Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading….

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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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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Review: THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA by Greg Michaels

I was recently approached to read and review Greg Michaels’ new novel: THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA. It sounded fun and interesting (and to be honest, I know very little about the real Casanova – a great lover, right? And always makes me think of Greg Brady in the Brady Bunch?). This was a rollicking, fun, adventure story, with a little history and a lot of fiction thrown in.

Giacomo Casanova was a real person who lived in the mid to late 1700′s (see Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giacomo_Casanova). He was known for having many affairs with women and this reputation continues today when we call someone “a Casanova”. However, he was an interesting figure, intelligent and well-known, who wrote many works (best known is his autobiography), was imprisoned in Venice, lived in Paris, and knew many famous people of his era.
Michaels makes Casanova come alive as a flesh and blood man – part swindler, part earnest young man. He’s a bit of a lovable rogue who shows his more sensitive side in his relationships. He is on a quest for a holy relic, complete with “treasure map”, and his adventures take him and his companions across Europe with various close calls along the way.

As I read this book, I thought of what a fun movie it would make! I kept seeing Robert Downey Junior in the lead (call me a child of the 80′s). If you like swashbuckling adventure, you would probably like this book. There are some sexual scenes (not many, but they are there) or I would suggest it to the younger crowd as well.

I wasn’t sure by the ending if we might be hearing more from Mr. Michaels and Casanova. I would look forward to seeing his adventures continue!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. Right now it is priced for Kindle at $3.99. Thanks for the opportunity to share your book, Greg!

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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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Kids’ Review: MISTER MAX: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt

I’ve read a lot of Cynthia Voigt’s books, so I was excited to see she had a new novel out for kids. MISTER MAX is about a young boy living at the turn of the century. His parents have boarded a ship for India, but have disappeared, leaving Max to fend for himself with a little help from his grandmother. While Max is only about twelve, his parents are actors, and he uses their techniques and costumes to pass himself off as an adult and makes a business for himself as a detective. Max has several mysteries to solve, with the underlying one being: where are his parents??

There were some things I loved about this book. I almost always enjoy books set in the past. Max was definitely a spunky and resourceful young man. I kept reading to see how things would come out.

Other things I was not so keen about in this book were that it felt long (looks like 400 pages for paper copy), the mysteries were pretty straight-forward (though they are for kids), and there was no final resolution (apparently, this is the start of a series/trilogy). It’s hard for me to say what age to recommend this story for. Content-wise, I would say about ages 9-11, but reading stamina/level wise, I’d say more like 11-13.

Voigt is a wonderful writer and this shines throughout the story. I laughed out loud at some parts. I will most probably read the next installment because I’d like to see how Max’s story turns out.

I got mine via Net Galley for review, but you can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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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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YA Review: MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER by Katie Alender

I saw MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER at the YA session at BEA but quite frankly, I walked past it. Marie Antoinette – serial killer?? It sounded rather absurd, plus the cover had a costumed girl with blood on her – ick (just a note here: looks like the blood didn’t make it to the final cover). However, when they were doing the session, they mentioned it as a good example of the “mash up” genre: part mystery, part historical fiction, part horror, part supernatural, part contemporary. The speaker recommended it, so I immediately slipped back to the table and grabbed a (free) copy. I have to say – I really enjoyed reading it!

MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER starts with high schooler Colette Iselin preparing for a class trip to France. She is struggling with her parents recent break up and the family’s new, strained, financial situation. She can’t wait to get away with her (rather mindless and not very nice) friends, to explore the place where her family has its roots. Colette’s school group has barely gotten their feet on terra firma when they hear about a serial killer running loose – beheading victims, all of whom are from long-standing French/Parisian families. Colette sees a costumed young woman and realizes she is seeing Marie Antoinette’s ghost. As you might guess, Colette realizes she may be the next victim and needs to figure out the how and why of the murders in order to stop them. Along the way she is helped by their friendly teen tour guide (insert romance!), and she comes to realize that perhaps she has been spending too much time focusing on the things that don’t matter and less time on the things that do.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and cleverly plotted. I’m a big fan of all things French, so I love reading about people strolling through Paris and seeing the places I love.

Highly entertaining!

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

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