Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Kids Spotlight: The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading

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Last month I was asked by Book Publicity Services if I would like to take a look at THE DRAGON OF THE MONTH CLUB series by Iain Reading. I promptly gave it to my resident reader. She enjoyed it and thought it was a cute story and especially geared to middle grade readers, perhaps a tad younger than her (she is 12).

Here’s some info on the book from the publicist:

The Dragon Of The Month Club, by Iain Reading, was published in February 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Genres: Middle Grade / Fantasy / Adventure

Synopsis:

The Dragon Of The Month Club is the exciting first installment in a new book series that tells the story of Ayana Fall and Tyler Travers, two best friends who stumble across an extraordinarily magical book and soon find themselves enrolled as members of a very special and exclusive club – The Dragon of the Month Club.

On the thirteenth of every month a new dragon conjuring spell is revealed and the two friends attempt to summon the latest Dragon of the Month. The varieties are almost endless: Air Dragons, Paper Dragons, Fog Dragons, Waterfall Dragons, Rock Dragons, Tree Dragons – not to mention special bonus dragons for all the major holidays, including a particularly prickly Holly Dragon for Christmas.

But one day when a conjuring spell somehow goes wrong Ayana and Tyler find themselves unexpectedly drawn into a fantastical world of adventure based on the various books scattered all across Tyler’s messy bedroom. Travelling from one book-inspired world to the next with nothing to rely on but their wits and a cast of strange and exotic dragons at their disposal they must try to somehow find their way home again.

Drawing inspiration from some of literature’s most memorable stories – from 19th century German folktales to the streets of Sherlock Holmes’s London – the adventures of Ayana and Tyler bring these classic stories to life in delightfully strange and unexpected ways. Filled with fascinating detail and non-stop action these books will spark the imaginations of readers of all ages to inspire a life-long love of reading and seeking out books that are just a little bit off the beaten track.

Contest:

There is an ongoing contest for readers to win a one-of-a-kind hardcover version of The Dragon of the Month Club with their artwork as the cover.

“Draw a picture! Write a story! Take a photograph! Bake some cookies! Mold a dragon out of clay! Knit one out of yarn! Make one out of LEGO! Whatever you want! Just let your imagination run wild because anything goes – the more creative the better! Send your dragon in and then on the 13th day of every month one entry will be chosen at random and featured on the official Dragon Of The Month Club website. Each month’s lucky winner will also receive a free one-of-a-kind personalized hard-cover edition of The Dragon Of The Month Club book featuring their winning artwork (or other creative content) on the cover or inside the book itself,” says Iain.

To learn more, go to http://www.dragonofthemonthclub.com/

About the Author:

Iain Reading is passionate about Root Beer, music, and writing. He is Canadian, but currently resides in the Netherlands working for the United Nations.

Iain writes middle grade and young adult books. His published works include the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series, The Wizards of Waterfire Series, and the dragon of the month club. To learn more, go to http://www.amazon.com/Iain-Reading/e/B00B0NGI6Q/

Connect with Iain on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

 

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Oh my Ears! What I’ve Been Listening to in the Car…Part One

The crazy commute continues, and while I love my NPR and the Broadway channel, Audible is keeping me sane. I have to say, though, that I often miss things because I have (wait for it —- ) concentrate on driving! I don’t “rewind” or whatever you’d call it digitally simply because I need to focus on driving, not fiddle with my audio player. However, if the choice is listen or not get a book at all, then I’m definitely up for listening!

In this last stretch I listened to six books – one was an Audible gift for the holidays while the rest I either got with my monthly credit or purchased because I couldn’t wait until the end of the month.

After All the Stars in the Heavens (reviewed earlier and separately), I purchased WONDER by R. J. Palacios. Yes, I know I am the LAST PERSON IN THE WORLD to get to this book, but it never seems to be in at the library. Well, it was worth the wait and the $9.99 I paid for it because this book (which you’ve probably all read already) is a gem. WONDER tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a fifth grader who has always been schooled at home because of his physical differences (which are facial). It’s a year in Auggie’s life as he integrates into school and navigates the social scene. I loved this story! When I first heard the main narrator (Diana Steele for Auggie) I thought it was Paula Poundstone trying to sound like a little kid, but eventually it grew on me and I decided it was just perfect. I can still hear that voice in my head!

Next I received a free download from Audible also a holiday treat – the short story of THE CHIMES by Charles Dickens. Wow – this was a miserable and depressing story. I guess Dickens published three stories about Christmas with THE CHIMES coming after A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Anyways — while superbly written, the story centered on this poor, hapless man named Toby “Trotty” Veck whose whole happy life is just a big illusion because everyone’s really dead. Whew — Merry Christmas!

Anyway – after that pick-me-up, I got the NEW Agatha Raisin by MC Beaton – DISHING THE DIRT. I couldn’t wait for it so I bought it for myself as a treat. Agatha is dealing with a new gal in town – a therapist – who not only seems to know a lot about people (including about Agatha’s past), but she uses it to her own devices. That said, she promptly ends up dead (the therapist that is) and Agatha needs to figure out who dunnit! This story was ably read by Alison Larkin.

Over the actual week of Christmas I listened to THE TIME BETWEEN, which I got on sale. It is by Karen White and I really like her stories. Understandably though, close to Christmas is not a good time for listening as there are many crazy people on the roads (or at least there are around here/Boston). This is a story of family and relationships, sisters and secrets. It takes place in the South, which many of Ms. White’s stories do. It was really good and had my fave themes of redemption and forgiveness in it. It had more than one narrator/voice for the women portrayed and all were very good and appropriate: Jennifer Ikeda, Barbara Rosenblat, and Angela Goethals. I may go back and listen to it again.

Well this ends Part One! Part Deux will be coming — featuring a YA novel I really wanted and loved called Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski and Isabel Allende’s new novel: The Japanese Lover.

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Litfuse Blog Tour with GIVEAWAY for MERMAID MOON by Colleen Coble

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I’m happy to  be part of the Litfuse Blog Tour for Colleen Coble’s new novel: MERMAID MOON.

Here’s what the tour has to say:

About the book:

Mermaid Moon (Thomas Nelson, January 2016)

Mallory’s mother died fifteen years ago. But her father’s last words on the phone were unmistakable: “Find . . . mother.”

Shame and confusion have kept Mallory Davis from her home for the last fifteen years, but when her dad mysteriously dies on his mail boat route, she doesn’t have any choice but to go back to Mermaid Point.

Mallory believes her father was murdered and childhood sweetheart Kevin O’Connor, game warden in Downeast Maine, confirms her suspicions. But Kevin is wary of helping Mallory in her search. She broke his heart—and left—without a word, years ago.

When Mallory begins receiving threats on her own life—and her beloved teenage daughter, Haylie—their search intensifies. There’s a tangled web within the supposed murder, and it involves much more than what meets the eye.

As answers begin to fall into place, Mallory realizes her search is about more than finding her father’s killer—it is also about finding herself again . . . and possibly about healing what was broken so long ago with Kevin. She just has to stay alive long enough to put all the pieces together.


Purchase a copy:
http://bit.ly/1J0PXVl

About the author:

USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written several romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn,Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. Her books have sold more than 3 million copies.

Connect with Coble: website, Twitter, Facebook

 

 

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This was my first Colleen Coble book, and I know she has quite a following. This book is “romantic suspense” – not my typical genre, but I enjoyed it. Poor Mallory has a lot of issues here and while trying to discover the events leading up to her father’s death (murder?), she uncovers and revisits things from her past that she’d rather leave forgotten. Mallory teams with Kevin, former beau and trusty game warden, to solve the mystery, and ultimately to save her own daughter’s life.

Yes, I will admit to having to suspend disbelief a bit during this story, but the bigger element here for me was that this was a story of redemption and self-forgiveness and if you read my blog at all, you know that I love that theme in books. Mallory has some things in her past that she needs to deal with, and she needs to forgive herself before she  can truly move on in her life.

With a wide cast of characters, this novel is number two in a series. It stands alone, but I did want to go back and read number one in the Sunset Cove series.

Thank you for my review copy!

But wait – there’s more — A GIVEAWAY!!

Colleen Coble’s Mystery e-Reader Prize Pack Giveaway

One grand prize winner will receive:

 Link: http://bit.ly/1PVlGXk (if link is not “hot”, please copy and paste into your browser).

Good luck!

 

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Review: MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout

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Several years ago I read OLIVE KITTERIDGE and just loved it. It’s hard to describe why – I just did. I was excited to MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON come up on Net Galley and got it to read.

Here’s how Net Galley describes it:

Description
A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

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I just loved this story. Again, it’s hard to explain why. Lucy is a typical woman, though you can see that she has had hardships (unexplained) in her past. She is just trying to get through life. She wants to be (and becomes) a writer. Her illness gives her an opportunity to reconnect with her mother (her entire family was very dysfunctional). Throughout there are hints that Lucy is keeping some parts of her past hidden as they are too painful to think about. What I really liked, though, was that there never was a “big reveal”. We never exactly discovered all there was to discover about Lucy Barton (though one could make some guesses). It was one of the things I liked most about this book — it’s ability to keep the narrator slightly unknown.

This book would be an excellent book club book, giving folks a chance to make their decisions about what they think about Lucy and her family and her life. Some might find this book slow or unexciting (no car chases!), but I thought it was just right. It is short but beautifully written. Elizabeth Strout has the ability to craft a sentence that is so right and so true that it stays with you.

Thank you for my review e-copy, Random House and Net Galley! MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON publishes today – 1/12/16.

Now I’m throwing it back to my earlier review of OLIVE KITTERIDGE – for your reading pleasure:

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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt like they knew you stripped bare of your outer facade?

This is how I felt about the characters of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge. Olive Kitteridge is a middle-aged woman, living in the small town of Crosby, Maine, and this novel is a series of vignettes depicting the people of the town, their lives, their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. The common thread running through these short stories is the character of Olive. In each story we see a different side of Olive, and by the end come to know her as multi-faceted and deeply human.

Whenever I pick up a Pulitzer, I’m never sure if I’m going to like it. Will it be too deep to get through? Will I feel compelled to love it, and don’t? Will I be able to read it enjoyably, or have to attack it like a college textbook? I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. It is a gem. Strout’s writing is so beautiful and descriptive. She calls on elements of human nature that, as I read, I found myself shaking my head and saying, “Yes, that is exactly how it is in life, isn’t it?” This book portrayed her characters in such a raw state that at times it was a bit painful to read. Yet, each story had a feeling of redemption in it, too. This was a wonderful book. I picked it up on a whim at a local bookstore and purchased it – and I’m so glad I did!

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Review: OCHOCO REACH by Jim Stewart

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The nice folks at MindBuck Media recently asked me if I’d like to read and review OCHOCO REACH by Jim Stewart. Here’s what they had to say about it:

Description-

Mike’s usual strategy was to gently stir the pot and wait for patterns to emerge, but this case was boiling over from the day Willimina showed up at his office…

Freelance investigator Mike Ironwood doesn’t hesitate for a moment when a lovely stranger asks him to help her get to the bottom of suspicious happenings on her family’s cattle ranch. The case is intriguing, and Willimina even more so.
Six days in, the case has turned up two dead bodies, an alphabet soup of secretive federal investigators, and a client who just might be The One. That’s when things get complicated.
When a greedy DEA agent and his complex and deadly triggerman kidnap Willy, Mike enlists help from his brother and sets out to rescue her from the conflicted jefe of a major drug cartel. The trail takes them on a surreal tour that extends deep into Mexico, but they come home with unfinished business.
Ochoco Reach introduces Mike Ironwood, his special ops brother Daniel, and Bucket, a Catahoula leopard dog who is equally at home herding cattle and pinning bad guys to the floor. They have each others’ backs, and they have unexpected allies in the natural world, who appear in surprising ways. But they also attract trouble at every turn.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. When I first started reading, the descriptions of the characters, the slight wackiness, the humor, it all caught me off guard. I worried that it might be too much for me – a little too “Mike Hammer” – but the thing that was great was this novel can be outrageous and unique and sarcastic and flippant without being over the top (and believe me – there’s a fine line). Stewart creates the characters of Mike and Willy and makes them believable. Mike has a Native American half-brother, Daniel, and a super smart dog to boot. There is no dearth of action and the story is well-plotted. I had a hard time putting it down.

I’d love to think that this is the first in a series!

Thank you for my opportunity to read and review OCHOCO REACH!

Here’s a bit about the author (who looks like a friendly guy):

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About the Author

A professional writer for over 25 years, Jim has published dozens of stories and essays, technical manuals, and poetry. After starting his journey in the Midwest and spending formative years in New England, he made it to the West Coast just in time to try and figure out what was happening in Vietnam. Music and writing kept him mostly sane. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Laura.

 

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Review: MISSING PIECES by Heather Gudenkauf

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I recently came across this mystery thriller on Net Galley and read it in two days over the holiday break!

Here’s the description from Net Galley:

Description
A woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband’s family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.

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Okay — this was one story that you had to pay attention to, because things kept changing! There were a lot of twists and turns, with new information being discovered that would change the way you thought about the characters.

There were a few things here that I had to suspend my disbelief for — (SPOIER ALERT) for instance, there was a lot of upset about needing a lawyer and the person couldn’t afford one (I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure a lawyer is provided for you by the courts if you can’t afford one – it’s part of the Miranda rights, right?). Also, this woman found out some things about her husband and her first impulse was “wow – he kept this a secret for 20 years? I can’t be married to him anymore”. If I discovered my husband had a secret past I think I would say “We need to sit down and talk about this” long before I’d start planning to divorce him. My biggest issue was that there was a prior murder in the story and an assumed murderer who was just that: assumed to be the murderer – to the point where everyone felt the case was closed. Of course that murderer was missing, there was only circumstantial evidence, etc. but everyone – even the law enforcement – referred to him as the murderer until he ends up dead and decayed. I really think in real life that police officers don’t just say “well, it must be that guy we can’t find” — or at least I HOPE they don’t do business that way!

All criticisms aside, I really did like this story. It was fun and kept me guessing and I couldn’t put it down. The bottom line is – if I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it, and if I don’t finish, I don’t review. I definitely finished this one!

Thank you, Net Galley and Harlequin, for my review copy!

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Saturday Snapshot: A Few from NYC

As you know, we LOVE NYC. It was particularly packed there this holiday season. Here are a few shots from some of our visits.

Here is St. Patrick’s – finally done with being “in restauro”. It looks fabulous. They were having a caroling singalong while we were there. Of course I embarrassed my children by joining in.

Also below is the tree from Rockefeller Center.

 

Above are a few shots — the one on the left was the view from the Freedom Tower (basically there was no view that day!). The other three were from Madame Tussaud’s. The lines were horrific but it was fun.

We hope you had a nice holiday season.

Wishing everyone the best for 2016!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at westmetromommyreads.com

See her site for participation details.

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Review: THE THINGS WE KEEP by Sally Hepworth

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I was drawn to this book when I saw it on Net Galley, but I must admit that I waited to request it. I’m a tad sensitive about the topic of dementia and I thought that I would be too disturbed/upset/anxious if I read it. However, I just couldn’t let go, and so I put in for it and I’m so glad I did.

This is a touching and memorable book about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s and her experience in a residential care facility. Most poignant is her relationship with another young patient there, a man with whom she forms a bond.

Here’s the description from Net Galley:

Description

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