REVIEW: THE BEACH INN, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

 

It was going to be exquisite: a rambling, shingled New England cottage converted into a grand beach inn. Nestled among hydrangeas and swaying dune grasses, this seaside haven would welcome guests on the Connecticut shore. Except the little beach town of Stony Point is no longer feeling like a haven to its residents. Residents including a brooding Jason Barlow, the esteemed architect in charge of the inn’s renovation–until a stubborn, grief-induced For Sale sign puts an end to that.

But with a little help from the beach friends, anything is possible. In an effort to save the inn and convince its cherished owner to stay, the friends band together to stage an inn-tervention, shaking up their own lives in the process.


My Thoughts: All the usual characters are enjoying fall in Stony Point, Connecticut, and everyone is trying to help Elsa, who is grieving the loss of her son Sal, encouraging her to keep going with the plans they had made.  Lovely plans to turn her cottage and adjacent hang-out into an inn.  Previous books have brought stories about that unique hang-out, which has much sentimental value.

When I read one of these books, I feel as though I’m there with them.  They are so familiar to me, I don’t even need to take notes.  Although there are occasional “new” characters, the primary cast is in place, and we rejoin them in their usual struggles…and conflicts.

As we reconnect with Jason, Maris, Kyle, Lauren, Celia—and remember those they have lost—as we listen to their stories, remember special moments, and tell them all to entice Elsa that home is here, on Stony Point, we count on the sentimental journey to light the way.

One night Maris brings out the home movies and shows them to the gang on the beach. As Elsa sees the 8mm film from thirty-five years ago, when her niece Maris was small, when her sister June was carrying her Happiness Jars, something definitely tugs at her heart. But will it be enough?

Will Jason give in to the special invitation to shoot a pilot for a home renovation show? Can he finally find his brother Neil’s voice again? And will his special project for Neil’s beach shack come to fruition?

In The Beach Inn, the author brings the reader right into the story and shows how sorrow can turn to joy again with the magic of the shore. 5 stars.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: BOOKS, MOVIES, & MEMORIES

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Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

What a week!  I read and reviewed THREE books, but none of them counted for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge.  One was a “freebie” from Amazon Prime, while the other two were books purchased in 2014.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the books.  But since I purchased those books and was drawn to them at some point, should that surprise me?

Perhaps I should be stunned that I waited so long for them.

I finished watching American Odyssey, Season 1, on Netflix.  Now I’ll have to wait for another season!  I did also watch a couple of episodes of Lie to Me, but I am so annoyed by a couple of the characters (newbie staff members at the company), that I’m about ready to stop watching.  Do you ever find that when you are annoyed at characters, whether in a book, a movie, or a show, that you want to throw something?  Or am I the only immature creature here?  LOL.

I also watched a movie on my DVR that had me tearing up from the memories…it was an oldie, from the 1970s, and it had that Johnny Mathis song playing throughout:  “The last time I felt like this, I was falling in love….”. 

The movie was Same Time, Next Year, with Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda.

I hadn’t seen the movie in a few years, so it almost felt like the first time.  Do you ever have that reaction to old movies?  It reminded me of exactly what was going on in my own life when the movie first came out.  I must have listened to that song all through that momentous summer.  Enough said.  LOL.

Let’s toast, okay?  And chat about the past week in books and blogging….

 

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LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Rainy Day Reading: Sunshine Interruptus

Interior Thoughts: Musing About Books

Serendipitous Tuesdays: “Breakdown”

Hump Day Potpourri: Waiting for “Falling”

Bookish Thursdays #9: A Potpourri of Events

My Interior Thoughts: A Glimpse of the Past

Bookish Fridays: “Have No Shame”

Let’s Curl up with Some Bookish Dreams

Review:  Dream of the Blue Room (e-book), by Michelle Richmond

Review:  North of Here (e-book), by Laurel Saville

Review:  Lila (e-book), by Marilynne Robinson

 

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

One review book came in my mailbox from Amazon Vine…and I downloaded three e-books (purchased).

Three-Martini Lunch, by Suzanne Rindell (Vine)

 

 

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Downloads:

Luckiest Girl Alive (e-book), by Jessica Knoll

 

 

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What We Find (e-book), by Robyn Carr

 

 

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The Obsession (e-book), by Nora Roberts

 

 

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WHAT’S UP NEXT? (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Currently Reading:  A Fatal Grace (Book 2) (e-book), by Louise Penny

 

 

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Then….

Mother Knows Best, by Karen MacInerney

 

 

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Terrible Virtue (e-book), by Ellen Feldman

 

 

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I have a few more to consider….let’s see what really happens in next week’s post. 

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That’s it for my week…what did yours look like?  Have a good one!

 

Coffee, Mimosa, & reading - 2

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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.


REVIEW: NO BOOK BUT THE WORLD, BY LEAH HAGER COHEN

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Ava and Fred Robbins grew up surrounded by woods and lovely places to explore. They had the freedom to wander, as their parents schooled them at home in an experimental fashion. Their parents believed that the best learning comes through experience. No Book but the World: A Novel is set somewhere in upstate New York, in a place called Batter Hollow. Clustered around the compound that is now a defunct school were buildings with names like The Annex and Art Barn. After the school shut down, families lived in the cottages, including the Robbins and Manseau families. Dennis and Kitty were two of the Manseau children.But something was not right with Fred. And apparently there was no diagnosis, as this freedom also extended to a life without labels.

Now Ava and Fred are adults, and a tragedy results in Fred’s arrest. Ava leaves her home and her husband for a time to drive up to Perdu, where he is in jail, to try to help “explain” Fred to his attorney. But in the process, she realizes that much of her childhood is unexplainable.

Narrated in four sections from the perspectives of Ava, Dennis (her husband), Kitty (her best friend & sister-in-law), and Fred, we discover bits and pieces of what that world was like through their eyes and their memories of that time.

Was it really all that idyllic? What emotions are now aroused for each of them as Fred’s situation turns even more serious?

I liked Ava, who suffered from a feeling of responsibility for Fred, something that had informed her life even in adulthood. Dennis, as Kitty’s older brother, had seemed an unlikely spouse for Ava, but he had a special understanding of her experiences. His kindness and empathy made him a likeable character. However, I found Kitty to be condescending, with a superior and antagonistic attitude. Her master’s degree in psychology lent an expertise to her approach, but sometimes it seemed to merely hide her arrogance. I had to wonder if she was covering something through this defensive posture. In the flashbacks to their childhood, there was a kind of cruelty in Kitty’s behavior, perhaps covering her discomfort with Fred and with the Robbins approach to parenting.

As the story winds down, inexplicable events turn everything we thought we’d sorted into more of a puzzle. With just a few words, the author turns it all upside down. As we contemplate what life was like for these characters, we learn some conclusions in Ava’s voice, as she dismisses the notion of freedom, in terms of her parents’ efforts to provide it:

“I see now they were mistaken. We are none of us free. We are tethered by our connections to other people, those we know as well as those we will never meet. What tethers us is our ability–our responsibility–to imagine them, to fathom their lives, their circumstances, what we have in common, what sets us apart.”

With these thoughts to ponder, I conclude the story with a final word: what is truth, what is imagining, and what memories can we trust? This story is one that will linger in my memory. 4.5 stars.

SONGS THAT PUNCTUATE OUR LIVES — A REVIEW

What if, in a blinding moment, you had the chance to start over, change everything about your life? What if you were suddenly presented with a blank slate?

Nell Slattery is in just this position after she and one other person are the only survivors of a plane crash that landed them in Iowa. As she comes to, she remembers nothing and nobody. Who are the people who claim to be her loved ones? Why does nothing they tell her seem to ring true?

Like a nightmare from which she seemingly doesn’t awaken, Nell tries to put her life back together, relying on the stories others tell her.

Her mother Indira, her sister Rory, even her friend Samantha—they all seem so supportive, but as the weeks and months creep by, bits and pieces of the real truth begin to surface. What really happened between Nell and her husband Peter? Had the two of them reconciled? Or was there more to the story? What was going on between Rory and Nell that might have brought their art gallery to a close?

And throughout, hovering over Nell’s life is the specter of the father who abandoned her. Unwilling to let him go, she believes that finding him again, or at least figuring out what happened in her past, could be the very thing that will fill in the blanks for her.

Told mostly in Nell’s first person voice, with occasional third person narratives from others, The Song Remains the Same also unfolded through the music that filled Nell’s life, from her younger years to the recent past.

I found myself growing emotional as the deceits of Rory, Peter, and Indira came to light. Applauding Nell’s decisions near the end brought closure to this story for me. Four stars.

THE SLIPPERY NATURE OF MEMORY — A REVIEW

Both the title and the opening lines drew me in immediately, as I knew that this would be a tale about family secrets and the cost of keeping them.

Drowning Ruth [Hardcover] begins in 1919, with Amanda Starkey’s role as a nurse during the war. But from there, we weave in and out of periods of time, both backward and forward, learning the story of Amanda and her sister Mathilda, who drowned mysteriously one night in November later that year, and the subsequent journey of Mathilda’s daughter Ruth.

The details are slipped in during these moments of reflection, like “doses” of medicine surreptitiously fed to a resistant patient. Later we hear Ruth’s voice, as she ages, from the confused thoughts about family events and drowning to later moments of increasing clarity. For Ruth is convinced that she drowned.

We can see from the beginning that the relationship between Amanda and Mathilda (Matty) is conflicted. There is a close bond–they are almost enmeshed–and yet the rivalry is readily apparent.

Other important characters are brought forth almost casually, like Clement Owens: his role in Amanda’s life will not be apparent for awhile.

What really happened to Mathilda Starkey, and what secrets have kept Amanda from moving on? How does the truth eventually come out, and what ramifications will unfold?

In some ways, the slipping back and forth through time felt confusing, and yet it also seemed appropriate. Like floating thoughts that slip in and out of our minds, these snippets seemed to show us the nature of memories.

I had hopes that Ruth would finally detach from the enmeshed relationship with Amanda, but alas: she seems to become the clone of her aunt, falling into her same patterns, living on the farm like a recluse. An emotionally disturbing story, I know that I won’t forget it. Four stars.