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review 2018-03-30 00:04
White Tears, by Hari Kunzru
White Tears - Hari Kunzru

It was difficult to read the first half or so of this book because the protagonist (Seth) and his best (and only) friend (Carter) are aggravatingly ignorant of their appropriation of black culture. They're even more offensive for thinking they're woke or genuine in their fetishistic consumption of the rarest blues, at least in Carter's case. Seth is less than sympathetic in his own distinct way; he's such a follower that he barely has a personality of his own. As little as I could bear the privileged Carter, Seth is consequently even harder for me to care about given that he follows Carter like a puppy. I don't know what to make of the fact that both have or have had mental health issues. And I don't know what to make of Seth's thing for Carter's sister.


I patiently waited for these guys to get some sort of comeuppance. When it came, it was a whirlwind of genres, a mishmash of past and present, a blurring of identities. Formally, stylistically, this novel took off, grabbing me by the collar. It was hard to put down. I hadn't known what to expect at the beginning, which is a gift for a reader. I do think at times the cues or signals were overdone; we could have been better trusted to follow the shifts in time and perspective. But what a ride.

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text 2018-03-04 00:41
Buried Treasure
Copsi Castle - Norah Lofts
Penhallow - Georgette Heyer

My house is a mess.  My studio (sometimes called "the little house," because that's what it is) is a disaster.  The workshop is worse than both of the others combined.


I have five weeks until the spring Studio Tour, which is the last show event of the season.  Scheduling conflicts forced me to cancel participation in two other shows, which wasn't good for my bottom line.  This spring Tour is a new event for our artists group, and I'm very excited about it.


Today was the first opportunity I've had to really plunge into work for it, however.  We've either had weather too cold to work in either the shop or the studio, or I've had other events going on.  And to tell the truth, I just haven't had the energy.  Part of that may have been due to the vitamin D deficiency diagnosed last month; after a month's worth of supplements, maybe that's been turned around, too.  At any rate, I was up by 6:00 this morning, threw in a load of laundry and dashed to the grocery store for a few essentials while the washer was running.  I was home before the final rinse.


And then it was out to the studio to start cleaning some of the mess.  I actually made some progress, and when it got warm enough outside, I even ventured over to the workshop.


I have to confess I almost turned around and walked back out, but I gathered up some determination and headed for the storage racks where the 80+ plastic shoeboxes of rocks are stored.



Over the years, some of those plastic boxes have rotted from the sun and started to disintegrate, making a horrible mess.  That had to be today's first chore, and it involved sorting out the rocks in those boxes.  As almost always happens when I dig into boxes of rocks that I've had for a long time, I discover things I didn't know I had, either because I just plain forgot about them or because I didn't know what they were in the first place. 


One of those sun-rotted boxes had a whole bunch of Oregon beach agates, some already polished and some not.  I sorted out a batch for the tumbler and got them started; they should be finished just in time for the Studio Tour.


Feeling proud of myself for having actually accomplished something, I began rearranging some other things in the workshop.  Most of the boxes of (uninventoried) books are at least labeled by genre, but there are other boxes containing . . . . heaven only knows what.  One of them happened to be in the way of the area I was cleaning, so I opened it to see if the contents were even worth messing around with.


I laughed out loud.


A whole box of gothic romances.  At least 50, maybe 75, maybe more.  I grabbed the Norah Lofts and Georgette Heyer from the top layer, but there's a whole lot more.  Willo Davis Roberts.  Dorothy Eden.  Now I can't even remember who all else.


I've already added my edition of Penhallow to the database.  I'll add Copsi Castle in a few minutes.  If only I didn't have to take time out to cook supper!

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text 2018-03-03 03:05
It doesn't have to be a mansion

When I wrote The Looking-Glass Portrait, I knew exactly what the inspiration was: the house.  I detailed the background here via a link to my blog here.  The story kind of came to me separately -- and remember, it started 20+ years before it ended -- but the house was the focus when I structured the plot.


This certainly is no great revelation: the gothic genre began with The Castle of Otranto, so the tradition has been there from the beginning.  As we've seen here on BookLikes with buddy reads of Jamaica Inn and Ammie, Come Home, houses and other dwelling places continue to be integral to the genre.  There are ghosts, but they are connected to houses. 


Sometimes the houses end up destroyed, as happened to Manderley, in Rebecca.  But even then, even in its destruction, Manderley exercised its power over the second Mrs. de Winter.


The house in Edison Park, Illinois that served as the model for LGP, is still there.  Another house I'd love to put into a gothic romance is long gone.  I was told it, like Manderley, burned to the ground 25 or more years ago.


My paternal grandparents also lived in Edison Park, but they moved from there to Roselle, Illinois, a western suburb in DuPage County, in the very early 1950s.  So early in the 1950s that I have no real memories of their home on Owen Avenue at all.  They lived in Roselle until 1966, however, so I have clear recollections of that house.


The original house was small, just one bedroom, one bath, kitchen, and a big living/dining room.  The latter had an open, beamed ceiling.   



There was a big open covered porch, and another closed-in porch that led to the dining room.  French doors opened from the single bedroom onto the porch, too.


I don't remember the front door at all.



Shortly after moving into the house, my grandparents began installing a fireplace, a mammoth fieldstone structure that replaced the front door.  My dad, my grandfather, and my dad's cousin Bob built the fireplace, cementing stones from the yard of the 2-acre property in place.


When the fireplace was finished, my grandmother hung Bells of Sarna from the huge wooden mantel.  I loved those bells; I would be allowed to jingle them once or twice each time we visited.  I have no idea what happened to them, but years ago I purchased a strand of my own.  They hang in my living room now.


I don't have many photos of the interior of the house, and the few I have of the exterior are from my grandparents' earliest occupancy.  Along with the fireplace, they built a larger addition on the east end of the house with two large bedrooms, a shower bath, basement and attic.  I "borrowed" the pull-down stairs to the attic for LGP, since the Edison Park house didn't have any.




The house sat at the top of a low hill, with a long, winding gravel driveway down to the road, Forest Avenue.



I loved the trees, mostly oaks and shagbark hickories.  There was one crabapple tree.  The old horse-drawn plow was rusted and stuck in the hard clay ground, but I thought it was fabulous, a romantic relic.


Though I can't find it in these photos, there was a huge pink granite boulder somewhere in the yard.  It was absolutely enormous, to my two- or three-year-old self.  Best of all, however, it had a "saddle" on the top, a naturally broken out dip that was perfect for a little girl of the suburbs to imagine, there in that big open yard, that she had a horse.


There were other people in the neighborhood who did have horses, though I didn't see them often.  Years later, when I was in high school and bored with being around the family members, I'd go for long walks to catch a glimpse of a horse here or there, or to visit the dogs at the two collie kennels a street or two over.  One of the fences keeping the dogs in bore a sign identifying the owners as The Pettigrews.  Yeah, I stole the name, too.


But that big pink rock was so special.  As I grew up, I was eventually able to climb onto it myself, and then even jump over it.  Yet in my memory it remained gigantic.


I'm not sure when it was, but I was visiting the family years ago and decided to take a drive out to Roselle to see the place.  My dad had told me the house had burned down, but I still wanted to go out there.  It was winter; there was snow on the ground, I remember that much.  And there was a new house at the top of the hill. But at the bottom of the driveway, half covered by snow plowed off the road, was the big pink rock.


And it was so, so, so much smaller than I remembered!


A couple of years ago, while I was doing the online research of old family houses, I swooped down on a Google Maps street view and went digitally driving down Forest Avenue to see what I could see.



Is that the big pink rock?  Or what's left of it?  I don't know.  But I like to think it is.



P.S.  When my grandparents sold the house in 1966, the following ad appeared in the local newspaper:


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text 2018-02-04 05:39
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 343 pages.
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer - Lish McBride

I accidentally read the summary for the second book in the serious and now I have a bad feeling about the character I like so far in this. 

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review 2018-01-31 07:10
Blog Tour w/Review - Runaway Groom
“Lauren Layne gets the red rose for this one, and fans of The Bachelor will fall in love with this thoroughly charming story.”Kate O’Keeffe, bestselling author
I Do, I Don't - Book 2
Lauren Layne
Releasing Jan 30, 2018


For one charming playboy, getting cast on a Bachelor-esque reality TV show is the shock of a lifetime—until he finds love where he least expects it.
Gage Barrett’s reputation as a ladies’ man has been greatly exaggerated, but none of that matters after a drunken bet lands him on Jilted, a reality TV show that matches runaway grooms with wannabe brides. Now he’s stuck at a Hawaiian resort with nineteen women competing to drag him back to the altar—and one contestant who’s even more miserable than he is. Gage has no idea how feisty, independent Ellie Wright wound up in the cast, but it’s obvious she hates his guts. And if there’s one thing Gage likes, it’s a challenge. . . .
Ellie can’t believe she let her best friend talk her into exchanging her dignity for a glorified bikini contest. Still, she could use the exposure—her business is struggling—and she’ll probably be one of the first to get eliminated anyway. But Gage isn’t the shallow jerk Ellie anticipated—and he’s in no rush to send her home. As stolen kisses turn into secret trysts, she finds herself losing track of what’s real and what’s for the camera. With the wedding finale looming, this runaway groom is tempting Ellie to start believing in storybook endings.

Runaway Groom (I Do, I Don't, #2)Runaway Groom by Lauren Layne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is book #2, in the I Do, I Don't series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader understanding and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this fab series in order.

Ellie goes against everything she wants, when she auditions for a reality show to help promote her business. Gage is conned into being the star of the reality show. Neither want to be there. Now they both are glad they came.

This series just keeps getting better! This book has a little something for everyone. Want heat? Got it. Competition, and to learn what petty business woman can get up to with one another? Got it. Passion? Got it. Laugh out loud humor? Got it. Sparks that fly off the page? Got it. This series should be called Romance 101. I just very literally loved it and eagerly turned each page.

***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review, by Netgalley and its publishers.

View all my reviews

Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband.
A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career. She signed with her agent in 2012, and her first book was published in summer of 2013. Since then, she's written over two dozen books, hitting the USA TODAYNew York Times, iBooks, and Amazon bestseller lists.


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