Summer Reads that Helped Me Through My Remodel!

As some of you know, who follow me on Twitter or FB, I had a huge remodel in our home this summer.  It all started with a simple room addition, then turned into remodeling half of the house!!  With dust everywhere, I had to stay quarantined to my bedroom with a HEPA machine, outside on the patio, or the great getaway to Chickfila (my daughter loves their play area)! After about a few months, the house is finally back to where it needs to be, minus a few “to-do’s”.

living room

Before/After of Living Room

Above, is a picture of one of the rooms we remodeled.  I love the way the house feels and am so glad we took the plunge!  However, during the process, it was miserable!!  Having 3 children, 3 dogs (2 of them were foster dogs), the level of stress was high at times.  But, we have our home back and no more workers in the house!! So, back to books.  I am so thankful to have read some great stories that were a fantastic distraction to the house mess.  During times I could spare, I’d turn on my ipad and read!!  Below are some of those books and my reviews on them.  While they are short reviews, it doesn’t take away from the fact of how great these books are!

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Summer Reads

Synopsis:

The internationally bestselling author of WHITE GARDENIA returns with her greatest heroine yet. A mysterious stranger known as ′The Wolf′ leaves an infant with the sisters of Santo Spirito. A tiny silver key hidden in her wrappings is the one clue to the child′s identity …
Rosa′s only family is the nuns who have raised her. When she turns fifteen, she must leave them and become governess to the daughter of an aristocrat and his strange, frightening wife. Their house is elegant but cursed, and Rosa – blessed with gifts beyond her considerable musical talents – is torn between her desire to know the truth and her fear of its repercussions.
And all the while, the hand of Fascism curls around beautiful Italy, and none of her citizens is safe. Rosa faces unimaginable hardship: her only weapons her intelligence, intuition and determination …and her extraordinary capacity for love.
My Summer Review:
I was entranced from the first chapter.  I don’t typically read any voodoo-who-do type of books, and this wasn’t really one.  However, there is a bit of mysticism that weaves itself around the storyline.  Rosa is an orphan, brought to a convent, by someone the nuns describe as “the wolf”.  So, I begin seeing Jack Nicholson (from the movie, “Wolf”), and wonder if this is going to get creepy.  Jack scared me from the movie, “The Shining”, so I wasn’t too excited to get Jack’s fangs in my head.
However, “the wolf” is not a wolf, even though there are some black magic mentions.
This mysterious man appears at the convent with a little baby girl, wrapped in a blanket with a silver key.  The key is the only link to the baby girl’s family of origin and is a clue to some of the answers Rosa hopes to find out.
I loved the relationship between Rosa and the nun, who became a surrogate mother to her.  It was special and Rosa had the love of a mother in this particular woman.  At the age of 15, Rosa is sent to be a governess in a household, where workers are hushed, secrets are hidden behind walls, and people are not who they appear to be.
This is a story that will keep you on your toes, as Belinda Alexander takes her readers back in time during Italy’s struggle through Fascism.  It’s a book that won’t disappoint!
  Synopsis:
With warmth, wit, and infinite charm Pamela Mingle brings to the page Pride and Prejudice’s reserved and awkward Mary Bennet and proves that there is always room for another Austen spin-off when it’s this goodFor most of her life Mary Bennet has been an object of ridicule. With a notable absence of the social graces, she has been an embarrassment to her family on more than one occasion. But lately, Mary has changed. She’s matured and attained a respectable, if somewhat unpolished, decorum. But her peace and contentment are shattered when her sister Lydia turns up-very pregnant and separated from Wickham. Mary and Kitty are bustled off to stay with Jane and her husband. It is there that Mary meets Henry Walsh, whose attentions confound her. Unschooled in the game of love, her heart and her future are at risk. Is she worthy of love or should she take the safer path? In her journey of self-acceptance, she discovers the answer.
My Summer Review:
If you love Jane Austen and, “Pride & Prejudice”, then you will enjoy this book!! As Austen fans, we all remember Elizabeth’s sister, Mary.  I’ve read follow-ups to the Jane’s book, “Pride & Prejudice”, but I must mention that is one of the best “sequels” I’ve read!!  Jane Austen would certainly be proud.  With a mix of Mary’s pursuits, some indiscretions on Lydia and Wickham’s part, and some special visits from Elizabeth Darcy, this is just a great combination of everything that will leave you quite satisfied with the Bennet sisters and how they all move on and grow up as beautiful ladies in society.  While Kitty isn’t a strong character in P&P, nor in this book, she does provide added value as a confidant for Mary.  Packed with Austen’s language, great storyline, and a sweet love story, this book will not disappoint Austen fans!
A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

My Summer Review:
I think most of have read a poem or two from Edgar Allen Poe, but to get a little peak into his life, is a real treat!!  Lynn Cullen writes such a fascinating tale of Poe and his wife, the celebrity status he assumes, and his strong desire to be with an upcoming writer and wife; Frances Osgood.  While this is historical fiction, the story is told in such a way that has the reader drawn into these lives that fact from fiction is rather difficult to distinguish.  The story shows Poe being vulnerable with his relationship to Frances, his desire to break from being seen only as the poet, who wrote “The Raven, and his unusual life and marriage to his cousin.
While I am not a condoner of infidelity, I did feel Frances and Poe’s pain, as they try to make sense of their forbidden love and find ways to move on from one another….if they can.  It’s written so beautifully, so tragically, that the story itself embodies the mystique and magnetism that Poe brings to his readers.  This is definitely a book worth reading for those who love a great Historical fiction read!
Synopsis:
In middle age, Annie Oh—wife, mother, and outsider artist—has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.

Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs’ lives.

We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Water is vintage Wally Lamb—a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.

My Summer Review:
I’m a newbie reader of the wonderful works of Wally Lamb.  Having read, “She’s Come Undone”, I knew I wanted to read Lamb’s latest book.  It is a large book, a little over 570 pages, but every page is needed and helps bring closure to one incredible saga!
I loved how each chapter was told through a different perspective and gave the reader an opportunity to know how certain situations impacted each person involved.  The synopsis had me from the word, “go”, because I have always been curious about the impact such a large secret can have on a family, and how the family copes and works through the situation.  Perhaps, it’s the therapist in me, but I really wanted to know the emotional impact, not just a sequence of events being told.
Each character is developed with flaws and all!!  They are so real, people we can easily know or in our own life, and as the tragedies unfold, the family perseveres despite the tidal waves of secrets that almost sweep away this seemingly conventional family.  When Annie decides that she is gay, she leaves her family, and moves in with her business manager.  Both deciding to marry, the family is brought together to deal with the skeletons in the closet and find ways to cope, understand, and accept the “new” normal of what their family is.
Annie isn’t a character I could sympathize with as much, despite the abuse she endured as a child.  I couldn’t understand if Annie was always gay, if it was a result of a childhood incident, or her falling in love with someone who happens to be a woman.  Because that isn’t really clear for me, it was hard to figure out if her relationship with Viveca was genuine or if she was just co-dependent on her because she wanted out of her marriage.  However, I did sympathize with the children and Orion, as they all learn to make peace with their own demons and through that, everyone becomes closer and more present with each other.
It is a fantastic read, would certainly make for a great book club discussion, and is a book that will not disappoint Wally Lamb fans!
* A huge thank-you to Edelweiss for allowing me the privilege of reading and reviewing all the books I mentioned above!!  Also, each synopsis came from Goodreads!
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If you managed to read each review and are still reading, then you deserve a big congratulations!!! I tried making the reviews small, but with some meat, as each book deserves it’s own post. However, with the remodel, I wasn’t able to write each review in the way I would have liked.
To show my appreciation to you for actually reading the whole post, and for Edelweiss being patient with reviews, I am providing a book giveaway to you!!
Giveaway Details:
One random will be selected to win 2 books!!!:
The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed
&
Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile by Shannon Messenger
Enter your email address & name, and name which book I reviewed above that interests you most!
That’s it!!
Giveaway ends: October 10, 2013.

11 thoughts on “Summer Reads that Helped Me Through My Remodel!

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