Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Eagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell

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I had never read a title by Suzanne Rindell, but I chose this book from Net Galley since I love WWII stories. The novel centers on three main characters: Louis, one of the many children of a poor farmer who carries a grudge against the Japanese family next door; Harry, the son of the Japanese farmers; and Ava, a young girl who is part of an itinerant circus group. When their paths cross, the boys sign on to be part of an air circus, doing stunts in the sky. However, as WWII reaches the US, Harry’s family is sent to an internment camp and forever changed, while Louis must struggle with his family’s long-held feud, and Ava must decide where her love lies.

I really enjoyed this story and particularly liked the characters. It’s always fun to read about California, where I grew up, and in one scene they visit the Napa Valley (yeah!). I would love to see this novel made into a movie. I bet it would have beautiful cinematography!

This may be my first Suzanne Rindell novel, but it won’t be my last. Thank you for my review e-copy!

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As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

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Oh my goodness, I loved this historical fiction novel about an ordinary family during an extraordinary time. The Bright family is moving to Philadelphia and it’s the outbreak of WWI. Along with the war comes the pandemic of Spanish Flu, which kills thousands of previously healthy young people. This family has to much loss to deal with, crisis, and challenges. Then in one of their darkest hours, one of the daughters finds a little baby and takes him home so that they can raise him and bring some light into their lives.

This story is told in the four distinct voices of the four main character women: Evelyn, the intelligent, eldest daughter, Maggie, who finds the baby and is quite determined, Willa, the spunky and headstrong youngest, and their gentle, kind mother Pauline. I loved the story and the characters and the message.

I have never read any of Meissner’s other novels, so I will need to look for them.

Thank you for my review kindle copy via Net Galley!

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The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

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Today is Pub Day for The Subway Girls, which I read a few months ago after getting it from Net Galley. I love historical fiction, and this story took place in two time periods: post-WWII NYC and current day NYC. I liked the main character from the 40’s particularly (Charlotte) and was so interested in reading about the real Subway Girls in history! This is the first title I’ve read by Ms. Schnall and I really enjoyed it. It was part history, part romance.

Thank you for my review e-copy!

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Alan Bradley’s The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (a Flavia de Luce novel)

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If you know me, you know I adore the Flavia de Luce series, centering on a precocious 12 year old genius in 1950’s England. Somehow, while I was distracted elsewhere (probably work), a new installment in the series came out. This one has Flavia and her sisters travelling with Dogger for a short vacation while they regroup from the untimely death of their father. The “rest” has barely begun when Flavia discovers a dead body in the village’s river, and things go from there.

(from Amazon):

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The world’s greatest adolescent British chemist/busybody/sleuth” (The Seattle Times), Flavia de Luce, returns in a twisty mystery novel from award-winning author Alan Bradley.

In the wake of an unthinkable family tragedy, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is struggling to fill her empty days. For a needed escape, Dogger, the loyal family servant, suggests a boating trip for Flavia and her two older sisters. As their punt drifts past the church where a notorious vicar had recently dispatched three of his female parishioners by spiking their communion wine with cyanide, Flavia, an expert chemist with a passion for poisons, is ecstatic. Suddenly something grazes her fingers as she dangles them in the water. She clamps down on the object, imagining herself Ernest Hemingway battling a marlin, and pulls up what she expects will be a giant fish. But in Flavia’s grip is something far better: a human head, attached to a human body. If anything could take Flavia’s mind off sorrow, it is solving a murder—although one that may lead the young sleuth to an early grave.

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As always, Flavia does not disappoint! I love how these mysteries always keep me guessing. I look forward to seeing what this super sleuth tackles next!

This is Book 9 in the series, and while I loved reading them in order, it can stand alone as well.

I purchased my book at a local bookstore while on a “date night” with the hubs. You can find it at your local bookstore or online or at the library!

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The Sound of Freedom by Kathy Kacer

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This was a wonderful young readers’ story about a family escaping Europe during WWII through an orchestra that was created to save Jewish musicians in the Holocaust. Based on true events, I’d recommend it for grades 5 and up.

Thank you for my e-copy!

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A Note From the Publisher

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For My Ears: What I’ve Been Listening To…(it’s a lot!)

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Where would I be without audible during my daily commute (over an hour each way!) ??

I have listened to a LOT of really great reads this spring and have been so busy with work (and running around performing in a community theater production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) that I haven’t posted recently about my listening finds.

Here’s what I’ve been spending my audible credits listening to:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a well-written, wrenching and vividly accurate portrayal of life for a black teenager, as she deals with her death of her close friend. It is superbly narrated by Bahni Turpin. A must read for teens and those who care about them, it’s on my 15 year old’s summer reading list and I’ve encouraged our school to incorporate it into our reading list.

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From Amazon:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does-or does not-say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

And don’t miss On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’s powerful follow-up to The Hate U Give.

One of Us Is Lying  by Karen M. McManus is a thoughtful and twisty mystery, as a group of teens grapple with the death of a classmate, which leaves them all suspects. Multiple narrators help keep the story straight as you listen (as they are in first person) and thankfully each chapter is headed by who is speaking. I figured it out in advance, but hey – I’m a teacher! 🙂 Great narration!

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The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention, and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday he died. But on Tuesday he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Cast of narrators:

Kim Mai Guest – Bronwyn
Shannon McManus – Andy
Robbie Daymond – Nate
Macleod Andrews – Cooper

Some Luck: A Novel by Jane Smiley is Ms. Smiley at her finest – telling an ordinary story about ordinary people that shows us just how extraordinary life can be. Her ability to take the simplest things – the dust floating in the air of the parlor, a mother tucking in her child at night, a man looking out over the  vast fields of his farm – and imbue them with a beauty and a life of their own, well, she is just simply extraordinary.

Ably narrated by Loralei King.

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From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel – the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy – a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a story of a Polish Jewish family during WWII. The family is divided and spread across the world in order to survive. In the end, they are reunited, and to be honest, I thought, “Well that could never happen, because the Jewish population of Poland was almost completely destroyed by Hitler’s forces.” Amazingly, the author’s note says that this is a true story of her family! Reading that at the end truly made my day. This is a wonderful story about the power of resiliency and the love of family. It is read by Kathleen Gati and Robert Fass.

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An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive – and to reunite.

It is the spring of 1939, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable, and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports listeners from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow’s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moment, the human spirit could find a way to survive and even triumph.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and read by Julie Whelan, was a truly interesting and engaging read, following a family that moves “off the grid” to Alaska and the struggles they have, both physical and personal, to survive.

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This program is read by acclaimed narrator Julia Whelan, whose enchanting voice brought Gone Girl and Fates and Furies to life. Kristin Hannah reads the acknowledgments.

Alaska, 1974.

Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in 18 hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska – a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night audiobook about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and read by Mary Ann Lee, was a riveting, suspenseful story, some of which I was able to figure out, but some of which kept me guessing until the end. This is always a joy to have during a boring commute!

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For listeners of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in 36 languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: A twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening….

Anna Fox lives alone – a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble. And its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one – and nothing – is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is beautifully read by Caroline Lee and while it is a lot like the HBO series, the book is SO much better! A parent is murdered at a school function and the book works back in time to give the stories behind each of the main characters. This was the first read I’ve done by Ms. Moriarty, and I can see why she has a legion of fans.

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Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.

In this thought-provoking novel, number-one New York Times best-selling author Liane Moriarty deftly explores the reality of parenting and playground politics, ex-husbands and ex-wives, and fractured families. And in her pitch-perfect way, she shows us the truth about what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

 

So — this is what I’ve been listening to. What do you have lately for your ears??

 

 

 

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The Orphan of Florence by Jeanne Kalogridis

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If you read me, you know I adore historical fiction, and one of my favorite places is Florence, Italy! I’ve been there several times and last year spent a wonderful vacation with my husband there, exploring and walking around this fascinating, beautiful, and historical place. No one can visit Florence without hearing about the Medici, and their family history is the subject of many wonderful historical novels.

This  story focuses on a street urchin, Guilia, a young girl who poses as a boy to enhance her safety and the safety of the little boy she cares for. She is quick, smart, and plucky. Through a series of events, she is taken in by the “Magician of Florence”, and begins to learn his magic, especially ciphers and codes, and how it ties in to the Medici family. A series of violent and incredible events takes place, and Guilia finds herself running for her life.

I loved this story, and especially liked how it evoked vivid images of Florence/Firenze. This was a lively and intriguing read that fans of historical fiction of this period should enjoy.

Thank you for my review e-copy!

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Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson

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I really enjoy this series, set in turn-of-the-century NYC. I’ve read them all (this is #21)! They center on former midwife Sarah and former police officer Frank as they solve mysteries. I often don’t figure them out before the conclusion, and I do love the cast of characters that change and grow as the series progresses. While I’ve read them all in order, each title can stand alone.

Thank you for my review e-copy!

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The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

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Having grown up in the Napa Valley, I was quite excited to find this novel on Net Galley. I love reading about the wives of famous authors (e.g. Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc.), and since I was familiar with Jack London’s home in Glen Ellen, I couldn’t wait to get this one!

Here’s the overview:

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A Note From the Publisher

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Before reading this novel, I knew next to nothing about Charmian London. What an interesting woman (who was very talented herself)! She was the glue that held Jack London together. London, probably not surprisingly, is portrayed as a struggling, somewhat tortured, weak in spirit but genius in mind, individual, and the story leads up to the end of his life. There were so many details in here that I did not know, and they are all based on fact and Rosenberg’s research. And let’s just say that I will never think about Houdini and his wife the same way again!
The descriptions of the Sonoma Valley are evocative of the real thing and the story flows easily, while building to a crescendo. I so enjoyed reading this novel and learning more about London’s life and his very interesting wife, Charmian.
Thank you for my review copy!
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Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

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Oh my goodness, I loved this historical fiction novel that followed the life of Ernest Young, from his early childhood in China at the turn of the 20th century, to his life in Seattle, including being a charity case in a boarding school and spending many happy years as the house boy in a brothel. The story moved from the present (with Ernest, his wife, and his two grown daughters) to the past, where the Seattle Expo of 1909 is taking place. I grew to love these emotional and realistic characters, and I laughed and cried while reading this book.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my review e-copy!

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