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From the Hardcover edition.
Isabel grasps the hammer and pounds the for sale sign into her front lawn. The earth is hard and unyielding, dry from too much Illinois heat, another long hot August that shows no sign of relief. Maybe she should have watered the lawn first. Maybe she should have hired that redheaded kid from down the street. Maybe she should have called a real estate agent to list her house properly instead of trying to do it on her own, like so many things these days.
But Isabel doesn't want to wait for people to call her back, to check their schedules, to haggle a fee. To find the garden hose, wherever that is.
Bang bang bang. The sign shakes and shivers.
Last night, when she was the last person wandering the dusky streets after a seven o'clock showing of The Man from M.A.R.S., Isabel had stopped at the hardware store to pick up some laundry detergent. There they were, right by the entrance, on clearance. Fifteen cans of paint stacked in a pyramid, pointing to the sky.
Isabel thought about her house, of the stove and kitchen table, of the fridge and nubby dishtowels. The living room furniture, the bedroom set, the chipped cherrywood table in the hallway. She thought of her tired walls, the ceilings, the doors. There was a time when she dreamed they'd live in that house forever, have children in it, grow old in it. But Isabel's had to let that dream go. So what's she still doing in Avalon?
"I'll take them all," she'd told the cashier, handing him a hundred-dollar bill. "And some of those brushes, too."
She declined a drop cloth, spackle, turpentine. Too many things to remember. Just the paint, she'd said. And then she saw it. A sign, bent at the corners, leaning forlornly against the bags of organic lawn fertilizer.
FOR SALE BY OWNER.
She bought that, too.
Isabel steps back to survey her work. The sign is crooked, but it's clearly visible from the street. She knows her neighbors will be curious, maybe even nervous that she's selling. Avalon is the sort of place where most people come to settle down, where families spend whole lifetimes. Isabel herself married into this small town, Bill having been born and raised here. Buried here, too, almost four years now.
There's a flutter of curtains from the house next door. It's her neighbor Bettie Shelton, the town fussbudget. Isabel knows Bettie had a hand in spreading the news about Bill's departure and then his death two months later, a wrong turn down a one-way street. Casseroles had sprouted on her porch like mushrooms.
"Isabel Kidd!" she hears Bettie holler from inside her house. Bettie's silvery-blue hair is still in curlers. She struggles to open the window, then settles on rapping the glass, the look on her face indignant. "What the heck do you think you're doing?"
Isabel gives the sign a tap with the hammer.
"Isabel? Do you hear me?"
Isabel pretends to pick at a speck of dust on the sign.
Exasperated, Isabel scowls. "Of course I hear you! Who doesn't hear you?" Catty-corner from her house, Isabel sees Peggy Lively emerge from her house, dressed in her fuzzy pink bathrobe. "You hear her, don't you, Peggy?"
Peggy stares at Isabel and the hammer for a moment before glancing down the empty street. Then she grabs the morning paper from her walk and hurries back inside, slamming the door shut behind her. Isabel hears the lock sliding into place.
Isabel shoots Bettie an annoyed look and then gives the sign one last pound for good measure. She heads back into the house, knowing that Bettie's prying eyes are watching her retreat.
In her living room, the paint cans are laid out like a labyrinth, waiting. Isabel hesitates, tentative, suddenly unsure. Putting up the for sale sign was easy, knowing it could be pulled up at any time, no harm done, a whim put to bed. But this is different. Once done, it can't be undone.
She reaches for the can closest to her, uses a screwdriver to crack the lid open. She gazes at the placid pool of paint. Whisper White. She gives it a stir, the smell tickling her nose.
Her first stroke on the wall is uneven, streaking, her second stroke no better. But still the paint glistens, beckoning, a stark contrast to the tired gray hue that's been there for years. Isabel dips the brush again and swirls it until the bristles are heavy with paint, then lifts and tries again. This time there's a thick swath of white, smooth and complete. She follows with another stroke, bolder this time.
It goes faster than she thinks, and soon the entire wall is done. It's a blank stare looking back at her, giving away nothing. Isabel leans closer, looking for a hint of the past, but sees nothing other than her own shadow as the tip of her nose bumps against the damp wall. Ouch. And then Isabel remembers other white walls.
There, that wasn't so bad, was it?
No, doctor, it wasn't.
Of course he had asked her when she was in a morphine-induced haze, easy and agreeable, happy to talk to anyone and everyone. Bill had been by her side, stunned and sad, knowing that this was it, their last chance. They weren't going to try anymore. It didn't matter, he would try to assure her when she lay in bed, night after night, her pillow damp with tears. It was enough, just the two of them. He'd hold her fingertips to his lips and kiss each one gently. A promise.
It would be a few more years before Bill would leave, that promise forgotten. They had said it wouldn't change them, but it had, and whatever it was they lost they couldn't get back. Isabel wasn't happy but she wasn't unhappy, either. It was tolerable. She still loved Bill and she knew he loved her, and yet a whole chasm spanned between them, pushing them further and further apart with each day that passed. If she had to she could live out her life this way, in polite deference to each other, a peaceful coexistence in the same space, the same life. It wasn't ideal but it was enough for Isabel. Not, apparently, for Bill.
What is it with dentists and their dental assistants? It's an embarrassing cliche that Isabel has to live with. My husband left me for his dental assistant, a woman ten years younger than me. At the time Isabel had thought it couldn't get any worse, that nothing could usurp this abandonment, but she was wrong.
She hadn't been prepared for the baby announcement, had cracked the seal of the envelope without thinking. She thought it was a belated sympathy card, a few months late. She pulled out the stiff card and saw a chubby cherub of a baby with Bill's unmistakable bright blue eyes and Dumbo ears.
So now, at the ripe old age of thirty-eight, Isabel Kidd is alone. No husband, no children. An unsatisfying job as a customer service representative for a corrugated paper company in Rockford, about forty-five minutes away. Some money from Bill's pension. His share of the dental practice went to his partner, Randall Strombauer, a man Isabel never cared for. He's the one who hired the assistant with an eye, Isabel suspects, of having her all to himself. Randall was the single guy while Bill was safely ensconced in a marriage of twelve years. An open playing field with Randall as the only player. But, of course, things have a way of not working out as planned.
The remaining walls in the living room look shabby and lifeless, dull neighbors to the freshly painted wall. That's how it goes sometimes. She could keep it as an accent wall, but she feels for the others. They deserve a fresh start as well. After all, they were all innocent bystanders.
This time she'll do it differently--no need to slap one stroke on after the other. After all, this is her house, her walls. She can do whatever she wants with it.
Isabel dips her brush and begins again.
Yvonne Tate checks the address one last time before shoving the scrap of paper into her pocket. The house in front of her is a modest bungalow with a white picket fence, sycamore trees lining the street. She opens the gate and goes up the walk, noticing the postage-stamp lawn and garden. Flower boxes filled with geraniums and impatiens in a summer burst of colors line the windows, butterflies dancing in the garden. It's a sweet home.
The Avalon Ladies Scrapbook Society is a great squeal to the Friendship Bread. This book introduces new characters but also keeps you involved with a few of the characters from the first book. Darien does a wonderful job of showing you the lives of her characters. She lets you see their happy moments, struggles, and heartaches all while they try to preserve memories. It's wonderful how she can show how a community can come together to help those in need. Just as the Friendship Bread got you baking, the Avalon Ladies Scrapbook Society will get you scrapbooking in no time. I can't wait to see what else Darien can bring us from this small town of Avalon.
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Posted January 29, 2013
I write this today, which is the book release of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society: A Novel by author Darien Gee, who also writes under the name Mia King. Her first novel, Friendship Bread is a tasty fiction book full of Amish Friendship Bread recipes.
This is breaking news! For any author the release date has to be seen as giving birth day when your book is released into the public and from there it will truly have a chance to grow and be shared with many. So today is the birth day of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee. Will you help it grow? It is already ranked and off to a great start.
The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society (ALSS) book is set in Avalon population 4,243 and is a small river town in Illinois. The book is about a group of women who form deep friendships and sharing together, bringing in other women into their circle by way of scrapbooking. The leader and founder of ALSS, Bettie shares her passion of scrapbooking and wants everyone to preserve their precious memories. Through this group, the women share their past and work together to help one another move into their future by dealing and working through their life issues.
Just like Friendship Bread, ALSS is chocked full of carefully developed characters which Gee shares with us in this town of Avalon. The book made me laugh, shout for joy, shed tears of sadness as well as tears of joy. Gee crafts the novel to draw the reader into Avalon and be a part of the town which is why I felt all those emotions reading the book. I truly felt the emotions of the characters. Now this, friends, is a perfect example of a book full of developed characters.
In case you are wondering, yes you can read this book if you haven't read the first book, Friendship Bread and if you aren't into scrapbooking ;) Did I mention the book has recipes? I love fiction books with recipes which Darien Gee and Mia King books always include.
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Posted September 3, 2013
Among the aspects of scrapbooking I’ve always appreciated is the creator’s ability to shape reality.
When I’m choosing subject matter, I can emphasize happy moments and minimize — or entirely omit — ugly ones.
When I’m cropping photos, I can crop out my fat thighs.
When I’m adding a caption, I can be the clever girl I never manage to be in person.
In the end, all the disparate pieces and parts of my life fit neatly into a scrapbook page with the perfect background and pretty embellishments.
That’s how I felt Darien Gee wrote “The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society.”
It’s all a little too neat and sweet.
It’s well paced and I enjoyed most of the characters, and I even found tears welling up in my eyes as certain emotional moments played out.
So I liked it.
But I don’t believe it.
An heiress runs away from her controlling family to become … a plumber? Really?
A woman whose husband leaves her and impregnates another woman before he dies suddenly …. becomes friends with her dead husband’s mistress? Really?
The town’s eccentric scrapbooking saleswoman is still going strong … at 77? Sorry, no. I’m a scrapbooker. I worked for a scrapbooking company. I’ve attended hundreds of scrapbooking workshops. And I know how heavy scrapbooking supplies are. Seventy-seven-year-olds pushing paper packs and albums are rare indeed.
It’s all cute and described delightfully, but in the end the town of Avalon and its scrapbookers are a fun distraction without a whole lot of substance.
Posted March 21, 2013
This book brings us back to Avalon IL, and our friends from Friendship Bread and Madeline's Tea Room. How great to be able to spend time again with these remarkable women. We also meet some of the other residents of this great town.
Bette has done with scrap booking what friendship bread did for the community in the last book. Although, loaves of this amazing starter keep showing up.
Bette is an awesome, sweet, elderly lady, that runs a scrap booking business. She is suffering from a form of dementia, and the sweet soul is actually quite funny. She gives away a lot of her supplies, and makes each and everyone feel special. She has been gifted with a talent to help one find their inner self.
Isabelle is Bette's neighbor, and don't think she ever knew when and where Bette would appear. We find a gruff exterior in Isabelle as the book opens, but I never expected what would happen.
Madeline is still running the tea shop, and Connie still lives with her, now including a goat named Serena...keeping them on their toes!
This story comes at you from a lot of directions, some have lost love ones because of deceit, others from divorce, and others from death. We have couple of stories of adoption, and the heart ache both good and bad that comes with it. We enjoy life with adorable Max, a precocious three year old!
Don't miss this one, would recommend you read the first book, but this can stand alone. We end with an epilogue, which I loved! Also included are some great tips for Scrap Booking, and then some recipes that were used in the book!!
I received this book through Net Galley and Random House Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review
Posted March 15, 2013
THE AVALON LADIES SCRAPBOOKING SOCIETY is an amazing read! I have never read a book where numerous characters were introduced and their personalities developed with such skill and emotional insight. Here you encounter a goat and a young Chinese girl as the story begins, and shortly thereafter you're making the acquaintance of an elderly scrapbook maven (who I happened to find extremely endearing), a plumber, the mother of many boys, a crotchety old man, and the list goes on. Life for these people is much the same as it is for all of us. They have pasts with joy and some regrets, and now in the present they are trying to hold onto their memories or, in some instances, forget them or reconcile them in order to move on in their life. Memory keeping becomes the thread that pulls them together and binds them. In at least one instance, they keep memories alive for one of their fellow citizens who has become such a part of them and their memories. I never thought of so many ways of "keeping" memories until I read this book! If you must put this book down in between chapters as I was forced to do, (life has its demands.), don't fret, because you can pick this book up where you left off, and all of these lovely people will still be there waiting for you to join in the living of their lives. Pick up your cup of tea, get comfy, and pick up where you left off. I must say, that as the final chapter came to a close, I had a difficult time leaving Avalon. it had become a part of me. I then did what i had to do: I picked up my unread copy of FRIENDSHIP BREAD and began reading. Ahhhh....back in Avalon!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 27, 2013
Wonderful stories that will leave you feeling good.
After reading The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society byDarien Gee, I want to move to Avalon, Illinois. Who wouldn't want to live in a small town where everyone knows each other and even the meanest and grumpiest of the inhabitants are really good at heart?
The author deftly uses the Scrapbooking Society as a metaphor for the theme of community and support throughout the book. Just like their individual stories, each of their scrapbooks were different and unique, but like the community, they were also full of examples of sharing and collaboration. In other words, like the lives of the characters they were both separate and yet intertwined. The support that they gave to each other in their everyday lives was a great example of all that is good and right in towns and communities all over the world. This spirit was never more in evidence than when trouble befell one of the inhabitants and the town pulled together.
I was a bit confused, at first, by the author's lack of introduction to the characters and thought that the beginning of the book was the weakest part. It seemed that she just jumped into talking about them without really giving the background of who they were or why they were paired together, as in the case of Madeleine and Connie. It was almost like we should already know that information. I realized part way through that, in fact, not only was it her second book, but many of the characters had also appeared in her first book. I still haven't read Friendship Bread, but I think that if I had I would have already been familiar with the characters and therefore the beginning would have flowed better for me. I will give her credit, though, as she filled in the missing pieces, or enough of them, as the book progressed, to make this book work well as a stand alone. By the end of the book, the only reason that I wanted to read Friendship Bread was because I was in love with Avalon and it's inhabitants, not because I felt the need for any extra explanation on the characters in the Scrapbooking Society. What more could a reader ask for?
In the end, what really sold me on this book was the strong characters that Ms. Gee filled the book with. And let me tell you, there are quite a few. Instead of being confusing, though, having such a large cast of characters and viewpoints in the story was what made it work for me. I found myself rooting for Frances and her family, wondering if Yvonne was going to succeed, how was Connie going to resolve her relationship with Serena, how would that affect her relationship with Madeleine, how Ava was going to make a place for her and Max, and how Isabel was going to solve her dilemmas. And through it all there is Bette, the president of the Scrapbooking Society and the tie that binds them all together. As I followed them all past their struggles, through their decisions, and to the conclusion of their stories I just felt good.
So - I am picking up a copy of Friendship Bread at the library this week and anxiously awaiting Ms. Gee's next installment in the life and times of Avalon, Ill. I hope she is already working on one!
Posted February 2, 2013
Darien Gee, the author of Friendship Bread takes us back to Avalon, Illinois, population 4243.
Madeline’s Tea Salon is the place residents meet and catch up and even occasionally get together as a group like the members of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society founded by Bettie Shelton. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future.
Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.
Bettie has helped so many people and now she is facing a trial of her own. Everyone needs to come together and create something truly memorable just for her.
Darien Gee writes about friendship and she does it masterfully. I was actually sad when I reached the last page. Bettie may not be adored by everyone in Avalon but she sure is the glue that holds the town together. She believes the answer to every problem is scrapbooking and saving memories. It is also the community of scrapbookers and their families that gather together to share their projects and support each other through good times and bad.
While Bettie is the main character of this story, the supporting characters are written just as well. A few characters return from Gee’s first story but we are introduced to new ones as well. There are several prominent supporting characters. You need to take your time, this is not a book to rush through, so you can really get to know these fabulous. characters and their stories. I said in my review of Friendship Bread that is was a story to be savored and the same is true with this story. The characters are rich and their stories feel real. One story line reminds me of similar circumstances in the Miss Julia Series by Ann B. Ross.
Gee has written another heartwarming and inspiring story that you will want to share with all your friends. I can only hope that this is not our last trip to Avalon. Both books are fabulous and can be read as stand alone but you will want to read both and then you will want to bake bread, start scrapbooking and get together with all your friends and family. The recipes and scrapbooking tips are a real added bonus.
Darien Gee's sequel to "Friendship Bread" continues to follow the lives of the residents of the quaint town of Avalon. If you've read the previous book, you're already familiar with several of the characters, and will get to know some new ones during this story as well. Activity centers around a cozy tea room and bakery and on the members of the scrapbooking society and their families. The community rallies when the aging society founder and leader begins to suffer with signs of dementia and later loses her home to fire. I enjoyed this book - the characters are well developed, diverse, and easy to relate to. Their heartaches, sorrows, victories and joys are a lot like our own. The story stands on its own whether you've read the previous book or not, but I highly recommend you read them both. Enjoy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2013
“It’s a day of sharing and togetherness, of family and friends, of memories to be made and not easily forgotten.” The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society (TALSS) by Darien Gee takes you into a town you wish existed and you could move to. Where else can you become friends/family with someone you believe to be your enemy. Where love is so strong you take care of friends like family, when a memory fades due to health. Nowhere but Avalon, join them for scrapbooking and tea. Let the ladies of TALSS show you what true friends are and how family (no matter what form two or four-legged) stands behind you. An excellent follow up to Friendship Bread, Gee’s earlier novel. The starter for the friendship bread lives on (recipe included in Friendship Bread or her blog) and the scrapbooking memories (tips included) will keep your memories in a place you see every day and in your heart. I had the privilege of an early release copy and enjoyed it so much. We can hope that Gee takes us back to Avalon, since we can’t move there!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2013
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Posted October 22, 2013
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