Book Review: “Open House” by Elizabeth Berg plus more

This author also wrote the recently reviewed book Arthur Truluve which was a new publish. “Open House” had a copywrite of the year 2000, 20 years ago. There were similarities to each of the stories as that people who didn’t know each other moved in with each other. There were also spouse and parent deaths as part of the story.

So the story starts out with a woman, Samantha, trying to come to terms with the separation of their marriage that her husband, David, wanted. They were married for 15 years and had one son who was 11 years old. They were comfortable, lived in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. The husband just wanted more and she was happy with her life. She knew that he was becoming distant and wanted to go to a counselor and figure out the problem. He eventually moved out and she was playing the “what if” game in her head. She eventually had to figure out how she could stay in the home, work out the visiting arrangements with her husband for the son and she had to find a job to have an income. Still she needed more income and she decided to take in boarders.

The first boarder was a lady in her early 80’s with a boyfriend. The second was a young introverted Asian student with a very negative outlook on life. The third was a gay man. Through all these people she gained friendships. She also took a job with an employment agency where she had different jobs weekly. One was at a laundromat, another at call center that was not on the up and up and she was happily fired from it.

Through all this she had to see her husband move into a nice apartment, and have a girlfriend with the talk of marriage. She dropped their son off one day and he wanted to show his room and she noted that her husband had a white couch. She had always wanted a white couch but he knocked that idea down, now he has one. All this time she really missed him, missed the life they had, she had taken care of him, really too much. He had this yearning for something else and he couldn’t see how good his life was.

Time went on and she tried dates that her mother set up for her. Her mother was something else and thought her daughter should just start dating right a way, after all that’s what she did when her husband died. It always bothered her daughter and eventually she realized that was how her mother had coped with his death.

Throughout this book we will live the roller coaster ride of Samantha finding her self confidence that she had totally lost due to the separation. She had always given into David and he got whatever he wanted. His family had money and he pretty much got what he wanted there and had strong opinions about having things “just so” for himself.

I liked this book, it didn’t make me want to read it in one day but it had its moments. I would say, “give it a try”.

Our house is in disarray right now. We have lived in our house for 10 years and it is time to paint and update colors. We try to do a couple of rooms each year but due to covid we didn’t have any painting done and are catching up. The last two rooms are in process. The kitchen is a called peppery and the great room will be a sage green.
I had tried the color on the wall and I believe it will be great. I have had to unload the two bookcases to be able to move them away from the wall. I really loved to become reacquainted with books I forgot that I had. The garage sale pile is growing too. The refrigerator has been pulled out and swept under, things have been dusted. It has been a lot of work but needed for sure.
Pavel had to see what I was doing this morning. He is such a sweetheart. Tom and I are getting our second covid shot this friday. I also had a cortisone shot in my knees, and they feel better so still waiting to see how long it lasts. Trying to get through the summer before I have anything done permanantly.
Our newly painted foyer. I love it and the door is a deeper color. We always have a lawn service come out and clean up the landscaping. It lasts all growing season and I have to just trim up plants that grow a little wild. We had a spicket added near our well head, and that tore up some plants and uneven ground. Having that water access will be worth it. The last thing we will have done is getting our carpets cleaned. Then we can sit back and enjoy the hard work.
Here is a great picture of a morning moon that I took recently. I like to have pictures for reference and the sky was so blue and it was clear.

A quote that made me laugh.

An intellectual is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

If you have any questions or want to contact me send a note. I would love to hear from you.

Book Review – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Kristen Hannah is one of my favorite authors. I have not read a book of hers that I did not like. This is a historical novel and she wrote in her notes at the end that tried to be as historically accurate as possible.

I gained knowledge from this book, for example I honestly did not realize that France during WWII had surrendered to Germany early on in the war. I don’t know how I missed this but always imagined that they were in the air and on the ground in the fight.

I had read “Returned to Auschwitz” years ago and it left such an indelible mark on me. It was an awful book that told of the horrible conditions from the Nazi’s that I have never forgotten it. Not awful because of the writing, just the horrifying content. This book left the same feeling and for a day I was depressed.

“The Nightengale” spotlights the women of the French Resistance who saved Jewish children and rescued downed airmen to help them back to their country so that they may fly again to fight.

Picture Paris being overrun by the Nazi’s with Nazi flags flying everywhere. The rounding up of Jewish people and the yellow stars having to go on their clothing marking them as Jewish and the atrocities that happened to them.

The book starts out in the year 1995 in Oregon. An elderly woman is telling about her house being for sale and that she will be moving into assisted living. She is leaving a home that she has lived in for over 50 years and her husband has passed away not too long ago but her son is watching over her and he feels it would be better for her to move.

She also talks about a life she once had in France, a life that her son knows nothing about. She left it behind after the war and she and her husband and children moved to America.

The book bounces back and forth from America to France in 1939. A woman has a young daughter and her husband has been mobilized to go into the war. But they will be able to take care of the Germans and the war won’t go on long, he will be back home soon.

But the war doesn’t end soon, and French army was being beaten by the Germans and most of the country surrenders. The little French town that they live in has the Nazi army take it over and ever so slowly it keeps putting stipulations on the French people. Taking the food, taking the art, taking the furniture, learn who the Jews, homosexuals, communists and Freemasons are. Then the Nazi’s would gather up targeted people and put them on trains to go to concentration camps. Radios were confiscated so they would not have contact with the outside world along with valuables and clothes. They had to go through cold winters, and would put on layers of clothing so that they could stay warm. There would not be wood to burn for heat. They had to stand in line for rations of food daily and if you were the last in line you may not get anything. All the while the Nazi’s were eating well, staying warm, taking all the best for themselves and wasting food. The rest were losing weight and becoming gaunt, getting sick and dying.

The book centers on two women, sisters, who were very different but brave by what they went through. Chapter by chapter it would go back and forth between what the sisters were doing during the war. One stayed in the small French town and the other left for Paris to participate in the French Resistance.

By the time we get to 1944 in the book and life is just so destitute, there is hope when you read that the Allies are freeing the concentration camps and the Nazi’s are leaving quickly. This book is so well written I felt that I was living it too. Made me think about the waste of throwing away food and reusing items. It was interesting and depressing at the same time.

So, as I said before, there are two sisters. It has you guessing till the end, who is the elderly woman? Is it one of the sisters, or the daughter or even one of the Jewish children that were saved. That is where you have to read this book to find out.

I read this book in three days and it has nearly 600 pages. It had me captivated and it also made me wish that my parents were alive. I would have had so many questions to ask. My Father was a young man in the army in Italy and my Mother lived in the USA while the war was raging in Europe. My Father passed away 24 years ago and Mother 22 years ago but it would have been an interesting conversation.

If you like history, family love, romance and daring escapes I do recommend this book. War is Hell.

Book Review: The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

I had noted in a previous post that a goal for 2021 is to read at least a book a month. So far so good so on to book number two.

The Characters are:

Arthur: an elderly gentleman who lives by himself as he had lost his wife, the love of his life, six months earlier.

Maddy: an 18 year old senior, who is very much a loner with no apparent friends.

Lucille: an elderly neighbor who lives alone and just reconnected with a high school sweetheart.

Nola: Arthur’s deceased wife

Anderson: Maddy’s one time boyfriend

Steven: Maddy’s father

This story starts out with a lot of sadness. Arthur visits his wife’s grave every day at noon and takes his lunch sandwich of peanut butter and jelly. He carries his chair with him and rides the bus with his sandwich in his pocket.

Maddy visits the cemetery often while she skips class because it is a quiet and beautiful place to think. She is bullied in school for being supposedly different and has no one that she has connected with as a friend.

Her father has no idea how to be a father for 18 years and he and Maddy have no connection either. He really shut down after Maddy’s mother passed away when Maddy was two months old.

While both Maddy and Arthur are in the same cemetery they begin to talk and begin a friendship and eventually find something they both seek. Each one serves a huge purpose for the other.

Maddy finds out that she is pregnant and tells Anderson. Of course she dreams that he is going to fall all over and be excited but he says that he is not going to be a part of this and of course acts like a dick and they part.

Maddy tells her father and of course he didn’t take it well either and was telling her what she was going to do, “get rid of that thing” and they parted ways too. He hasn’t tried to have a connection with his daughter for 18 years and now thinks he is going to call the shots.

Lucille is Arthurs neighbor who bakes wonderful treats. Her high school sweetheart sent her a letter and wanted to reconnect. They found after all the years there was still a spark and after a month they decided to move in with each other. They did not stay together in high school because he ended up marrying another woman and she had passed away. He had saved the ring that he had bought for Lucille in high school and he gave it to her. Sadly he passed away from a heart attack. Lucille was just a mess and Arthur helped her out of her despair.

Then the lives intertwine and it becomes very heartwarming where they help each other through the rough times. In their own ways they give what they have and it is just right. Along with that, they pull others into the circle of help and it is a domino affect without it being a conscious effort.

I recommend this book, it is an easy read and leaves a good feeling afterwards. My sister in law sent it for my birthday and said it was a nice book and hoped I liked it and she was right.

Two book reviews

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond…Published in 2017 My book buddy, Colleen, sent this one to me. It was her favorite from last year.

This couple gets married, they are in their 30’s and into their careers. He is a therapist or counselor and she is an attorney. Through a case that she is taking care of she has met this man and he finds out that they are getting married. Off handedly she invites him and his wife and he accepts because he just Loves weddings.
As a gift from these people a beautiful wooden box is sent to them. It is locked and on the outside is an engraved plaque with their names and the words “The Pact.” Instructions are not to open it until a certain person is with them. They get back from their honeymoon, and of course their curiosity gets to them and they try to open the box but can’t.
They set up an appointment with the person they are to meet with and one of the questions that is asked “Do you want your marriage to last forever?” So they sign the papers and get into this group that seems to know their every move. There are penalties if they do not follow the many rules of the book. The whole object is to keep the marriages together and it was founded by a woman who lives on an island off of Northern Ireland.
The group keeps growing, A couple has to be vetted to receive an offer to be accepted into the group. It has a lot of cash and connected people in it. For example they own prisons where they take a person, from a marriage, that is not following the rules and help them see the light. Some of the rules are, you have to plan a vacation twice a year, you have to buy a gift for no certain occasion once a month, you have to come home early enough to contribute time to the marriage. All good things on the surface but there are people watching if a person in the couple is not following it. They are reported to the council and given a phone call or paid a visit or kidnapped and taken to prison.
As time went on, and all the “incidents” kept snowballing, they decided they wanted out. More bazaar incidents happened and you don’t know until the very end if they made it or not.
I enjoyed the book but I am sure that I had a perplexed look on my face throughout the whole reading of it. “Why did you sign on! How could you not see it was weird!” It was a good book, and had good points to use in a marriage. Just the way they went about was bazaar!

Count The Wings, the life and art of Charley Harper by Michelle Houts Published 2018

Artist Charley Harper is a huge inspiration for me. His minimal realism style and humor I am very drawn to. His use of nature and the bright colors are wonderful. This is a very easy read because it was written for young readers ages 8 to 13. It is his biography taking us from birth on a West Virginia farm, his art, World War II, going to art school, finding his own style and his later years. I loved the more inside look at Charley Harper.

 

Book Review: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

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Recently I finished the first book that Edmund Morris wrote about Theodore Roosevelt. There are two others following his life. This book was in depth and it was obvious that the author did much research. The Prologue starts on January 1, 1907 and describes Theodore Roosevelt as President. People stand in line to shake his hand in front of the White house. He has a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. He loves being President and uses the word Dee-lightful often. He is a very courteous, kind and respectful person. He loves children, physical activity and his White House is very interesting to say the least. He was born on Octobert 27, 1858, his mother Mittie was from the south and was described as “such loveliness of line and tinting…such sweet courtesy of manner. His father, Theodore Roosevelt Senior was 27 years old, handsome, wealthy, gregarious and philanthropist. He loved and helped humanity and Theodore Roosevelt said he was the best man he every knew. This book starts at his birth and ends with the assassination of President William McKinley whom Theodore at that moment was the Vice President. When I was at Sagamore Hill I was speaking with a Ranger and said I was reading these books and he said that he had not because it seemed like a daunting task.He said he reads other literature but he would know TR so much better.   I recommend them if you love history. I am especially enjoying them because Teddy was born in New York city and it mentions many of the streets we were on and of course Oyster Bay. I look forward to moving on to book number two.

Always Something to take a picture of

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My husband and I have been on vacation this week. If you are friends with me on facebook you know this very well because I post pictures often of things I see or places we go. I like everyone to share in my fun. We were making a trip to New York City and this was our first stop because we didn’t want to drive straight through. This is Grove City PA…a nice little city that had a great outlet mall. For dinner this night we went to Elephant and Castle Inn, it had British food that was very good! I snapped a picture of this informative arm, thought that was pretty clever.

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Since it was sunday the mall had closed at 6 p.m. but we still walked around since we had been sitting a lot that day while driving. Also our dinner needed to be walked off. There was this CUTE building and from it was coming the wonderful scent of baking donuts! We will be staying at the same place on the way home and you can bet I will be paying this place a visit!

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I love little buildings! It is stone with a tin roof and look at those daylilies growing. It was adorable.

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The lush hostas and ornamental grass are just lovely!

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Look on the back….a waterwheel. I am looking forward to tasting these donuts.

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This pot of flowers was gorgeous. The different types of flowers were perfect and the colors just made me go…Ahhhh!

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I am going to use the colors in a painting, it is just beautiful.

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The green, red and orange of these daylilies was perfect against this white fence.

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In the middle of this mall is a wetlands. I was very impressed by that.

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That’s a willow tree back there and then I wonder if in the spring this area blooms with color. I don’t know but can just imagine.

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How handy this is…..a free, freestanding charger for your electronic devices. I just thought that was very generous. It just goes to show there is anything out there to take a picture of, even a mundane plug in. Keep checking back for the next installment of “The Hawkins go to New York”.

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

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I received this book from my book buddy Colleen in December. I just recently finished it. As I have mentioned many times…I love books. So when I get a book it is a treasure.

 This book had a lot of sadness as you can discern from the title. It centers around one family that had the death of a new baby. It had a formative disease in the womb and the mother knew that the baby was not going to live long, only 57 hours after birth. The term was Anencephaly. The mother learned this during a routine ultrasound in the 5th month of pregnancy. She didn’t disclose this to her husband until right before the birth. They have two other children, a boy and a girl but this death has just affected the whole family in different ways. The story keeps unfolding and a daughter of the husband (from a previous relationship) comes to visit one day and stays for a while because she told them her mother kicked her out. She was pregnant and somewhat unknowingly brings the family together. I had a hard time getting into it at first, but give the story a chance because it starts making sense. I got very frustrated with the woman because she kept making excuses and was not appreciating what she had, but she eventually saw the light. I like happy endings and this book had one, but the family had many dark clouds over their heads before they saw the sunshine again.
I found the perfect poem to go with this story from The Best Loved Poems of the American People.
IF WE KNEW
If we knew the woe and heartache
Waiting for us down the road,
If our lips could taste the wormwood,
If our backs could fell the load,
Would we waste the day in wishing
For a time that ne’er can be?
Would we wait in such impatience
For our ships to come from sea?
If we knew the baby fingers
Pressed against the windowpane
Would be cold and stiff tomorrow-
Never trouble us again-
Would the bright eyes of our darling
Catch the frown upon our brow?
Would the print of rosy fingers
Vex us then as they do now?
Ah! these little ice-cold fingers-
How they point out memories back
To the hasty words and actions
Strewn along our backward track!
How these little hands remind us,
As in snowy grace they lie,
Not to scatter thorns-but roses-
For our reaping by and by.
Strange we never prize the music
Till the sweet-voiced bird has flown;
Strange that we should slight the violets,
Till the lovely flowers are gone;
Strange that summer skies and sunshine Never seem one half so fair
As when winter’s snowy pinions Shake their white down in the air!
Lips from which the seal of silence
None but God can roll away,
Never blossomed in such beauty
As adorns the mouth today;
And sweet words that freight our memory
With their beautiful perfume,
Come to us in sweeter accents
Through the portals of the tomb.
Let us gather up the sunbeams
Lying all around our path;
Let us keep the wheat and roses,
Casting out the thorns and chaff;
Let us find our sweetest comfort
In the blessings of today,
With a patient hand removing
All the briars from the way.
-May Riley Smith-
Enjoy the day, enjoy your moments.  Thanks for stopping!

Book Review-Billy Joel The Definitive Biography by Fred Schruers

Billy Joel

I love the Kennedy Center Awards and when I watched them in December of 2013 Billy Joel was receiving one along with Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Martina Arroyo. When I saw Billy Joel I thought, what has happened to him? Where did his hair go? Then I was amazed to realize that he was 64 years old! I was trying to think where the time went. I lost track of him. I remember watching M-TV in the 80’s and his Uptown Girl video along with Innocent Man and then my life must have taken over. After watching the Kennedy Center Awards I was totally infatuated with Billy all over again. I couldn’t find out enough information about him. Early in 2014 my husband had gotten an email from The Palace at Auburn Hills announcing that Billy Joel was coming there for a concert, would I like to go? I gave a resounding yes! There were songs I had never heard before, And So it Goes for example. I thought that was one of the prettiest songs I had ever heard. When we got back home I downloaded on my phone all the music I could find from Amazon. I would listen to it going to work every morning. I was amazed at all the styles that he wrote in, blue grass, doo wop, and was again amazed. I ordered this book and am glad I did because it filled in blank spots for me. He is a genuinely caring person and a bit naive where he thought the best of everyone and he was taken advantage of.  I love his New York slang, especially the words chutzpah and schtik. The book ends with he and his newest romance of which he got married to on July 4th of this year. He just became a new father yesterday with a little girl, Della Rose. He is now 66 years old, has had a double hip replacement and is touring to sold out crowds. I was glad to see that he is open to collaborating with other musicians to make some songs and, to maybe write some music for movies. I personally would like to make a trek to Madison Square Garden to attend a concert there before he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore. And that’s what he says in the book, he can make that choice. When it is not fun or if he doesn’t think that he is doing it well anymore then he will call it off. Thinking about it makes me sad. I can’t imaging a world without Billy Joel.