Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

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 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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Quick Review: DEATH OF A POLICEMAN by MC Beaton

Regular readers will know that I love MC Beaton’s cozy mysteries. Her latest Hamish Macbeth book just published. In this one a bothersome police officer has been put on assignment by Hamish’s nemesis Blair to track Hamish and to try to catch him slacking off so he can look bad. Unfortunately, the police officer ends up murdered. Hamish and his sidekick Dick need to figure out who the murderer is, and why people are suddenly showing up dead all over Lochdubh.

This is typical Hamish Macbeth fare — his pets, his work, the village characters, Hamish’s dismal love life. Poor Dick deals with an unproductive love life in this story, too. I know that some folks might find these stories too incredible (police procedure is enthusiastically broken) or the characters too caricaturish (e.g. Blair), but that is one reason why I like these stories. They make me laugh. Plus I love a good mystery!

I remember seeing the series on the BBC (via Netflix) and I wish they would make more of them. Robert Carlyle was the perfect Hamish!

If you love getting your Hamish fix, you will most probably  like DEATH OF A POLICEMAN.

Thank you to Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing for my review copy.

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

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Review: The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

I received THE DEAD OF SUMMER by Mari Jungstedt from publicist Meryl Zegarek to read and review. I had never read any of Jungstedt’s other works, and they are in the “translated Scandinavian crime novels” genre. This book is part of a series featuring Detective Anders Knutas, and it is translated into English by Tina Nunnally.

At the start of the story, a young father leaves his family’s camping site to go for an early morning run. He is a business owner and a family man, but he is plagued by a nameless anxiety. While running along the beach in beautiful Gotland (a Swedish island popular with vacationers), he is shot and killed. Knutas and his team begin to tie the victim into a scheme of hiring illegal workers and possibly trafficking illegal liquor from Russia, when another man is killed in a similar style. Knutas’ colleague , Karin Jacobsson, takes the helm in solving the mystery and finding the killer before anyone else is killed.

I really enjoyed this novel! I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was hoping it wouldn’t be too violent. While there is violence/sex/drugs/etc. none of it was overly graphic and it did not take up all the book. Instead I found that Jungstedt is a master at making her characters come alive through their interpersonal relationships. Knutas is having a bit of a lull in his marriage. Karin is holding a secret from her past. Television reporter Johan is struggling with his failed relationship with his once fiancée Emma. The nature of these relationships made a difference in how I read this book. It wasn’t all action, but also subtle shadings of character. I kept thinking that it would make a great BBC series!

THE DEAD OF SUMMER is currently available for Kindle and will be coming out in paperback in March, 2014.

If you enjoy crime novels, you will probably enjoy THE DEAD OF SUMMER. Thank you, Ms. Zegarek for sending me a copy!

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

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Quick Review: POE by J. Lincoln Fenn

This Amazon “Breakthrough Novel” award winner was a fun find for me! It is the quick moving story of Dimitri Petrov, an obituary writer at his local newspaper. Dimitri is mourning the death of his parents from the year before. He is also writing a tome on Rasputin in his spare time. Dimitri is sent on an assignment to cover a séance at a local deserted “haunted house”, along with an annoying colleague, the medium, and a young woman he has met before and hopes to attract. What happens that night causes Dimitri to end up in the morgue as a DOA (though thankfully, he revives). After the séance, Dimitri is haunted by a female spirit he calls “Poe”, and he becomes determined to solve the mysteries surrounding the house and some murders, while protecting himself and his new girlfriend, Lisa.

This was a fun and fast read. I just loved the character of Dimitri, who was a bit hapless. He wasn’t strong, overly courageous, or sophisticated. He was smart, though, and very “real”. I couldn’t help cheering for him!

I loved how this novel combined supernatural, horror, and fantasy elements, along with humor. I look forward to more from Ms. Fenn — maybe even more with Dimitri? I would recommend for older YA as well, but be aware of some adult content and language.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate, and where I got my Kindle copy!

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Quick Review: THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON by Alexander McCall Smith

I love the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, and number 14 came out this fall. I bought it for my husband for his birthday and just read it this weekend myself. It’s another “cozy” home run for this popular series.

This time, Grace and Phuti are expecting their first child. Will motherhood change Mma Makutsi, and will she want to stay at the agency now that she has a baby? Meanwhile, Precious is investigating two cases: an inheritance case where she needs to determine if the claimant is legitimate, and a beauty salon that is the victim of an anonymous slur campaign.

I really enjoy this series and look forward to more installments from Mr. Smith!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES by Alan Bradley

If you read me, you know I LOVE the Flavia de Luce mysteries – focusing on the humorous exploits and detective work of a precocious eleven-year-old chemist in the 1950′s British countryside.  Book 5 is coming out in January and I was thrilled beyond belief to get it from Net Galley (adding to my thrill was a tweet from Flavia herself saying she hoped I liked it!).

THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS!

THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES takes up where the last book left off: Flavia and her family are notified that her long-lost mother, Harriet, has been found and is heading home. However, when Flavia’s family arrives at the train station, it is Harriet’s body that is returning home, not Harriet herself. How exactly did Harriet die on her mountain hiking expedition? And who was with her? What was she hiding? Who is the mysterious young man who whispers to Flavia and then has an “accident” and falls under the oncoming train? And why is the great man, Churchill, himself speaking to Flavia in what appears to be code??Flavia sets about getting to the bottom of mystery of her mother’s death; but first she seeks to use her beloved chemistry in an attempt to bring her mother back to life.

Once again, I enjoyed Flavia’s exploits and especially her uniquely intellectual voice and dry witticisms that had me laughing out loud while reading! Flavia’s attempt to bring her mother back was so poignant – there is hardly anything so heart-wrenching as a young child who yearns for their deceased mother. This time the de Luce family is shown in more of their moral and emotional complexity, and you come to know them as a family torn asunder from the loss of Harriet. Along with this is a rollicking mystery of the family’s involvement with WWII, and a finale that makes the reader think that while we will hear more from Flavia, it won’t be same as when she is toodling around the family estate.

While the first book in this series remains my most favorite, I recommend this to readers of the series. I find the stories follow best if you read them in order.

It comes out next month, but you can pre-order on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Thank you, Net Galley and Delacorte Press, for my copy!!

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Review: THE FINGERPRINT OF DESTINY by Laura Shofer

A while ago (longer than I care to admit), I received a download of Laura Shofer’s novel, THE FINGERPRINT OF DESTINY, from her. Due to an odd issue with my Kindle (where it shuffled my hundreds of novels!) I “lost” it and only recently rediscovered it. This novel has a little bit of something for everyone and I really enjoyed reading it!

THE FINGERPRINT OF DESTINY starts with a fire (arson) with deaths involved in the Hope’s Point area of Long Island. Ellie Sinclair goes to cover the fire (which isn’t the first that has occurred in this area of late) for her newspaper and discovers that her estranged mother is among the victims. This starts a series of events where Ellie digs to find the truth, but also digs up old emotions, an old romance,  and memories of her “crazy” mother as she was growing up and their complicated relationship. Ellie is scrappy and tough, though somewhat dysfunctional and has a drinking problem. Add in some historical passages tracing Ellie’s Venezuelan heritage and the “fingerprint of destiny”, a few tough Latino gangs, a mystery, and some supernatural thrills and you’ve got the makings for this story!

I enjoyed reading this novel, the first for Ms. Shofer, and found it engrossing and well-written. I think it has such a variety of happenings that many will find it and its “mash-up genre” appealing!

You can see it on Amazon where it is available for Kindle (and where I am an Associate). As of today is it only $2.99!

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Review: A DOOR UNLOCKED by Calvin Dean

Recently, Mr. Dean sent me an email and asked if I’d like to read and review his book, a supernatural thriller. I said yes as I was in the mood for a thriller/mystery read. In A DOOR UNLOCKED, a home invasion goes wrong when the bad guy kills the homeowner, rapes the wife, and abducts their eight year old daughter. Vanessa Fitzgerald makes it her mission to find her daughter and bring the perpetrator to justice. However, Vanessa has some help from beyond – when unconscious (e.g. in a coma), she can hear and communicate with her recently deceased husband. He gives her guidance in finding and saving their young daughter, Lydia.

This book reminded me a bit of a Mary Higgins Clark mystery. It read quickly and focused on a heroine who was bent but not broken, and very determined to find her daughter. I wish that the storyline had not included rape and molestation (which I don’t like to read), but they did occur mostly “off stage” so to speak (there wasn’t a graphic, violent, drawn out scene to read). I kept reading to make sure that there was a happy ending!

At less than 300 pages, I finished this book in a few sittings.

Thanks, Mr. Dean, for sending me a download of your novel! You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (as of this writing, it is only $3.49 on Kindle):

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Review: The Clearing by Dan Newman

Just in time for Halloween! Dan Newman’s THE CLEARING is a suspenseful story within a story. In 1976 four boys were playing the swamps and woods of St. Lucia when one of them dies. The others decide to keep the events surrounding his death secret and instead blame it on island superstition: the monster Bolum. Time passes and while lives are irreparably changed by the child’s death, life does go on.

Fast forward forty years to present day, and our hero, Nate, is returning to the island to put old ghosts to rest. However, in doing so, Nate opens up old wounds and upsets the precarious balance of society on the island. Soon he is being followed and attacked by scary men wielding sacrificed animals and vials of blood. Someone is trying to hush up the events of that night and will stop at nothing to keep Nate and anyone who helps him quiet.

I enjoyed reading this novel which read quickly and was rather thrilling. At the end things tied up pretty neatly, and I felt that Newman expounded the final conclusions a bit too much (just in case someone couldn’t figure it out on their own, I guess); however, all in all, I enjoyed this light read and kept going to the end. A little fantastic – yes. A good read for the Halloween season – yes!

I got mine as an ARC from Net Galley (Exhibit A Publishers), but you can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate: (publishing 10/29/13)

 

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