Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

Quick Review: AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

I was more than thrilled when Maria at Simon and Schuster asked me if I’d like to review Cary Elwes’ new book, the full title of which is As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. I just love that movie, and I figured it would be a fun read.

This book starts with Elwes getting cast to play Westley and goes through the entire filming and creation process. Interspersed throughout are pictures, along with quotes and snippets from other cast members, often sharing their view of the same incidents that Elwes writes about. His book is not a self-serving bit of megalomania (a worry I had since it is written by a Hollywood star!) but more of a tribute and a very touching personal recollection of what could be described as the best job of his life. Throughout it you come to intimately know the real people behind the characters, along with Rob Reiner, the director (apparently one of the greatest and most lovable guys in Hollywood). This book was a lovely and fun read, paying homage to a film classic that many of us count in our top ten favorite flicks of all time.

If you love this film, don’t miss reading AS YOU WISH.

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

 

 

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YA Review: REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles

I read Deborah Wiles’ COUNTDOWN a while back and loved it

see review here: https://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/?s=countdown&submit=Go

so I was thrilled to find REVOLUTION, part two in the Sixties Trilogy, in my favorite local indie (The Concord Bookshop).

In REVOLUTION, it is the Summer of ’64 – Freedom Summer – and volunteers have come to Greenwood, Mississippi to register black voters. Twelve-year-old Sunny has enough going on at home with a new stepmother, stepbrother and stepsister, and a new baby on the way. Her world has always been neatly separated into black and white, and Sunny has never really questioned it, or thought about it. However, things start to change when Sunny and her stepbrother sneak out to the whites only pool one night and surprise a young Black boy who is there. Soon they see demonstrations in their town and the young teen they saw at the pool is involved. Sunny is drawn to the Freedom worker volunteers, especially one who reminds her of her mother. The summer of ’64 becomes a summer for Sunny to grow up and come of age, and to understand that she has decisions to make in life that will guide her future.

I really enjoyed this “documentary novel”, which, while lengthy, is full of pictures, excerpts, and lyrics from the summer of 1964. Sunny’s portrayal is so well crafted. Her ability to see the prejudice in her small town from the perspective of a child is perfectly portrayed as she tries to reconcile adults’ racist actions towards the Black townspeople with their kind actions to her as a child growing up. She sees the ugliness and the hatred and it is greatly unsettling. However, that is one of the messages of this book – especially as it is for young readers – that prejudice and racism are all around us and we must not be blind to them.

This is a superb choice for a middle school classroom and to introduce students to the civil rights movement. To be honest, I haven’t read or seen too much about the summer of 1964 (outside of the movie Mississippi Burning) and it should not be something that fades from our collective conscience.

I can’t wait for Ms. Wiles’ next book in this trilogy!

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

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Kickstarter Campaign for Orchard House Documentary – only 60 hours left!

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If you know me, you know I have a complete obsession with all things Alcott — the person, the family, the books, etc. I’m a “Little Women” junkie (I’m actually also a lifelong devotee to Laura Ingalls Wilder, but that’s for another post).

Orchard House, the house museum of Louisa May Alcott in Concord, MA, where she wrote Little Women is running a Kickstarter campaign in order to create a documentary about the house. This is how the official page describes the project:

The Documentary Project:

Everyone has a special place – a mountaintop, a cathedral, a beloved home – that makes them feel safe, connected, and inspired. For millions of people from all over the world, Orchard House is that place: a gathering place, where people from many backgrounds have come together for over 350 years to count themselves part of a community – a community steeped in hope, courage, and perseverance.

Many who wish to experience Orchard House may never be able to visit in person, and there are millions more that do not realize the house exists. Together with your pledges and our dedication, this film will change that.

The history of Orchard House includes the prolific Alcotts, of course, but other stories remain unexplored. Even a visit to the home cannot reveal all there is to tell about Orchard House. That’s why we need to make this documentary.

Our film will be an hour-long, PBS quality documentary that will dive deep into those stories starting in the 1600’s. We will tell of the courageous occupants before the Alcotts, including the rescuer of a kidnapped woman and a Revolutionary soldier. We will also offer insights about Concord’s rich literary history; chronicle the process of how the museum was created in 1911; and, of course, give a behind-the-scenes look into the Alcott family and their time in Orchard House. We will seek national and international distribution to share interviews with house staff, Alcott scholars, celebrity friends, and the people of Concord to illuminate the remarkable power of place Orchard House possesses.

You can see the whole project, read more, make a pledge of just about any amount, and see the details at:

We are SO CLOSE to reaching the goal of $150,000 and there are only a handful of hours left.

Only a little more than $7,000 to go! #pledgeyourlove http://www.louisamayalcott.org

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Review: WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon

If you know me, you know I have an Outlander obsession. I’ve read them all (and watch the show). Of course I had to read the latest tome from Ms. Gabaldon. I did it over time, though, reading several other things at the same time, because sometimes I just needed a break from the trials of living in the 1700’s!

This book starts where the last one left off, and I only wish I could have remembered exactly what had happened at the end of the last book! Next time I am definitely re-reading the end of the previous book. It took me about 100 pages to get settled and remember all the challenges folks were facing. (What I really needed was a chart with characters, which is there, but really not too accessible via kindle; print copy would have been better).

Anyhow, Claire and Jamie were reunited. Lord Grey was having some serious physical issues in the war (and with Jamie). Ian was wanting to marry his Quaker love, Rachel. Brianna was fending off a crazy man who was trying to abduct Jem, while Roger runs off to the past thinking Jem is there (but ends up in the wrong time). Then there was a whole HOST of other folks running around and having problems. I could scarcely keep track of it all!

As always, I love the story of Claire and Jamie. Theirs is a love that truly transcends time. The other many subplots are fun to follow, though I found the time in the forest with the soldiers v-e-r-y s-l-o-w. Things picked up quickly towards the end and one can see another book on the horizon.

Now if you know me, you know I have a “problem” shall we say, with Brianna. I can’t stand her “I’m perfect. I’m intelligent. I’m beautiful. Everyone desires me. I’m Brianna.” personality. I found her much more likable in this installment. Her motherly side has softened me to her. Now, instead, I find Rachel annoying. Her “I am pious. I am perfect. I am incredibly beautiful and brave with a perfect body under these drab Quaker togs. Look at me!” character a bit much. I don’t want her killed off, but really, let’s make her not quite so perfect. And once I got thinking about this I realized that all the women in these books are pretty much physically perfect while most of the main men have some sort of physical difference or scar or missing limb: Jamie’s scars and missing finger, Jenny’s husband’s limp, Roger’s damaged throat, Fergus’ hook, Colum’s Toulouse-Latrec. Interesting…

Okay – I just googled to make sure it was Colum with the T-L and not Dougal and there’s an Outlander Wiki???

Anyhow, you, too, can slog through the 800+ pages of the latest Outlander. You can see it on Amazon where I got mine and where I am an Associate:

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Audiobook Review: A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve (read by Linda Emond)

Now that fall is firmly here, I like an audio book to listen to as I drive to my children’s school and wait for them at pick up. I found A WEDDING IN DECEMBER at the library. I’ve always been an Anita Shreve fan, and I hadn’t read this one.

In A WEDDING IN DECEMBER, several old high school friends gather for the wedding of Bill and Bridget, who reconnected at their 25 year reunion. Each guest has their own skeletons in the closet and past (as well as present!) issues. Bridget is battling cancer. Bill has left his wife for her. Nora is dealing with widowhood and her feelings for past beau, Harrison. Agnes is the most interesting to me – the single friend who never left their old school and remains there as a history teacher, while writing on the side. These friends (and several more) are haunted by the death of Stephen, one of their own, during their senior year.

There’s a lot going on in this story, and at times I had some difficulty keeping everyone straight. I found Agnes’ story which she was writing, about a doctor during the Halifax disaster of 1917, intriguing and while I could see the parallels to the main story, I did find it jarring to suddenly be in Halifax with a host of other people and their problems.

Anita Shreve does here what she does best, though, which is to make people so very real and alive, that they stay with you long after reading. Linda Emond’s soothing voice adds just the right touch to this narrative.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate, or get yours where I got mine: the library!

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Saturday Snapshot: Fall is here in New England!

Here are a few pictures of fall in our neck of the woods (the colors are even more brilliant in person!):

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at westmetromommy.blogspot.com.

Check her site for participation details!

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Review: DOLLBABY by Laura Lane McNeal

I’d hear some chatter about DOLLBABY while I was at BEA, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy. Finally,  a copy came into the library system where I live and I snatched it up!

DOLLBABY is a wonderful coming of age story, set in the South in the 1960’s. Liberty “Ibby” Bell is just twelve years old when her father dies in an accident and her mother drops her off to visit her grandmother, never to return for her. Ibby is a smart and plucky young girl. She loved her father and misses him terribly. She even misses her rather useless and self-centered mother. However, Fannie, her grandmother is quite a character and her unpredictable behavior and closet full of secrets keeps the plot moving. The household is actually run by two long-term servants: Queenie and her daughter Dollbaby. Queenie and Dollbaby take Ibby under their wing, and Fannie tries to rise to the occasion as grandmother. Ibby has questions about the family’s past – but learns early on that asking Miss Fannie questions only leads to disaster. What exactly happened in the house in the past and how does it still have a hold on Miss Fannie? Added to this are several subplots, including the fight for civil rights during this time period and Dollbaby’s quest for personal freedom.

Ibby’s search for her family’s past history is actually a search for connection and for family in its basest form. She seeks to belong and form an identity, left bereft as she is by the loss of her parents. Miss Fannie is a multi-faceted character as well: just when I think I understand her, more information is revealed to show that she is more than one initially thought. I would have loved even more backstory on Queenie and Dollbaby!

I really enjoyed this story, which reminded me a bit of SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT and THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. I love stories set in the South and I love coming of age stories with strong female characters. This is Ms. McNeal’s first novel and I look forward to more.

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate, or get it where I got mine: at your local public library!

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Quick Review: QUEEN OF HEARTS by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness mystery)

I love all the Georgie mysteries, and this one was no exception. Somehow I missed that it was publishing, and so I found it for my kindle a few weeks ago. In this installment, Georgie and her mother head to the US to get a quickie divorce for her mum in Reno. While they are waiting, they go to Hollywood so her mother can take part in the filming of a movie (they met a movie mogul while coming over on the boat from England). Who should show up but best friend Belinda and boyfriend Darcy (who is sleuthing around for a jewel thief). Georgie of course ends up stumbling over dead bodies and it seems like everyone is a suspect, but no one had the means to commit murder.

Will Georgie figure it all out in time? Will Darcy and Georgie ever move forward in their relationship? Will Georgie ever get a proper lady’s maid??

You will have to read it to find out.

Always a pleasure, Ms. Bowen’s latest is the eighth in this series. Added to the fun is the addition of “real” character Charlie Chaplin.

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

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YA Review: Wicked Little Secrets by Kara Taylor (Prep School Confidential)

I was browsing around the internet a few weeks ago and realized that I had missed the publication of book 2 (and book 3!) in the Prep School Confidential series by Kara Taylor. I had read the first book last year and really enjoyed this YA mystery – http://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/ya-review-prep-school-confidential-by-kara-taylor/

I purchased WICKED LITTLE SECRETS for my Kindle. In this story, Anne Dowling is back and getting into trouble again. She is determined to figure out what happened to a former Wheatley student who died in the 1980’s after she finds a picture of him in her deceased roommate’s belongings, with “they killed him” written on the back. Anne starts digging up old secrets, which unfortunately involve the parents of several of her friends and classmates, including the father of her boyfriend. Anne connects again with Isabella’s brother to help her figure out and solve the mystery of what happened all those years ago.

Once again, Ms. Taylor has written a fast-paced and exciting story that keeps you guessing and keeps you laughing at Anne’s unique voice and pluckiness. I enjoy Taylor’s writing and pacing and I give her credit for making her stories believable.

I also heard some chatter that a Prep School Confidential movie is in development.  Hmmm….

You can see WICKED LITTLE SECRETS on Amazon where I got mine:

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Concord Bookshop Event: Gregory Maguire

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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting my favorite local indie — The Concord Bookshop — to hear local author Gregory Maguire (of WICKED fame) speak about and read from his new book: EGG AND SPOON (sorry picture is a tad blurry!). EGG AND SPOON is a story of two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who switch places. Added in to the classic fun is the character of Baba Yaga and her house on legs.

Maguire is a great speaker and fun to listen to. He has a droll sense of humor and I really enjoyed the event. That said, I am still a bit unclear who the targeted audience is for this almost 500 page novel. At first I thought children, but then I thought adults. Then after browsing online I was completely confused. I would say perhaps it is a book about children but written for adults; or a book you could read aloud to older grade children and then discuss. Of course I’m sure there are precocious children who would “get it”, too.

Regardless, here is it on Amazon where I am an Associate (or even better – find it at an indie near you!):

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