Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

YA Review: HOW TO FALL by Jane Casey

I love a good, creepy YA mystery. This one I read in the spring, though it publishes in late summer. It appears to be the first of a series.

In HOW TO FALL, British teen Jess Tennant goes with her family to stay with relatives on the coast for the summer. Jess’ cousin Freya has tragically died in a recent accident, but Jess’ arrival brings memories and information to light. Remarkably, Jess looks just like her cousin, and the various teens of the village are drawn to her — both in a good way and in a mean, bullying way. Jess is tough, though, and she’s not going to be scared off by some tough girls. She begins to suspect that there might have been something more to Freya’s death – it wasn’t just a tragic accident – and Jess will not stop until she has discovered exactly how and why her  cousin died.

I enjoyed reading this mystery! I look forward to more in this series, too. I haven’t read much by Ms. Casey, but I will look for her stories. As you know, I love YA!

I got mine from Net Galley, but you can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Event: Kara Weiss’ LATE LIGHTS talk in Boston

Kara Weiss recently  sent me a signed copy of her award-winning book LATE LIGHTS. Here is what her publicist  has to say about it:

About Late Lights. A novella-in-stories about Monty, Erin, and B.J., three childhood friends from Brookline, MA who have grown into three very different people. Each story delves into a different aspect of their lives, exploring the intensely difficult and complicated realities of their experiences. Juvenile detention, illicit sex, violence, and gender. The characters may be young, but the stories are entirely grown up.

Ms. Weiss will be speaking at More Than Words in Boston’s South End on Aug. 28. at 7 PM. This is a non-profit, used bookstore that teaches at-risk teens job and life skills. If you are in the area, stop by and meet and listen to Ms. Weiss!

See http://www.karaweiss.com for more info.

LATE LIGHTS is currently on $1.99 on kindle! See it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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Review: I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark

I had missed the fact that Mary’s written another mystery lately, and I was surprised to see it out on the new release shelf at the library (usually there are about 300 people in the queue ahead of me for a MHC new release!). I read the book over last weekend, then had a thought: Am I saying the same thing about all these latest MHC mysteries? It feels like my gut reaction: “It was all right – rather far-fetched – not my favorite MHC” has been the same for the last several books. A quick glance through my blog showed me I was right: my theme of “it was okay, I like her older stuff better” runs throughout my reviews. And this is coming from someone who has read all of Mary’s adult books, including the Mount Vernon love story (which I enjoyed!).

This latest installment has two plot lines which intersect: a young doctor is shot and killed while playing in a NYC park with his 3-year-old son. The killer threatens to kill the little boy and his mother. The 3-year-old can only say: “Blue eyes killed my daddy!” (Time out for  second — to anyone who’s read this story – is it just me, or do you picture the killer looking like Frank Sinatra “Old blue eyes killed my daddy!” Anyway, I digress…). Five years later the widow is making her living as a reality television show producer and pitches the idea of re-enactment of cold cases with the original people involved (not really a new idea, right?). She chooses the “Graduation Gala” murder: a socialite is suffocated during the night of a gala given at their estate for their daughter and her three close friends as they graduate from college. Basically, EVERYONE had a means and a motive for murdering this woman (who is revealed to be only one step better than a purely evil harridan). Will the killer strike again to protect his/her identity? Will old Blue Eyes surface and kill off the little kid and his mother? Will I be able to read until the end??

Sometimes I have to stop and say, “WHY do I read this stuff??” This book was not well-written (too many characters and way too much exposition by the characters to fill in back story; the chapters are very short and choppy and jump around; the premise is far-fetched; a few reveals at the end seemed to come out of left field, etc.); in fact, it almost seemed like the writing at the beginning and end was different from the writing in the middle (just my observation). But here’s the thing: I’ve read MHC since I was in high school. I loved her books and I just have these happy memories of finishing one after being up half the night reading and thinking, “Wow! That was great!” I keep hoping/wishing that I will rediscover the MHC of old. To be honest, I think I’m not alone in this. MHC has a legion of loyal fans. We know she can turn out a book that will keep up all night and keep us guessing until the final reveal. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t it for me.

So – going forward, I’m not sure I will read MHC’s latest. I may instead REread her older books (like “Where Are the Children?”). Or at the most, I will be sure it get it from the library.

PS – Did I miss something? Where did the title come from? Usually it’s from a song or something in the story. No clue. Please comment if you know.

Stop the presses — I just saw this book on Amazon. It is the first in a series? MHC will be co-authoring a series spinning off on the reality tv show idea and these characters. It comes out in November.

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Saturday Snapshot: Bolton Fair

If you’ve read me for a while, or are a facebook friend, you know I volunteer on the committee to run an agricultural fair in our small town of Bolton. The fair has been going for over 130 years. I organize the music/bands for the weekend.

Last weekend was the fair and a friend took this shot of my kids on one of the midway rides:

fair photo

They were just coming in for a landing!

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Here’s my music tent. We have bands in it all day! (where did that baby bottle come from??)

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I love the fair at night! So pretty!

Since I’m in the tent all day, I don’t get out too much, but there are some very cute baby animals at the fair every year, and a lot of 4-H kids with their animals. The pig races are a huge hit, though I missed them this year; and people pack in for the demolition derby at night and the (really really LOUD) monster truck rallies (fair photo):

fair photo monster truck

 

Though I have to say, I’m just kind of the quiet, music type!

Is there a fair in your town in the summer?

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at http://www.westmetromommy.blogspot.com

See her site for participation info.

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Review: GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

I purchased a kindle edition of GRAND CENTRAL when I saw that it was short stories by some of my favorite authors. The author list includes (a la Amazon):

Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife

Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us

Amanda Hodgkinson, New York Times bestselling author of 22 Britannia Road

Pam Jenoff, bestselling author of The Ambassador’s Daughter

Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter

Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter

Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of The Pieces We Keep

Alyson Richman, bestselling author of The Lost Wife

Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Call Me Zelda

Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Between

Each story takes place in Grand Central Station in NYC just after WWII and happens on the same day. One thing I loved was the overlap of stories – characters in one story will see or hear characters from another story.  Some of these stories I liked more than others. Some I felt left you hanging, which is never how I want to end a story. Most though, were interesting little microcosms of life at that time, my favorites being the first story and the last one!

One of the best things about short stories is that you can read them in a short period, so they are perfect for an office visit wait, a wait in the airport, etc. I chose to read one each night before bed.

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

 

 

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Review: BLOGGER GIRL by Meredith Schorr

I recently received a copy of BLOGGER GIRL to review from the publisher. This story is about a twenty-something legal secretary and book blogger, named Kim, who lives in NYC and spends a lot of time worrying about her blog, her hot co-worker, her clothes, and who she will sleep with next. Kim blogs reviews about “chick lit” (I term I admittedly don’t care for) and has a big following. Then her high school nemesis writes a book and asks her to review it. Kim is determined to hate it and trash it on her blog, but to her dismay, she ends up enjoying it and finding it well-written. What is an honest blogger to do?

This was a light and fun read. I wanted to see how Kim would end up – would she post an honest review? Would she end up with Nicholas? Would she ever grow up and be a bit less self-centered and immature? I enjoyed it, though I have to admit that I felt rather “old” reading this book. While I’m not old enough to be Kim’s mother, I felt like I could be. I grew a bit tired of her inner voice rambling on about her short stature and her large chest, what she should wear, how to attract Nicholas, etc etc. I also found it rather fascinating that Kim blogged regularly while at work, something her co-workers and boss not only knew about but seemed to respect – nice work if you can get it! When I was Kim’s age I was in a very different place in my life, so it while it was entertaining, I couldn’t truly relate to Kim. Instead I wanted to make her do some community service for those less fortunate in the hopes that she would become less self-absorbed. What I could relate to, though, was Kim’s blogging life. Schorr does a good job in portraying the sometimes thankless but always busy life of a book blogger.

If you enjoy romantic comedy and twenty-something heroines who are still discovering themselves, you should pick up BLOGGER GIRL by Meredith Schorr!

Thank you for my review copy!

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

 

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Review: THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy

I had heard some chatter about this book while I was at BEA this spring, but I couldn’t find an ARC around, thus I pre-ordered it for my kindle. It downloaded last week when it was published and I started it on the plane ride home from California.

Wow! What a read this was!

THIS IS THE WATER focuses on a New England swim team and the parents of the girls on the team. One of the parents is struggling in her lackluster marriage. Another parent is sure her husband is having an affair. A third parent is an annoying and interfering mother. Along with the daily intricacies of life, a serial killer is stalking one of the girls and when he strikes, their whole swim team world is temporarily turned upside down.

This was the type of book that once I started, I could not put it down. Not only was there a lot of information on the main characters and their trials and tribulations, but the focus on the murder and the killers’ motives and actions served as a subplot. I wanted to see if he would be caught. I wanted to see if Annie’s marriage could be saved. Was Paul having an affair? Would the killer strike again? Would annoying Dinah ever stop being annoying?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how this book is written in a unique and innovative style. The entire book is written in the present tense (hence, “this is the water”). The style is almost that of a children’s book: “This is the water” etc. While some may find this different (or even annoying), I found it almost lulling, similar to a gentle lapping of (wait for it!) water. And while we are onlookers throughout,  at times we are Annie, and the story switches to second person:”You go the pool.” etc. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel written in second person. Somehow, reading it that way made me identify very closely with Annie. It was almost uncomfortably creepy. While I’m sure this style wouldn’t work for some readers, I absolutely loved it and found it quite brilliant.

So – I highly recommend this book (one of fave summer reads so far!) for those who want the suspense and intrigue and the distinct writing style of Ms. Murphy.

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

 

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Review: FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW: A NOVEL OF EARLY AMERICA by Amy Belding Brown

I have met Amy Belding Brown through Orchard House in Concord (home of the Alcotts), and I really enjoyed her MR. EMERSON’S WIFE, so I was more than thrilled when I won a copy of FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW through the blog “Louisa May Alcott Is My Passion”!

FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW tells the story of Mary Rowlandson, an early Massachusetts settler who was kidnapped and held as a slave by Nipmuc Indians during the late 1600’s and King Philip’s War.

After a violent (and graphic) attack on their farm, during which many family members are killed, Rowalndson and her three children are taken captive and made to walk many miles, serving as slaves. Her youngest daughter, Sarah, has been seriously injured during the attack and she dies of her injuries not long afterwards. Mary, though devastated, stays strong, however, and fights to keep alive as the Indians suffer through late winter starvation and freezing temperatures. Within weeks, Mary has adjusted to the Native American way of life and actually begins to enjoy it. Being a Puritan, her role as a woman is narrowly defined, with little freedom of thought or action. As an Indian, Mary enjoys much more personal space and freedome in nature. Her two remaining children have adjusted as well, and her son in particular has come to love the Indian way of life. Complicating things is Mary’s relationship with a “Praying Indian”, John Painter. He helps her and becomes a friend, but it is not long before the two realize they are attracted to each other,causing Mary to struggle with her feelings about herself as a married woman and as a Christian. After several months with the Indians, Mary and her two children are ransomed back to her husband and she re-enters English life. However, Mary is changed, and so are her children. Will they ever fit back into their former lives, or have they “become Indian”?

I really enjoyed this book! Belding Brown is a wonderful writer. Her stories flow naturally, and you can easily visualize the setting and action. I had a distinct advantage in visually, however, as Mary Rowlandson was kidnapped from Lancaster, which is the town next to me (actually our town was part of Lancaster originally). I could easily imagine their trail, and then the trips into Boston and Concord. What was also fascinating about this book was Mary’s re-entry into English life. Almost the last third of the book was devoted to this, depicting Mary’s inner turmoil with accepting and adjusting to the Puritan ways again and a fairly loveless marriage. I know this is historical FICTION, so I don’t expect every bit of it to be true, however, Ms. Brown is an acute researcher, so I assume that much of the story is based on the facts she found.

This was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy reading of this time period.

Thank you, Susan, for my copy from your blog!

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

 

 

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I’ve Been on Vacation…

I’ve been on vacation for five days, 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. (won online)

- A review of BLOGGER GIRL by Meredith Schorr, which I read on the plane. (from publicist)

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

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! (purchased)

What are you reading this week?

 

POSTSCRIPT on 7/31/14– I almost forgot! I also read MC Beaton’s new Agatha Raisin book: THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN which I got from Net Galley. This was my “it’s not even 5 am and I’m awake since CA is 3 hours earlier than MA” read.

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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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