Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Audiobooks — Nightfall and The Japanese Lover

Oh my ears!

I love listening to audiobooks in my car on the way to work. I got two last month: NIGHTFALL by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (which I paid for) and THE JAPANESE LOVER by Isabel Allende (which I used Audible credits for).

These were two very different books!

51m0EuOe8EL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_NF

I first heard about NIGHTFALL at BEA last spring. It is a YA novel with a twist – about a group of preteens left behind on their community’s island when everyone else leaves as part of the tradition of moving when night comes, once every 14 years. Marin is left behind with her twin brother Kana and their friend Line. They need to survive the beasts that accompany the night and they each are changing as they understand the true meanings of the rituals and traditions that shape their community.

Wowza! This was a tough one to read while driving because I had zero interest in the traffic and full interest in the story. I can’t say too much without giving it away, but it is compelling and unique and well-written. It’s a very creative take on the old fear of being afraid of the dark and the power of friendship and the ties that bind. I’m so glad that I got it for myself since I wasn’t able to get it any other way!  Ably read by Nicholas Guy Smith, NIGHTFALL runs just over 10 hours.

Book_Review-The_Japanese_Lover-07be2-1041

On a totally different note is THE JAPANESE LOVER by Isabel Allende. If you know me, you know I love all her books! I’ve been a tad disappointed in the last few but this one marked a return for me to her best genre: historical fiction with a touch of magical realism. In this novel, young Alma Belasco is sent from Europe to live with relatives in the United States to escape the horrors of WWII. She falls in love with the son of the Japanese gardener and so begins a lifelong love affair between them.This story was beautiful yet heart-breaking. It moved through time a bit – which can be disorienting if you are in the car listening – but overall was easy to follow and written in the hallmark prose that marks Allende as a true genius of the craft. Joanna Gleason narrates this nine hour tale.

These days I’m working through CUTTING FOR STONE on my commute. This is an intriguing story, though I do get a little squeamish over the medical details! More to come on this one when I finish it!

Find these books online at Amazon, at your library, or at an indie near you!!

Leave a comment »

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.

Leave a comment »

HFVB Tour – THE SAFFRON CROCUS by Alison McMahan

04_The Saffron Crocus_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Here I am today to blog about the YA book: THE SAFFRON CROCUS by Alison McMahan. This book has mystery, murder, and adventure in 1600’s Venice. When the young protagonist’s voice teacher mysteriously dies, she tries to find out who killed her and why, opening up a lot of closed doors and secrets from the past.

This was an enjoyable and exciting read, but my favorite part of it was learning about what life was life in Venice in the 1600’s. Isabella’s experience with music and opera, the life of a castrati musician, “kept” women, and the treatment of Jews in Venice at that time all played a role in this novel and kept me interested and reading.

Thank you for my copy!

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

Publication Date: December 13, 2014
Black Opal Books
eBook; 306p

Genre: Young Adult/Historical Mystery/Romance

Add to GR Button

Winner of the 2014 Rosemary Award for Best Historical for Young Adults.

Venice, 1643. Isabella, fifteen, longs to sing in Monteverdi’s Choir, but only boys (and castrati) can do that. Her singing teacher, Margherita, introduces her to a new wonder: opera! Then Isabella finds Margherita murdered. Now people keep trying to kill Margherita’s handsome rogue of a son, Rafaele.

Was Margherita killed so someone could steal her saffron business? Or was it a disgruntled lover, as Margherita—unbeknownst to Isabella—was one of Venice’s wealthiest courtesans?

Or will Isabella and Rafaele find the answer deep in Margherita’s past, buried in the Jewish Ghetto?

Isabella has to solve the mystery of the Saffron Crocus before Rafaele hangs for a murder he didn’t commit, though she fears the truth will drive her and the man she loves irrevocably apart.

Excerpt

Who knew a singing career would be this much trouble?

“Rafaele!” She flew into the garret. “Piero, it was so wonderful, wait until I tell you!”

The stool next to the bed was knocked over. The tray with the genepy bottle was on the floor, one of the cups broken. The fat candle that had been burning next to Rafaele’s bed had been flung to the other side of the room.. Canvases were strewn all over the floor, some of them slashed, and many of Master Strozzi’s jars of paint elements were broken.

Did Piero and Rafaele have a fight? She quickly suppressed the thought. Who would get into a fight with a man who was already injured?

Something else must have happened.

She walked across the garret. “Piero? Rafaele, are you here?”

Rafaele was not in the bed. The sheets and blankets she had piled on top of him were strewn everywher. Blood-stained sheets spilled over the edge of the pallet. There was a pile of clothes on the floor.

She walked around to get a closer look.

Not clothes. It was Piero. Face down, one arm stretched out before him, as if in supplication.

A puddle of blood under him.

Dead.

02_The Saffron Crocus Cover

Praise for The Saffron Crocus

“I adored this beautifully written, passionate book. The Saffron Crocus is a glittering, thrilling opera of a novel that plucked my heartstrings and kept me reading at fever pitch. Brava, Alison McMahan! Encore!” -Nancy Holder, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Wicked Saga

Buy the eBook

Black Opal Books
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

About the Author

03_Alison McMahan Author

Alison McMahan chased footage for her documentaries through jungles in Honduras and Cambodia, favelas in Brazil and racetracks in the U.S. She brings the same sense of adventure to her award-winning books of historical mystery and romantic adventure for teens and adults. Her latest publication is The Saffron Crocus, a historical mystery for young. Murder, Mystery & Music in 17th Century Venice.

She loves hearing from readers!

Author Links

Webpage for The Saffron Crocus
AlisonMcMahanAuthor.com
AlisonMcMahan.com
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Pinterest
Google+
Instagram
Tumblr

The Saffron Crocus Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 13
Book Blast at Genre Queen

Thursday, April 16
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Friday, April 17
Interview at Mythical Books

Monday, April 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, April 21
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Wednesday, April 22
Guest Post at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, April 28
Book Blast at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, April 29
Guest Post & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, May 5
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, May 6
Review at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, May 7
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, May 8
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, May 9
Book Blast at Romantic Historical Lovers

Tuesday, May 12
Review at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 13
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, May 14
Review at Book Babe
Guest Post at What Is That Book About

Monday, May 25
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, May 27
Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, May 28
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, June 1
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, June 2
Guest Post at The Maiden’s Court

Friday, June 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Jorie Loves a Story

Leave a comment »

Quick Kids’ Review: NIGHTBIRD by Alice Hoffman

I absolutely adored this middle grade novel which I got from Net Galley.

Twig and her family live in Sidwell, Massachusetts, but her life is far from ordinary. Her brother is kept hidden because he bears the effect of a curse put upon the family years ago by witchcraft. When two young girls move in next door Twig wants to befriend them, but doing so may put her brother at risk. Even worse, the girls are the descendants of the witch who first cursed Twig’s family. Can Twig and her friends reverse the curse before it is too late?

Loved loved loved this beautifully written story about love, family, and self-acceptance.

Highly recommended!

Thank you, Net Galley and Random House, for my copy.

cover49014-mediumNightbird

Leave a comment »

BLOG TOUR == YA/Kids’ Review: ENCHANTMENT LAKE by Margi Preus and GIVEAWAY!

Preus Tour Banner

I grabbed this fun YA mystery off of Net Galley a while ago, but then was asked to take part in the blog tour for it!

In this story, seventeen year old Francie leaves New York to go to a remote part of Minnesota to help her elderly great aunts whose neighbors seem to be dying every time you turn around. Francie is an actress who once played a detective on television, so everyone refers to her as “that detective”. Eventually she gives up correcting them. She’s dealing with land developers, pushy summer people, legends of treasure, and some dark secrets from her family’s past that she never knew. While she works to figure out who is behind the sudden deaths, Francie realizes that she might be next!

This was a cute book – reminded me of Nancy Drew or something similar. Francie is a brave and intelligent young woman, but she had me laughing at times, too. Perhaps this is the start of a series? I can’t wait to introduce my daughter to Francie.

This book is published by University of Minnesota Press. Author Margi Preus is the New York Times bestselling author of books for young readers, including Shadow on the Mountain, West of the Moon, and Heart of a Samurai, which won a Newberry Honor.

Here’s a picture of Ms. Preus, credit to Shirleen Hieb Photography:

Preus, Margi credit to Shirleen_Hieb_Photography

preus_enchantment cover

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery

But wait — there’s more!

My friends at University of Minnesota Press is offering not one, not two, but THREE giveaway copies — SIGNED by Ms. Preus (hey – I want one!) to winners from the U.S. and/or CANADA. Yipee!!

Leave me a comment below (one entry per person) and I will use random.org to pick winners. Enter up until 12:01 am on April 19 – because that’s my birthday and this will be my gift to you!! 🙂

8 Comments »

YA Review: WHEN by Victoria Laurie

cover53091-mediumWHEN

I pulled this title from Net Galley a while back as I’m a sucker for a supernatural story!

In WHEN, Maddie Flynn is a typical teenager who has the unique ability to see dates on people’s foreheads. She comes to realize that what she is seeing is their “death date” – the day they will die. As Maddie grows, her somewhat destitute mother sets up shop to make quick money with Maddie seeing clients to tell them their (or a loved one in a picture) death dates. Unfortunately, Maddie’s predicting gets her in trouble when she predicts a child’s death and that seemingly fine child soon comes up missing. She and her best friend find themselves caught up in the police investigation of the missing boy and several others. With the police more than skeptical of her abilities and no other real suspects, Maddie has to solve the mystery before time runs out.

I really liked this book! Maddie was an interesting and strong character, and I found the whole concept of seeing death dates on people’s foreheads as a unique and clever twist. I would have loved this book as a teenager!

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate. It publishes mid-January:

When

Leave a comment »

Kids’ Review: BLACKWATER BEN by William Durbin

I received a copy of BLACKWATER BEN a while ago from my friends at University of Minnesota Press. They do wonderful books for young readers (usually historical fiction) that are rooted in Minnesota history and I’ve loved everything they have ever sent me. I have to apologize in that I managed to lose this book TWICE – a record for me – and it has taken forever for me to finish and review it!

BLACKWATER BEN focuses on young Ben Ward, who, in 1898, joins his father at a lumbering camp in the Minnesota woods to work as a cook’s helper. The life of the lumberjack is not an easy one, and Ben has to learn to navigate the different personalities of the crew, along with the somewhat distant personality of his widowed father. Along the way, a scrappy young orphan boy, Nevers, joins them, and Ben has a friend to help him work (and play). Ben wants to know more about his mother, though, and his father is not very forthcoming; a friendship with one of the men at the camp, though, may give him more information.

I really enjoyed this book, which is a great pick for middle grade readers. Ben has various adventures, but throughout, the reader learns a lot about life in the camps at that time. I loved the differing personalities of the various men at the camp. That was a hard life!

I thank University of Minnesota Press for my copy. I think this would make a great book for a school library or to be used in class.

You can find this book at an indie near you (I am an Indie Bound Affiliate):


Find Blackwater Ben at an Indie

Or find it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Blackwater Ben (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage)

Leave a comment »

YA Review: ENLIGHTENED by A.L. Waddington (The E.V.E. Series – Book 2)

I’m happy today to be part of the blog tour through Booktrope for ENLIGHTENED, Book 2 of the E.V.E. series, written by A.L. Waddington.

Enlightened

The E.V.E. series is a YA series about a teenager who exists in parallel dimensions. Jocelyn Timmons is a fairly typical senior in high school when she meets new neighbor and fellow senior Jackson. His presence throws her into a sense of vertigo and illness. Soon she realizes that she and Jackson knew each other in the 1800’s as well as now.  See my review of the first book, ESSENCE, here:

https://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/quick-ya-review-essence-by-a-l-waddington-book-one-of-the-e-v-e-series/

In Book 2, Jocelyn is still struggling with completely understanding her life in the past (or parallel, if you will). She and Jackson express their love for each other and decide to marry after her high school graduation. Not surprisingly, this is met with a lot of consternation and concern from her parents, especially her mom and brother, and her friends. Jocelyn insists that she will continue on to college and just do it as a married woman. Much of the book is focused on the upset and angst she feels over this decision, her battle with her family, and then her upset with Jackson. A photo album from the past, found in her uncle’s things, also adds to her knowledge of the past.

I enjoy reading this series and I know I would have liked it when I was in high school. That said, this book moved a bit slowly for me. Poor Jocelyn pretty much was miserable in both her lives. In her current 2009 life she was a lot more aware of her life in the past, which helped her to understand and not be quite so upset. I have to say, too, that I can understand her family’s distress over her announcing her marriage to a boy she’s hardly known for long. It wasn’t all that long ago that getting married at 18 or 19 was commonplace; however, by today’s standards, it much more rare. In any case, Jocelyn struggles with her desires and her knowledge of her time travel (which her family doesn’t know about). I am reading the next installment now so that I can find out how Jocelyn ends up (and where!).

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

Enlightened (EVE Series Book 2)

Thanks, Booktrope, for making me a stop on your blog tour and for my copy!

1 Comment »

Three for Christmas — from the Ho Ho Ho Readathon

I had a great time reading and participating in the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Readathon this past week! I set a goal of three books for myself, and I easily reached it (I also finished two more to review and started a third – guess I had time to read!).

The first book I read was A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS by Anne Perry. In this novel (and apparently Anne Perry writes a Christmas novel every year) it is 1904 and Jemima Pitt has accompanied her friend Phinny to New York from England for Phinny’s marriage. Poor Phinny doesn’t have much family and her mother left her while she was quite young under what seems to be mysterious and unfavorable circumstances. Jemima is hardly there when a dead body shows up – Phinny’s long-lost mother – and Jemima appears to be the main suspect in her killing (though with little motive). Determined to prove her innocence, Jemima joins forces with local policeman Patrick Flannery to figure out who the real killer is.

This was a fun read – and very quick for me (a few hours – less than 200 pages). Call me stupid but I never could figure out exactly WHY the murder took place and what it served. It seemed to stir up a lot of trouble, that’s for sure.

This was my first Anne Perry book, but she has a legion of fans and several other Christmas stories.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (and thanks, Net Galley, for my copy):

Next I read CHRISTMAS TRUCE by Aaron Shepard. This was a children’s picture book that I got a pdf of from Net Galley. It tells the story of the WWI Christmas truce in fighting between the front lines of British and German men. This was a beautiful (and true) tale, with lovely illustrations by Wendy Edelson. Great for a read aloud to children!

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (thanks, Net Galley!):

Finally, from Blogging for Books, I got The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. I just loved this book. This author lost her husband unexpectedly in the fall of 1999. They had three children, aged 10 to 17. That Christmas was incredibly painful and difficult for them. This true story tells how some unknown “true friends” delivered to them small surprise gifts each day leading up to Christmas and, in essence, helped them to feel the spirit of Christmas again. Not only was this a heart-wrenching read, especially because the grief was so poignant on these pages, but it was so inspiring to read the end and how the whole 13 gifts tradition got started, why, and how. What a beautiful and inspiring story — truly a favorite Christmas read for me.

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

Leave a comment »

Quick YA review: Deadly Little Sins by Kara Taylor

I just loved this Prep School Confidential series! DEADLY LITTLE SINS is the third and final book in the series. This time Anne Dowling is once again chasing mysteries and killers at her Massachusetts prep school. Picking up where the last book left off, Anne is attempting to find to out where her beloved teacher, Ms. Cross, has disappeared to. Naturally, her sleuthing takes her into danger and she has to face the fact that Ms. Cross might not have been exactly who she said she was (which of course begs the question: who was she and why was she at Wheatley?).

Fast-paced and fun, with a tough heroine who is smart and clever, this series is one of my favorite, fun YA reads. Yes, you have to suspend belief a bit (it’s a story, people!) but somewhere in my travels I saw this series compared to the Gossip Girl books. Um, no. Those books deal with some over the top, ridiculously nasty teens in NYC. They paint the “rich kids as evil” picture in bright colors, and the adults are all but nonexistent. While I can see why some teens love them, this book is more of the Veronica Mars variety. Anne is not a nasty person and her friends aren’t either. Yes, these kids are wealthy, but they are also (wait for it — ) normal. As someone who has spent 25 years teaching in schools like Wheatley, I think Kara Taylor does a good job in portraying teens accurately.

I thought I also saw that this would be made into a movie, but maybe I imagined that as I couldn’t find that info again. That would be fun, though!

I got mine on Amazon (as I must have been whistling in the wind and missed it on Net Galley) where I am an Associate:

1 Comment »