REVIEW: THE COUSINS, BY KAREN M. MCMANUS

 

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

 

Meeting long lost family members can bring much more than an anticipated summer on an island for The Cousins. The reader learns the unfolding events of years past during the summer adventure that promises to offer much more than just reconnecting with family.

The tale gradually comes to us through alternating narrators, swinging between the past and the present, with more and more intensity as we zero in on what really happened back when the Story children were disinherited.

The grim reality comes to grip them all in the here and now. A great story about the Story family. I couldn’t put it down. 4.5 stars.

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HUMP DAY POTPOURRI: WAITING FOR “THE RUNAWAY WIFE” — JULY 10

 

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Welcome to Hump Day Potpourri.…and time to share news about upcoming releases.  Click on over to Breaking the Spine to find out what others are awaiting.

Today I’m sharing about a book coming on November 12, 2013:  The Runaway Wife, by Rowan Coleman.  A writer I discovered after I started blogging, and one I love reading.

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From the internationally bestselling author of Lessons in Laughing Out Loud comes a moving and heartwarming novel about a woman who escapes an abusive relationship and flees with her young daughter in search of a kind stranger she met many years earlier.Remembering the letter that says, “You are a remarkable woman and you deserve all the happiness, contentment, and love in the world. I, for one, know that I have never met anyone quite like you,” Rose Pritchard turns up on the doorstep of a B&B in England’s lake district. It is her last resort, as she and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie have left everything behind. They have come to the village of Millthwaite in search of the person who once offered Rose hope.

Almost immediately Rose wonders if she’s made a terrible mistake—if she’s chasing a dream—but she knows in her heart that she cannot go back. She’s been given a second chance—at life, and love—but will she have the courage to take it?

Blending wit, insight, and emotion with a sensitive touch and a warm dose of humor, Rowan Coleman has crafted a poignant novel that will linger with you long after the final page has been turned.

***

Yes, this book has all the ingredients I enjoy the most:  family issues, relationships, second chances, and lovely settings.  What are you sharing today?

SATURDAY TIDBITS — A POTPOURRI OF CHILDHOOD MEMORIES — DEC. 22

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Maybe it was finding this image on Pinterest, or perhaps it was just the nostalgia that creeps into my mind during the holiday season.

But this morning a name from the past circled around in my brain and lodged there.  So I had to Google it.

And what do you know?  The childhood magazine that we subscribed to and for which I eagerly waited once a month is not in circulation, but there are copies of those vintage periodicals.

Wee Wisdom.  Does anyone else recall that?  Is there anyone else in the blogosphere as old as I am?  lol

This one is an issue from 1953, from an Etsy shop.

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My favorite parts were the stories.  And the paper dolls.

I’m tempted to send off for it, but one of the things I know for sure (to quote Oprah), is that sometimes when we revisit the past, the reality of it from our present day perspective casts a kind of jaded aura upon it.  Those beautiful moments don’t often live up to our memories, considering how far we’ve come since those days.

So perhaps I’ll just let it lie.  And think about it.  I did bookmark the page, though.  What would you do?

 

MONDAY POTPOURRI: TABLE SWITCHEROO — DEC. 17

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Good morning!  And I would love to have this kitchen!  Sadly, I don’t.

But what I do have in my little downsized space is a lot of fun switching up my stuff and making them seem new again.

In my Hump Day Potpourri last week, I shared how I make cleaning fun.  Seriously!  lol

As an epilogue to this piece, I found a home for the table that had been in the bedroom, but which temporarily took up residence in the garage.

It just took a little while and a new look at my space.

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Here it is (above) standing in for a drop leaf table that now is at home in the bedroom.

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The book sitting atop the table has a cover my eldest son created.  Here’s a picture of him from 1994, holding it.

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That was our first Christmas in the foothill house.  Shortly afterwards, Craig returned to Europe for a spell.  First Ireland, then home again to Sacramento; next, in 1997, he went to Prague where he lived for more than a decade.  Now he is Berlin.

All of us here think it’s time he came back for at least a little while.

Memories and photos (and endless furniture switcheroos) carry me along and fill in the empty spaces.  What do you enjoy when you’re missing people and places?

TUESDAY POTPOURRI: SCANNING MY LIFE — NOV. 13

After last week’s journey toward finding another beaded curtain for my condo, I scanned these images from my old photo albums.

These are Circa 2004, when I was still living in the A-frame cottage shown on the right in the photo above.

Those beaded curtains definitely intrigued the grandchildren.  You can see one of them running through the beads (in the photo second from left).  I think that was the ultimate game for those kids.  The beads were pretty sturdy, as they didn’t break.

Before I moved, I lent them to my daughter for her home farther up in the foothills.  Alas, the beads did break during her time with them.

Which led me on a quest for new ones.

I think these have more of the “sixties” vibe that I was going for…so everything works out.  But I do enjoy perusing the old albums and seeing that home and decor.

You might recognize the little red cupboard, in these old photos; I still have it.

See it in the left corner above.

As much as I enjoyed looking at my previous incarnation with some of these same collections, I like my new space more.

But I do miss the hunter green dining table (you can see the chairs in the top photo); however, I didn’t have room for that table and the Coca Cola one in my new space.  The Coca Cola table won out…and my daughter got the “farm table.”

Do you enjoy looking back at older versions of your home and/or life?  Do you feel nostalgic?

SUNDAY POTPOURRI: WEEKEND CHANGES — SEPT. 2

Weekends can be quiet, with reading and movie watching, or, like this one, they can be busy with family/friends and background music or conversation.

Fiona came on Friday and spent the night and Saturday here.  She brought her guitar and strummed quietly as I went about my usual activities:  reading, blogging, etc.

We watched some movies, too.

While she was here, I realized that something was awkward in my living room arrangement, like my humongous coffee table that didn’t allow much room for navigating the space.

So last night I moved some things around, and ended up with this:

You may ask where the big and bulky table went:

Here it is in the office.  But this is not the final destination.  I really need something smaller and lighter.  For those times when I move the table so I can pull out the sofabed!

***

Later:  Just as I predicted, I wasn’t done.  I moved this wicker trunk from my bedroom and put the bulky coffee table in the garage.

 

 

And then, there is my scanner/printer story….sadly, neither is compatible with Louisa May, my laptop.  So off they went to the garage…and I must find something else.  Meanwhile, here’s my workspace.

I moved my Old TBR stacks onto the desk….As you can see, the stacks are much smaller than they were.

***

Now…back to reading and movie watching.

What are you up to today?  Some of you may be on the road, like my daughter, who is visiting her grandmother in Northern California.

I’m reading this today:

The Song Remains the Same, by Allison Winn Scotch.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

COZY SETTINGS & SCENES: A REVIEW — AUGUST 28

As a fan of Meryl Streep and all of her movies, I just knew that I would thoroughly enjoy The Meryl Streep Movie Club.

From the very first page, I felt swept up into the lives of the characters, beginning with Lolly, who owns an inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and circling out to include her daughter Kat and nieces Isabel and June.

What started as a tragedy many years before comes full circle when Lolly calls everyone home to Boothby Harbor at an unexpected time: a time that wasn’t a holiday. A call to the troops for an announcement.

The gathering came at a time in each of their lives when nothing felt certain. Isabel’s marriage is falling apart; June feels a hole in her heart left by the mysterious departure of her lover seven years before; and Kat has to decide what to do with the rest of her life.

After the announcement and what follows, with each of them staying on at the inn, I especially enjoyed the movie nights, and how the themes of Meryl Streep movies helped each of them sort out their issues.

Like a cozy quilt, I felt encircled by the warmth of the “club,” just as the characters did; and I started a small stack of my own Meryl Streep DVDs to enjoy afterwards. A cozy family story that will appeal to anyone who has ever had to make hard choices, as well as anyone who is a fan of Meryl Streep. Four stars.

WEEKEND POTPOURRI: SATURDAY SNAPSHOT FROM THE OLYMPICS — AUGUST 4

Welcome to another exciting weekend with Saturday Snapshot, hosted by Alyce, At Home With Books.

Today I’m sharing a potpourri of photos taken during the Olympics in London (and a couple on the way).

Left to Right: Aaron, Alec, and Aubrey at LAX

 

After the very long flight

Quarter Final Match – Federer

Brett – Enjoying basketball

The Three A’s Enjoying Basketball

Gourmet food, perhaps? lol

 

Next week, I expect to have more photos….On Sunday, Brett and his kids are meeting up with my oldest son, Craig, who is coming to Paris from Berlin to connect with them.  They’ll be meeting at noon under the Eiffel Tower.

I can’t wait to see more.

Now I’m off to see your photos…come on by and leave some comments and links!

 

 

 

 

HUMP DAY POTPOURRI: WAITING FOR “WHAT THE NANNY SAW” — JULY 18

Welcome to my Hump Day Potpourri, in which I celebrate upcoming reads via Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Today I found a book that will surely make me smile…and possibly laugh.  Fiona Neill is that kind of writer, and her upcoming read, What the Nanny Saw, is due out on August 2.  Not long to wait!

It’s the summer of 2008. For the past decade Nick and Bryony Skinner and their four children have ridden high on the economic boom, but their luck is about to run out. Suddenly, the privileged family finds itself at the center of a financial scandal:
their Central London house is besieged by the press, Nick disappears, and Bryony and the children become virtual prisoners in their own home. And Ali, their trusted nanny, watches it all. As the babysitter, she brings a unique insider-outsider perspective to the family, seeing far more than even the family itself is capable of. But when a reporter with a personal connection to the story comes asking her for the inside scoop, will Ali remain loyal to the family who never saw her as anything other than the help? Or will she tell her side?

Written with Fiona Neill’s delicious humor and addictive style, What the Nanny Saw is a keenly observed, often comical chronicle of the urban wealthy elite, of parents who are often too busy to notice what is going on under their own noses, of children left to their own devices, and of a young nanny thrown into a role she doesn’t know how to play. It is a morality tale of our time, a tale of betrayal, the corrosive influence of too much money, and why good people sometimes do bad things.

***

Okay…the synopsis reveals a serious topic, but Neill’s take on it will bring in that famous humor of hers.

What are you excited about this week?  Come on by and share!

CONFRONTING THE PAST — A REVIEW

Sometimes the accidents in life turn out to be the start of unlikely relationships, old and new.

Marian Caldwell, New York producer of a hit show, thinks that her life is just about perfect. Great boyfriend, great career, and beautiful East Side apartment. And then one day, the past stands before her in the form of Kirby, an eighteen-year-old who holds the key to the secrets she has held tight within.

How will the secrets of the past inform the present? The future? In alternating voices, Marian and Kirby share their stories, and as we come to know them with all their secrets, emotions, hopes and dreams, we feel the poignancy of their lives and root for them to find out just where they belong.

My favorite characters were Conrad and Kirby. Who knew that these two would be like two sides of a coin?

All through Where We Belong, I wondered how the characters’ lives would change, and whether or not these changes would bring them that elusive thing they’d been missing.

Emily Giffin can be counted on to show us the complexities of relationships while she is spotlighting how the issues her characters address can bring them full circle, until they are finally facing what they could not accept. The past. And how the past does not have to bring only pain, but can unexpectedly bring joy. Five stars.