Rose Barmy

I’ve abandoned my books, my roses have beckoned me out to the garden most every day.

Because of our winter and spring rains – my roses are at their absolute finest.

So, I’ll take this opportunity to show you (and document for myself) their splendor ~~ the best blooming in years.

 

(Note: the back garden is quite steep so the second photo is as you walk  down the stone path.)

Then I spend much happy time arranging bouquets all over the house…even the bathroom ~~

Then, as the petals fall, I collect them for drying and ultimately, potpourri.

The house smells wonderful.

 

 

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The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

I was recently surprised to enjoy THIS book about reincarnation.  Well, as if on a mission from another universe, another unusual book entered my orbit.

Really liking the cover, I opened this book on my Kindle, and before I knew it, I had read two chapters.

Magic, fantasy – not usually my cup of tea (true confession time, I only made through the first Harry Potter book), but I kept reading well into the night and finished The House at the End of Hope Street the very next evening. 

When Alba, an extraordinarily smart woman experiences what she believes is a career-ending event, she wanders the streets with no idea what should happen next. That’s when a large Victorian house pops up out of nowhere, covered in fragrant wisteria and with a sense calm that emanates from within.

Peggy, the caretaker of the house, appears to expect Alba. And oh how the house welcomes her.  In this house, the floors are soft under foot, the walls breathe and hug you, and one sees colors when words are spoken.  Important notes flutter down from the ceilings for the intended recipient,  and the framed portraits of past residents of the house, such as Agatha Christie, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf chat away, giving advice and counsel.

Turns out this magical house has been rescuing extraordinary women, for 200 years.  And each woman, including Alba, have 99 nights to stay in the house and turn their lives around.

“If you stay I can promise you this. This house may not give you what you want, but it will give you what you need. And the event that brought you here, the thing you think is the worst thing that’s ever happened? When you leave, you’ll realize it was the very best thing of all.”

Peggy, the 80+ caretaker of this magical house, is my favorite character.  She lives in her own private tower of the house, entertains a mysterious lover every Sunday, eats cake for breakfast, and has an invisible cat named Mog.

We also learn the stories of Carmen and Greer, the other residents of the house, who also arrived heartbroken, hopeless, not knowing what to do:

“[each woman] must be allowed to feel her grief, must dive headlong into despair, before she can emerge again, her spirit richer and deeper than before”

One would think that Ms. Van Praag would have trouble creating believable characters in and among all this hocus pocus magic but each character is rendered with realistic layers of character flaws and redeeming talents.  

But my favorite part of this book was the rooms that magically fill with objects to suit the occupant.   Greer loves clothes so her room is filled with an amazing wardrobe. Alba loves books so her room is filled with the books the house thinks she should read.  What’s not to like about that fantasy?

I felt quite buoyed upon finishing this book, believing the magic — that problems can be surmounted, that heartbreak can be lessened, and troubles put in their proper place.

Magic sure, but it’s Magically Delicious

A digital advanced readers copy was provided by Penguin Books via Netgalley.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katrina Bivald

 

I have enjoyed many books about reading, bookshops and book lovers.  So when The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was compared to The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry — I had high hopes.

In this novel Sara, a Swedish woman, comes to Broken Wheel, Iowa to visit her pen pal and fellow book lover, Amy.  But when she arrives in this rundown small town she finds that her elderly friend recently died and left instructions for Sara to stay in her house as long as she wants.   Sara, a devoted bookworm tries to hide herself in the books from Amy’s library but soon gets drawn into the town and the lives of its local inhabitants  — a motley crew of misfits.  These normally insular Iowans gradually warm up to Sara and make her a part of their town. She opens a bookshop and recommends the perfect reads for her new friends and neighbors. Much of the story is about the effect Sara and her reading recommendations have on the inhabitants of Broken Wheel.

The book is interspersed with the past correspondence between Amy and Sara and I really wanted these letters to tell more about their relationship and shared love of reading.  But, sadly the letters are stilted and reveal little about either Amy or Sara.

The small saving grace in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is Sara’s love for books  — I had to smile, as Sara explains the difference between the smell of a paperback and that of a hardback — a true book lover.

I also nodded in recognition at this description of Sara’s school experience:

 “Others might have found themselves stuck in a tired, old high school in Haninge, but she had been a geisha in Japan, walked along with China’s last empress through the claustrophobic, closed off rooms of the Forbidden City, grown up with Anne and the others in Green Gables, gone through her fair share of murder, and loved and lost over and over again.”

This is a sweet but predictable (and often trite) story of friendship, small-town America, and the love of reading and books. It tries to be life affirming, but instead, wanders into the clichéd.

Reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was an enjoyable, if  bland, experience.

I just wished it could have been better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A digital advanced readers copy was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley.

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The good life

Husband and I aren’t very materialistic, we live modestly, don’t drive a fancy car, have but one television, and are known (and teased) for being quite frugal.  “No, we didn’t get your text, we don’t have smart phones…really.”

But we do succumb to a few indulgences – books (natch), good food, wine  ~~ and especially travel.

On a whim, and with a Groupon deal in hand (see, thrifty), last week we took off for a few days on the Russian River.

Our room overlooked the river, full and swift moving after all our winter/spring rains.

 

We went for a long hike in the redwoods

Did a bit of antique looking – just looking…

 

Visited a rose nursery and garden – again just looking (no more roses, someone kept muttering…)

And watched a drop dead beautiful sunset on the coast, where the river meets the ocean.

 

It’s not a large life – but for us, it’s a good life.

 

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Blind Date

I just had a blind date with a book.

Plucked at random from my stack of unread advanced readers copies, I opened The Forgetting Time, by Sharon Guskin knowing very little, apart from this pre-publication blurb:

What happens to us after we die? What happens before we are born? At once a riveting mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time will lead you to reevaluate everything you believe…

The plot centers around the theory that some people have lived previous lives which they remember as small children but start to forget as they get older.

Four-year-old Noah has fear of water and refuses to take a bath or even wash his hands, he also suffers from nightmares and constantly asks his mom to take him ‘home’ and to see his ‘other mom’.

“Not now Noah? I see. It happened in another time.”   

                       “Yes, when I was big.”

Janie, Noah’s mom, is shaken and confounded by her son’s behavior. This is his home and she is his mom.  Noah knows about things he has never been exposed to – the Harry Potter books, lizards, and how to score a baseball game. Is Noah the reincarnation of another boy who died?  Janie is skeptical but enlists the help of a Dr. Anderson, who has researched and documented this phenomenon.   Together they begin a journey that rattles not only their beliefs about Noah’s situation, but also their own lives. 

Really Book Barmy? Reincarnation? No, not for me, you’re thinking.  I thought the very same thing, but I must tell you, by the end of the second chapter, I was immediately smitten with The Forgetting Time

This book has multiple layers.  It’s a thought-provoking look into reincarnation. But it’s also a murder mystery. There is much about hurt, fear, aging, and death.  But mostly, The Forgetting Time is about the connections humans have with each other. It shouldn’t all work together — but it does – and does so very well.

With her beautiful prose, Ms. Guskin chases away any doubts about reincarnation, and creates a world where we believe in the real possibility that there is life beyond the one, singular one we all have before us.

“You only live once. But was it true? That was the problem, wasn’t it? She had never thought about it in any deep way. She hadn’t had the time or inclination to speculate about other lives: this one was hard enough to manage.”

Interspersed throughout the book are fascinating case studies of other children with inexplicable memories of previous lives.  And so the author steadily draws the reader into reality of what is happening to Noah and the possibility of a life reborn.

There is much to think about when reading this novel, lives well (or not so well) lived, death, loss, hope — and the constantly changing human experience.

“…[Dr. Anderson] thought of Heraclitus: a man cannot step in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.”

When evaluating this blind date, I have never read anything quite like The Forgetting Time – I found it both thought provoking and unforgettable.  And while I still don’t know how much I believe in reincarnation — this book left me wanting to believe.

An advanced readers copy was provided by Flatiron Books

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