Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

Review: REVONTULI by Andrew Eddy

I received a kindle copy of REVONTULI by Andrew Eddy to review from my friends at Booktrope. It was sent to me because I had liked THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS by Chris Bohjalian last year (that was one of my fave books of 2013!).

In REVONTULI, it is WWII and the Germans are occupying the part of Scandinavia known as the Finnmark. The villagers are hardy folks, used to long winters and cold country, and are a blend of Sami and Norwegian culture (just a note- before this book, I had not heard of Sami culture. I looked it up and I have always seen it referred to as “Laplander” though apparently this is a negative term.) The Sami in this book are reindeer herders and semi-nomadic. As war touches the village, teenager Marit is caught between having sympathy for the Bosnian prisoners of war that are being held nearby and her burgeoning friendship with a young German officer, Hans, who boards at her house. The war continues, as does their friendship, and as Hans becomes like a member of Marit’s family, the lines between war and peace blur for her, and the story evolves to a life-changing climax for young Marit.

Throughout the book, the point of view toggles from current day Bavaria and Marit visiting there (she is quite elderly now) and her village growing up when she is seventeen. I really enjoyed this read! WWII is one of my favorite historical genres and this took place in an area that was new to me. Poor Marit was torn between her family’s culture, loyalty to her country, her friends, and her love for Hans. Her actions cause her to have to grow up quickly in a world that is rapidly changing.

Highly recommended to my readers who enjoy this genre! Thank you, friends at Booktrope for my copy! I will look for more forthcoming novels from Mr. Eddy.

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

 

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Quick Review: THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE by Thomas Christopher Greene

So I had heard about this book when it first came out and put it on my wish list. I bought it as a birthday gift from Amazon (yes, my bday is on Saturday!). Most bloggers had said things like “I can’t even talk about what this book is about because I will give it away!” or something similar, so all I knew was that it was about a headmaster and his wife at an independent boarding school. If you know me, you know I’ve spent my professional life in independent school (aka “prep” schools) and I LOVE to read about them.

So – the bloggers were correct. I can’t talk about this book without giving it away. It is MUCH better to go into this book not knowing what to expect. When I started reading last night after dinner I thought, “Oh no. Not THIS storyline again.” However, I continued, and at the end of part one (there are three major parts/POV in the book) I was blown away and so hooked that I kept reading straight through until the book was finished at 11 PM.

This was a fascinating read – one that kept me guessing and puzzling and thinking about it long after it was over. It some ways it reminded me of “Gone Girl”. In other ways, it reminded me of “Shutter Island”. Regardless, I’ve said enough. Do yourself a favor and if you choose to read it, read it cold. Be surprised.

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

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Review: A MEDICAL AFFAIR by Anne McCarthy Strauss

My friends at Booktrope sent me a kindle copy of this book to review. In this riveting story, Heather Morrison is a thirty-something professional in NYC who has worked hard to be professionally successful in life. She has not been lucky in love, however, and she has spent months going through the process to adopt a baby girl from China. Heather seems to have it all together until she lands in the ER one night with a surprise asthma attack. There she meets Dr. Jeff Davis who becomes her pulmonologist, and then her lover. Heather and Jeff’s relationship has disaster written all over it right from the start. Jeff, while seemingly caring and very attractive, is married and (as if that wasn’t enough) her doctor. Heather, though, almost cannot control her attachment to him and the affair develops. As things progress, Heather’s insecurities surface, along with some serious emotional vulnerabilities and issues which were screaming out for her to get help from a trained therapist or psychiatrist. Instead Jeff treats her with his own techniques and a virtual smorgasbord of pills. When Jeff unceremoniously dumps her (of course that was coming – the guy is a serial cheater), Heather decides to fight back by taking him to court.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

As I read this book I wanted to think that stuff like this couldn’t/wouldn’t/doesn’t happen, but I’m sure it does. Jeff was just sleazy and arrogant enough to think he could break the law and get away with it. Heather was just frail enough to go along and pretty much lose her sense of rational thought (until after the break up). By the time Heather regains her senses (and it is even doubtful to me if she has by the end), her life is a mess: she has lost her job and lost the baby she was in the process of adopting, and she is popping valium, sleeping pills, and more like they are M&M’s, all the while she is chain-smoking. This book spends much time covering legal issues and ethical/medical issues. Sometimes it felt like a lot of “telling” – such as when Heather would meet with her lawyer – but a reader needed that information in order to understand and believe the story (someone might have instead thought “hey – they are consenting adults; what’s the issue?”). Poor Heather is pretty much put through the wringer and while the ending is hopeful, I can’t say it’s completely happy.

This was a really interesting read to me, and I could barely put the book down because I wanted to make sure Heather would get justice. I could see this story being made into a Lifetime movie! I know these characters weren’t real, but that little baby Lin who missed getting adopted really weighed on my mind at the end. Alas, I do take my books seriously!

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

 

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Review: FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck

I recently won a free copy of Erika Robuck’s new book FALLEN BEAUTY, about Edna St. Vincent Millay. I had loved Erika’s CALL ME ZELDA last year, and also enjoyed meeting her at the Concord Bookshop, so this book was special to me!

FALLEN BEAUTY tells the story of Laura Kelley, a young woman who, in the 1920′s,  falls in love and takes some chances which unfortunately end up with her being single, poor, and with a young daughter to raise. Just outside of Laura’s small New York hometown lives the larger-than-life poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay and her husband. Millay lives a grandiose and bohemian lifestyle and when her path crosses with Laura’s, she becomes almost obsessed with making Laura part of her life. Laura resists and staunchly perseveres in her harsh and mostly isolated reality, making the best life she can for her beloved little girl. Millay continues to reach out to her. In times their lives intertwine and the plot winds to a shattering climax and conclusion.

I really enjoyed this book. Erika is a really great writer and her stories flow so easily. I liked the (fictional) character of Laura and kept rooting for her to have some sort of lucky break, and I loved the themes of redemption that came throughout the story. I found Millay’s character fascinating as it was closely based on real facts. This was a woman who definitely worked hard and played hard! She wore her emotions right under the surface and was ruled by her physical needs and emotional weaknesses. Truly this was a fascinating portrait of a genius mind.

I highly recommend this novel if you enjoy historical fiction and/or reading about Millay.

Thank you for my copy, Erika! I look forward to your next book. I even have a guess of whom it might be about!

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

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Review: THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jo Jo Moyes

Recently I received a copy of THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND as a gift. I had heard of Jo Jo Moyes, but never read her books before. This was a riveting and touching story, part current day/part historical fiction, centering around the portrait of a young woman from WWI.

In 1917 France, Sophie LeFevre is trying to keep her family’s inn going while the German occupation occurs. Her artist husband Edouard is gone to fight at the front, leaving Sophie, her sister, and her younger brother alone. Sophie and her sister must feed the German soldiers each night, and one evening the Commandant expresses an interest in the portrait of Sophie that her husband has painted. As time passes, Sophie becomes desperate to learn of her husband’s well-being, and risks everything she has to save him.

Meanwhile, in current day London, Liv Halston is now the owner of Sophie’s portrait. She is grieving the untimely death of her young husband, and the picture was a gift from him. However, the LeFevre family is looking for the portrait and want it returned. Classed as stolen during the war, they feel entitled to have it returned, while Liv is sure that not only did they obtained it legally, but that she has a connection to Sophie the others don’t. Thus begins a battle over the rightful ownership of the picture of “The Girl You Left Behind”. By the end, Sophie’s story is told and Liv’s story has unfolded and taken a new direction.

I really enjoyed this story! I love historical fiction, and having it interspersed with modern day was an effective way to tell the story. It has some mystery, some history, and some romance.

I’ve never read other books by Ms. Moyes, but I will look for more.

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

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Review: A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE by Martha Powers

My new Kindle gives me ads all the time when I turn it on or off. Of course this means I am purchasing WAY more things than I used to for my Kindle! One of these purchases was for A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE by Martha Powers. In this story, news reporter Clare Prentice discovers after her mother’s death that she is adopted, and she takes on the mission to discover who her biological parents were. She travels to Minnesota supposedly to interview a popular author, but instead opens up an old mystery and starts nosing around to find out about who her birth mother was, how she was murdered, and what happened to her birth father. Of course the real killer is still lurking about, and is not about to let Clare uncover past deeds!

I enjoyed reading this story, though at times I found it a bit improbable. It is described as a cozy mystery romance. It was a fun read and I enjoyed guessing who the killer was. There were a few surprises at the end!

Ms. Powers has written several books and I might just have to look some more up at the library!

You can see this book on Amazon, where I got mine, and where it is currently $3.99:

 

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Saturday Snapshot: School Arts Night Selection

So when the assignment is “draw a lion” and your child insists on including a train in every picture, what do you get?

photo (40)trin with lion

 

Why a train being photo-bombed by a lion, of course!

 

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

Please see her site for participation info and links.

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Kids’ Review: AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES by Gennifer Choldenko

A while ago, someone asked me if I had read the “Al Capone” series for kids. I hadn’t and she said I should check them out as they were good. A few weeks ago we were at the library doing homework and my daughter saw “Al Capone Does My Shirts”. We took it out and I ended up stealing it from her. I then read the next book in the series, “Al Capone Shines my Shoes”, and I plan to read the third, “Al Capone Does My Homework”.

In these books, it is the mid-1930′s, and Matthew “Moose” Flanagan and his family live on the island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay where the notorious gangster Al Capone is doing his time. Moose’s dad works as an electrician on the island. Moose befriends the other children whose fathers work as jailers, wardens, plumbers, and the like. Moose has an older sister, Natalie, who has some developmental delays and differences (similar to autism). Part of this book is Moose’s adventures with the other kids, the scrapes they get into, the prisoners they try to interact with, and their every day life at home and school. The other part of the novel is the relationships between Moose and the others, and especially with his sister. The character of Natalie and her interactions with Moose and their parents are so sensitively and touchingly portrayed that at one point they brought tears to my eyes. (Gennifer Choldenko writes in the author’s notes that she had a sister with developmental differences and Natalie is in part based on her).

I just loved these books! I think middle grade and middle school readers would enjoy them, both boys and girls. They are fun and exciting, yet realistic and sensitive. The characters are so true to life, I think, because they are basically portrayed with their flaws and weaknesses showing. I have recommended them for our school library.

You can see them on Amazon where I am an Associate. Or you can get yours where I got mine: the library!



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REVIEW: DEFIANT by Alvin Townley

Last month, my friends at St. Martin’s sent me a copy of Alvin Townley’s DEFIANT, which is subtitled The POWs Who Survived Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned.  All I can say is – WOW.

I was a little kid when the Vietnam War was happening. I remember it used to be on the news at night and I was terrified, so I would go up to my parents’ room and watch “I Love Lucy” on their black and white instead. My cousin had an ID bracelet she wore with the name of a young man on it – a POW. I was in second grade and I remember being both fascinated and scared by this. How could someone be “missing”? Were they dead or not? What must that be like for their family? For years I’d ask her when I saw her if they had found that young man. They never did.

In DEFIANT Alvin Townley tells the store of the “Alcatraz 11″ – eleven men held, tortured, and survivors of the most notorious and harsh captivity recorded during the Vietnam War. Held at the Alcatraz block at the Hanoi Hilton, these men were separated out due to their leadership ability, their strong mental toughness, and their will to survive. They endured an amazing amount of torture and horrific conditions, and after years, returned home to America. Sadly, one additional soldier in their group died in captivity. DEFIANT tells the story of these men and their experiences, but it also tells of their wives and families at home and the battle they waged to keep their husband’s stories front and center, to keep them in the public eye, and to fight with the government to get them home safely.

Personally, I could not put DEFIANT down. I started reading it and suddenly it was 2 am and I was still reading. I read the whole book in one night (which I don’t really recommend because it’s over 400 pages) and I cried so hard at the end when the men came home that my sobbing woke up my husband.

My friends at St. Martin’s recommended this book to me since I really enjoyed The Astronaut Wives’ Club by Lily Koppel. I would recommend to those who enjoyed that book, or who enjoy reading non-fiction about the Vietnam War.

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

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KIDS’ REVIEW: Emerson’s Attic – The Blue Velvet by Kathleen Andrews Davis

I selected EMERSON’S ATTIC from Net Galley as it looked like something that would be good for our school library (K-8). This is the first in what will be a series. Emerson is a teen who is pretty typical. One day while having to clean out the attic of their older home, she finds a blue velvet hat, puts it on, and is transported back in time to the 1800′s to England. Poor Emerson has no idea what she is doing there (except working as a housemaid), and she keeps having dreams of her grandfather, who seems to be guiding her on her journey. Why is she there? And what must she do in the past to preserve the future?

I just loved this sweet book. It reminded me of the type of book I would have read as a child. I always loved time travel books! This is a real winner for our school library as it’s appropriate for younger readers, as well as middle schoolers. A study guide is also available (though I did not receive it). I look forward to reading more from Ms. Davis.

Thank you, Net Galley, for my copy. You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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