Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Two Stories of the Holocaust

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I recently read two very moving memoirs from the Holocaust: FAREWELL TO PRAGUE by Miriam Darvas (sent to me by the publisher) and OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS by Manny Steinberg (which I got free on my kindle).

Both were amazing stories of strength and resiliency.

OUTCRY is Mendel (Manny) Steinberg’s story of his family’s experience. Manny and his brother Stanley clung to each other and kept each other going to survive the brutal conditions that they were forced to endure at Auschwitz and three other concentration camps. Their story is remarkable and a testament to their faith and strength. Honestly, when you read it, you can hardly imagine how anyone could endure what they did. OUTCRY is a short book and reads very quickly. It is published by Amsterdam Publishers.

FAREWELL TO PRAGUE was sent to me by the publishers (MP Publishing). This another short but unforgettable account of a young person surviving the war. Miriam’s father was Jewish and her mother German, but her father was quite outspoken against the Nazi’s. Her family sends her miles away to safety, but she travels alone and has to rely on her own wits and strengths and the kindness of strangers.Eventually she makes her way to Britain with other child refugees.

Since both of these novels were short, I read one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. I have to say, it was a bit depressing when I was done with these books. I think I’m drawn to Holocaust stories because I am so amazed by the resiliency of the authors, and the incredible experiences they had – and how they can find kindness and goodness in the midst of so much depravity. These two stories were no different. I must be honest, though — I was making dinner Sunday night and looking at all our nice food and actually started crying thinking about Manny and his brother and how starved they were.

You can find both of these stories online at Amazon. As of this writing, FAREWELL was 99 cents and OUTCRY was free for Kindle Unlimited. Look for them at your favorite indie, too!



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YA Review: DREAM THINGS TRUE by Marie Marquardt


I first heard about DREAM THINGS TRUE at BEA last spring. It was listed as one of the best upcoming YA books. I was able to get it through Net Galley and recently read it.

Here’s the description from Net Galley:

Evan and Alma have spent fifteen years living in the same town, connected in a dozen different ways but also living worlds apart — until the day he jumps into her dad’s truck and slams on the brakes.
The nephew of a senator, Evan seems to have it all – except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two, surrounded by a large (sometimes smothering) Mexican family. They both want out of this town. His one-way ticket is soccer; hers is academic success.

When they fall in love, they fall hard, trying to ignore their differences. Then Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins raids in their town, and Alma knows that she needs to share her secret. But how will she tell her country-club boyfriend that she and almost everyone she’s close to are undocumented immigrants?

What follows is a beautiful, nuanced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives. This page-turning debut asks tough questions, reminding us that love is more powerful than fear.


So – I have to say I just loved this book. Even though it takes place in Georgia, I could relate to the story, having grown up in California. This novel does a great job sensitively portraying the challenges of undocumented immigrants, especially those who have spent the majority of their lives here in the US and have been positive contributors to their community. Alma and Evan’s story will draw teens in, and I appreciated that the ending was not a “quick fix”.

DREAM THINGS TRUE published in September, and is available at an indie near you (or at your library!).


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A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever — John Matteson’s Annotated Little Women

While Keats didn’t have this book in  mind when he wrote that line, he certainly could have! This is a beautiful edition of annotated work – a true labor of love. John is an incredible friend of Orchard House, an Alcott scholar, and Pulitzer Prize winner. This book will be treasured for many years to come.

 I got mine at Orchard House – signed by John. You can find it there, at the Concord Bookshop and other indies, and online.

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Audiobook Review: ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS by Adriana Trigiani


I recently had the chance to get ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS with my Audible credit for the month. I LOVE Adriana Trigiani’s books and I was quite excited to listen to her new one. This is a wonderful story, set in the golden age of Hollywood and involving familiar and beloved classic stars.

Gretchen Young took the screen name “Loretta Young” and spent her life as an actress. Witty and hardworking, Gretchen and her sisters all worked in the movies, supporting themselves and their mother, from early childhood into adulthood. In her early twenties and recently having her marriage annulled, she is coming off an infatuation with the already married Spencer Tracy, when Loretta finds herself drawn to the always irresistible Clark Gable (another married man). Her strict Catholic upbringing makes her unable to engage in an open affair, and she fights her attraction to him, all while they are filming The Call of the Wild together. However, weeks after filming Loretta discovers she is pregnant and has to decide how she will proceed in her life — both personally and professionally.

While I knew Loretta Young from the movies, I had no idea she had a child by Clark Gable (true). The whole story is something Hollywood-esque. (However, there are also stories that she later said she was date raped by Gable — decidedly not exciting/romantic/humorous/okay if that’s true). If you know me, you know I LOVE stories of classic Hollywood, and I love anything to do with movie stars and Hollywood, especially in the old days (I also love plays and theater and Broadway but that’s for another day).

Trigiani does her usual excellent job in evoking a sense of place and personality here — doubling challenging as she is taking on the personas of living legends. Even the minor characters are exciting — Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, etc. (and I want Myrna Loy for a friend!).

The audible version was read by Blair Brown and she does an amazing job in telling the story, pitching her voice with variety, and pulling the reader in. Truly, this was one of the best “aud-itions” of a novel that I’ve experienced.

While this book released recently, it is EVERYWHERE! Get yours pronto and let me know how you like it!



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Review: THE ROAD TO DONETSK by Diane Chandler


The good people at Blackbird Books in the UK offered me a digital copy of THE ROAD TO DONETSK to review.  This was a really interesting book and unlike a lot of what I typically read.

Here’s the overview of it:

LONDON DEC 10 2014:   Love story set in a community of Donetsk mining wives just after the fall of communism. In a world where millions of dollars can either wash away in a moment’s corruption, or turn around the lives of the neediest, Vanessa Parker is forced to pit her own naive desire to make a difference against the chaos of a country in transition.

“A touching love story that illuminates the aid business. Compelling and enjoyable.” CLARE SHORT (former Secretary of State for International Development)

It is 1994 and an idealistic Vanessa enters the world of international aid, bringing with her youth, beauty and passion to do good in the ‘Wild East’ of Ukraine after the sudden collapse of communism. The country and its people completely win her heart. As does Dan, a jaded American Deputy Bureau Chief of USAID. Highly charged and turbulent, their love for each other is passionate and unyielding. Their romance unfolds in the beautiful lilac-filled city of Kiev, on frequent working trips to the coalfields of Donetsk and on weekend visits to the sparkling seas of Odessa, to the pristine ski runs of the Carpathians, and even to the chilling spectacle of Chernobyl. Older, wiser, Dan laughs at Vanessa’s determination to change the world, but helps her navigate the political minefield of overseas aid. He admires her achievements, not least the micro-credit scheme she sets up for the resourceful, magnificent wives of the Donetsk coal miners – her beloved Divas – but warns against her deep-felt passion and idealism. At the age of just 26, Vanessa has landed her dream man as well as her dream job. But then Dan springs a bolt from the blue which throws her into turmoil…

“Lifts the lid on aid.” LYNN CURTIS, literary consultant


Me again! I found this book somewhat fascinating as I have little to no knowledge about international aid and how it works. And, while I love Europe and love to travel there, I’ve only been to Western Europe, so I’m fairly unenlightened about Eastern Europe and definitely not too knowledgeable about the Ukraine. It was so interesting to read about the program they were trying to set up and the situation of daily life for many Ukrainians that they were trying to help. There is a romance built into the story as well, but I truly connected with the character of Vanessa, who firmly believed that by sheer determination, perseverance, and intelligence, that she could and would make a difference.

This is the first novel for Diane Chandler and it is a finalist for the People’s Book Prize. (photo by Sandi Friend)


Diane Chandler worked at the European Commission in Brussels for several years, where she managed overseas aid programmes in Ukraine just after the fall of communism. Ukraine soon worked its way into her heart, and she travelled there extensively. Back in London, when Diane married and her daughter was born, she was able to pursue her passion for writing in those few hours she could snatch, and she chose Ukraine as a setting. The Road to Donetsk, a love story set against the background to an overseas aid programme, is her first novel. She is currently working on a second, about a career woman going through the trials of IVF.

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE by Andy Kutler

04_The Other Side of Life_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Today I’m one of the stops on HFVBTour’s THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE tour. This was a clever and interesting war story that included past, present, and time travel.

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

The Other Side of Life
by Andy Kutler

Publication Date: August 11, 2015
Neverland Publishing Company LLC
Formats: Trade Paperback and Kindle
Pages: 360

Genre: Historical Fiction


December 1941, Pearl Harbor. A peaceful Sunday morning turns into a devastating attack on American soil. Naval officer Malcolm “Mac” Kelsey is severely wounded while defending his ship. A flawed man abandoned long ago by his alcoholic wife, Kelsey has been mired in despair and hopelessness following the accidental death of Lucy, the young daughter he considers the only redemptive aspect of his life. Near the point of death, Kelsey is brought to what he believes to be an afterlife where he is offered an opportunity to shed his past memories and embark upon an alternate path in another place and time. Eager to escape his torment and begin a more tranquil existence, Kelsey accepts, only to feel quickly betrayed as he soon finds himself back in the midst of battle, this time as a Union soldier at the dawn of the Civil War.

Through Antietam, Gettysburg and four years of relentless fighting, Kelsey attempts to cast aside his painful past while trying to survive the horrors of combat. He crosses paths with compelling figures on both sides of the conflict determined to persevere and return to those they left behind. Idealistic Ethan Royston, promoted from the enlisted ranks, believes in preserving the Union but is plagued by insecurity and self-doubt. His closest friend, West Point-trained Cal Garrity, remains loyal to his home state of Virginia despite his misgivings about the virtue of the Southern cause. The war will divide these friends, just as it will divide Garrity from his adoring wife, Emily, the charismatic and headstrong daughter of a prominent Norfolk shipbuilder, forced to face the onset of war alone.

Each will endure unimaginable hardship and brutality that will forever reshape their core beliefs and values. Each will find their strength and resolve tested as they search for self-purpose, humanity, and reconciliation. Most of all, Mac Kelsey will discover the very essence of life and death, and whether the new beginning he has long coveted will bring him the inner peace he has so desperately sought.


“Employing some new twists on the novelist’s technique of time travel, Andy Kutler sends a naval officer bombed at Pearl Harbor back to the Civil War. Among his comrades in a Union cavalry regiment he absorbs the enduring values of trust, loyalty, love, and selflessness during the chaos and tragedy of a war that took place a half century before he was born. Readers will find themselves immersed in this story and captivated by its principal characters.” — James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winner author of Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged a Nation

“Profound, smart, and entertaining – the path through The Other Side of Life is an amazing journey through history.” — Joe Weisberg, Creator and Executive Producer of FX’s The Americans and author of An Ordinary Spy

“Andy Kutler’s war scenes are gripping, his characters vulnerable and honest, and his story ultimately triumphant — an exciting journey back into two levels of the past.” — David Hardin, author of Emblems of Woe: How the South Reacted to Lincoln’s Murder

“The Other Side of Life imaginatively mingles brutal scenes of Civil War battlefields with thought-provoking moral issues. It describes the conflicted loyalties and sufferings of that tragic era and the spiritual growth of the book’s hero—a naval officer wounded in the Pearl Harbor attack—and those he becomes close to when he is transported to the past. The swiftmoving, compelling narrative grips the reader from first page to last.” — Bernard Weisberger, historian and author of America Afire: Adams, Jefferson, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800

“Andy Kutler has written a thoughtfully imaginative adventure across time, approaching the Civil War from a fresh perspective while creating memorable, compelling characters. The story flows beautifully and is consistently challenging.” — Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, Now and Then Reader (



03_Andy Kutler

Andy Kutler is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia. A native of Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A.) and Georgetown University (M.A.), he has previously worked on the senior legislative staff of two United States Senators before serving as a senior policy officer with the U.S. Secret Service. He is working today as a consultant to the national security community.

While Andy’s writings have appeared in The Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Other Side of Life is his first novel. Andy’s interests include travel, military history, his Wisconsin sports teams, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and two children.

For more information and news please visit Andy Kutler’s Facebook page.


Monday, September 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Sunday, September 14
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, September 15
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Friday, September 19
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, September 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, October 6
Review at A Book Geek

Monday, October 13
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, October 20
Review at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, November 1
Review at Genre Queen

Monday, November 10
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, November 12
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, November 13
Blog Tour Wrap-Up at Passages to the Past


Me again!

I really enjoyed this novel and found Kutler’s depictions of battles – both at Pearl Harbor and in the Civil War – accurate and descriptive. I really liked and connected with the character of Kelsey, too. And – no spoilers! – I loved the ending!

My only challenge was following some of the changes in point of view in the narration. There are several main characters.

This is Mr. Kutler’s first novel (though he is a very experienced writer) and I look forward to more by him.

If you enjoy reading about the Civil Way and like the idea of time travel (just to mash up the genre a bit!), then you should pick up THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE.

Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my review e-copy!

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Quick Review: A Maggie Hope Mystery — Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal

Susan Elia MacNeal Photo and Book 06152015

I love the Maggie Hope cozy mystery series! Maggie is a plucky and intelligent WWII coder and mathematician who has adventures and solves mysteries. Maggie is so realistic, though, that I just love her stories and love learning more about WWII and women who worked in the war department in England.

In this installment, Maggie is headed to America with Churchill and his entourage and she will be meeting up with the Roosevelts, and particularly with Eleanor. However, Maggie has hardly arrived when a young woman is found dead of an apparent suicide and with a note implicating Eleanor in her death. Maggie is determined to find out who is behind this gruesome act and to set things right. At the same time, there are subplots with Maggie’s friends and Maggie’s sometimes hapless romantic life. All in all, it was an enjoyable story that I read straight through as I didn’t want to put it down!

I got my ARC through Net Galley — thank you for the chance to read and review it!

Find yours at an Indie near you — your local library — or online!

(google image of Ms. MacNeal and book cover)

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Kids’ and YA Quick Review: COUNTING BY 7’s by Holly Sloan


I absolutely loved this middle to older grade novel about 12-year-old Willow Chance and the challenges she faced when her parents unexpectedly die in a car accident.  Willow already has her challenges with being a genius and a social misfit. This story was so beautiful and well-written that I fell in love with Willow right away. I actually read this through in two sittings (400 pages) as it moved so quickly.

Here’s what Booklist has to say about it:

*Starred Review* In a voice that is frank, charming, and delightfully odd, Willow Chance narrates the strange and heartbreaking circumstances that lead her to find an offbeat, patchwork quilt of a family. As an adopted, self-identified “person of color,” precocious genius Willow unabashedly knows that she is different, but her parents love and support her idiosyncrasies, such as wearing her gardening outfit to school, her preoccupation with disease, her anthropological curiosity about her peers, and her obsession with the number seven. That self-assuredness shines through Willow’s narrative and becomes crucial to her survival after the unexpected death of her parents, which makes Willow a prime candidate for life in a group home—an environment that could be disastrous for an unusual child like her. Luckily, she finds new friends who are compelled to protect her: Mai and her family, who live in the garage behind the nail salon they own, and Willow’s slouch of a guidance counselor, Dell. Sloan (I’ll Be There, 2011) has masterfully created a graceful, meaningful tale featuring a cast of charming, well-rounded characters who learn sweet—but never cloying—lessons about resourcefulness, community, and true resilience in the face of loss.

Grades 7-10. –Sarah Hunter —

Me again —

That blurb is an excellent take on this book which I will be recommending to my sixth grader (and her English teacher!).

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate: (I got mine at the school library!)
Counting by 7s

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Review: LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE by Jeannine Atkins


So – we all know my obsession with all things Alcott, right? Well, this summer at the Summer Conversational Series, I met Jeannine Atkins, who was quite charming, and she was speaking about May Alcott and her new novel about her (which came out in September). Of course I NEEDED this book and right away. Jeannine kindly gifted me with an ARC and I tucked it away so that I could savor it.

If you know me, you know that I am very, very picky when I read about the Alcotts. If stories don’t fit what I deem to be true and right, well then I don’t want any part of it. I’ve been know to stop reading a book, shout “Hogwash!”, and actually toss it away if it contains what I perceive to be Alcott sacrilege. Jeannine was such a genuinely nice person that I had my fingers crossed that I would not be doing any book tossing!

Well, no worries. This book is an absolute delight. Right from the first pages I knew Jeannine had done her homework. There is SO MUCH of the real Alcotts included in her pages, from things they said to the flowers they picked to the food they ate to the people they visited. This book is so on target that I know Jeannine had to have spent hours reading and digesting the real journals and letters of the family. Kudos to her!

If you only know the Alcotts as the family of Little Women, then you are in for a treat. Even if you only know me peripherally, you know that I am always talking about the whole family and how fascinating they all were. May is my favorite. Sweet, beautiful May (“Amy” for you Alcott newbies) was the youngest, the most beautiful, the most vivacious, and the talented artist who spent her late teen/early adult years developing her art, teaching art to the young people of Concord, and drawing on the walls of her bedroom at Orchard House (still seen today!). May was determined to see and study in Europe and to become a true artist. This book is May’s story — her friendship with Julian Hawthorne, her complicated relationship with Louisa, her love for her family, and her struggle to become an artist when female artists were not encouraged. It is also May’s love story of her relationship with Ernst and her dream of one day being both an artist and a mother.

Now I’ll be honest — SPOILER ALERT — I dragged out this book so that it didn’t have to end. I cried the last three chapters because I know what was coming. I just have always loved May (the REAL May, not “Amy”). I loved this book so much!

Jeannine, if you are reading this, I am sending you a virtual hug because I’m just so happy that you portrayed the Alcotts so realistically. Thank you so much for your beautiful novel of “summer’s golden child”.

To the rest of you – even if you are just a little bit curious, go out and get this book – pronto! You can thank me later.

(picture from google images)

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Litfuse Blog Tour for A RESPECTABLE ACTRESS by Dorothy Love

Here I am today as part of the Litfuse Blog Tour for A RESPECTABLE ACTRESS, a fun mystery set behind the footlights at the turn of the century.

Here’s what the tour has to say:

About the book:

A Respectable Actress (Thomas Nelson, October 2015)

When India Hartley is accused of murder, she must uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.

India Hartley, a famous and beautiful actress, is now alone after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.

A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.

Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia lowcountry and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

A native of west Tennessee, Dorothy Love makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. An award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, Dorothy made her adult debut with the Hickory Ridge novels. When she isn’t busy writing or researching her next book, Love enjoys hiking, traveling, and hanging out with her husband Ron and their rambunctious golden retriever. The Loves make their home in the Texas hill country.

Find Dorothy online: website, Twitter, Facebook


Me again!

This was a fun read. I have to say that I really enjoyed the novel and its depiction of life in the theater at that time. Of course I love reading about theater at ANY time!

I found it well-researched and was not surprised to find out that this story was in part based on a real life person.

That said, I had some difficulty with the wrap up of the mystery, which felt a bit contrived and I had to suspend my belief in order to accept it. It was fun though, with a little romance and definitely a “clean read”.

Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my review e-copy!

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