Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

I’ve Been on Vacation…

I’ve been on vacation, so I’m seriously behind in posting. I had scheduled some things to run, but didn’t get as much writing done before I left as I had planned.
In the upcoming weeks you can look for:

- A review of the historical fiction, based on real life, novel FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW by Amy Belding Brown, about the capture of Mary Rowlandson by Indians in 1600’s Massachusetts.

- A review of BLOGGER GIRL by Meredith Schorr, which I read on the plane

- A review of GRAND CENTRAL, the collection of short stories by some of my fave authors, which I finished this week.

and

- A review of THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy, which I started yesterday on the plane and have almost finished. This is a suspenseful novel done in a completely new and innovative format and I am just obsessed with this book!

What are you reading this week?

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Picture Book Review: TWO PARROTS by Rumi and Rashin

I was contacted by a publicist to see if I would like to review the picture book TWO PARROTS, and I was able to get a (free) signed copy of this book when attending BEA in May.

This is a classic Persian tale, retold and illustrated. In the story, a parrot is owned by a wealthy merchant and kept in a cage. He has everything he wants – except his freedom. He manages to trick the merchant into setting him free so that he can be with his friends again and not live in a cage. The merchant learns a valuable lesson as well.

This was a fun book with spirited, cartoon-like drawings. I had not heard this story before, and discovered that Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet. I think that it would be a good book to share in the classroom with young ones, or to have in a collection of stories from around the world for older children to read. The brightly colored illustrations are almost like cartoons, which gives the book a festive air.

Ms. Rashin was quite lovely and gracious when I briefly met her. I wish her success on her US debut!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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Review: THE CITY by Dean Koontz

I’ve always been a fan of Dean Koontz. I particularly like his creepy, supernatural work. I was thrilled to see his latest book on Net Galley, and was happy to receive an ARC (I also was one of the many bloggers hosting a Pub Day giveaway earlier this month). THE CITY was a bit different from Dean’s earlier works, which just shows his versatility.

In THE CITY, Jonah Kirk tells the story of a strange experience from his youth that shapes and guides his future. The story starts when Jonah is eight. He is a precocious child, and a musical prodigy, living with his divorced mother and near his beloved grandparents in “the city”. An odd woman appears to him and tells him strange information, which later plays a role in his life. This woman, we come to learn, is the heart of the city itself, a metaphor made human. She also magically procures a piano for Jonah. This woman, Pearl, appears to Jonah through the story, to guide and protect him as he comes in contact with several nefarious characters (including his estranged father) who threaten his livelihood and that of the city at large. Throughout the story (again, told by Jonah as an adult looking back) we come to know his hard-working mother, their widowed Italian neighbor, his feisty grandparents, best friend Malcolm, and – my favorite – their sensitive and intelligent neighbor, a survivor of the Japanese internment camps.

I enjoyed this book! I really loved the character of precocious Jonah. This book builds to a dramatic and violent climax, which was fairly upsetting, but Jonah’s spirit and tenacity shines through all the darkness. The ending was one of hope and resiliency.

I noticed that a prequel, “The Neighbor”, by Koontz was only 99 cents for kindle, so I purchased that as well. This story was creepy and highly disturbing, while it introduced us to Jonah’s best friend and neighbor, Malcolm. You can certainly read The City without reading it, but it does add a bit to character development.

You can see these books on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

 

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Review: EVERGREEN by Rebecca Rasmussen

I was a big fan of Rebecca Rasmussen’s first book, THE BIRD SISTERS, so I was excited to see that she had written another novel. I was also able to get an ARC through Edelweiss (yeah!).

EVERGREEN follows three generations of women, starting in the 1930’s in Minnesota. Eveline is a young and naive bride who comes to live with her German immigrant husband in the backwoods. She grows to love the woods, nature, and her baby boy, but sadly an unspeakable act of violence occurs when her husband is away, and her life is changed forever.

Naamah is the child that Eveline abandons at an orphanage. Sadly, Naamah suffers much abuse at the hands of the zealot nun who runs the orphanage. When she is fourteen, she leaves to be on her own, scraping a living from working at the lumber camps as a prostitute.

Eveline’s son, Hux, learns of his sister’s existence as his mother is dying, and makes it his quest to find her and be her family. What follows is a heartbreaking story of a kind-hearted man who tries to tame a solitary girl who is pretty much feral. The last section of the novel is told from Naamah’s daughter’s perspective.

I really enjoyed this novel! My favorite section was  Eveline’s story, and while I’m sure it was necessary to move on with the plot, I missed reading from her perspective again while she was older or dying. How much did she think about that baby girl and did she ever look for her? I would have liked to have read that. I also liked how this novel ended on a note of self-acceptance and reconciliation.

Throughout, Ms. Rasmussen’s writing is so lovely and flowing. It’s an easy read and one that sucks you in, not ending on a happy note, per say, but a positive one.

You can see EVERGREEN on Amazon where I am an Associate. Thanks, Edelweiss and Random House, for my copy!

 

Here’s Rebecca chatting about her book (Norwegian edition) via You Tube -

 

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Review: The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is at it again!

I’ve loved all the books in this series and was so excited to see that a new one was out this month (and doubly excited that I got it from Net Galley!).

In this installment, Maggie is dealing with depression and trying to decide what further paths to take with her life. She adopts a rather unique cat. She tries to get out more. She throws herself into her job as a trainer at her spy training camp. Something is just missing. Then mystery finds her again when three ballerinas, including her dear friend Sarah, are taken ill and two die. Who or what has poisoned them? Added to this are interspersed chapters of Maggie’s mother, German spy Clara Hess, who is being interrogated and whose execution is planned. Also, there is a subplot following the planning for and bombing of Pearl Harbor.

A lot is going on in this book, though I didn’t find that overly confusing. My favorite chapters, though, were the ones with Maggie in them. I want her to have her adventures, but also to find happiness. When the book ended, I could see where the next one would start up, so this book seemed less like a separate story than part of a larger work in several volumes.

I love reading about WWII and I really enjoy Maggie’s character, so I’ve recommended these books to several friends. I look forward to the next book in this series, which I’m pretty sure is in the works!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

 

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Review: COLD SHOT by Mark Henshaw

I received a copy of COLD SHOT from the publisher in late spring for me to review. I love a good CIA/espionage/government bad guys thriller, and this one was a great read, reminding me of Jack Higgins novels from my  past.

In COLD SHOT, a boat is discovered floating in the ocean, with a dead (tortured) Somalian man in it, thought to be a pirate. Two CIA analysts begin the hunt to figure out who he is, why he was tortured, and what is being covered up. What they find is of huge consequence: Iran’s secret attempts to create nuclear weapons.

I loved the pacing of this book, which was action packed and quite thrilling. Sometimes when I read books like this, I think “Really? That’s pretty implausible”, but not this time. In fact, author Mark Henshaw is a former CIA employee, and his novel is quite believable and realistic. Henshaw’s previous book, RED CELL, occurs before this one, and with the same characters. While you wouldn’t have to read that one first, I felt like I would have enjoyed it and gotten an intro to these characters as well, as sometimes back story was discussed.

If you like Jack Higgins, Robert Ludlum, or similar authors, you will probably enjoy COLD SHOT. I hope to get RED CELL to read, too!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate, and thank you, Simon and Schuster, for my copy!

 

 

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Pub Day is here for CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS!

Here’s my review with book trailer from a few months back:

http://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/review-close-your-eyes-hold-hands-by-chris-bohjalian-wbook-trailer-releasing-in-july/

I just couldn’t get over how amazing this book was/is!!

It is on the market now — find it today! :)

 

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YA Review: SIX STRINGS by Jen Sanya Williamson

I was recently approached to see if I would like to review SIX STRINGS by Jen Sanya Williamson. I thought the premise sounded great: a teenager is dealing with her beloved grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, when she discovers that she comes from a long line of time travelers, and that her grandmother has passed this gift along to her.

This was a book I would have loved when I was a teen! Riley, the protagonist, is a typical teenager: loves music, is thinking about college, has her special group of friends. From her grandmother she learns that her father is not her father, but that her biological father is actually a famous rock star from that her mother knew when she was young. His guitar is her item that helps her time travel and she has six chances to go back and explore the past in order to better understand the present. Riley is frightened, and only half-believing, but gives it a try. She goes back to the early 80’s and finds her grandparents (so poignant) and also her teen mother (yikes!) and her uncle. Along the way, she is also drawn to a boy she meets there, but needs to keep her true self a secret.

I just loved this book, which read quickly and was appropriate for a wide range of ages. My only disappointment is that the next book in the series is not available yet! :) I have to add that Ms. Williamson’s portrayal of dementia is so spot on, it brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you for my review copy, and I will look forward to reading more from Ms. Williamson.

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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A Dean Koontz Giveaway!

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Dean Koontz’ new book THE CITY publishes today (July 1). Happy Pub Day, Dean!

I am reading it now and it’s good…

and YOU can win SIGNED free copies of it for your bookclub (up to 20) PLUS a facebook shoutout to your bookclub by Dean himself!

Awesomely awesome!!

Now – full disclosure – I’ve never used Rafflecopter before but I have heard it’s the way to go for giveaways, and publicist Kesley has given me some guidance (thanks, Kesley!) so that I can bring this wonderful opportunity to you, readers!

Click below to link to the giveaway – and good luck!

Giveaway link for Dean Koontz’ THE CITY prize pack:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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YA Review: CONVERSION by Katherine Howe

I had heard about this book, but couldn’t get my hot little hands on a copy. Then at BEA I had the chance to get a SIGNED copy from Katherine Howe herself! I was quite excited and couldn’t wait to read it when I returned.

Pub Day is finally here for this great book (July 1).

CONVERSION centers on the character of teenager Colleen Rowley, a senior in high school at a prestigious private girls’ school. One day a classmate falls ill with mysterious symptoms, and soon several classmates are sick: all with odd symptoms, all seniors. Between the CDC, the community, and the media, Colleen’s school becomes a bit of a circus. Then Colleen receives texts from an unknown sender urging her to read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”.  What is going on? And can Colleen figure it out before she, too, falls ill?

I really enjoyed reading this book! Interspersed between Colleen’s story are chapters from the 1700’s and Ann Putnam, one of the girls from the Salem Witch Trials, confesses her story of the Salem girls to her minister. Ann Putnam is a critical character, and in modern day, Colleen herself is studying Ann as a key to what actually went on in 1692 and what is happening now. There are some other side plots as well, though they all tie together, with the biggest one being one of Colleen’s friend’s heartbreak over an affair with a teacher.

CONVERSION has a tension which builds and builds, until things truly start to spiral out of control. I thought this was a great read for both older YA and for adults. If you have a daughter in high school, you should read this book, just to remind yourself what a pressure cooker that time can be. A lot of Colleen’s pressure is self-imposed (e.g. the quest to be valedictorian), and reading this reminded me of what that felt like, even though I graduated 30 years ago.

Highly recommended! I’m so glad I was able to get this at BEA and was able to meet Ms. Howe. She herself is descended from those involved in the Salem Witch Trials, and history lives on in her veins and in her work.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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