Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Author Interview with Trilby Kent

You might remember that I chatted with London author Trilby Kent after the publication of her first book “Medina Hill”. Trilby now has TWO new books out – one for adults and another for children. I had the chance to ask Trilby a few questions about her work.

 (Just a note — DISCLAIMER — yes, I know Trilby. Yes, I’ve known her since she was a little girl. Yes, some would say this would make me biased towards her work. However, I truly believe that even if you haven’t known Trilby since she was a youngster, you, too, would find her brilliant, talented, and quite charming).

BBNB: Trilby, what are your new books (“Smoke Portrait” and “Stones for my Father”) about? Can we get them in the US?
This is the publisher’s blurb for ‘Smoke Portrait’ (currently available in the U.K. and – soon – Holland. North American rights have yet to sell): “Set in 1936 in Belgium and Ceylon, Smoke Portrait traces the development of an unlikely friendship between a young Belgian teenager, Marten Kuypers, and Glen Phayre, an Englishwoman in her twenties. Glen has left England to live on her aunt’s tea plantation in Ceylon, where she embarks on the task of writing charitable letters to a Belgian prisoner. But the letters go astray, and are received instead by Marten, eager to discover the wide world outside his small village, and desperately missing his older brother Krelis, who has vanished and is presumed dead.

“Marten decides to reply to Glen in the guise of the grown-up prisoner she is expecting to hear from, and as their correspondence evolves, they both assume identities that, while false in many respects, remain true to their own selves in other ways. Gradually they come to depend on each other, and their pen friendship proves to be crucial when events in their real lives take on a darker, more threatening turn in the shadow of the impending world war.”

‘Stones for my Father’ is a YA novel, published in Canada and the U.S. It follows a 12 year-old girl through the darkest days of the Anglo-Boer war, through a trek across the battle-scarred Transvaal and internment in a British concentration camp. Amid the suffering and hardship, a figure of hope emerges in the form of a Canadian soldier with whom she forms a tentative friendship.

BBNB: What’s next for you, Trilby?
As for what’s next – I’m currently halfway through a PhD in Creative Writing, for which I’m having to develop a new novel and accompanying thesis. The book I’m writing takes place in the 1950s and is set in a boarding school on an imaginary island in the North Sea. More on that soon, I hope..!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Trilby!! I can’t wait to read your new books!!  -Beth 🙂

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REVIEW: Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish

On a recent trip to the library with my seven-year-old I noticed “Breathe: A Ghost Story” displayed. I’m a big believer in letting my children read whatever library books they want from the children’s section. However, that said, I’m also a big believer that some things are more developmentally appropriate at certain ages than others. I took “Breathe” so that I could read it first. (I also buy library books for my children’s elementary school library though a birthday book program we run, so I always like to be on the lookout for what would be a good selection for us).

“Breathe” tells the story of 12-year-old Jack (who has asthma) and his mother as they purchase an old farmhouse in the English countryside, as they seek to put their lives back together after Jack’s father’s untimely death from a heart attack. Jack is known to be sensitive to spirits and supernatural inclinations, which he picks up through touch of objects. Jack’s presence is noted by four children ghosts who live in the house and a – let’s call it what it is – evil presence of a mother who once lived there along with her young daughter who died of consumption.  Jack communicates with these spirits. The Ghost Mother, as she is called, is keeping the children ghosts captive as she sucks their souls away (through a grossly depicted process of latching onto their mouths and faces), forcing them in time to enter the “Dark Passage” – a type of Arctic hell. Eventually the ghost Mother takes over Jack’s mother’s body (via possession) in order to get closer to him.

Long story short, I was not thrilled with this book. I felt it was disturbing and, particularly for children, the Ghost Mother’s actions were horrifying. As a child, I would have been terrified by this book. As a middle schooler, I might have enjoyed the horror aspect – I loved Stephen King when I was about 14. As an adult I will have my children wait until they are older (than 7) to read this selection from the library!

I seem to be alone in my thoughts if you read the Amazon reviews on this book. As always, all views and opinions in my blog are entirely my own, and your own may differ. I’d love to hear if others have read this book! I’d also love to read something else by McNish as he is a good writer.

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REVIEW: The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

I just loved Kate Mosse’s “Labyrinth” and also “Sepulchre”, so I was thrilled to find “The Winter Ghosts” on the new release shelf at the library.  “The Winter Ghosts” centers on Freddie, a young man still suffering from the loss of his beloved brother in WWI. He is driving in the French countryside and crashes his car during a storm. The villagers assist him and he stays with them for a few days, attending the old-fashioned St. Stephen’s festival and then falling ill with a high fever. While at the festival he meets a young girl, Fabrissa, whom he instantly falls in love with. She shares the tragic story of the history of the area, where a whole town of villagers hid in caves in the hillside to escape religious persecution, but were found and walled in, leading to their deaths. That’s about all I can say without giving it all away!

After LOVING her first two books, I was so excited to read this one. In a word, I was really disappointed. The beginning of the book (which is very short – under 300 pages) moved so slowly. I almost put it down and didn’t pick it up again. But then I just sat down and read the whole rest of it. I could see what was happening well before the main character did – he wandered around in a bit of a fog and didn’t ever use his deductive reasoning or analytical skills to assess the weird goings on that he was part of. To be honest, I would have adored this novel when I was in middle school. It was creepy in a way, and a love story, and not too long. In fact, some internet digging has shown me that Ms. Mosse has previously published a very similar short story entitled “The Cave” that appears to be geared towards young people.

All in all, a disappointment for me as my expectations were different. I found Ms. Mosse’s earlier books well-plotted and thrilling, even though they were long.

Have you read this book? If so, let me know your thoughts!

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Quick Review – Busy Body: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by MC Beaton

Good old Agatha is at it again in this latest installment from MC Beaton. An annoying inspector is quickly dispatched through murder and a newcomer to the village (whom Agatha despises) announces that she knows who killed him (WHY do these people announce they know who the murderer is and then go off to bed for the night? It’s like just ASKING to be murdered!). Well, she is murdered that evening and suspects abound – including her estranged children. Agatha is determined to figure out who the real murderer(s) is and if the two murders are truly linked. Along the way she hires a new apprentice and uses the skills of dear friend Charles.

While I didn’t find the mystery aspect of this novel as satisfying as in the past, it is definitely more of Agatha at her finest! An easy cozy for those who like this series, I got mine at the library.

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The Annual Book Blogger Convention!

Encouraged by my friend Dawn of “She Is Too Fond of Books”, I have registered for the 2011 Book Blogger Convention in NYC!! (shriek of excitement!). This is my first Blogger convention, so I am curious if any of my readers have been and if they have tips for me. I was concerned about leaving Jim and the kids to go off to this, but now I’m bringing them with me (well, to NYC, not the conferene itself). I am soooo excited to be part of this event as the kick-off to Memorial Day Weekend. I’ll be sure to post my experiences!

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Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Well, if you read my blog, you know I love, love, love Michelle Moran’s books. I think her writing is not only well-researched but well-crafted. Her stories suck you in and the times come alive.  I have read all her books and was sooo excited to see that “Madame Tussaud” was coming out. In my recent reading of “The Queen’s Dollmaker” (reviewed here earlier this winter), I learned that Madame Tussaud had been a real person, a figure in the French Revolution, and an art tutor to the royal family.

In Ms. Moran’s book, we follow Marie from her young adult life, working in her uncle’s shop, through her surviving the French revolution, to her marriage to Tussaud. The Revolution itself comes alive in all its disturbing and fantastic ferocity. The depiction of human emotion and actions is so stark and realistic, all I can say is: I’m glad I didn’t live through those times!

I had pre-ordered this novel for my Kindle – and I’m glad I did, as I found it to be 5-Star historical fiction!

Watch this fun trailer with Michelle herself talking about Madame Tussaud and her upcoming book!

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Reviewing Another Cozy — To Have and to Kill: A Wedding Cake Mystery by Mary Jane Clark

My good friend Kym knows I love cozies, and recommended this new series to me. I read the sample on my Kindle (free download of a sample!) and then saw it on the new release shelf at the library. This story certainly has the makings of the beginning of a series as there are several plot lines running throughout.

Piper Donovan is a former soap opera actress who has moved back home with her parents for the time being. She decides to help out in the family bakery, baking and decorating cakes. When her former colleague is killed at a charity event, Piper gets drawn into the investigation. The violence continues and there are a lot of characters — all with motives — to try to keep straight. Meanwhile, Piper gets some help from FBI detective friend — and possible love interest — Jack; and she also has to deal with her mother’s recently diagnosed macular degeneration.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. I liked the character of Piper. One scene that was rather touching to me was how Piper’s parents had repainted her room in preparation for her homecoming — painting it pink. It just seemed like something my own parents would do (or course then I might have to run screaming out of the house — but that’s an entry for another day). Piper’s struggles with being an adult in her parents’ house, and also trying to keep her career going as an actress in NYC, are an underlying current in this book and gives the character more depth than if she was just some female who stumbled across a dead body. I was able to figure out the murderer early on — but primarily because the death was by potassium cyanide. I might have mentioned in one of these posts that I am working on a cozy myself (and have not written a word in three months!). Well, the death is also by potassium cyanide, so I know more than your average random reader might about its uses, etc. and who would be likely to have some on hand, which helped me in my deductions.

Regardless, I enjoyed this read and look forward to more installments in this series!!

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Quick Review: Death of a Chimney Sweep by MC Beaton

You know I love my cozies — and I love the Hamish MacBeth series — so I was thrilled to see a new one out this month by MC Beaton. In this installment, the local chimney sweep is found dead and the homeowner has been killed and stuffed up his chimney. Hamish has to figure out who is behind the murders and why – all the while more murders are taking place of folks who are coming too close to the answer.

If you love this series, you’ll probably enjoy this latest addition. I liked it, but I would have liked to not know who the murderer is so soon in the book. In that way, we were “following” the murderer as he planned more crimes and tried to escape, instead of reading and trying to figure out “who dunnit”.

All the favorite characters are back, though, including Hamish’s lost loves!

I got this one on the Kindle – found it one night when I was up at 3 am!

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