Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

Review: THE CITY by Dean Koontz

I’ve always been a fan of Dean Koontz. I particularly like his creepy, supernatural work. I was thrilled to see his latest book on Net Galley, and was happy to receive an ARC (I also was one of the many bloggers hosting a Pub Day giveaway earlier this month). THE CITY was a bit different from Dean’s earlier works, which just shows his versatility.

In THE CITY, Jonah Kirk tells the story of a strange experience from his youth that shapes and guides his future. The story starts when Jonah is eight. He is a precocious child, and a musical prodigy, living with his divorced mother and near his beloved grandparents in “the city”. An odd woman appears to him and tells him strange information, which later plays a role in his life. This woman, we come to learn, is the heart of the city itself, a metaphor made human. She also magically procures a piano for Jonah. This woman, Pearl, appears to Jonah through the story, to guide and protect him as he comes in contact with several nefarious characters (including his estranged father) who threaten his livelihood and that of the city at large. Throughout the story (again, told by Jonah as an adult looking back) we come to know his hard-working mother, their widowed Italian neighbor, his feisty grandparents, best friend Malcolm, and – my favorite – their sensitive and intelligent neighbor, a survivor of the Japanese internment camps.

I enjoyed this book! I really loved the character of precocious Jonah. This book builds to a dramatic and violent climax, which was fairly upsetting, but Jonah’s spirit and tenacity shines through all the darkness. The ending was one of hope and resiliency.

I noticed that a prequel, “The Neighbor”, by Koontz was only 99 cents for kindle, so I purchased that as well. This story was creepy and highly disturbing, while it introduced us to Jonah’s best friend and neighbor, Malcolm. You can certainly read The City without reading it, but it does add a bit to character development.

You can see these books on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

 

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Review: The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is at it again!

I’ve loved all the books in this series and was so excited to see that a new one was out this month (and doubly excited that I got it from Net Galley!).

In this installment, Maggie is dealing with depression and trying to decide what further paths to take with her life. She adopts a rather unique cat. She tries to get out more. She throws herself into her job as a trainer at her spy training camp. Something is just missing. Then mystery finds her again when three ballerinas, including her dear friend Sarah, are taken ill and two die. Who or what has poisoned them? Added to this are interspersed chapters of Maggie’s mother, German spy Clara Hess, who is being interrogated and whose execution is planned. Also, there is a subplot following the planning for and bombing of Pearl Harbor.

A lot is going on in this book, though I didn’t find that overly confusing. My favorite chapters, though, were the ones with Maggie in them. I want her to have her adventures, but also to find happiness. When the book ended, I could see where the next one would start up, so this book seemed less like a separate story than part of a larger work in several volumes.

I love reading about WWII and I really enjoy Maggie’s character, so I’ve recommended these books to several friends. I look forward to the next book in this series, which I’m pretty sure is in the works!

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

 

 

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Review: COLD SHOT by Mark Henshaw

I received a copy of COLD SHOT from the publisher in late spring for me to review. I love a good CIA/espionage/government bad guys thriller, and this one was a great read, reminding me of Jack Higgins novels from my  past.

In COLD SHOT, a boat is discovered floating in the ocean, with a dead (tortured) Somalian man in it, thought to be a pirate. Two CIA analysts begin the hunt to figure out who he is, why he was tortured, and what is being covered up. What they find is of huge consequence: Iran’s secret attempts to create nuclear weapons.

I loved the pacing of this book, which was action packed and quite thrilling. Sometimes when I read books like this, I think “Really? That’s pretty implausible”, but not this time. In fact, author Mark Henshaw is a former CIA employee, and his novel is quite believable and realistic. Henshaw’s previous book, RED CELL, occurs before this one, and with the same characters. While you wouldn’t have to read that one first, I felt like I would have enjoyed it and gotten an intro to these characters as well, as sometimes back story was discussed.

If you like Jack Higgins, Robert Ludlum, or similar authors, you will probably enjoy COLD SHOT. I hope to get RED CELL to read, too!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate, and thank you, Simon and Schuster, for my copy!

 

 

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YA Review: WATCHED by Cindy M. Hogan

I recently got this book free for my kindle as it was on sale. WATCHED is a YA suspense novel, telling the story of 15-year-old Christy, who wins a scholarship for a trip to D.C. While there, Christy and her friends witness terrorist activity, and the story becomes a big chase and escape until the end (when we discover that this is the first book in a trilogy).

Here’s the thing: I probably would have loved this book when I was 13. Christy is a smart girl, supposedly quite brilliant, but she is socially awkward. She has two boys attracted to her, for the first time in her life. She is trying to shake off her “really smart and not rich”  persona to blend with her new friends. All the time, however, scary terrorists are looking for her and her friends and the FBI is protecting her. I would have lapped this up as a young teen!

To be honest, in the here and now I found Christy’s story rather boring and far-fetched. Christy’s angst over which boy to like went on for so long that it dragged the book down and bored me. There was a great deal of time and space devoted to “I can’t date until I’m 16 and that’s not until next month. How do I handle my emotions? What shall I do? What shall I do???” The whole terrorist/FBI piece was unbelievable and too incredible to be plausible. Personally, as a parent of two children, if my minor children were involved with terrorist plots etc etc while on an educational trip to DC and I was never told about it or notified?? Well, you get my point. The fact that this is book one in a trilogy made the reading feel prolonged, in my opinion; and I have a personal pet peeve about lack of resolution at the end of a book.

So I finished the book (thus the review), which is a good thing (if I really dislike a book I don’t finish it, and thus don’t review it), but I was rather disappointed. I think my younger self, though, would have looked past the shortcomings I found and enjoyed Christy’s story.

You can see this book on Amazon where it’s currently free for kindle and where I am an Associate:

 

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Quick Review: The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Shenkel

I recently received THE MURDER FARM by Andrea Maria Shenkel through Net Galley. The synopsis of this book sounded similar to IN COLD BLOOD — true crime, murdered family on a farm, etc. This book takes place in the 1920’s and has been translated from German into English.

I had mixed feelings about this short novel. In one respect, it held my attention and kept me guessing. The chapters were told from all different viewpoints and perspectives, which, while slightly confusing, was creative. A prayer was interspersed throughout chapters (I’m sure it was relevant, but – full disclosure – I found myself skimming it in order to get back to the story).

When I reached the end of the this short novel, I was struck by the fact that perhaps the murder mystery wasn’t really the point of the story, and instead maybe it was a bit of a discourse on human nature, set within a nonfiction framework. Or maybe it was a murder mystery written in a new way.

Wish I had something more insightful and intelligent to add to this, so I’d welcome input from readers!

Have you read THE MURDER FARM? What did you think?

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

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YA Review : WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

I had heard some buzz about this book, so I ordered it from Amazon for my Kindle for when it was released earlier this month. This is the kind of book that people say, “I can’t talk about it without giving it away”. Okay – that’s true, but I can say this: this was one of those books that you start to read and can’t put down. I read it almost entirely straight through as I was trying to figure out what was going on. It’s memorable and heart-breaking and just really, really good – all at the same time.

In WE WERE LIARS, Cadence Sinclair has grown up as the eldest grandchild of the wealthy and well-known Sinclair family. They spend their summers together on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. They play, they argue, they exist as a big sprawling family. Cadence spends her long summer days with her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and their friend Gat. Then one summer, while they are in their teens, things change. Decisions are made and actions follow which have devastating consequences.

Loved loved loved this book. I’d suggest it for older teens (and adults – if you read YA, and you should!).

Can’t say more without spoilers, but I’ve added a You Tube clip of the author reading from the novel:

See it on Amazon where I got mine and I am an Associate:

 

 

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Review: THE BOY WHO STOLE FROM THE DEAD by Orest Stelmach

This book takes up where THE BOY FROM REACTOR 4 leaves off (reviewed here: http://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/review-the-boy-from-reactor-4-by-orest-stelmach/ ). Bobby Kungenook is accused of murder and his guardian, Nadia Tesla, is 100% sure that Bobby is not a killer. Bobby, though, is not talking to anyone and refusing to see Nadia, so she goes on a quest to prove his innocence. Travelling to the Ukraine with her brother, Nadia tackles some tough Russian mobsters, all the while learning more about her new employer. Did Bobby really kill an English businessman? Who exactly was he? What is the connection to Russia and Chernobyl? Will she be able to save Bobby?

I thought this book did a great job picking up right where the last book left off (and apparently there is another book on its way at the end of the year). I often don’t enjoy sequels as it feels like they are just pulling out the action and are almost an afterthought, but this novel continues the action started in the first book, does a full plot, and then sets up the next story in the saga.

I also love the character of Nadia because she’s so smart and strong – a great combination!

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy! If you enjoy mysteries and action, you will most probably enjoy these books.

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

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QUICK REVIEW: Berried to the Hilt by Karen Mac Inerney

I’ve enjoyed other “Grey Whale Inn” mysteries, so I was thrilled to find this one in the Kindle shop. These stories take place on Cranberry Island, off the coast of Maine, and center on a B&B owner, Natalie Barnes, who just so happens to run into murders/dead bodies/etc. In this installment, a sunken ship is located off the coast of the island and it’s a race to see who can claim it: a university team or a private treasure hunters’ group. Then one of the searchers is found dead. They’ve all been staying at the Grey Whale Inn, so Natalie has plenty of opportunity to sleuth around and establish motives and means (of which there are many!). However, will Natalie find she’s the next victim?

I do enjoy this cozy mystery series which comes with recipes at the back of the book (they are featured in the story). Natalie is a far nosier innkeeper than I would ever be, but it keeps the plot moving. I could see these stories being made into a BBC series.

I found mine on Kindle and you can see it there, too (where I am an Associate):

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Review: CITY OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT by Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen recently came out with a new Molly Murphy mystery. If you read me, you know I’ve read them all. I really enjoy historical cozies and Molly is one of my favorite female sleuths (though I have to admit to an even greater fondness for Georgie of Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries!).

In this installment, Molly is headed to Paris to stay with friends Sid and Gus after a horrible bombing of her home in New York by an Italian gang. She and Daniel and the baby weren’t hurt, but sadly their young maid was killed. Molly has barely gotten her feet on solid ground when she’s landed in to the middle of a murder mystery. Where are Gus and Sid and why did they leave so suddenly? Who murdered the painter Reynold Bryce? And will Molly ever find her friends or have to go back to NYC?

Once again, Ms. Bowen has written a lively and well-crafted mystery, this time in a unique location. Paris at the turn of the century was a vibrant and beautiful place (it still is, but you know what I mean!). The art culture is explored here, and I was delighted to see many well-known real characters brought to life: Picasso, Degas, Monet, Mary Cassatt, Gertrude Stein. Molly interacts with all parts of the city, but especially the Montmartre district in her quest to find and then help her friends. I did not guess the murderer (kudos to Ms. Bowen!) and enjoyed reading this right up to the last page. This might be my favorite Molly mystery yet.

Another home run for the Molly Murphy series!

I got mine on Amazon where I am an Associate, and you can see it there, too:

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Kids/YA Review: Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys by Linda Maria Frank

I picked up this little book through Net Galley to review for the children in my life. In SECRETS IN THE FAIRY CHIMNEYS, Annie Tillery joins her boyfriend Ty on an archaeological dig in Turkey. However, something is not right: artifacts are disappearing, and then a member of the team is killed in an accident (or was it??). At the same time a shady character tries (unsuccessfully) to kidnap Annie. Annie is an amateur sleuth (this is the third book in a series, apparently), and nothing will stop her from poking around where she shouldn’t. But will her discoveries put her in danger, too?

I enjoyed this children’s mystery, which I read on my kindle. It had some illustrations, and Annie and her boyfriend’s relationship is “kid reader friendly”, so I would suggest it for middle grade readers and up. Annie is in her twenties, though, so she could appeal to older readers as well. My favorite characters were the twins that were at the site with their father (one of the dig leaders). They were amateur sleuths themselves! Overall this story reminded me of an updated Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys, and in fact, the author is quoted on Amazon as saying that the Annie books are like “Nancy Drew meets CSI”.

Thank you, Net Galley and Archway Publishing, for my copy!

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

Here’s a fun book trailer via You Tube:

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