Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

Review: THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN by M.C. Beaton

As you readers know, I’m a huge Agatha Raisin fan! I received the latest Agatha mystery this summer from Net Galley. The book published this week.

This time Agatha is pressed into service to help with a local amateur theater production. She is less than thrilled at the prospect, but things go awry when one of the actors is murdered, and Agatha jumps into detective mode to figure out why and by whom. Agatha has her regular issues – interfering with police procedure, getting herself into danger, etc. – and more troubles with her love life. I have to say that I do love how perfectly imperfect she is. She is tough and crabby and physically not overly attractive. You can’t help but like her.

This is the latest in a long line of Agatha Raisin cozy mysteries, and I give MC Beaton credit for her continued ability to create intricate plot lines that keep you guessing until the murderer is revealed. I’m not bored of Agatha yet – and I hope you aren’t either – so I’m sure I will be back for her next installment.

Thank you, Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press, for my ARC.

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

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Saturday Snapshot: Barcelona!

Last week I posted about our Disney Cruise on the Mediterranean. Our ship set sail and returned to Barcelona, Spain. We had never been there before — what a beautiful city!

Here are a few pictures of things we visited before we left on the cruise:

Sagrada Familia — The large church designed by Gaudi that they have been building since the 1800’s and are still working on:

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It was too big to fit in a picture!

Here’s the famous “Nativity” alcove:

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Here’s an link to a virtual visit to Sagrada Familia -

http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/docs_instit/vvirtual.php?vv=4

Truly an amazing piece of architecture and spirituality!

We also went to the Cathedral in Barcelona – which was incredibly beautiful inside. We lit candles for my niece who is getting married next weekend and also for a close relative with a large family who had recently been laid off (happy to report that prayers were answered in the way we had hoped — a new job has been found and secured!).

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My son thought perhaps we should light a candle to “find a LEGO store in Europe”. Um – no.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of WestMetroMommy.blogspot.com. Please see her site for participation details.

Thanks for stopping by! (I am currently on a campaign for a newer phone for better pictures, especially in low light, even though I’m one of the world’s worst photographers). :)

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Review: THE MAJOR’S DAUGHTER by J. P. Francis

As I enjoy reading WWII genre novels, I requested THE MAJOR’S DAUGHTER through Net Galley this summer for my kindle. This novel tells the story of star-crossed lovers: Collie, the major’s daughter in a German POW work camp in New Hampshire, and August, a German POW. As Collie feels herself drawn to the young German soldier, she is torn between her feelings of allegiance to her father (a widow) as well as her country, and her attraction to August. August, in return, is smitten by Collie’s beauty and kindness and determines to defy the camp rules and escape with her to a new life.

I tend to gravitate to WWII stories. I think part of my fascination is that was my parents’ time of early adulthood and it seems so close and yet so far away. Collie and August’s story has more romance in it than history, in my opinion (I tend to prefer the reverse); however, I was fascinated to know that there really was a German POW camp in southern New Hampshire during the war (this is only about an hour from where I live). The POW’s worked at logging in the forests and then were returned to Europe when the war ended (actually, they thought they were headed back to Germany but were sent to Britain instead to help with war clean up). Collie and August’s story has “tragedy” written all over it from the start. It was oddly reminiscent of “Summer of my German Soldier” (but without Kristy McNichol).

There are some subplots happening along the way, too. Two brothers who are extremely different in temperament are wreaking a bit of havoc among the ladies. One falls in love with Collie (and ultimately brings about the climax of the book when he tells her confidential information about the next steps for the prisoners). Collie’s best friend, Estelle, is in a star-crossed relationship herself out in Ohio, as she has fallen in love with a Sikh gentleman. Her choices are very different from Collie’s. All these plots tie up at the end, in just under 400 pages.

If you enjoy historical romance, WWII era, you will probably enjoy THE MAJOR’S DAUGHTER. Thank you, Net Galley and Penguin Group, for my copy!

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

 

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Review: THE GOLDEN PATHWAY by Donna M. McDine

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Today I’m thrilled to be part of the HF Virtual Book Tours blog tour for the promotion of the book THE GOLDEN PATHWAY by Donna M. McDine and illustrated by K. C. Snider.

This story is written for children and is about a young boy’s experience during the Civil War. Young David lives in a violent home, and he befriends his family’s slave, Jenkins. One night he gets a chance to help Jenkins escape on the Underground Railroad. Will he take the risk to help his friend?

This is a very short story — picture book style and less than 20 pages. The copy I read was a hardcover/library binding edition. I kept thinking how this would be a wonderful edition to the classroom: David’s story is a great jumping off point to start to discuss the Civil War, slavery, the Underground Railroad, and basic human rights. It is aimed at younger elementary-aged readers, and I plan to have my children read it as a way to start a discussion on slavery and the Civil War (which they’ve learned about some in school, but still find puzzling and highly disturbing). 

Author Donna McDine is an award-winning author with several books to her credit. You can read more about her at http://www.donnamcdine.com. THE GOLDEN PATHWAY is published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Thank you, Amy, for making me part of your book tour!

 

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Saturday Snapshot: Trip to Europe!

We just had the most fabulous vacation!

In late August we took the Disney Magic cruise ship for a trip that went from Barcelona to France, Italy, and then back to Spain. I can’t say enough how truly “magical” this experience was! We all loved it!

Here’s a picture of the ship (borrowed from online images):

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It was quite spectacular! The kids had a lot of space and activities to themselves, which led my husband and me to have a lot of time alone – woo-hoo!

We stopped in Nice, France. We didn’t get off the boat that day, but it was truly beautiful. Then we went on to Italy and visited Florence: (Il Duomo)

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(photobombed!)

We also saw this guy:

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(note – this is a copy; the original is in the Galleria).

Then we went on to Pisa:

 

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Yes – it is still leaning!

Then we saw Rome:

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And the Vatican:

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We skipped getting off in Naples (we were pooped!)

But at the end of the week, it was these smiles that made us happiest:

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Now we are back to school, but this will definitely be a vacation that lives in our hearts and minds for a very long time!

 

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

See her site for participation details!

 

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Quick YA Review: ESSENCE by A. L. Waddington – Book One of the E.V.E. Series

Over the summer I received a kindle edition of ESSENCE from my friends at Booktrope. In this story, a high school senior (Jocelyn) lives a fairly run of the mill existence, until she starts having strange visions and dreams, and feels a strong connection to a boy she has only just met, yet when she is around him she feels nauseous and faints. Is it all in Jocelyn’s head? Or does she have the genetically passed skill of time travelling? Which of Jocelyn’s worlds is the real one? Or is she actually existing in parallel lives?

I’m a huge fan of time travel stories (anyone ever read the old children’s book TIME AT THE TOP?). Jocelyn’s story is intriguing, and I kept reading to see what would happen. It seems like a lot of the YA novels I’m reading these days are book one of a series. Not sure how I feel about that, but c’est la vie. I did find the pacing rather slow for the first half of this book. I wanted more action and I wanted to know just what was going on with Jocelyn. That said, it was a fun read and something I could recommend to middle schoolers as well as older YA readers.

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

 

It is currently only 99 cents on Kindle!

Thank you, Booktrope, for my review copy. 

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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:

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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):

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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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