Review: Pictures of You

Why I picked it: I enjoy reading book suggestions from authors.  Lian Dolan (author of Helen of Pasadena) recommended this book when we talked with her last month, for the Manic Mommies Book Club.

Synopsis: Two women running away from their marriages collide on a highway, leaving the survivor to pick up the pieces of both of their lives.

Quick Take: Recommend - This was a great choice for vacation.  It's a story about a woman, Isabelle, who is trying to rediscover herself.  She makes a life changing decision to leave her marriage and her plans are derailed by a car accident.  This accident changes the direction of her life when she survives and the other driver doesn't.

Isabelle becomes obsessed with the family of the other driver and ends up interacting with them for a good part of the book.  I don't want to expand on this or I might give away some of the plot.

I enjoyed how this book was written, it wasn't overly emotional yet I felt connected to the characters and looked forward to finding out what would happen with Isabelle. 

This novel is about self discovery, a solid story with a messy ending.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Personal Copy/ Nook

They said "She's waiting for you"

I haven't talked about M or E recently, let's just say it's difficult losing a loved one. 

M was a cancer warrior for six years. The last five months were tough with a few chemo treatments sending her to the hospital before making the decision to stop treatment and begin hospice care.

Last week my husband and I video skyped with my parents from Sydney, showing them the Opera House, the ocean and a few other places. M was doing great, two weeks ago she felt so good that she told me, "I feel so good Mari, don't be surprised if I'm here next Christmas".

She went to bed Saturday night and didn't wake up on Sunday, still with us but non-responsive. 

Just hours after getting back from Australia I received a call to come home. Due to weather and flight schedules it took two days for me to get home. I didn't think I would get there in time. I walked into my parents home Tuesday night at 11PM, hugged M, told her 'I love you', took her hand and sat next to her bed. I looked up to see tears from her closed eyes. She knew I was there.

We sat together for two hours, when I mentioned her mom she teared up again. M died a few hours later. At home. In her bed, looking so peaceful.

It's hard to explain but she found a way to wrap us in love as she left the world Wednesday morning - leaving us missing her terribly but filling our hearts with the miracle we experienced in her last hours with us, here on earth.

Just before I left yesterday, my dad found this photo in her purse so it's only fitting that I include it (my son Andrew with his Gaga, taken last summer). 

I love you M!

Review: Amaryllis in Blueberry

Why I picked it: Thank you InkWell Management for sending me a copy of Amaryllis in Blueberry to review.  I couldn't wait to read this book after reading the synopsis... it's the perfect 'Mari' book and isn't the cover stunning?

Synopsis: Amaryllis in Blueberry explores the complexity of human relationships set against an unforgettable backdrop. Told through the haunting voices of Dick and Seena Slepy and their four daughters, Christina Meldrum's soulful novel weaves together the past and the present of a family harmed—and healed—by buried secrets.

Meet the Slepys: Dick, the stern doctor, the naive husband, a man devoted to both facts and faith; Seena, the storyteller, the restless wife, a mother of four, a lover of myth. And their children, the Marys: Mary Grace, the devastating beauty; Mary Tessa, the insistent inquisitor; Mary Catherine, the saintly, lost soul; and finally, Amaryllis, Seena's unspoken favorite, born with the mystifying ability to sense the future, touch the past and distinguish the truth tellers from the most convincing liar of all.

When Dick insists his family move from Michigan to the unfamiliar world of Africa for missionary work, he can't possibly foresee how this new land and its people will entrance and change his daughters—and himself—forever.
Type: fiction

Quick Take: Highly Recommend - Every once in a while I discover a book that I need to read slowly, I believe a great book should be read slowly...why rush to finish a wonderful experience? 
I loved this novel - from the time spent in America and the events leading up to the decision to go to Africa, to the traditions of an African tribe and, how these traditions impact on the Slepy family.

Told from different points of view, this is a story filled with secrets and explores the struggle of being loved vs loving someone.  Mix in African traditions versus American values and this book will keep you on your toes.

Please visit Christina Meldrum's website to learn about her personal journey and to listen to an interview and more.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Country/Region: West Africa
Source: Review Copy

Review: The Doctor's Wife

Why I picked it: I read a book by Elizabeth Brundage a few years ago for my book club, I think I may have been the only one who really liked the book.... so much so that I wanted to read another title by this  author. 

Synopsis: So begins The Doctor's Wife, a stunning debut novel about four people and the cataclysmic intersection of their lives. Michael is a rising OB/GYN at a prominent private practice in Albany, New York; he also moonlights at a local women's health clinic. But Annie, his wife, has become tired of her workaholic husband's absences, and the soccer-mom lifestyle has worn thin. She begins a passionate love affair with bad-boy, fading celebrity painter Simon Haas—an affair that quickly goes awry when Simon's wife Lydia, who is also the model upon whom he built his career, discovers the truth.

Abortion, local evangelism, marital disenchantment, and the rifts of social class: Brundage takes on the fault lines of our era with a deft hand.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I love a complicated story and I got one with The Doctor's Wife.  Did you see the movie Misery?  This book reminded me of this movie less the graphic moments (remember when she breaks his leg, ugh). 

This book starts in present day and then goes back in time to explain how we get to the opening.  It's a dark, complicated story that kept my interest from page one.  The twists kept coming, there were times I didn't like the direction the story was going... but in a good way.  Brundage kept me on my toes with several sub-plots moving the story along.

Have you read this book?  If yes... I don't understand why Simon was interesting to Annie, I thought he was a creep!  The kind of man I would run from.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Personal Copy, audio (iTunes)
Challenge: Teresa's Audiobook Challange, February selection

Hello from Sydney!

It's Saturday morning here, in Sydney.  Tomorrow we pack up and move to another location and I can't wait!  We are heading inland to the Blue Mountains and will touch the Outback before returning back to Sydney (and then sadly... home).

Here's a photo from my four hour hike to Manly North Head.  I love hearing the sound of the ocean crashing on the rocks (my sunburn is from this hike, so the sun did eventually appear).

Being here has made me shift my view on food and I am going to attempt to make some dietary changes. More on that later.... but can I tell you how much better everything tastes here?  I can't explain it but the banana's taste amazing.  I will miss the food here and that's a statement coming from me!

Review: Stiltsville

Why I picked it: I read this book with Gayle (EDIWTB) for her online book club.

Gayle discussed this book in December but I wasn't able to read it in time for the discussion, life got in the way. 

Synopsis:  One sunny morning in 1969, near the end of her first trip to Miami, twenty-six-year-old Frances Ellerby finds herself in a place called Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings in the middle of Biscayne Bay. 

It's the first time the Atlanta native has been out on the open water, and she's captivated. On the dock of a stilt house, with the dazzling skyline in the distance and the unknowable ocean beneath her, she meets the house's owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself. 

Turning away from her quiet, predictable life back home, Frances moves to Miami to be with Dennis. Over time, she earns the confidence of his wild-at-heart sister and wins the approval of his oldest friend. Frances and Dennis marry and have a child—but rather than growing complacent about their good fortune, they continue to face the challenges of intimacy and the complicated city they call home.

Stiltsville is the family's island oasis—until suddenly it's gone, and Frances is forced to figure out how to make her family work on dry land. Against a backdrop of lush tropical beauty, Frances and Dennis struggle with the mutability of love and Florida's weather, as well as temptation, chaos, and disappointment. But just when Frances thinks she's reached some semblance of higher ground, she must confront an obstacle so great that even the lessons she's learned about navigating the uncharted waters of family life can't keep them afloat.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I haven't read many novels set in Florida and the idea of houses on stilts was intriguing.  This is the main reason why I wanted to read this book.  I haven't read many novels set in Florida and the concept of Stiltsville sounded interesting.

This may be Frances' story but it's also the story of the people close to her from the time she meets and marries Dennis.  I'm not exactly sure how to explain my reaction to this book, Frances is not an expressive woman and the story moves along at a slow pace with no earth shattering twists.  By the end of the novel it felt like I had listened to an aunt tell me the story of her marriage, sharing moments of motherhood and life as an empty nester (a woman trying to find her way). 

Rating: 3/5 stars
Source: Review Copy & Audio Copy (iTunes)

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