REVIEW: OPEN HOUSE, BY AMANDA PAYS & CORBIN BERNSEN

Transforming older homes into modern, functional, open spaces filled with natural light.

Author Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen share ideas for remodeling older homes to create modern, open floor plans while sharing lessons learned along the way. Topics include tricks of seeing through cluttered, dark rooms to imagine an open floor plan and space filled with light; how to manage a renovation budget (ideas on where to shop, items to splurge on, where to save); and designing homes for simple family living.

My Thoughts: I love interior design, and while I have no training in this area, I devour everything I can find with photos and ideas about changing up my space.

I used to watch HGTV religiously…and then I started buying every magazine I could find with photos that would give me ideas.

I first heard about this book, Open House, and its authors Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen, on the Hallmark show Home and Family. Of course I had to buy it.

I was especially drawn to their passion for renovation and recycling…and re-purposing items to make unique interiors.

The book is filled with text and photos, so a reader can learn a lot about how they accomplish what they did…or the reader can simply luxuriate in the gorgeous photos.

I have enjoyed Corbin Bernsen in several shows and movies, beginning with LA Law back in the day. I also look forward to his occasional appearance on The Young and the Restless, where his late mother, Jeanne Cooper, was an iconic member of the cast.

If you love design, or enjoy looking at lovely homes and interiors, this might just be the book for you. 5 stars.***

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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.

***

REVIEW: ONE GOOD THING, BY WENDY WAX

 

Before you can fix it up, you might have to tear it down…
 
Embroiled in a battle to regain control of their renovation-turned-reality TV show, Do Over, Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra find themselves holding tight to the frayed ends of their friendship and relationships.
 
Maddie must face the realities of dating a rock star once again topping the charts and dealing with her hapless ex-husband, while Avery is caught up in family drama even as she attempts to transform a tiny cottage into a home for the newly impoverished heiress who helped bankroll their last renovation. Put on bedrest, a hugely pregnant Nikki can’t quite believe love can last, or trust in her own maternal instinct. And Kyra, who has secretly put Bella Flora at risk in an attempt to salvage Do Over, must decide whether to accept a desperately needed bail out from her son’s famous father that comes with far too many strings attached…
 
But friendship is made for times like these, to keep each other—and their dreams—from crumbling.

My Thoughts: I have been a fan of this series from the very first book. An assorted cast of characters have remained at the core of these books, including One Good Thing. Supporting characters come and go, but the basic ones who were there from the beginning have kept me coming back for more.

Maddie is my favorite. For me, she is the glue that holds them together. Avery and Nikki each have their unique talents, and Kyra is good with the camera and the production end.

They have their men, although there are issues and conflicts threatening those relationships. Then, for Maddie, her newest man brings out a part of herself that she thought was gone. But he also taps into her insecurities. Not because of anything he does, but because of who he is. A handsome and famous rock star.

Kyra’s former relationship with a celebrity, who fathered her son, is never completely over, since he is in and out of their lives, despite his marriage to his co-star. Kyra sends mixed messages, allowing him to pull her strings, while vacillating between wanting him and rejecting him. I could understand her frustration and the pull she feels for him. But her behavior veers toward selfish and narcissistic, in my opinion, but perhaps she is simply too young and inexperienced to make good choices. She is keeping secrets and putting the others at risk by some of her decisions, which made her hard to like.

No matter how I felt for the characters individually, though, I was rooting for them in their attempts to turn their business and their lives around. I could not stop turning the pages, and while I had my eye trained on what I hoped would happen, there were still some surprises, which made the story another good thing. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: SUNSHINE BEACH, BY WENDY WAX

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As our old friends gather once again to plan another renovation, I was all set to curl up and enjoy the adventures in Sunshine Beach. The characters have tentatively landed a renovation of an old mid-century beach hotel.

I loved reviving old friendships with the characters while they planned the new project. They settle in at Bella Flora, the home Kyra, Maddie’s daughter, now owns, thanks to her son’s father. As usual, Avery is all set with her construction crew; Kyra is ready to film, and eager to do the project independently after the disaster of the Do Over show. A wrinkle in the production had morphed that experience into a reality show.

Nikki has some issues with her boyfriend, FBI agent Joe Giraldi, while her brother Malcolm, the one responsible for all of their financial worries, has reached out to her.

Maddie is still feeling bliss about her new romance with the rock star William Hightower…but insecurities threaten that bliss.

When Maddie’s ex, Steve, shows up and seems ready to make himself at home, they all feel the irritation born from his laziness and his inability to effectively help them.

What will happen to threaten the project? How will a mystery from WWII add conflict? How will they rise above the threats of their former bosses? Can they move beyond the challenges and find gratification once again? A very satisfying new chapter in the life of the characters, and enjoyable to this reader. 4.5 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***

REVIEW: THREE STORY HOUSE, BY COURTNEY MILLER SANTO

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The three girls met in 1993, at Silver Beach, Massachusetts. Lizzie Linwood, as the only child of an only child, was improbably now related to these two girls because of her mother’s marriage to Jim when she was seven years old.

They formed a unique connection, these three unexpected cousins, all born during the same month and year. Elyse and Isobel were full of questions for Lizzie, about her life and her dad. But Lizzie, who had lived only with her mother and grandmother in her Grandmother Mellie’s house in Memphis, had no knowledge of her father. Not his name, who he was, or what had happened to him. This fact of her life would haunt her.

Fast forward to November 2011, in Los Angeles, where Lizzie and Isobel have been living in their adulthood, and to a phone call that will take the two of them, joined also by Elyse, back to Memphis and a crumbling, condemned house. The three story house that had been home to Lizzie, and which needed major repairs, rested on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River, and would take them out of their real lives during its restoration. During the process, the house would come to symbolize all of their own failings. Struggling to overcome the challenges they will each discover truths about themselves and what they must do next.

Isobel had starred in a TV show in childhood, and now seeks to find her place in the industry via a reality show during the restoration. Elyse is trying to overcome her obsession with her old lover who is now going to marry her sister. And Lizzie, an athlete, is recovering from her third knee surgery, and wondering if she can ever play soccer again.

Three Story House took place mostly in Memphis during the restoration, but also flipped back and forth in time, revealing significant moments in the lives of the women, now almost thirty.

Divided into three sections, the story focused on each young woman, and I found parts of it fascinating. Within the walls of the old house were clues that could be sorted and assembled to point to some of the answers.

Strange and somewhat disconnected characters filled out the canvas, all having something to do with the past, or with the restoration. While the story dragged for me at times, in the end, there was a satisfactory resolution for each of them, in a sense; however, the revelations felt a little like a balloon that has gone flat. A lot of furor over nothing much. 3.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT, BY WENDY WAX

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The women came together for another renovation, like the ones before. Reminiscent of the very first renovation of the house that was all they had left after the Ponzi scheme had drained them of their finances and needing their own reconstruction, this new project would bring unexpected gifts.

An unlikely group of women, they would become best friends as they worked to recreate a house and their lives.

Nicole’s brother had bilked them of their money, but she earned her place as a friend to the others. In their first and subsequent projects, Avery would be the architect and head of construction, while her mother Deirdre would be the interior designer. Those two would gradually reconnect after a lifetime of estrangement.

Maddie would need to pick up the pieces left after a ruined marriage, with her daughter Kyra and grandson Dustin in tow following her abandonment by Dustin’s celebrity father.

They all came with baggage and learned to rebuild their lives along with the houses.

The show Do Over would be a side effect of the first renovation, but it has somehow turned their lives into a caricature of what they had wanted. Being photographed at every turn does have its downside.

In this newest project, the women convene on Mermaid Point, in the Florida Keys. Like the previous projects, the destination had been a surprise selection by the network executives. William Hightower, the owner of this private island home, a rock star fresh out of rehab, needs a renovation of his interior life as well.

What will happen to this group of people, connected by a series of projects that have become more of a burden than a gift? How will the wear and tear of the renovations, along with the irritations wrought by the network head, bring some issues and feelings to a head?

I loved The House on Mermaid Point and how the author brought back the women, while adding new interesting characters to the mix. In the end, I felt a rush of mixed emotions at the unexpected resolution that came to them all, while throwing wide the windows on a fresh new beginning. 5.0 stars.