LOOKING BACK…AND MOVING FORWARD….

Good morning!  Today as I was creating a new blog header here, I decided to look back at what I was posting about a year ago.

Yes, I like peeking into the archives.

There it was, that midpoint check-in for Read the Books You Buy Challenge.  A year ago, of course, we were halfway through 2016, and I wrote:

In July 2016, halfway toward my goal, I have read and reviewed 38 in all.

I am thoroughly enjoying the process….and haven’t actually decided on my percentages.  I’m just reading as many books as I can.

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This year’s midpoint has not yet been posted….but so far in the Read the Books You Buy Challenge- 2017, I have completed 62 books.  So I’m doing better this year!

I like challenging myself, and the motivation of trying to do better than I did the previous year is a good one for me.

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As for the numbers of books I’ve purchased so far this year, I still went a bit crazy.  But so far in July, I’ve “only” bought 6 books; and in June, I purchased 11…four of which I’ve already read and reviewed.

The journey is challenging…but fun.  What do you do to find your motivation?  How do you curtail (or not) your purchases?

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REVIEW: MY LIFE TO LIVE, BY AGNES NIXON

 

Before there was Erica Kane, Adam Chandler, or Victoria Lord, there was Agnes Nixon, a young girl who dreamed up stories for paper dolls. Those tales she imagined–ones filled with ambitions, rivalries, and romances–would soon parallel her own path to success. In a memoir filled with as much drama as the soaps she penned, Nixon shares her journey from Nashville to New York City, as she overcomes the loss of her fiancé in World War II, a father intent on crushing her writing dreams, and the jealousy of her male colleagues on her way to becoming one of the most successful names in television.

While fans will delight in Nixon’s own incredible life, they will also love her behind-the-scenes insight into her most popular shows. Inside, she shares the inspiration for Erica Kane and how she cast Susan Lucci in the role; an excerpt from the never-before-seen All My Children story bible; entertaining anecdotes about her shows’ beloved casts and special guests, including Carol Burnett, Kelly Ripa, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffett; and more.

But My Life to Live is also a portrait of a pioneer. Driven to use her ratings power for good, Nixon fought and broke network taboos by wrestling with controversial social issues ranging from women’s health, interracial relationships, and the Vietnam War to drug addiction, LGBT rights, and AIDS. By infusing her characters with sensitivity, humor, and humanity, she enabled millions to examine an opposite point of view. And long before Shonda Rhimes launched a golden age of female showrunners, Agnes Nixon positioned ABC to become the media giant it is today. She is a true television legend, and her candid and inspiring glimpse behind the curtain of the television industry will charm soap fans and story lovers alike.

My Thoughts: I became a fan of “soap operas” in the 1960s when I first had some time at home in the daytime. Guiding Light was one of my favorites, and Agnes Nixon was a writer on that soap for a while.

One Life to Live, another of her creations, was one I first saw in the 1970s, and then again just before the show went off the air. By the time it was canceled, I was hooked. And happy to hear that it would go online, along with All My Children, which I had just started watching. But that happy dream did not last long.

She has, rightly, been touted as the Queen of Soaps, and reading how she came to write for soaps in a world dominated by men was definitely engaging.

Her own life could have been a soap drama, with losses and conflicts, not to mention seeing racism up close and personal in her hometown. Using what she knew and what she had lived in her stories, and bringing social relevance to daytime, would be her trademark. It was how she captured the love of the fans. A memoir that drew me in from the first pages, My Life to Live earned 5 stars from me.

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REVIEW: THE SUMMER HOUSE, BY HANNAH MCKINNON

 

Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.

My Thoughts: In alternating narratives, we meet each of the family members as they approach their final summer in the Rhode Island vacation home. At the beginning of their week together, none of the adult children know of their parents’ plans to sell the house. They approach the week as one of many, remembering summers in the past and envisioning more in the future.

Clem is still suffering from her loss; Sam and Evan struggle with the adoption issues that might not work out for them; and Paige is worried about how distant her husband David has been. Then there are Paige’s teen children, Emma and Ned, each behaving in ways that signal trouble ahead.

As the week unfolds, with the party approaching, we wonder if they would have different thoughts on the lives they took for granted, once they know what their parents have planned. Will their memories and feelings seem more precious to them in light of the upcoming change?

Before their awareness, however, they interact like the siblings that grew up together: fierce, competitive, and sometimes brash. But when forced to consider the alternative of never spending the summers in the house, they seem to mellow out, calm down, and come up with a solution. The Summer House was a somewhat predictable, yet still engaging family story that kept me wondering how they would deal with the changes ahead. 4.5.

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REVIEW: THE COMFORT OF SECRETS, BY CHRISTINE NOLFI

 

Cat Mendoza needs a win. After a business failure and years of dating the wrong men, she’s ready to turn things around.

First she must convince the residents of Sweet Lake, Ohio, that she’s taking her responsibilities seriously. As the events director of the newly restored Wayfair Inn, she has the support of her best friends, Linnie and Jada. But everyone else—including her overprotective mother and the well-meaning Sweet Lake Sirens—can’t help but chime in with advice about her plans, her apparently too-tight clothes, and her undeniable attraction to Ryan D’Angelo, the charming ad exec hired to promote the inn.

Cat knows she should keep Ryan at a distance, but she’s drawn closer by the heartbreak he tries to hide. Will uncovering his secrets derail the new life Cat hopes to achieve…or will she gain something to cherish forever?

My Thoughts: In The Comfort of Secrets, the second novel of the series, we are immersed in Cat’s thoughts and feelings. Her insecurities, her needs, and the frustration she feels at her mother’s over-protectiveness dominate the story, especially in the beginning. Meeting Ryan opens up her heart, but will she be forced to turn away from him?

The Sweet Lake Sirens are as pushy and annoying as ever, but beneath it all, their hearts are in the right place.

Ryan’s abusive childhood and his mother Julia’s fear of leaving Cincinnati, the city they now call home, has dropped a shadowy shroud over his need to find love and create his own family. But what additional secrets is Julia hiding from her son? How does her past converge finally in Sweet Lake?

Hovering over the story is a dark and shadowy figure encroaching on one of the Sirens…what is the connection between this individual and present day Sweet Lake? What other unexpected ghosts of the past will come together during a celebratory concert? As the danger increases, intense moments follow until finally, the secrets are revealed and we come to a very hopeful conclusion. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

HELLO, JULY! MONTHLY WRAP-UP….

Another month has passed, and what a great journey!  Let’s check in at Book Date to see how everyone else fared.

Take a peek at my favorites…and click the titles of each book for my review.

 

JUNE 2017:

1.Any Day Now (e-book, Book Two), by Robyn Carr – 336 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 6/29/17

2.Beach House for Rent (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe (416 pages) – 6/3/17 – (NetGalley – 6/20)

3.Beach Inn, The, by Joanne DeMaio – 294 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 6/17/17 – (Author Review Request)

4.Every Last Lie (e-book), by Mary Kubica – 336 pages – (thriller) – 6/11/17 – (NetGalley – 6/27)

5.Fairy Tale Interrupted, by RoseMarie Terenzio – 256 pages – (memoir) – 6/20/17

6.Good Me, Bad Me, by Ali Land – 338 pages – (psychological thriller) – 6/23/17

7.It’s Always the Husband (e-book), by Michele Campbell – 326 pages – (mystery) – 6/1/17

8.One Good Thing (e-book), by Wendy Wax – 349 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 6/9/17

9.Red Hunter, The (e-book), by Lisa Unger – 368 pages – (suspense thriller) – 6/15/17

10.Sunshine Sisters, The (e-book), by Jane Green – 371 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 6/25/17

11.Swallow’s Nest, The, by Emilie Ricards – 504 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 6/7/17 – (Author Review Request)

12.  Talking as Fast as I Can, by Lauren Graham – 205 pages – (memoir) – 6/27/17

13.Watching the Detectives (e-book, Book 5), by Julie Mulhern – 210 pages – (cozy mystery) – 6/26/17

14.What Remains, by Carole Radziwill – 264 pages – (memoir) – 6/30/17 – (A 2014 TBR book)

15.You’ll Never Know, Dear (e-book), by Hallie Ephron – 304 pages – (suspense thriller) – 6/19/17

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN JUNE 2017:         15

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN JUNE 2017:       4,877

BOOKS READ YTD:                                                                    88

FAVORITE FICTION:  Every Last Lie, by Mary Kubica

 

 

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REVIEW: TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN, BY LAUREN GRAHAM

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.


My Thoughts: I was probably one of the last people to come to the Gilmore Girls party, but once I discovered the show on Netflix, I couldn’t stop watching. The term “binge watching” completely describes my experience.

Before I found myself a real fan of this show, I had already discovered Lauren Graham in movies and on Parenthood.

Now, in Talking as Fast as I Can, I liked discovering her personal take on her movies, TV shows, and relationships. Her self-deprecating voice kept me smiling, even as I felt like someone who was having a conversation with her.

I liked learning how she came to start writing, and enjoyed her descriptions of her writing process, which included tidbits from someone whose process became part of her writing style.

But my favorite moments were the peeks behind the scenes on the sets, especially the ones related to the Gilmore Girls reboot. Special moments involved the connections with the cast who felt like family, and the emotions they experienced as they wrapped up the show. As a reader, I felt like I was part of it all. 4.5 stars.

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THE TBR JAR: DUSTING OFF THE OLD UNREAD BOOKS….

My TBR Jar, shown above, contains slips of paper with unread book titles from 2014, 2015, and the first half of 2016.  I don’t seem to be moving these off the shelves, since I’m focusing on the newer books for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge (spotlighting 2017 purchases, along with those bought in the second half of 2016).

Sometimes it helps to actually list the books I need to read…and perhaps highlight those that I have a chance of picking soon.

Here are some from 2014, with three selected from The TBR Jar:

PURCHASED BOOKS UNREAD FROM 2014: (19 books, with 3 singled out from the jar)

  • Life List, The (e-book), by Chrissy Anderson
  • Everyone Worth Knowing, by Lauren Weisberger
  • Abducted (e-book), by T. R. Ragan
  • Apple Orchard, The (e-book), by Susan Wiggs
  • My Mother Was Nuts (e-book), by Penny Marshall
  • Paper Towns (e-book), by John Green
  • What Remains:  A Memoir of Fate, Friendship & Love, by Carole Radziwil
  • In the Woods (e-book), by Tana French
  • Shadow Tracer, The (e-book), by Meg Gardiner
  • Wife 22 (e-book), by Melanie Gideon
  • Ellen Foster (e-book), by Kaye Gibbons
  • Leaves (e-book), by Michael Baron
  • Lemon Orchard, The (e-book), by Luanne Rice
  • Owen’s Daughter (e-book), by Jo-Ann Mapson
  • Ruth’s Journey (e-book), by Donald McCaig
  • Some Luck (e-book), by Jane Smiley
  • All Good Deeds (e-book), by Stacy Green
  • Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, The (e-book), by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Eleanor and Park (e-book), by Rainbow Rowell

 

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Do you devise ways to motivate yourself into picking up Old and Dusty TBR Books?  What works for you?

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