Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Saturday Snapshot: Snow!

While we didn’t get as much as others did, especially in the Mid-West, we did get a dusting of snow yesterday morning and it’s snowing lightly now. It’s really early for it!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at westmetromommy.blogspot.com. See her site for participation details!

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Three for Christmas — from the Ho Ho Ho Readathon

I had a great time reading and participating in the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Readathon this past week! I set a goal of three books for myself, and I easily reached it (I also finished two more to review and started a third – guess I had time to read!).

The first book I read was A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS by Anne Perry. In this novel (and apparently Anne Perry writes a Christmas novel every year) it is 1904 and Jemima Pitt has accompanied her friend Phinny to New York from England for Phinny’s marriage. Poor Phinny doesn’t have much family and her mother left her while she was quite young under what seems to be mysterious and unfavorable circumstances. Jemima is hardly there when a dead body shows up – Phinny’s long-lost mother – and Jemima appears to be the main suspect in her killing (though with little motive). Determined to prove her innocence, Jemima joins forces with local policeman Patrick Flannery to figure out who the real killer is.

This was a fun read – and very quick for me (a few hours – less than 200 pages). Call me stupid but I never could figure out exactly WHY the murder took place and what it served. It seemed to stir up a lot of trouble, that’s for sure.

This was my first Anne Perry book, but she has a legion of fans and several other Christmas stories.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (and thanks, Net Galley, for my copy):

Next I read CHRISTMAS TRUCE by Aaron Shepard. This was a children’s picture book that I got a pdf of from Net Galley. It tells the story of the WWI Christmas truce in fighting between the front lines of British and German men. This was a beautiful (and true) tale, with lovely illustrations by Wendy Edelson. Great for a read aloud to children!

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (thanks, Net Galley!):

Finally, from Blogging for Books, I got The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. I just loved this book. This author lost her husband unexpectedly in the fall of 1999. They had three children, aged 10 to 17. That Christmas was incredibly painful and difficult for them. This true story tells how some unknown “true friends” delivered to them small surprise gifts each day leading up to Christmas and, in essence, helped them to feel the spirit of Christmas again. Not only was this a heart-wrenching read, especially because the grief was so poignant on these pages, but it was so inspiring to read the end and how the whole 13 gifts tradition got started, why, and how. What a beautiful and inspiring story — truly a favorite Christmas read for me.

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

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Audiobook Review: THE DRESSMAKER by Kate Alcott

I had heard of the novel THE DRESSMAKER but never read it, so I took it from the audiobook shelf at the library. In this book, set in 1912, Tess is a young seamstress who wants to make her way in the world. She has a wonderful opportunity when she signs on to be part of the famous designer, Lady Duff Gordon’s, household.They sail for America, but unfortunately on the Titanic! Well, of course we all know what happens, but Tess and Lady Duff Gordon and her husband survive, though there is a question about The Duff Gordons’ actions and if she and her husband kept people out of their lifeboat. Tess is thrown into the spotlight of the hearings after they reach New York (which are based on the actual trials and evidence given by Titanic survivors). She must decide what is the truth and how she can be true to herself even if it means not being faithful to her employer (and there’s a little romance thrown in there, too!)

Interestingly, there really was a designer named Lady Lucile Duff Gordon whose experiences were like those of the book, and she was the inspiration for this novel. Susan Duerden is the narrator and she does a nice job with the different and has a lovely English accent. That said, the one voice I didn’t care for was Tess’ as she sounded to high-pitched and a little vapid, when the character was actually quite smart and strong.

I enjoyed listening to this one (kid-friendly as well for those drives to school!). You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Quick YA review: Deadly Little Sins by Kara Taylor

I just loved this Prep School Confidential series! DEADLY LITTLE SINS is the third and final book in the series. This time Anne Dowling is once again chasing mysteries and killers at her Massachusetts prep school. Picking up where the last book left off, Anne is attempting to find to out where her beloved teacher, Ms. Cross, has disappeared to. Naturally, her sleuthing takes her into danger and she has to face the fact that Ms. Cross might not have been exactly who she said she was (which of course begs the question: who was she and why was she at Wheatley?).

Fast-paced and fun, with a tough heroine who is smart and clever, this series is one of my favorite, fun YA reads. Yes, you have to suspend belief a bit (it’s a story, people!) but somewhere in my travels I saw this series compared to the Gossip Girl books. Um, no. Those books deal with some over the top, ridiculously nasty teens in NYC. They paint the “rich kids as evil” picture in bright colors, and the adults are all but nonexistent. While I can see why some teens love them, this book is more of the Veronica Mars variety. Anne is not a nasty person and her friends aren’t either. Yes, these kids are wealthy, but they are also (wait for it — ) normal. As someone who has spent 25 years teaching in schools like Wheatley, I think Kara Taylor does a good job in portraying teens accurately.

I thought I also saw that this would be made into a movie, but maybe I imagined that as I couldn’t find that info again. That would be fun, though!

I got mine on Amazon (as I must have been whistling in the wind and missed it on Net Galley) where I am an Associate:

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Historical Fiction Blog Tour Review: A LITTLE WICKED by Janet Macreery

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Hello! I’m happy today to be part of HFVB tour’s A LITTLE WICKED blog tour, hosting Janet Macreery’s YA novel about a young, resilient Scottish girl in the 1600′s.

In A LITTLE WICKED, young Dory’s clan is murdered by a rival clan, and she is sent by her uncle to America. Dory first poses as a boy in order to get passage on a ship (where she works as the bird boy). Upon arriving in Massachusetts, she finds her uncle and aunt and joins their household – in Salem. It is 1692 and that is definitely NOT a year to be living in Salem, Massachusetts! Dory is drawn in to the hysteria over witchcraft. Will she have the wits to once again survive?

I enjoyed reading this short and entertaining book. I loved the character of Dory, who was resourceful and strong and sensible. This poor girl had one tough time after another, yet she never gave up. I also liked the little twist at the end!

Recommended for older elementary readers and middle school, it should also be engaging for reluctant readers.

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. Thank you, Amy of HFVBT and Ms. Macreery, for my copy!

Here’s a You Tube book trailer (love the bagpipes!):

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Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Readathon Goals

Thursday starts the HOHOHO Holiday RAT and I’m really excited!

I’ve never done a readathon and I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to read what with other commitments I have (like kids, work, family, other book commitments, etc.). Here are the books I hope to read:

THE THIRTEENTH GIFT by Joanne Huist Smith – I got this true story of a Christmas miracle through Blogging for Books

A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS by Anne Perry – which I got from Net Galley. It’s a historical mystery — woo-hoo!

CHRISTMAS TRUCE by Aaron Shepard – a children’s story about the WWI Christmas truce on the front lines in Europe. I also got this from Net Galley.

I am hoping that 3 is doable for me in the 5 days we have along with my other reads!

If you’d like to join in link through and sign up before 11/6:

http://www.bookshelfery.com/ho-ho-ho-holiday-read-a-thon-sign-ups/

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Review: WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas

I had heard some chatter about this book at BEA this spring, and I was excited to see it come up on Net Galley. It was heralded as “a multi-generational story of an Irish immigrant family in New York City”. Honestly, I found that to be a bit of a misnomer. WE ARE NOT OURSELVES follows Eileen Tumulty as she grows up in post WWII Queens. Eileen is Irish, but this novel is more a story of a life lived rather than a multi-generational overview of several lives.

Please note that the following contains SPOILERS!

Eileen’s life is portrayed from her childhood and adolescence with alcoholic parents to her marriage to introverted scientist Edward, through motherhood to a son (Connell). Throughout, Eileen was not a character with whom I felt any sort of affinity. No matter what life threw her way she was malcontent. She pushed pushed pushed Ed to be bigger, make more money, get more prestige, buy a new house, a new car, a mink coat. She pushed Connell to be the top of his class. I had at one point thought, “Geez, Eileen, be thankful for what you have and stop being so unhappy about everything.” Then tragedy strikes when Ed is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. His decline and disease is portrayed so realistically and touchingly that at times it brought tears to my eyes. And this was when I finally felt a connection to Eileen, as she became a much better person when dealing with this terrible crisis and loss than she was when everything was fine. As for Connell, until the epilogue I found him to be incredibly self-centered and selfish. Eileen wasn’t disappointed in him, but I was.

If I had to criticize something in this novel, which is acclaimed far and wide, I’d say I thought it was about 150 pages too long. I just didn’t think it needed to be 600+ pages. I also felt until near the end that the whole thing could have been summed up as “life is hard and then you die”; but the ending left me feeling a little more upbeat. Thomas is a beautiful writer.

I would love to hear from others what their experience with this novel was like.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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October in the Rearview Mirror…

Here’s a wrap-up of what I read and reviewed this month:

WICKED LITTLE SECRETS by Kara Taylor (YA)

QUEEN OF HEARTS by Rhys Bowen (cozy)

DOLLBABY by Laura Lane McNeal

A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Anita Shreve (audiobook)

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander)

REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles (YA)

AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes (Princess Bride movie non-fiction)

CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Neil Patrick Harris (non-fiction)

THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo (mystery; audiobook)

STEALING THUNDER by Mary Casanova (kids/YA)

I also posted a few Saturday Snapshots and wrote about the Kickstarter campaign at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord. I also posted about the upcoming Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Readathon!

Phew! A busy month!! :)

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YA/Kids’ Review: STEALING THUNDER by Mary Casanova

I love books by Mary Casanova, so I was thrilled when my friends at University of Minnesota Press sent me a few of her books to review.

In STEALING THUNDER, young Libby loves the horses at the stable next door. She’d like one for her own, but her parents can’t afford it. One day her friend and riding teacher, Jolene, is not there, and the owner tells Libby not to come back. Libby discovers that he is cruel and heartless with the horses and other animals and she fears for the safety of her beloved horses, especially Thunder. Libby decides to save Thunder by stealing her, but can this possibly lead to a happy solution?

Mary Casanova is a wonderful writer and her books should be in all classroom libraries. They often take place in Minnesota and always portray realistic and strong protagonists.

Thank you for my copy to review! You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Audiobook Review: THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo

I knew Jo Nesbo from his well-written and hilarious children’s books featuring Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder. I had heard that he also wrote Scandinavian crime fiction, so I grabbed THE SNOWMAN on audio when I was at the library. All I can say is that this a very different kettle of fish from his children’s books!

THE SNOWMAN starts with a young boy waiting for his mother as she is visiting her lover. It is cold and wintry and there is a snowman. Flash forward and he is now a serial killer. His calling card is a snowman at the scene. The killings are brutal and bloody and not something I could listen to when the kids were in the car! Harry Hole, Nesbo’s detective protagonist from a number of his novels, needs to get to the bottom of the killing spree. Harry has his own issues and demons, though, but along with a new partner works tirelessly to solve the crimes. Several times they think they have the killer, but they are wrong. Soon Harry finds himself in the killer’s sights.

This was a well crafted book (ably executed by reader Robin Sachs) that kept me guessing and guessing. It was much “rougher” than I was expecting and I couldn’t play it around my kids or at school while waiting for them (explicit sexual content, language, violence, gore). At some points I was even a bit “grossed out” (remember – I’m kind of a cozy mystery gal). I would read more by Nesbo, though, as I think he’s a talented writer. (And my apologies to him that my keyboard won’t allow me the Nordic slash that his last name requires).

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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