Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

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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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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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 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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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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Review: ECHOES OF MERCY by Kim Vogel Sawyer

I received a copy of this book through Blogging for Books, a Christian media outlet. In this story, which is part historical and part romance, Carrie Lang goes undercover to investigate a suspicious death at Dinsmore ‘s Chocolate Factory. Carrie is an ardent advocate of child labor laws, and she is concerned as well about the welfare of the child workers at the factory. She befriends a co-worker (the owner’s son in disguise) and also takes on the care of three orphaned siblings. Carrie is a devout Christian and a strong personality. Her determination and faith will see her through this mystery!

I enjoyed reading this novel. Ms. Sawyer is a new author to me, but it seems she has several published and popular works in the Christian genre. I find reading Christian romances very refreshing and light. They always end on a positive note and they give a hopeful and faith-filled message. This one was extra fun as it was historical as well.

Thank you, Water Brook Multnomah, for my copy!

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

 

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Quick Kids/YA Review: OLD BONES – A Casey Templeton Mystery by Gwen Molnar

Publishing this fall…

A Net Galley find, this is a YA story (one in a series it appears) about a teenager living in Canada who solves mysteries.

Casey is on a field trip to a museum’s archaeological dig when he suffers a bad case of sunburn, followed by a night alone in the hotel as he attempts to recover. Instead he hears two men plotting to rob the museum! Since Casey can recognize the men, he is put to work at the museum (his family knows the curator there) in an attempt to locate the men. Will Casey save the day? Or will the crooks get away with their loot?

This was a fun read, especially for middle grade and middle school readers, that reminded me of the Hardy Boys.

Look for it this fall at a bookstore near you! Thank you, Net Galley and Dundurn Publishers, for my copy.

Or – you can see it 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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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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