Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Review: SWEET SONG by Terry Persun

I was recently contacted by a publisher to see if I would read and review a copy of “Sweet Song” by Terry Persun. I enjoy historical fiction of this time period (1870’s), so I said yes.

In “Sweet Song”, Leon, the mixed-race son of a landowner and his black servant, seeks to find (and create) his identity. A violent interaction causes him to run away from his home and he takes this opportunity to recreate himself. Leon, who looks and passes for white, decides to define himself as white, and this leads him to explore racism and views on society from a different perspective than he had before (when he had lived with his mother and black father in the tenant’s cabins on the property). Leon has many struggles and several things he is running from. His story is a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

To be honest, I really wanted to like this book, but I found it slow-moving; and Leon began to annoy me. I wanted to root for him, but instead I felt like he was passive and weak and things just happened to him (until the end – which I liked). I have to say there were some really disturbing things in this book (SPOILER ALERT!) which I’m still not sure why they were there. Leon is in a sexual relationship with his half-sister, which he is seduced into by her. Also Leon suffers for years as a child, being physically and sexually abused by his mother. I racked my brain and while I could say that the relationship with his sister would be the catalyst for him running away (but did it have to be his sister??), I found no literary reason for this horrible experience with his mother. I would have thought this could be a good YA book with good discussions on identity development and race, but I can’t recommend it for the younger set due to the (disturbing) sexual content.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. Thank you, Emily from Booktrope, for the chance to review!

Here is some information sent to me about Mr. Persun:

Terry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction / fantasy. His novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category. His novel Sweet Song received a Silver IPPY Award last summer. His latest novel is, Doublesight, the first book in an epic fantasy series. Find Terry online at TerryPersun.com and @tpersun.

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Kids/YA Review: TWERP by Mark Goldblatt

Another Net Galley find, TWERP is the story of Julian Twerski: a boy growing up in NYC (Queens) in 1969. Julian’s made a major error in judgment and has gotten suspended for bullying another kid (eventually revealed through the story). When he returns to school, his English teacher suggests that  he keep a diary of his life and events and tell the story of what happened through his own words (and if he does the journal, he gets out of writing a report on Shakespeare!).  Through Julian’s diary we get to know him, his pack of friends, his family, and what life is like for him. He’s a typical sixth grader with a slightly annoying but sometimes helpful older sister. His friends are a garden variety of boys who get into scrapes. He has a crush on a girl in his class (but so does his friend!). He even holds the title of “fastest kid in sixth grade”, but is finding that he might lose that honor this year. All in all, this book made for a great kids’ read: sometimes serious but often funny. I’d happily get it for our school library for our 4th-6th graders. I haven’t read Mr. Goldblatt’s other books (which are for adults) but you can tell he put his heart – and a piece of himself – into Julian’s story.

Thanks, Net Galley and Random House, for my copy!

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

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Kid Lit Review: THE SILENT BOY by Lois Lowry

I grabbed this book from the shelf at the children’s section of the library. I have read most of Lois Lowry’s works, and I did not know this one. It tells the story of Katy Thatcher, a precocious ten-year-old and daughter of the town doctor, growing up at the turn of the 20th century. Katy likes to accompany her father on his rounds and she wants to be a doctor herself when she grows up. She becomes intrigued with Jacob, the adolescent brother of their household help. Jacob is a gentle and shy boy, who doesn’t speak, but has a quiet relationship with animals and a fascination with how things work. Katy reaches out to Jacob to try to befriend him. In time, the book moves to a terrible and tragic conclusion.

I loved this story and the characters in it. One of Lowry’s strengths as a writer has always been character development and this is evident once again here. This book could open some good discussions with students on understanding differences. In the story, Jacob is referred to as “touched”. Today he would most likely be seen as on the spectrum for autism/PDD. Katy’s compassion for him is quite beautiful; however, due to the traumatic ending of this book, I would recommend it for older children, grades 5/6 and up.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Saturday Snapshot: Retro Toy Memory

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So – I’m cleaning in the basement and I come across my Sweet Sixteen Barbie from about 1978. She’s still in good shape (though her make up has corroded over the years). My daughter is enjoying playing with her! Wondering if anyone else had her in the 70’s? 🙂

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by MetroWest Mommy at http://westmetromommy.blogspot.com/

It’s easy to participate – just post a picture you’ve taken (appropriate content) and link it to the site!

And – happy day! – I’ve figured out how to get my pictures to post in a larger size!! Woot!

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Review: Women’s Murder Club THE 12TH OF NEVER by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

I’ve read all the James Patterson and Maxine Paetro “Women’s Murder Club” books. Just out is number twelve: THE 12TH OF NEVER, which I managed to get at the library even though there is a long wait for it. In this installment (number 12 obviously!) Lindsay and Joe have a baby girl. Lindsay is learning to balance the demands of motherhood and the demands of her job. Baby Julie is the light of their lives, but then she falls ill (and that’s all I’m saying about that!).

Meanwhile, down at the precinct, Lindsay is faced with some tough cases. A rather odd English professor comes in to announce that he is dreaming of murders happening. No one really takes him seriously until the murders DO happen, very much the way he predicts they will. This case gets more confounding as time goes on. At the same time, the high-profile girlfriend of a star 49er football player is murdered, and then her body disappears from Lindsay’s best friend and medical examiner, Claire’s, lab. At the  same time, Yuki, another murder club member, is prosecuting the case of her career against a sleazy lawyer who is accused of killing his wife and child. And, last but not least, reporter Cindy is having relationship issues with Lindsay’s partner, Richie.

All in all, there’s a lot going on in this novel. It moves quickly and I read it in a day or two. I have to say it wrapped up quickly, especially the missing body/murder part. I still don’t fully understand how the precognition piece and how the murders involved happened. Without saying too much, I will say I found that piece far-fetched. Also (SPOILER ALERT) I found the missing body/missing security guard problem kind of far-fetched, too (everyone seemed to think of the guard as a suspect and not a potential victim – perhaps to create another suspect?). However, overall I enjoyed this read, as I have the other ones in the series!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Saturday Snapshot: Memory of Paris

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This past fall was our tenth anniversary. My husband travels monthly to Europe on business (sounds more glamorous than it is), so one weekend I flew over and met him in Paris for a long weekend. The weather was beautiful and it was so fun to just walk around that beautiful and amazing city! Paris is a special place for us since we went there to celebrate his being cancer-free back in 2007. This picture was taken on the day we visited Sacre Couer in Montmarte. Beautiful day! The street vendors were out in force and we walked and walked, enjoying side trips into cafes and a visit to Dali’s house. Ah, Paris…

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Review: HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE by Susan Elia MacNeal

I have really enjoyed the Maggie Hope cozy mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal and was thrilled to get the latest one through Net Galley. In this third installment (the previous two were reviewed earlier), expert mathematician and British spy Maggie is being dropped over enemy lines into WWII Germany. In a parallel story, her mother’s daughter (Maggie’s half-sister) is working as a nurse and discovers that children with developmental and physical disabilities are being secretly sent to gas chambers by the Nazi’s and vows to work against the Nazi’s (and her mother). In yet another storyline, Maggie’s dear friend David is being pressured by his parents to marry, but he is gay. And finally Maggie’s former fiance who everyone thinks is dead awakes and finds himself in a German hospital.

What will happen? Will Maggie survive behind enemy lines? Will Elise, her half-sister, save the children? Will Maggie and Elise meet? Will David have to renounce the man he loves and enter into a marriage of convenience? And will Maggie find herself in a love triangle with John, her lost love, and Hugh, her current flame? Of course, you need to read to find out!

I really enjoy this series. It’s a historical cozy, my favorite kind, and Ms. MacNeal certainly does her research! I have chatted with her on Twitter and Facebook and even asked if she time travelled in order to get the details so right (FYI – she doesn’t). The Maggie Hope books are fun to read and are one of my favorite genres (WWII). I particularly like how the story continues across books. I recommend them to those who like cozies, especially of this period. Looks like another book will be coming out next year!

Thank you to Net Galley and Bantam Publishers for my copy! You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (it publishes on 5.14.13):

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Quick Review of DEATH OF YESTERDAY by M.C. Beaton

As you know, I love, love, love Hamish Macbeth and MC Beaton’s series of cozies about him. In this latest one, Hamish solves the mysterious death of a woman who first reports her sketchbook missing, then winds up dead. There are lots of suspects but not many motives. Who did she see and why would they feel she was a threat to them? One note to regular readers of this series: Hamish’s love life is again center stage as he struggles with the Priscilla/Elspeth love triangle and a new fling. Personally, I’d like to see him make up his mind! Not my favorite in the series, but a fun, quick read nonetheless.
See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. I got mine from the library!

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Saturday Snapshot: Summer Fair

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Each year our town holds a summer fair. I volunteer as the director of stage entertainment. This August will be our 131st fair! This was the view from my music tent last summer.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of http://www.athomewithbooks.net. Anyone can participate! Just post a picture you or a friend/family member took and link it to Alyce’s site (appropriate content please!).

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Saturday Snapshot: Napa!

 

I  grew up in Napa Valley, California, and we LOVE to visit!
Here are a few shots I took on our recent April trip.

The ride upvalley – forgive the telephone lines…

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The driveway into Sterling Vineyards:

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Views from the tram up to Sterling:

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Um…speaks for itself.. and yes, it was quite tasty!!

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This picture hardly does it justice, but this is the view of the evening sun setting from my friends’ back deck (I had to include this because really — if this was out your back window, would you EVER go inside??)

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You, too, can take part in Saturday Snapshot, hosted by Alyce at www.athomewithbooks.net. Just post a picture you or a friend took and link it to Alyce’s site! (Appropriate pics only please!)

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