ART AND FINDING A LIFE…

Ginger Walsh is the forty-something single sister living in her parents’ garage apartment, while Geri is the married one, almost fifty, with three children. Ginger babysits for her sister’s kids while trying to figure out how to create intriguing things from sea glass. Her on-again, off-again boyfriend Noah seems to be a true commitment phobe, but she herself is not completely sure that she wants a long term relationship. Except, perhaps, with her cat named Boyfriend.

Then suddenly something happens that will turn all their lives in a different direction. A casting call goes out for local kids to star in a movie featuring a shark that’s hovering near shore in this Massachusetts town. Ginger takes her nieces and nephew, and nephew Riley is chosen.

Making a movie, hanging out with the gaffer, and playing around with her sea glass becomes a time of sorting out what Ginger really wants in her life. And throwing a birthday party for her sister grants the two of them an opportunity to work on a project together that could actually turn into a new business. And it might solve a few other problems, like how to keep the family home in the family, while allowing mom and dad the chance to get that condo.

Thoroughly engaging, Life’s a Beach was a quick, light read that also revealed those sibling issues that crop up in books and in life.

Four stars for this one. It was a bit predictable, but also had a unique flair to it.

YES, YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN…

This book is part of a wonderfully cozy series by the author Adriana Trigiani. My very first one was Big Stone Gap: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle), so naturally, when I saw this one in the library, I had to have it.

In the story, Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney is twenty years older than she was in the last one. Her daughter Etta is grown, she has lost one of her children in early childhood, and she is dealing with all kinds of losses.

Her daughter is living in Italy, which is too far away, as far as Ave Maria is concerned. Her husband is exploring work that she finds repugnant. And then, suddenly, he is faced with health issues.

Meanwhile, her best friend Iva Lou has been keeping a big secret for all the time they’ve known each other—and before—so finding this out causes Ave Maria to question everything about the friendship.

Then, a mysterious person appears…

Just as you might expect, this story, which plunks us right down in the middle of the beautiful Big Stone Gap setting, brings up painful issues that could seemingly threaten the very world of these wonderful characters.

I loved Home to Big Stone Gap: A Novel (Big Stone Gap Novels) just as much as the first book and I’m definitely going to be adding more books to my list. Five stars!

CHERISHING THE MOMENTS — A Review of “Evenings at Five”

An author and a composer have a daily ritual. Every evening at five o’clock, they begin with Happy Hour; they then share their love of language and music along with their cocktails. This tradition is so much a part of their lives that it’s only natural that its absence would leave a huge hole in the author’s heart when her companion dies.

Author Gail Godwin had similar experiences, and has commemorated these traditions and moments by fictionalizing an account, which she has added to a series of additional short stories about her alter-ego Christina.

In these stories, we meet Christina at various crossroads in her life, and woven in with these “flashback” type portrayals are more moments between “Christina and Rudy.”

A provocative read, Evenings at Five: A Novel and Five New Stories (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) is a reminder that we must cherish our moments with our loved ones, because when they are gone, the memories of those moments could sustain us.

I deducted one star, as sometimes the story’s back and forth movements was confusing, and I had to stop a moment to figure out where the characters were—the past or the present.

A FAMILY SAGA — A Review of “Just Between Us”

Cathy Kelly’s Just Between Us is a richly textured tale of a “perfect” family that begins to slowly reveal itself as one with all the ordinary flaws and foibles that plague most people; it is this probing beneath the surface that yields a peek into the intriguing aspects of each of the primary characters.

As the story begins, Rose and Hugh Miller are approaching their fortieth anniversary, and as the celebratory moment nears, we learn more about the two of them; Rose uncovers a secret, and while she’s planning the party, she is also considering how to deal with it.

Meanwhile, the three adult daughters are each struggling with their own issues. Stella, the eldest, has a successful career as an attorney, and as the single mother to Amelia, believes that her life is just the way it will stay. She expects no romance or any surprises at all.

Tara, the middle child, writes for a successful soap opera, and as a newly-wed with a dream husband, she believes that all is just the way it should be.

While Holly, the youngest, is plagued by insecurities and longs for a love that seems to never arrive, the other two begin to find that their lives are not what they thought they were.

This is the heart of the story, but what sets it apart are the rich details that give us more than a peek into their lives–we almost feel as if we are walking alongside them. As if they are our friends and neighbors, with their struggles part of us. We root for them, and sometimes want to yell at them for making foolish choices or mistakes.

A rather long book (530 pages), I kept reading, because I truly wanted to partake of every eventful moment in the lives of the characters.

Definitely five stars!

DESIGNING WOMEN — A Review of “The Way Men Act”

When Melinda LeBlanc returns home to Harrow after years away and approaching thirty, she is almost licking her wounds. Life after her high school popularity hasn’t turned out the way she’d hoped. She has moved in with her mother and started a career as a designing florist—but working for her cousin and his wife.

This last part sticks in her craw, but she relishes her creativity and popularity as a designer, and the venues she enjoys—weddings, etc.—and her proximity to a certain musician offer some consolation. While he is not The One, he is certainly Mr. Right Now.

Then she enjoys a one-night-stand with an old high school athlete and next-door businessman, Dennis Vaughan, but even though she wants more from their relationship, it doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Add to the mix her old high-school friend Libby Getchel, whose vintage dress design shop is next door, and there would supposedly be friendship and commiseration in large quantities. But not so much.

When disappointing events turn out to be devastating for her career and seemingly for her love life, Melinda has to reinvent herself as a designer. But unexpectedly, love turns out to be right in front of her.

What seemingly negative events turn into a positive for Melinda? And what confrontations lead to freedom?

The Way Men Act: A Novel was a surprisingly fun and quick read, earning five stars for humor, drama, and unexpected happenings.

A COZY TALE — A Review of “8 Sandpiper Way”

In this delightful book, “8 Sandpiper Way,” we are introduced to a cast of characters so charming and homey that they could be your friends and/or neighbors.  This one begins with a letter addressed to “Dear Reader,” from a distraught woman named Emily Flemming.  She suspects that her husband—the minister, no less!—is having an affair.

We are then launched into the day-to-day lives of this town’s residents, and with each snippet of their lives, we become more and more invested in them.  From their romances to their illnesses, from their wishes and dreams to their worries and troubles, we come to care about them.

This Cedar Cove tale is not the newest one of Debbie Macomber’s, since it’s been on my TBR stack for awhile.  But I enjoyed it tremendously, and at the conclusion, there were some loose ends and an announcement of the next book, which will pick up these loose threads and weave them into another cozy tale.  The next one will surely go on my wish list.

Like all of her books, this one of Macomber’s earns five stars from me!