Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Audiobook Review: Travelling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd

I recently listened to “Travelling with Pomegranates” by Sue Monk Kidd (author of  “The Secret Life of Bees”). What an interesting book — it chronicles the author’s trip to Greece with her adult daughter who has just graduated from college. Kidd is turning 50 and reflecting on her life. Her daughter, Anne, is graduating college and is still recovering from a broken relationship. Both of them are redefining themselves and their relationship to each other, all within the framework of the trip and within the geography, history, and culture of Greece.

I enjoyed listening to this book, though it did require some thought while I was driving! Some of the passages were lengthy reflections, as opposed to action. I also needed to adjust to the authors’ gentle accents as they read it themselves. It was a nice, reflective “read” that I have recommended to my sister (who is 50 and has a daughter in her twenties!). My copy came from the library.

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Better Late Than Never….

So — several of my friends have asked me why I did not do a “Best of 2009” blog post. To be honest, I felt there were already a lot of very good book lists for 2009, and furthermore I felt I would never be able to choose among the many wonderful books I read to pick one favorite.

However, without further ado, here is my “Best Books of 2009” list. How many made your list?

Favorite Book I read last year:  “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” by Alan Bradley

Best Written Book I read last year: “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout

Most Charming Read of last year: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Book I couldn’t stop thinking about last year:  “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan

Best Creepy/Gothic Book I read last year: “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield

Best Historical Fiction I read last year: It’s a tie!!! “Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran and “Peony in Love” by Lisa See

Best Cozy Mystery series I read last year: it was a tough call, but I have to go with the “Agatha Raisin” series by MC Beaton

and the final “I’m so glad I finally read some of his books because I really love them” award goes to: William Martin for his “Back Bay” and “Cape Cod” mysteries!

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Quickie Review: There Goes the Bride by MC Beaton

Oh, Agatha! How I love your cantankerous and cranky soul! If you read my blog regularly, you know I love MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin cozy mysteries series. This latest library find – “There Goes the Bride” – is no exception. In it, James (Agatha’s ex-husband) is about to marry a lovely young woman when she is fatally shot shortly before taking her vows. Agatha is determined to find the murderer, motivated at least in part by the fact that she is a suspect. 

 Kudos to MC Beaton for continually coming up with great new story lines for both Agatha and her literary brother Hamish MacBeth!

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Quickie Review: The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta

A week or two ago I saw “The Silent Hour” on the new release shelf (in large print!) at the library. I picked it up as it looked pretty thrilling (plus I love the break that large print gives my eyes!).

In this suspense novel, a Lincoln Perry mystery, Perry is approached by a convicted and reformed murderer to find a missing woman who helped to rehabilitate him. As Perry reluctantly makes inquiries, he stumbles upon a mob connection, other murders, drug gangs, and more. This novel had a lot of twists and turns in it that kept me guessing. This was my first Lincoln Perry mystery, and I liked it alot. At times I thought it moved slowly – and it was long (over 500 pages in large print) – but it was a keeper!

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Review: Audiobook — What Matters Most by Luanne Rice

So — one thing I planned to do new this year with my blog is review audiobooks as well as regular novels. I used to listen to audiobooks all the time during my commute. I get them from the library and keep them in a basket in the front seat. Of course, having small children can put a damper on my listening as they don’t usually like what I’m listening to! (My two vote for the Magic Treehouse books on CD).

“What Matters Most” by Luanne Rice was an audiobook I grabbed at the “new releases” section of the library. The story follows two intersecting storylines: Bernadette and Tom come to Ireland to find the son they gave up for adoption 23 years earlier, while their son, James/Seamus searches for Kathleen his childhood love. Their stories intersect and come together, reaching a huge climactic ending.

Well – I have to say that this was my first Luanne Rice book. It’s considered a romance, a genre which I don’t read often. That said, this book was a mix of things for me. At times I found it unbelievable (more on this later). At times I found it long (11 CD’s worth). At times, though, I found myself thinking about these characters and going out to my car to sit and listen to this story! I would get frustrated with myself, since in one breath I’d think: “This is really terrific silliness” followed in the next by: “So – I wonder what’s going to happen?”

Here are the things I had problems with — according to the plot line, Bernie and Tom came to Ireland from the US 23 years earlier to help Tom find his lost family/relatives (the typical genealogical trip). Bernie, who is about to become a nun, accompanies him as it’s something she has “promised to do as a friend” (generally I think they frown on young nuns-to-be accompanying male friends on vacation, but that’s another discussion). While there, they have a moment of passion (if you get my drift) and Bernie finds herself pregnant. Now here’s the thing — Bernie has a vision of the Blessed Mother Mary which she interprets as Mary telling her to be a nun. So she gives the baby up for adoption, goes home, joins the convent with Tom hired on as groundskeeper (I would have thought that they would have considered some of this an impediment to her taking her vows, but apparently not), and then rises to become Mother Superior of her order. Now – 23 years later – she decides that perhaps Mary was telling her to be a MOTHER not be a NUN – so she goes to find her son (with Tom in tow).

As I was listening to this, I had to keep thinking “this is ridiculously implausible!” Added to this fact was that Bernie was pretty styling clothes-wise and with beautiful, long, flowing  hair when she was sans habit (as opposed to looking demure or conservative). Bernie and Tom were portrayed as pretty much perfect — amazing people whom all admired and flocked to, due to their natural magnetism, charm, intelligence, and kindness. Seamus/James (their son) and Kathleen were portrayed similarly – though I did like Seamus’ reaction when he found out they were his parents (no hearty handshakes there – he was pretty angry).

As I reached disk 10 or 11 I had to wonder: how is this going to end? Will Bernie stay a nun? Will Tom go on as groundskeeper, content in seeing her at a distance? Will Seamus and Kathleen work out their missed years together and form a relationship? And here’s the most unbelievable thing of all : MAJOR SPOILER ALERT  – SKIP TO BELOW IF YOU WANT – Tom drops dead of a heart attack. Well, that ended that. There’s of course more to the dénouement than that, but that gets you going!

So – overall, I can’t even give this a star rating as I don’t know what to put. I couldn’t stop listening to this story, even though I found it at times silly. I cared about these characters, even though I didn’t want to. I found myself checking out another Luanne Rice book at the library last week as if my hands had a will of their own.

What can I say???

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REVIEW: Jane Langton’s – The Deserter

Have you ever read a book by Jane Langton? I adored her children’s books when I was young (the Hall family stories) and enjoy her Homer Kelly mysteries as an adult. I was thrilled last week to find “The Deserter” in the library — a Homer Kelly mystery story taking place during the Civil War and also in the current day.

In “The Deserter”, Homer’s wife, Mary, is tracing an ancestor’s experience in the Civil War and puzzling over the fact that he has dropped from family lore and is considered a shameful character. What did he do that was so bad? Mary and Homer wonder. His picture has also been taken down from the hollowed halls of Harvard’s Memorial Hall as his classmates were ashamed of him, too. Mary and Homer begin a quest to unravel the mystery.

In alternating chapters, during the Civil War a young pregnant wife (Mary’s ancestor) searches the battlefields of Gettysburg for her beloved and missing husband. She fears he is ill, injured, or possibly a deserter.

What has become of him? Will he be found? Will Mary and Homer solve the mystery and return her ancestor into good grace? You’ll have to read this story to find out!

I give it 4 Stars!

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What’s On My Nightstand….

well — when you see what I’ve got lying around, you can guess why I’m behind in posting reviews!!!

“The Face in the Wall” by Jane Langton — finished last night

“Benjamin Franklin” by Brands — still reading this in the car while I wait for the kids to get out of school.

“There Goes the Bride” — an Agatha Raisin mystery by MC Beaton — need I say more??

“The Silent Hour” — a creepy mystery surrounding a deserted house, reformed criminals, and the mafia — by Michael Koryta

“The Postmistress” — by Sarah Blake — just came in the mail this week – great reviews all over so I can’t wait to read it!

More Luanne Rice and Jane Langton that I probably won’t get to…

I was cleaning and found “Cleopatra’s Daughter” by Michelle Moran — can’t imagine how I misplaced that as I can’t wait to read it!

Audiobook in the car: Sue Monk Kidd’s “Travelling with Pomegranates”

whew!!!!

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REVIEW: Back Bay by William Martin

On a recent trip to the library, I remembered to look up William Martin’s Back Bay. You might remember that I LOVED both Harvard Yard and Cape Cod by this author. This book was no exception. However, I do wish I had read it first as it introduces the character of Peter Fallon who is the protagonist in all three books I’ve read.

In Back Bay, Fallon is searching through some old documents, trying to get motivated for his thesis, when he uncovers references to a Paul Revere tea set disappearing from Washington in the early 1800’s and possibly being hidden by an old Boston family. Fallon works his way into the Pratt family’s mansion-house by befriending the matriarch, but then sets a chain of events in motion that puts all their lives at risk. The golden eagle tea set was hidden by the family somewhere in the Back Bay area of Boston, and according to Pratt family legend, the clues exist in a variety of places to rediscover it. Fallon finds himself in a race against time – and against some unsavory characters – in his quest to rediscover it.

I loved this book! It was fun to read this first installment and get more of the background on Fallon and his family. I love books that take place in my geographical area, with lots of landmarks I recognize. And I always love a good history mystery! This book was lengthy — almost 450 pages — but it read quickly.

Have you read any of the Martin books? If so, did you enjoy them?

Please forgive the lateness of this review — I got caught up in my next book which I’ll be reviewing soon: Jane Langton’s The Deserter.

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